MLB Should Not Follow NCAA Football's Lead in Realignment Moves

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MLB Should Not Follow NCAA Football's Lead in Realignment Moves
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The NCAA is powerless to stop the complete destruction of the Big 12. Nebraska has already joined the Big Ten (now the new Big 12—or maybe Big 16 soon), and teams such as Texas, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and others could soon follow.

Other teams are being courted by the Pac-10.  

These big conferences are doing it for money, to create new rivalries, and to gain leverage over other conferences with regards to bowl games and TV contracts (i.e. more money).

Major League Baseball likes money too, and they are very good at earning a buck. With TV revenues at an all-time high, and royalties galore, each team is making around $40 million before they sell one ticket. Estimated revenues in 2010 are $8 billion.

With the team salaries of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox increasing via free agency, there is talk of possible realignment in the major leagues due to the perennial top of the division finishes for both of those "Big Market" teams.

Realignment for the sake of putting all the "Big Market" teams together should not happen—ever.

Teams need to compete with what they have, similar to how some people are born into wealth and some are not. Those people who are not born wealthy need to work harder and do better than those who already have the money.

Do you think Bill Gates of Microsoft was born with a silver spoon in his mouth? No. He worked hard to develop his software for personal computers.

The only teams which people are concerned about in realignment are the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the American League East and the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East. 

Other large city teams such as the Los Angeles and Chicago teams are somewhat affected, but not as much.

Why? They are the only big market team in their respective divisions. The Yankees/Red Sox and Mets/Phillies are two big market teams in one division. Seeking to "one up" the other, both franchises try to outspend each other. 

This causes people to believe other teams in those divisions might not be able to compete. But those other teams do compete and they compete and win often.

They work harder by drafting and developing players and building from within.

Take the Red Sox and Yankees. They have been rivals for too long, and have a tremendous history.

Why change things?

Despite their recent success, each of those teams has had bouts with loss. The Yankees have made the playoffs 13 of the last 14 seasons, but missed out on the playoffs the 12 years prior to Derek Jeter—and other homegrown players—becoming starters.

The Red Sox have made the playoffs six of the last seven years, but missed out on five of the prior seven years before that.

During those down years, the Orioles and Blue Jays were dominating the AL East. At the time of two divisions, even the Detroit Tigers won a few titles. The Tampa Bay Rays are currently tied for first place, and made the World Series in 2008.

The late 1960s and early 1970s were miserable for both teams, and the Phillies and Mets were mostly terrible back then as well.

The Yankees and Red Sox built their recent good stretches through their own systems and players, and then paid up the money to keep their own guys. Any free agents they signed were brought aboard to supplement an already strong team.

These big market teams have the most revenue, and are supposedly the richest. But in order to succeed, a team (and a company) still has to be well run.

Most of the dozen seasons the Yankees were not winning, they were signing free agents, but still not winning titles. That is because they did not have their own core of homegrown players to keep things stable.

Same thing with the New York Mets' last few seasons. They signed free agents such as Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran, but did not build a deep core of homegrown talent. They did not make the playoffs for several seasons, but now are playing better with many cheaper, younger players.

All winning teams have their own homegrown developed core.

The Yankees and Red Sox have deep pocket ownership, but all MLB owners are wealthy. The Minnesota Twins' Pohlad-family ownership is worth over $2 billion. The Rays owner made a fortune on Wall Street. They are all wealthy.

The Yankees and Red Sox have tremendous local TV money, but that is because the demand is there for their product.

That has been built through years of turmoil and success and both franchises have built up tremendous fanbases. Most teams which have been around have that advantage. Newer franchises need to build from within to win.

And winning seasons usually do bring more fans (and additional revenue) to the games.

Many people feel the other teams in AL East, such as the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, are destined to be fighting for last place nearly every season. Those teams need to do a better job in developing their own players to get better.

The Orioles think they have done that, but it hasn't yielded wins yet. The Blue Jays have done the same via the draft, but their guys (mostly young pitchers) have begun to improve.

The good teams build from within, then add on when needed.

Within the last several years, five starting pitchers were traded due to salary concerns. These players were Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Jake Peavy.

Only Sabathia's current team, the Yankees (40-23), have a significantly better record than the team which traded him, the Cleveland Indians (25-37), or let him go via free agency, the Milwaukee Brewers (26-37).

The Mets (35-28) are a game worse than Santana's former team, the Twins (36-27). Lee's new team, the Seattle Mariners (24-39), are worse than the Indians (25-37). Even Halladay's new big market team, the Phillies (32-29), are a half game back of the Toronto Blue Jays' record (34-30).

And the surprise in all of baseball, the San Diego Padres, who traded Peavy last season to the big market Chicago White Sox, have a record of 37-26, a full seven-and-a-half games better than the Pale Hose.

Those small market teams are doing something right. They are developing cheap talent and winning. Spending the most money does not guarantee success in the win column.

The next step is to be able to keep the young talented players within your franchise and not let them move on via free agency. More revenue is flowing into the smaller market teams. That money needs to be put to better use.

Let's say I have complete control of what to do for the majors with regards to realignment. Both the owners and the players union give me carte blanche and will not change anything I enact. 

