Monday, February 14, 2005

Pocket Lint far from a local phenomenon

"Pocket Lint" refers here to the USSMariner's not-so-friendly nicknaming of Bob Finnigan, bestowed upon the Times reporter for his habit of reporting as fact just about everything he hears from the M's front office. (Regular readers may remember an extended email conversation with Finnigan over at the Mariner Morsels blog that showed Finnigan's not really a bad guy.)

But Finnigan is by no means unique in his sympathetic renderings of front-office talk. Forwarded to me by my dad from the Northwest SABR email list, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does its own version of parroting the front office. Latest Spending Spree Shows Lack of Restraint, declares Robert Dvorchak's article.

In summary: Pittsburgh just doesn't have the money to compete, nor do other small market teams. There is a brief nod to the Pirates' own "lack of restraint," under former GM Cam Bonifay, but most of the article is devoted to criticizing the runaway spending. We hear this all the time--and I mean all the time--in Kansas City. The reality is that complaining about the system is an easier pill to swallow than facing the fact that your team continues to make poor decisions and doesn't match payroll increases to revenue-sharing-based income. That said, the revenue-sharing system is not designed to encourage competetive balance, but is designed solely to depress salaries league-wide. There are better ways (look at DMZ's) to structure it if the goal were competetive and financial parity, but it isn't.

I can understand Pittsburgh's frustration to a degree, but there are problems with this argument:
1) Baseball's finances are so opaque--deliberately so--that an accurate evaluation of how much money teams really are making, spending, and pocketing is virtually impossible. Even a transparent accounting would be far too complex for most fans, including myself to really understand.

2)If everybody's making too much money, well, then maybe nobody's making too much money. Scott Boras has been quoted claiming that the owners have been crying poor but actually have had a lot of money to spend, and this season lends credence to that claim. Lookout Landing posted an analysis of this year's free agent market, and it wasn't just a few teams that spent what looked like a lot money. In other words, what a player "should" be paid depends on how much money the market has to throw at him. If teams are making more money, why shouldn't they spend it?

3) There are successful small market teams, and lousy large-market teams.

Oh, and Dvorchak could at least go as far as getting Kansas City owner David Glass' name right (it's not David Green, as he reports).

No comments: