Most fans of baseball have been conditioned to root for the little guy. Movies like Money Ball (2011) make over $110 million at the box office to promote management that prioritizes development over off-season player investment. Not so shockingly, the Oakland Athletics, along with the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals, continue this mindset to this day, but I’m here to argue their success is bad for the sport.
How? Well, if teams have too much success building winners without delivering an investment from ownership, what incentive will the remaining organizations have to sign free agents going forward? They won’t.
Rays Payroll 📉 Rays Record📈 pic.twitter.com/nShQNslJr6
— Neal Surrena (@KnightfanNeal) September 1, 2021
Now that the Rays sit comfortably ahead of the heavily spending Yankees and Red Sox with a payroll of $47 million, what now? We’re starting to see graphics promoted on social media like the one above that flaunts the idea of being successful despite a lack of investment. Allow fans to be convinced it’s a better thing to win while spending little as opposed to winning while spending makes for a boring league.
Organizations like the emerging Seattle Mariners will take note of the sudden buy-in to penny pinching and prospect development that they won’t have any reason to invest to get over the top. Fringe teams like the Mariners will merely ask for patience, creating a drawn out process towards building a winner. It’ll be wildly unrewarding for the local fan base.
Baseball fans should instead see the Rays’ payroll as an indictment of small market investment. We simply can’t lose sight of the fact that fans, including the local Rays base (wherever they are), should expect their team to invest money into their future rosters. Having $47 million going to the entire 40-man roster is a complete and utter embarrassment to the sport, regardless of the season they’re having.
Fans should root against small markets and beg for a spending floor
Conversations regarding payroll have been dominated by overly simple talking points like the addition of a “salary cap,” however baseball really needs a spending floor. Movies like Money Ball and the recent success of teams like the Athletics and Rays have hurt the game by romanticizing cheap ownership.
Never forget the owner of the Tampa Bay Rays has a net worth of $800 million and has made a profit of over $200 million off the team every year since 2016. The FREAKING Rays, a team no one shows up for in the stands, drew that type of profit. Meanwhile, fans who support them gloat like they’re the little guys. No, your owner brainwashed you into the David vs. Goliath mentality, and I’m here to shake you out of it.
Baseball fans should be begging for another big market World Series winner to force smaller markets to invest in their rosters. Fan interest is all that matters — not piling up regular season wins by developing talent you’ll eventually throw away to big city teams. Root for owners that spend…they’re the real reason fans show up to the park.