Author Archives: Larry@IIATMS

Tampa Bay Plans A Step Backwards (More On Why Revenue Sharing Is Dead)

Sternberg has no choice, really.  All of the numbers are moving against him.  His players making the league minimum are becoming eligible for arbitration; his players formerly eligible only for arbitration are now also eligible to file for free agency.  Like any good young team, his team is getting older, and more expensive.  But the Rays’ revenues are not keeping up with their expenses.  Attendance at Rays’ home games is static at best.  The Rays’ TV ratings are up, but there’s no evidence that these ratings will improve the Rays’ bottom line. In short, Sternberg cannot afford a $72 million payroll, let alone the greater payroll that would be required to keep the current team together.

But it’s a shame, a damn shame.  It shouldn’t be this way.

How will the Rays trim $22 million from their payroll?  Consider that a number of Rays’ players are scheduled for pay increases in 2011.  Ben Zobrist is due a $4 million increase. …

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Believe

It is sad.   Bautista smacked number 50, and he should have been praised to the stars.  Instead, the press saw yesterday as a good day to ask Bautista whether he used steroids or other PEDs to fuel his 2010 performance.  Bautista said he did not.

Can we end the story there?  No.  There are too many who doubt whether Bautista is telling the truth.  See here for example, and here, and here.  No one exactly comes out and says, this guy is juicing.  No.  Instead, the doubters say that they have a right to doubt.  Gene Wojciechowski at ESPN put it like this:

“Jose Bautista might be doing it naturally.  But some of the sluggers who came before make it difficult to believe in him wholeheartedly.”

That’s sad.  I am a fan of Gene’s writing, and I’m sorry it’s difficult for Gene to believe wholeheartedly.  I suppose people have a right to believe anything they want to believe, and not to believe the things they don’t want to believe. …

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Colvin: Anatomy of a Close Call

I’m no video specialist — I just took screen shots of the ESPN clip.  They’re not as clear as they should be, and the center of every picture is obscured by the video play control.  Someone else can do this better.  But there’s important information to be learned here.

Above is our establishing shot of the incident.  The Cubs’ Wellington Castillo has just hit a ball to left field for what would prove to be a double.  Marlins pitcher Brett Sinkbeil and first baseman Gaby Sanchez watch the flight of the ball.  The Cubs’ Brad Snyder takes off for second base.  Tyler Colvin pauses at third base, to make certain that the Castillo drive will not be caught.  The broken shard of Castillo’s bat has not yet entered our frame of view.

As we move through the pictures, watch Marlins pitcher Brett Sinkbeil.  His right foot will take a step forward, as he moves towards home plate (presumably to back up the catcher in case of a throw home). …

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Success and Sustainability (Part 3 of Why Revenue Sharing Is Dead)

(I don’t mean to imply that Maury is the only person out there defending revenue sharing.  For example, see Phil Birnbaum here and Rob Neyer here and my buddy Kristi Dosh here.  Other analysts are less critical than I have been, but see a need to reform the revenue sharing system.  See Dan Rosenheck here.  I’m not trying to cover the entire spectrum of opinion with these cites, i just want to give you a flavor of what people are saying.)

Maury’s argument (begun here, continued here and principally made here) focuses on the success of the Tampa Bay Rays.  While I’ve examined how the Pirates and Marlins have abused the revenue sharing system, Maury looks instead at how the Rays have used revenue sharing in the right way, to become one of the best and most exciting teams in baseball.    Maury does not mince words: he calls the Rays a “Shining Example”:

“When Bud Selig asked for increase revenue-sharing in 2000 through his Blue Ribbon report, maybe this snapshot of the Rays from 2007-08 was his vision.

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Secrets and Lies (Part 2 of Why Revenue Sharing Is Dead)

Stark also reports that baseball teams do not share their financial data, so that teams paying into baseball’s revenue sharing system – teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Cubs and Angels – were surprised to learn the extent of the profits being earned by the Marlins and Pirates.  According to Stark, the Marlins and Pirates are accumulating revenue sharing money to such an extent that their profits exceed those being earned by teams required to pay into the revenue sharing system.

The survival of baseball’s revenue sharing system depended on this secrecy.  The secrecy allowed major league baseball to portray teams like the Pirates and Marlins as struggling for their very existence: they were “poor” teams being crushed under the monetary weight of teams like the Yankees.  Thus revenue sharing was painted as a kind of economic justice – Bud Selig was baseball’s Robin Hood, taking from the rich and giving to the poor.  But with the veil of secrecy removed, the system appears to take money from rich people, and give it to other rich people. …

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Revenue Sharing Is Dead

The Pirates have been so profitable that they’ve created substantial income tax liabilities for their investors.  The Pirates’ solution to this problem has been to transfer a portion of its profits to these investors to cover their tax costs.  This is one illustration of how revenue sharing works: it serves both to create profits for teams that cannot win on the field, and to create the need for cash to be transferred outside of baseball to cover tax liabilities that exist only because of the profits created by revenue sharing.

We’ll need to parse the numbers later, but it appears that some of the teams receiving revenue sharing (in particular, the Marlins) may be more profitable than teams like the Yankees and Red Sox that fund the revenue sharing system.

Given the information disclosed in these documents, the existing system of revenue sharing will not survive next year’s expiration of baseball’s collective bargaining agreement.  This is not just my conclusion; this is the conclusion of Jayson Stark at ESPN.com. …

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Luck and Competitive Balance, Part 1: The Post-Season

The more I look at the numbers being crunched by the Berris, Schmidts and Brooks of this world, the more convinced I become that getting lucky is the single most important factor determining the outcome of baseball games, and baseball seasons.

I’ll admit, it’s not easy for me to acknowledge the role played by luck in baseball.  I want to believe that my sports teams succeed because they achieve a standard of excellence, or because their desire to win is higher than the other team’s, or because they possess the “right stuff” to succeed under pressure.

The numbers say otherwise.  The numbers say that the Yankees got lucky in 2009, when they won the World Series, and that they got really lucky in the late 1990s when they won three World Series in a row.  But the Yankees’ luck wasn’t there from 2001 to 2007, when they had consistently excellent teams but could not “buy” a world championship.

You’ve heard the expression that it’s better to be lucky than good? …

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Larry@Safeco

Safeco has lots of good food choices.  Yours truly downed an Ichiroll.  Spicy tuna sushi.  Yum.  The vendors walk the aisles selling things like chocolate covered strawberries on a stick.   I thought about visiting the wine bar, only they were pouring cabernet into plastic cups.  How gauche.  What would Max Riedel say?

After the opening ceremonies, the color guard for the National Anthem and the ceremonial first pitch, Jason Vargas toed the rubber, the PA system switched off, and … QUIET.  Maybe 10 db higher than a moment of silence for a fallen hero.  If you look at the first picture above, you can see that we were sitting maybe 30 feet from Lindsay the ballgirl on the first base side.  I had no problem hearing her talk up the guys in the front row.  Hell.  I swear I could hear individual voices on the other side of the stadium.

24,000 fans, the park about half full.  Two teams playing out the string.…

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