Friday, February 1, 2008

$0+Smarts=Good; $$$+Smarts=Success

Look, the "genius" label gets tossed around way to often in terms of sports management. Billy Beane is often considered the brightest bulb in the bunch in recent years. Former Twins GM Terry Ryan has created a model of modest success despite historically tight budgets set by notorious tightwad Carl Pohlad. Theo Epstein is a virtual deity in New England, and rightfully so. Brian Cashman is universally respected by his peers.

Here's the difference: it's one thing to be smart, it's entirely another to be smart AND have (virtually) unlimited resources. The Yanks and RedSox have built deep, powerful and impressive farm systems the last few years. How? Not just due to great scouting departments. It takes CASH, and a lot of it. With the MLB draft/slotting system irrevocably flawed (the link is dated but still relevant), big market teams, or teams with owners willing to go the extra few yards, can exploit this system to their benefit. The Yanks, Sox and Tigers are doing just that.

Pete Abraham of the LoHud Yankees blog dug these stats out of the BA Prospect Handbook:

Yanks spending on draft picks the last few years:

  • 2007: $7.4 million
  • 2006: $6.3 million
  • 2005: $3.7 million
  • 2004: $4.8 million
  • 2003: $3.8 million
and the Red Sox:
  • 2007: $3.5 million
  • 2006: $6.8 million
  • 2005: $6.2 million
  • 2004: $1.8 million
  • 2003: $5.1 million

I won't even bring up the fact that endless resources allows a team to bury mistakes without crippling it's chances long term. Pavano, Jaret Wright, Kei Igawa, Edgar Renteria, JD Drew, Coco Crisp, Eric Gagne.... Any of those on a small market team could naplam a team's chances. But for the big guys, they can just write it off and that's more than a tremendous advantage.

Just remember, it was the late Bill Veeck, owner of the Chicago White Sox, who said: ''It isn't the high price of stars that's expensive, it's the high price of mediocrity.''


susan mullen said...

The listing by Peter Abraham gives a slanted view. Was Watching posted other facts:
" * "The Yankees aggressively signed players in [the 2006] draft, and did so again [in 2007], spending $7,432,500 in the first 10 rounds.

* But the Orioles ($7,672,500) and

* Nationals ($7,619,300) outspent them there, and the

* Tigers ($7,305,000),

* Devil Rays ($7,172,000) and

* Giants ($7,027,000) came close. No club topped $7 million a year ago."

* Posted on WasWatching, 2/1/08, from Jim Callis Baseball America, August 2007"
The Yankees have had 2 good draft years in a row. Hardly enough to make the rest of the world scared. Unless that's your 24/7 agenda as it is with most of the media.

Jason said...


The inclusion of new data does not change the thrust of my point, which is this: it takes more than smarts to win long term. And the data you presented (which I had not seen yet) is a 2 year view. I'm very interested in a 5 year view, which would show the prospects emerging from the farm system to the majors now. If you have that, please email me.

Go take a look at any of the prospect or team farm system rankings and you will see the Giants, Nats, Orioles nowhere near the top. The Devil Rays are there due to a decade of ineptitude, though it seems their system is bearing fruit. Good for them.

As for lumping me in with most mainstream media, thanks for the compliment, backhanded or otherwise. I'm just one guy and a computer. I have no agenda. I'm just a fan who enjoys writing. And I consider myself a bit different than most blindly-homerific Yankee least I like to believe that. Still a fan, but more objective than your average bear.