2010 MLB Manifesto: How the Red Sox Run Baseball and Business

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2010 MLB Manifesto: How the Red Sox Run Baseball and Business
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It hit me at one point in the offseason that of the 30 teams in the game of baseball, there are a few teams that currently “get it” when it comes to running an organization, both short-term and long-term.

There are a few teams that get it and then there is the Boston Red Sox.

Few teams are on Boston’s playing field when it comes to spending money. That is a reality of the game we play in and for the foreseeable future, it will be the reality.

Yet the Red Sox do something that few other teams in their position do and quite frankly, I’m shocked that another team hasn’t tried to copy their blueprint.

This team spends money on free agents like John Lackey, but they put a lot of their financial backing into the players they draft as well. Like the free agent market, the better talent can be had for the higher price.

Now Washington would have been downright stupid to pass on Stephen Strasburg this past year, but other players get by. In addition, talented High School players don’t even get drafted in the first few rounds. Tim Lincecum was drafted way back in the 40’s before he attended college, but he failed to sign with Cleveland.

With a scholarship waiting for them at pretty much any program they decide, some prospects drafted out of high school can entertain the team that drafted them as they please. It may be risky, but Boston is one of those teams with the money to gamble.

Take a look at some of the draft picks of Boston’s past few years, the round they were drafted and the bonus they received. Players marked with an asterisk were drafted out of high school.

Notice anything off balance about the signing bonuses of those high school players compared to some of the ones coming out of college? How about the round they were drafted in?

Prime example is in 2008 when Bryan Price was drafted in the first round as a supplemental pick and signed to a bonus just shy of $850,000. Yet in the fourth round, Pete Hissey, a High School player, gets a million dollar bonus despite being drafted three rounds later.

Lars Anderson got $50,000 more for being drafted 17 rounds later than Caleb Clay.

Another thing to take note is the amount of first round picks this team seems to have accumulated.

 

First Round Picks

2005: 6 – 1 Lost, 3 Sup

2006: 4 – 2 Sup

2007: 3 – 2 Sup

2008: 2 – 1 Sup

2009: 1

While the days of five first round picks are over, Boston continues to nab supplemental picks on a yearly basis. They’ve created a system and so far, so good.

They’ll spend a lot of their funds on the draft, on high-potential players. Those players are developed and eventually turn out to be the Dustin Pedroias that make up half their team or the pieces used to get the Josh Becketts of the other half.

Jason Bay leaves and they’ll no doubt get more chips to play with from his departure. While they didn’t break the prospect bank to get him, they did send off three pieces (all college players, remarkably) to Cleveland for Victor Martinez.

Now Boston can go one of two ways, neither really are negative routes either. They could let Martinez walk, such as Bay did, and get compensated with more first round ammunition, where you know they won’t be afraid to spend money on high-end talent that falls to them.

Or they could simply re-sign Martinez.

Now mark my words the same situation is going to go down with Adrian Gonzalez. It’s only a matter of time before the Red Sox make a push to get the Padres’ first baseman. You cannot argue that Boston has one of the deepest organizations in the entire game, if not thee deepest, so it wouldn’t be a tough task.

They’ve got a system and it’s working very well. Some teams have the cash, but they spend a vast majority of it on free agents and the major league product. Some teams put a large portion of their budget into their minor league development system.

Boston has cleverly backed both of those areas financially and so far, it’s working.

 

Change is a good thing, or is it?

There’s been a lot of talk about realignment possibilities taking place within the game. With Bud Selig angling to make one more big change before he rides off into the sunset, let me tell you why I can’t see anything of this magnitude occurring.

Let me start with, what I believe to be the original source of this “realignment” movement.

ESPN put out a series of articles that they said would present topics readers would need to know from contributors with a “vast knowledge of the game.”

David Schoenfield’s part of “Hot Stove U” tackled this realignment issue after he made the case that the MLB’s competitive balance was actually on par with the NFL’s.

Let me just say that I don’t think you can argue against Schoenfield’s proof, the MLB definitely had more different teams win the World Series this past decade than the NFL. However that doesn’t mean the system they’ve set up is set up to achieve competitive balance.

I also think in both instances, both leagues just have had poorly run franchises and very well run franchises. Pittsburgh, New England, Indianapolis, Philadelphia have all done well in the NFL and like I explained earlier, Boston seems to have exemplified how to run an MLB franchise.

The NFL has head-shakers like Detroit, Cleveland, and Arizona before they turned it around, while the MLB has Kansas City, Washington, and Pittsburgh. The point is, you need good ownership, first and foremost, if you want to contend in either league. Without good ownership, you don’t get savvy baseball or football people running the show.

I hate to get into a tangent and compare the NFL to the MLB like Schoenfield did, so let me stick to what I originally brought this issue up for. What Schoenfield did realize is that baseball isn’t fair to everyone, so in order to keep what he deems is the “competitive balance” in the game and also establish fairness, he proposed realignment.

Schoenfield proposed that we change the divisions, not just once, but every single year and the 14-man committee that Bud Selig put together, has floated something similar, “floating realignment.”

I will preface this little rant with the following statement: I’m using mainly logic here. I have no hard evidence or statistics or reasoning. In fact, most of this is based off a twisted sense of logic and emotion.

Being a fan of the Cleveland Indians, I think I’m qualified enough to say that while the proposal would aim to benefit teams like Cleveland, it would undoubtedly take all the spirit out of baseball for a fan like myself.

I don’t want to see my team moved to the AL East after a season just because we’ve “declared rebuilding” for the 2010 season. As a wise accountant once told his boss, “You can’t just say the word bankruptcy and expect anything to happen.”

What if this team plays above expectations in this certain season and it turns out that they could have won the AL Central if they stuck around.

Don’t go moving teams year by year based off financial situation. There is way too much chaos and unhappiness involved in such an idea.

I understand, that this is strictly a concept with a lot of working details and that perhaps the Indians would have a choice to leave the AL Central for a year if they so chose, but can they choose to go back or would that be up to the team that replaced them? How is it fair to a team like Tampa Bay to have to move based on what a team with a lower-payroll wants to do?

How is it fair that we foster the Yankees’ spending habits by telling them they’ve got the AL East all to themselves and Boston each season? It’s basically admitting defeat and saying, “Okay New York, you guys want to dominate the AL East? Go ahead and do it, we’ll let teams get in another way. While you and Boston beat up on the season’s designated punching bag.”

Why essentially hand over playoff spots to these two teams every year as long as they field a payroll that reaches $100 million? Is it really out of the realm of possibilities that Tampa Bay topples Boston or New York for a wild card spot this year?

Logically to me, this doesn’t make much sense. Maybe I don’t know all of the details and perhaps there are a lot more things that need to be addressed or have been addressed in this concept that I don’t know about.

But to me, that is the exact reason that this idea could be way too much for baseball to handle. There are so many rules and guidelines that casual fans would get confused. Why is their team moving to this division, why are they moving back a year later?

Why why why why why why!? That’s annoying to read, just imagine how annoying it would be to hear.

It’s at least encouraging that this committee, which Indians General Manager and Vice President Mark Shapiro is a part of, is at least exploring ideas. But count me in the group that is against this one. I hope Shapiro realizes this isn’t progress for a team like Cleveland.

And another thing, one of the main draws for a team like Cleveland in moving to the AL East would be the extra revenue they would receive in having more home games against bigger draws like Boston and New York.

Save your own pity money, I want none of it. Cleveland doesn’t need the Red Sox and Yankees to come in and draw a crowd; they just need to win ballgames. And how much more extra money is a team like Cleveland going to make by having a few more home games against those teams anyway? Not enough to compete with them in payroll, so again, save your pity money.

I don’t pretend to have the answers, so I guess I’m bashing without a logical solution to the problem I’m bashing, but there are flaws in this method and many more that I haven’t even listed.

Matt Poloni, on this site just a week ago, wrote an excellent piece against this proposal.

His article didn’t get nearly enough exposure it should have. But Matt did a great job of poking many holes in the proposal and it raised many more questions that I didn’t.

Take it from a guy who roots for one of the teams that this is largely aiming to help.

It isn’t good for baseball and I highly doubt it will help as much as Selig and his committee would hope it would.

 

"2010 MLB Manifesto" is a part of a month-long series of articles that are previewing the 2010 MLB season. For the other parts of "2010 MLB Manifesto," other features, and a schedule, click here .

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