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Fans of Baseball Should Root Against Small Market Teams And Here’s Why

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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.

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.

 

Written by Gary Sheffield, Jr

Gary Sheffield Jr is the son of should-be MLB Hall of Famer, Gary Sheffield. He covers basketball and baseball for OutKick.com, chats with the Purple and Gold faithful on LakersNation, and shitposts on Twitter. You can follow him at GarySheffieldJr

31 Comments

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  1. It’s been proposed in the next CBA that all teams have a 100 million dollar payroll floor. It can’t happen soon enough in my opinion. The question is how would they spend it. Would they make Wander Franco the next 30 a year man when they get close on his controllable years or spread it around?

    • Maybe big market teams should quit trying to buy titles. It’s completely stupid to suggest you be forced to spend more…that’s overspending for no reason. He’s mad because the over spending Yanks ain’t winning. Too bad. I’d rather they cap spending to 100…I couldn’t care less if the Yanks and Red Sox can’t buy up every player.

    • Imo, TB should offer Franco a smaller mid-term contract early to give him decent money, keep him a couple extra years, but not break the bank. TB did that with Carl Crawford (4year 15 million) early to keep him around a few extra years, and so did the Cubs with Rizzo(7 year 41 million – one of the best deals ever). More teams should offer early contracts to their emerging stars after they show their potential in a full season rather than wait 3-4 seasons when there’s no chance to sign them long term. It’s dumb business to try to squeeze nickels the first 3-4 seasons when you’re talking about franchise superstar players. I say invest in the no-brainer talents earlier to maximize your return. Once you get to arbitration years with a guy like Franco you’re going to pay one way or another.

  2. Interesting take by Gary. For me, I hate that almost every year a big market team is favored to win the LCS and get to the series – against another big market team. So when a small market team gets there, it just seems more interesting. I agree that there should be a floor on spending, but there should also be a ceiling – screw the luxury tax BS.

  3. Gary, great read. I agree with 99% of what you’ve said here. My only caveat would be that at least the Rays and A’s compete year in and year out, with the former sometimes dominating.

    I agree there needs to salary minimum, but teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Miami Marlins are the problem because they’re OK with low payrolls and mediocrity. At least Tampa and Oakland make changes/trades and position themselves to compete. Baltimore seems perfectly OK with last place finishes every year because, as you pointed out, teams are profitable no matter what.

    There needs to be consequences for mediocrity. Maybe they need to forfeit draft picks for multiple years of last place finishes. At the very least, they should pick towards the bottom of the first round and not be rewarded for tanking.

    Lastly, it’s so frustrating to see so many capable veterans not get signed because teams “want to develop their young players.” Well that’s what minors used to be used for, but now you’ve teams turning the show into AAAA ball.

    …. The owners will want something substantial in return for a salary floor. Something like another year of time manipulation. That’ll help ensure, in their minds, the extra money goes towards mid-level/short term contracts while not having to worry about superstars contracts getting even bigger.

    • Baltimore is a little different. During the Buck Showalter era they were middle class, maybe even upper middle class on payroll. They hired Mile Elias, who was part of the Astros build as a Sr VP. They are spending millions in scouting and player development. They are building and staffing a 22 acre development academy in the Dominican Republic. I certainly wish they would spend a little more on the 40 man roster than the current plan of dumpster diving for guys like Matt Harvey and Jorge Lopez to fill out the rotation and bullpen while the farm system (Which is rated #1 in milb) does it’s thing. It’s horrible watching your team have a win total in the 40’s or 50’s. Trust the process I guess. I have confidence when it gets turned around ownership will provide resources.

      • Good points on the upgrades in scouting and the Dominican facilities but that doesn’t necessarily translate to investment on the big league field. Ultimately that means they’ll just have more low-cost quality players waiting in the wings.

        Elias/Baltimore have been asking for patience for several years now. Same with Pittsburgh, Miami etc. They tank for 3-4 years, see if they can catch fire for a season, maybe two and sell off and blow it up for another half decade. Rinse and repeat…..

      • Bro.. I feel your pain. Rays finished last in the AL East in like 9 of their first 10 seasons (finished 4th once). After ’08 it’s been consistent rosters that always have a chance of making the playoffs. Although owners can spend more $$ it’s not sustainable to try to keep up with the Yankees and Dodgers. Two big contracts and you limit the other potential players you can bring in. Rays management has had the right balance of developing talent, trading, and reloading.

  4. Agree there should be a floor (~$75M) but there should also be a cap. Yes, the owners could afford to spend more but can’t errbody spend NYY, BOS, LAD money. Every year in the NFL you have about 4 teams that made the playoffs the previous year who miss it the next (and vice versa). Parity is a good thing for any sport, which a cap facilitates.

    If interesting teams are those who spend a shitload of $$ then idk how every team spending $$ makes for a higher volume of interesting teams. If anything, it would just more evenly distribute the top talent.

    Anyway, nothing like sitting back sippin a Busch Light watching the Rays mop up the Red Sox (again). And anyone from NY that wanna bring it, bring it. We ain’t singing, we bringin drama.

  5. Hmmm…Fox carries the world series. Fox loves the big market teams because they drive ratings. Fox hates small market teams for the same reason in reverse.

    Fox owns Outkick.

    Nice job Gary. Keep it up and you’ll have a bright future with The Corporation.

        • This is a great column in that it sparks a lot of interesting perspectives and debate. I don’t totally disagree w/ a floor when it comes to shitty teams that are never good (I.e. Pirates, Marlins) but seems the crux of the argument is moneyball/cheap teams are boring/bad for the game whereas interesting teams must meet the prerequisites of having a ton of superstars acquired through free agency (facilitated via huge payrolls).

          However, there are only so many superstars to go around. If every team dropped $150M on salary per season one could argue the superstars would be more evenly distributed among the 30 clubs.

          Also, take away the Rays brand (which you think is trash) and look exclusively at the players/product on the field. The Rays w/ their cheap payroll are a more fun team to watch than NYY. Up there among most runs scored, leading the league in comeback victories, most runs scored in the 7th/8th/9th, deep bullpen, best prospect in baseball (who btw has a 38-game on base streak), and great team average w/ RISP.

    • I won’t write articles that further my career. I write articles to promote the truth, wherever that leads. If you want writers that writ specifically to further themselves, then go literally anywhere else and you’ll find them all agreeing with one another.

  6. I think you’re looking at revenue, rather than profit. Interestingly though the Rays and A’s revenue is boosted by luxury tax teams like the Yanks and Dodgers.

    At least the Rays and A’s try to win. Not sure why a team like the Marlins even exist. Forever turning over their talent without much success.

    My least favorite example would be the Houston Astros. They lost on purpose for about 5-6 years with having to be competitive(no salary floor as noted above) but did acquire top talent through the draft for years, no expensive free agents, even though they could afford some. Another reason to hate them.

  7. Root against a team that is obviously doing things better and smarter than the big spenders, no not me. Just shows you need a TEAM and not overpriced superstars. But I could live with a floor of say $60 million as long as you had a cap as well, say twice the floor or $120 million. I think individual players should have a floor and a cap as well so they don’t ruin the team by taking up too large a chunk of the payroll.

  8. Come on Gary. In an other industry in the world a business owner would be praised for running a successful business efficiently. If the Rays and A’s run their business better than the Red Sox and Yankees they should be commended for that, not criticized.

  9. The Rays have never won a WS. Since the A’s won their last one in 1989 the Yankees have won 5 and the Red Sox have won 3. The A’s, Rays and Indians have certainly been punching above their weight. Would spending another 50 -60 million put them over the top?

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