I would then:

 

1) Add Two More Teams to the American League West

The American League has 14 teams and the National League has 16 teams. Two more teams in the AL would give the majors 32 teams.

It would give the current owners another $1 billion in their coffers. Sell two franchises to two more rich people for $600 million each. Take the $1 billion and split it between the current 30 teams.

Take the additional $200 million and give much of it to the lower market teams, and make it part of the deal that they spend this extra money on player salaries.

Or they can split the money up any other way, but the additional money received by the smaller market teams MUST BE SPENT ON SALARIES.

Not to sign other teams' free agents, but require them to use that money to sign their own players who are free agents. The idea is to keep your own good players to build a relationship between fans and players. Kids grow up idolizing their heroes.

My hero was Thurman Munson, and he was a Yankee for life. My dad's was Joe DiMaggio, and he was a Yankee for life. My 12-year-old son's baseball hero is Derek Jeter, and he isn't gong anywhere else.

These homegrown heroes should be kept and not let go via free agency because of salary constraints. Joe Mauer stays in Minnesota, Albert Pujols stays in St. Louis, Carl Crawford should be able to stay in Tampa Bay, and Prince Fielder the same in Milwaukee.

These two new MLB cities should be Portland, OR and San Antonio, TX, the two largest cities which do not have a major league baseball franchise. Each of these cities have several citizens who are members of the Forbes 400 of riches Americans, so they have wealth.

 

2) Require Revenue Sharing Money To Be Spent on Player Salaries

This is similar to the above concept, but also includes the international free agent market and the draft.

The Florida Marlins should not receive $45 million in revenue sharing, and only have $35 million in player salaries. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals should not be content with earning a small profit based solely upon their revenue share dollars, and continue to be rewarded for their ineptness.

These teams are/were content to make a small profit and move on. Mostly they complained of the woe-is-me small market syndrome.

The international market is teeming with talent, and most players go to the bigger market teams. I am not a fan of an international draft so the smaller market teams need to be required to spend on these talent troves to get better players.

 

3) Limit Teams To Sign Only Two Multi-Year Free Agents per Offseason

Since revenue sharing money is required to be spent for smaller market teams to sign their own free agents, there will be less players available on the open market. Teams will lock up more of their own talented younger players for longer terms.

With fewer free agents out there, more teams will have to develop their own talent. 

It is easy for a General Manager to spend a lot on players, but it is much tougher to develop talent.

But if a GM must go free agency, he cannot sign more than two multi-year deals in one offseason affecting the bigger dollar contracts. This will force guys to sign quickly and does not limit the one-year deals.

 

4) Expand Team Control from Six Years to Seven Years

A team which develops a good young player should be rewarded. A young player usually takes two seasons to get his feet wet, and begins to really start producing in year three. That is three years into the team relationship and now you begin to get into the higher arbitration dollars.

Make it seven years of control, with the first four of slotted salaries, unless, of course a team wants to buy out a player's arbitration years.

Then get rid of the Super Twos. If a rookie plays in a game, he has a year under his belt. That will get really good younger players up sooner for teams which develop talent, but teams now have that extra year of control.

No more Stephen Strasburgs and Carlos Santanas waiting for two-plus months in the minors when their teams could use their talents now. More Jason Heywards and Evan Longorias. How many games could Strasburg have won if he began this season in the majors?

Washington would have a much better record, and they would have sold out every Strasburg game so far. That is good for all teams involved.

Over the last 10 seasons, there have been six different AL teams in the World Series, and an amazing eight different NL teams in the Fall Classic. Small market teams such as Houston, Florida, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, and Arizona have made the World Series.

During this stretch Colorado, San Diego, Oakland, and Minnesota have made the playoffs in multiple seasons.

There is no need for realignment to occur. There have been many times where large market teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Dodgers, Mets, and both Chicago franchises have floundered.

The Cubs spend a lot of money ($144 million in 2010) and still have not won a World Series in over 100 years. The White Sox have won one title since the early 20th century and the Red Sox have only their two recent titles.

The Marlins have the same number of World Series titles. If they were required to spend money on keeping many of their own players, they might have won more.

According to reports I read, Boston is only the 10th biggest market in the United States, and areas such as Dallas, Houston, Washington, Miami, and Atlanta are bigger.

So why is Boston considered a "Big Market" team while some of those above and many just below Boston are considered "Small Market"?

There is a vast history of baseball in Boston, and many more fans are interested in their team. And their ownership spends the money to compete.

If other "Smaller Market" teams built a relationship with the fans in their market via homegrown players who are kept within their organization, they could build more of a following, too. A better product builds more revenue via ticket sales and media revenues.

It will take some time and good hard work to compete. Bill Gates can attest to that.

Teams which build strongly from within and then keep their own players will get better. Even the Pirates were good in the early 1990s, but could not keep their good, young players such as Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and John Smiley.

Trades will still occur and major stars will still be traded for a pack of prospects. New York will win their share of titles, but will also go through a period of losing.

Everything goes in cycles.

My changes listed above would help many teams keep their talented players and compete with the bigger clubs.

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