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Posts Tagged ‘Bud Selig’

Even in peace, MLB finds a way to get bruised. Instead of focusing on the unprecedented 21 years of labor peace that will result from yesterday’s new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the focus of many, if not most, has been on elements of the deal they don’t like. Interestingly, the strongest objections have been for items like draft slotting and expanded playoffs, which just so happen to be heralded in other sports. In some ways, that’s unfair, but baseball has always been held to a higher standard (see steroids) because it is the National Pastime.

We are headed for massive problems in the next CBA. Competitive balance is going to get progressively worse.” – Anonymous GM, quoted by Ken Rosenthal, November 23, 2011

The most repeated criticism of the new CBA is it has the potential to dampen competitive balance by restricting the amount of money that small market teams can spend in the draft and international free agent market. Because teams like the Royals, Pirates, Royals, and Padres have become the most prolific spenders in the draft, the theory goes, curtailing the amount of money spent will limit their ability to be competitive. However, there is a flaw to this logic. The reason those teams have spent more is twofold: they have amassed more picks and bonus payouts at the top of the draft have been increasing exponentially.

Top-10 Spenders in the Rule IV Draft, 2007-2011

Team Total Bonuses
Pirates $52,057,400
Nationals $51,084,600
Royals $45,204,900
Red Sox $44,097,250
Orioles $41,219,700
Rays $40,582,200
Blue Jays $38,429,600
Mariners $36,055,900
Padres $35,768,100
Diamondbacks $35,261,000

Source: baseballamerica.com

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Labor peace in baseball has become a given, which is remarkable considering the contentious history between the players and owners. However, after reading a summary of the new CBA unveiled this afternoon, it appears as if the partnership between owners and players is even stronger than imagined.

In the past, negotiations between the two sides were more like a battle of attrition in which changes were enacted only by give and take. This time around, both parties seemingly took a more pro-active approach, co-authoring some of the most sweeping changes in recent history. Although many of the final details have yet to be revealed, enough information is available to make an early assessment about the new CBA. A summary of the key changes is listed below, with an analysis provided after each section.

Baseball's new CBA was the product of a partnership, not battle, between the owners and players.

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The Houston Astros have been relegated. After losing 100 games for the first time in franchise history, the team’s rapid descent in the N.L. Central has culminated in a transfer to the A.L. West. Talk about a tough crowd.

Drayton McLane and Jim Crane shake hands on a deal to sell the Astros. (Photo: Houston Chronicle)

Ironically, in a year during which the Astros were mostly irrelevant on the field, the franchise has become the linchpin for some of the most significant changes in recent baseball history. Luckily for major league baseball, former team owner Drayton McLane was anxious to sell because, otherwise, Bud Selig’s master plan probably could not have been implemented.

While purists often criticize Bud Selig for moving too fast, more casual observers accuse him of dragging his feet. In reality, however, Selig has been a master compromiser. Since his early dogmatic failures, including the 1994 World Series cancellation and the aborted attempt at contraction, Selig has accepted his role as a facilitator and successfully taken the middle road. Always willing to make a change, but not too much, the commissioner has made an art out of completely alienating no one.

By moving the Astros to the A.L. West, Selig has once again negotiated a master compromise. Now, baseball can move forward with its plan to expand the playoffs by adding two Wild Cards and pay lip service to both sides of the aisle. To a purist like me, the one-game wild card round is really nothing more than a de facto extension of the regular season that actually has the effect of making the division more important, and by extension, restoring credibility to the 162-game schedule. To more casual observers, however, baseball can market the expanded playoffs as a competitive balance initiative with the added benefit of an exciting winner-take-all segue into the real postseason. In that sense, the added wild card, and the abbreviated play-in game that will result, is really nothing more than a lead-in to October.

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Before buying a majority stake in the Houston Astros, John McMullen was a limited owner of the New York Yankees. When asked to describe his role with the team, McMullen once famously said, “There’s nothing so limited as a limited partner of George Steinbrenner.” In truth, the same could be said for just about any sports franchise.

Over the last two seasons, Jeff Moorad has been a minority owner of two different major league baseball teams, both of which happen to compete in the same division. After resigning his post as CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, Moorad led a group that purchased 35% of the San Diego Padres from majority owner John Moores. In 2010, Moorad’s group increased its stake in the Padres to 49%, but Moorad himself retained a not insignificant 8% share of the Diamondbacks.

Fortunately, that’s another issue I don’t have to worry about.” – Commissioner Bud Selig, speaking about the sale of Jeff Moorad’s minority stake in the Diamondbacks

In a recent interview, Bud Selig confirmed that this odd conflict of interest was finally resolved when the Diamondback’s current ownership group purchased Moorad’s 8% stake. According to a MLB.com report, the Ken Kendrick-led partnership paid $21 million to absorb Moorad’s stake in the Diamondbacks. Considering Forbes recently valued the team at $379 million, the price received by Moorad amounts to an over 30% discount (a price that basically amounts to value net of debt). Although it’s possible that the Forbes’ valuation was inflated, the low-ball price paid by Kendrick’s group makes you wonder if Selig exerted pressure on Moorad to divest before another season began.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeU.)

The word out of the General Managers meetings in Orlando is the plan to expand the major league baseball playoffs to 10 teams is moving full speed ahead. According to numerous reports, Commissioner Bud Selig, who has been pushing the proposal with a heavy hand, intends to finalize a recommendation after convening his special committee at the winter meetings in December. Ultimately, any plan would have to be approved by both the owners and players before being implemented, but the early signs point toward acceptance from both.

The initial negative reaction to expanding the post season centers on potential damage to the integrity of the regular season as well as the possible dilution of the playoffs by permitting lesser teams to participate. Both of those concerns are certainly valid, but don’t they exist under the current system anyway?

