M.L.B.’s New “Competitive Balance Lottery:” Does It Really Matter?

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Introduction:

Let me be perfectly clear about one thing with regards to this article.  I have nothing against M.L.B. and the fact that there is no salary cap with regards to how its teams spend their money.  That is the agreed upon rule, and every team has the choice to spend whatever they feel is necessary to put a competitive ball-club on the field.

To me, an organization can spend as much money as they desire.  They shouldn’t feel constrained by anybody.  It’s their investment and they can see fit how to spend their own money.  (Personally I love how the N.F.L. instituted a rule that forces teams to spend as close to the cap as they can to prevent teams like the Bengals from short-changing their fans and team with their frugal attitude.  I am wholeheartedly for a system like this in M.L.B. where teams like the Pirates, Royals, and cough*Padres*cough will at least make an effort to spend some money, but I digress)

Yet does my aforementioned attitude mean that I don’t like the institution of a salary-cap in a professional sports league?  Hell no.  Take a look at the N.F.L. and the best teams in the League now.  Pittsburgh and Green Bay played in the Super Bowl last season, and they are two of the smallest markets in the League.

Emphasis is actually placed on a Front Office making savvy decisions through drafting, scouting, and hiring a coaching staff that is competent.  Teams don’t get to out-spend each other and the teams that make the intelligent decisions are the ones that are successful.  It’s really as simple as that.  Sure, baseball teams like Oakland and Tampa Bay can go to the Playoffs on a budget for a short period of time.  However, baseball franchises that don’t actually “nut-up” and spend money on a consistent basis, have nowhere near the return on their investment in terms of long-term success or Championships.

Am I Excited?  No:

For those of you that are excited about the litany of draft choices that the Padres will receive, I have some mixed feelings on the matter and I would like to share them with you that are excited:

Quantity of draft picks isn’t really something to get excited about.  Unlike the N.F.L., the M.L.B. Draft is somewhat of a crap-shoot in terms of the percentages of players (especially high draft picks) actually making the professional club and actually making an impact.  Sure the probability of finding a great player will be higher with the more picks, but the Padres really haven’t been the most savvy when it comes to scouting and selecting players in the Draft as of late.

On the plus-side though, the Padres could use these picks (they’ll probably get one every season the system is in place) as bargaining chips in trades.  Yet, these extra picks themselves will have to prove actually valuable over the coming years and the demand from them has to be high throughout the League.

To me, it’s nice to see the M.L.B. attempting to help the “Little Guys.”  However, I don’t think much will change with this new system in place that is set for 2013.  Sure the smaller market clubs will draft more players and have the chance to develop them and ready them for the big leagues.  And in the event that these prospects pan out, that’s great.

But you know, and I know, that it will be the same old story when it comes to the Free Agency signing period during every off-season.  These players will be offered big bucks by the teams that didn’t draft them and weren’t developed by them.  In turn, if the clubs that actually drafted and developed them don’t pony up the dough, then it’s the same vicious cycle as before.

All I see is an attempt by those in M.L.B. (who do have their hearts in the right place) to appear as if they are doing more to help smaller payroll clubs.  I’m sure they want to help, but I don’t see how these extra picks are going to change anything.  The teams with the smaller payrolls will continue to act as “feeder teams” to the teams with bigger payrolls.  And unless a perfect storm happens, the smaller-payroll clubs will continue to struggle to keep their own players.

In essence, these extra picks will simply generate a larger future Free Agent pool for the larger payroll clubs to sift through in the future.  All that really will be done is a small payroll team like San Diego will get these extra players (if they pan out…a BIG if) for a short window.  Sure, some special things could happen in that short 2-3 year window where they are in the big leagues.  However, if nothing happens, the Front Office (due to their frugality) won’t be able re-sign most, if any of them once they hit Free Agency.  I honestly hate to be a “Negative-Nancy,” but this is what I see happening.

Conclusion:

I apologize for those of you that are offended by my salty tone.  However, I just don’t see this “Competitive Balance Lottery” actually creating any competitive balance in the long-run.  It’s sad but true, and San Diego must be prepared to deal with the same consequences year in and year out.  The Padres will thus be left with 3 choices in terms of their future success and they all rest with them:

1. Successfully convince (along with the rest of the League) that a salary-cap must be instituted in M.L.B.. (Not happening)

2. Keep playing by the rules and under-spending and hope that the “Competitive Balance Lottery” works in their favor, try to build their team on a budget, and cross their fingers that a short window of success includes a World Series Championship.

3. Actually have a payroll upwards of the neighborhood of the low $50 million dollar mark.

The ball is still in your court Padres.  Let’s hope something positive can happen.

 

Follow me on Twitter (@DominicDiTolla)

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  • ChickenFriars

    Good analysis Dom. While I disagree and truly believe a smart front office can consistently win on almost any budget, you make some good points. I will say that Moorad announced during the summer that the Padres should be averaging a payroll around $70 million a year within the next few seasons.