I think the more teams you have in it, the month of September will obviously be more meaningful. The minuses: two of them obviously are the integrity of the schedule and the history of the game, where you know the best teams always moved forward. But we really crossed that bridge, didn’t we, when we went from two teams to four teams, and then four teams to eight teams? So that bridge has been crossed. I’ve changed. I could add more teams.” – Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, quoted by AP

Beeston’s fatalist attitude isn’t exactly what you’d like to hear from one of the lords of the game, but does he have a point?

What History Would Have Been Like with a Second Wild Card

  “Second” AL Wild Card W L Rank   Actual AL Wild Card W L Rank
2010 Red Sox 89 73 5   Yankees 95 67 2
2009 Rangers 87 75 4   Red Sox 95 67 3
2008 Yankees 89 73 4   Red Sox 95 67 3
2007 Tigers/Mariners 88 74 5   Yankees 94 68 3
2006 White Sox 90 72 5   Tigers 95 67 3
2005 Indians 93 69 5   Red Sox 95 67 2
2004 Athletics 91 71 5   Red Sox 98 64 2
2003 Mariners 93 69 4   Red Sox 95 67 3
2002 Red Sox/Mariners 93 69 5   Angels 99 63 3
2001 Twins 85 77 5   Athletics 102 60 2
2000 Indians 90 72 4   Mariners 91 71 3
1999 Athletics 87 75 5   Red Sox 94 68 4
1998 Blue Jays 88 74 4   Red Sox 92 70 2
1997 Angels 84 78 5   Yankees 96 66 2
1996 Mariners 85 76 5   Orioles 88 74 4
  Average 88.8 73.1 4.7     94.9 67.1 2.7
  Median 89 73 5     95 67 3
                   
 

“Second” NL Wild Card

W L Rank   Actual NL Wild Card W L Rank
2010 Padres 90 72 5   Braves 91 71 3
2009 Giants 88 74 5   Rockies 92 70 3
2008 Mets 89 73 4   Brewers 90 72 3
2007 Padres 89 74 4   Rockies 90 73 2
2006 Phillies 85 77 4   Dodgers 88 74 2
2005 Phillies 88 74 4   Astros 89 73 3
2004 Giants 91 71 5   Astros 92 70 4
2003 Astros 87 75 5   Marlins 91 71 3
2002 Dodgers 92 70 5   Giants 95 66 4
2001 Giants 90 72 4   Cardinals 93 69 1
2000 Dodgers 86 76 5   Mets 94 68 4
1999 Reds 96 67 5   Mets 97 66 4
1998 Giants 89 74 5   Cubs 90 73 4
1997 Mets/Dodgers 88 74 4   Marlins 92 70 2
1996 Expos 88 74 4   Dodgers 90 72 3
  Average 89.1 73.1 4.5     91.6 70.5 3.0
  Median 89 74 5     91 71 3

The two charts above display the actual wild card winner and what would have been the second wild card in each league since 1996 (the first 162-game season of divisional play). As you can see, the wild card really hasn’t diluted the post season in the American League, as evidenced by the average and median wild card record of 95-67. Adding a fifth team, however, would include a participant with an average and median record of 89-73, which doesn’t look as good. Then again, the National League wild card really hasn’t been much better. While a potential second NL wild card would also have posted an average record of 89-73, the wild card team already in place has only been two games better.

The first question to consider is why has the American League wild card been so strong (the answer to which may also explain why the league as a whole has been vastly superior over the past decade)? Of the 15 American League wild cards, 11 have come from the East division, and seven of those teams finished second to the Yankees. What appears to be happening is a sort of Yankee-effect in which American Leagues teams, particularly those in the East, have been forced to improve their organization-wide efficiency in an attempt to keep up with the growing dominance of the pinstripes. Nowhere has this been more evident than in Boston, which has won almost half of the American League wild cards.

It is notable that the potential second wild card team in each league would have had essentially the same record over the past 15 seasons. What this suggests is that regardless of the fluctuations in league quality, 89 wins will probably be the average total for a second wild card. Of course, with the incentive of an added playoff spot, it remains to be seen what impact that will have on team records. Will fewer teams be willing to make mid-season trades, thereby lessening the ability of the elite clubs to strengthen themselves down the stretch? If so, the overall records of all playoff teams could suffer. Or, will the middling clubs all bolster themselves and, in the process, define the middle up at the expense of a much softer underbelly? It seems as if the impact could go either way.

Normally, the idea of diluting the regular season would be abhorrent to me. After all, baseball’s heart and soul is its 162-game marathon, and not the one-month sprint conducted in October. However, based on the information above, I am not sure there would be much of a dilution, at least not much greater than what exists now. In fact, if constructed with just a little bit of common sense, an extra wild card might actually return integrity back to the regular season.

If the eventual proposal advanced by the Commissioner’s special committee serves the purpose of placing both wild cards at a disadvantage, then it would actual once again place great importance on winning a division title. In this year’s AL East “race”, the Rays and Yankees, both of whom were assured a playoff spot, made a mockery of the regular season by playing the last month like Alphonse and Gaston. Under a proposal in which the two wild cards would first have to hash it out in a short series, teams would no longer treat September with such indifference. Ultimately, that would serve the purpose of increasing the relevance of the regular season without diluting the playoffs, especially if the American League’s superior wild card environment was to normalize more along the lines of the National League.

As a purist, accepting expanded playoffs may just be another example of losing a battle to win the war. That same philosophy has been used by teams to eschew division titles when they had the safety of the wild card as a back-up. Because it’s become so prevalent, baseball might as well put that Machiavellian strategy to good use.

The current wild card system has often replaced pennant races with an "I don't want it, you take it" attitude.

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