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September 15, 2009 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Curt Flood's suit of Baseball. In 1970, baseball's best center fielder, Curt Flood filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball and its reserve clause.
posted by klangklangston (61 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the second link:
"I do not claim to have been the foremost beaver shooter in the history of organized baseball, but I was big league all the way. Anyone who finds something unwholesome in the activity simply lacks appreciation of female topography."

- Curt Flood in The Way It Is (1971)
Or, as he also called it -- "wenching," especially when "on the road."
posted by ericb at 1:56 PM on September 15, 2009


It is a goddamn travesty that neither Curt Flood nor Marvin Miller are in the Hall of Fame.
posted by Copronymus at 1:58 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you know nothing of the reserve clause, here's a lengthy definition and description from Wikipedia:
The reserve clause is a term formerly employed in North American professional sports contracts. The reserve clause, contained in all standard player contracts, stated that, upon the contract's expiration the rights to the player were to be retained by the team to which he had been signed. Practically, this meant that although both the player's obligation to play for the team as well as the team's obligation to pay the player were terminated, the player was not free to enter into another contract with another team. The player was bound to either a) negotiate a new contract to play another year for the same team or b) ask to be released or traded.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:01 PM on September 15, 2009


See also: 'Baseball's Reserve System: The Case and the Trial of Curt Flood vs. Major League Baseball' by Neil F. Flynn (2006).
posted by ericb at 2:03 PM on September 15, 2009


The Supreme Court ruled in favor of baseball 5-3, not on the strength of their case, but on a strange line of thought that combined a liberal use of stare decisis with a belief that baseball simply should stay the way it is.

Those wacky liberal activist judges!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:04 PM on September 15, 2009


The Curt Flood decision seems to me to have been bad law in light of the Olivia de Havilland suit, but baseball gets a lot of slack from the US legal system.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:14 PM on September 15, 2009


I cannot argue with the right of workers to work for whom they want, but I hate the results. It has resulted in even marginal ballplayers making more than I will make in my lifetime, and while their percentage of the "pot" is certainly justified, the pot itself is way too huge.

And small-market teams are at a vast disadvantage, and, while it is not impossible, in this day and age, to imagine a Pittsburgh-Kansas City World Series, the likelihood is vanishingly small.
posted by Danf at 2:16 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always wondered what the results would be if you polled every current big leaguer on who Curt Flood is and what he meant to the game. I would be shocked if greater than 5% of the players knew who he was.
posted by vito90 at 2:16 PM on September 15, 2009


I cannot argue with the right of workers to work for whom they want, but I hate the results.

I was thinking about this while reading on the reserve system. I don't know enough about major league sports to do more than guess, but it's my guess that the Curt Flood changed how much the investors/owners got back, not just what players were paid. Does anyone know if the costs to fans changed after the Seitz decision? From my understanding, MLB was getting more lucrative, and players wanted more of that. Would games be cheaper to attend if the reserve system was still in place?
posted by filthy light thief at 2:25 PM on September 15, 2009


> I cannot argue with the right of workers to work for whom they want, but I hate the results.

That is not the result of ballplayers having freedom, it is the result of the incredibly stupid arbitration system, which is what the owners got stuck with because they spent a century trying to deny their workers a decent wage. Fuck 'em.
posted by languagehat at 2:25 PM on September 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


I always wondered what the results would be if you polled every current big leaguer on who Curt Flood is and what he meant to the game...

If I were a player's agent, I would have a Curt Flood shrine in the corner of my office. I would make my client bow and do penance before his image before we started talking about their new contract with the team. I would make sure they damn-well knew who Curt Flood was.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:29 PM on September 15, 2009


Would games be cheaper to attend if the reserve system were still in place?

I very much doubt it. Goods and services cost what the market will bear. If the reserve clause were still in place, tickets would cost just as much and the owners would enjoy higher profit margins. I'd much rather see the players see that money.

When your rent goes down, you tell your boss so he knows to reduce your pay, right?
posted by chrchr at 2:39 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Interesting. Similar consequences arose through different means in some British sports, often because a club would "hold the player's registration" and the governing body wouldn't accept that player playing for anyone else until the registration was moved. It's only relatively recently that these practices were stamped out.

My team is in the process of losing one of its star players at the moment. He's young, and has all the hallmarks of being *the* player for the next decade or so. So we're all talking about selling him now, cos he's got one year left on his contract and this time next year he's a free agent and can go anywhere.

Absolutely 100% fair for all involved, but it still feels weird to me that out of contract players don't still mean a transfer fee for the club. Damn it, we need the money for several less useful replacements.
posted by vbfg at 2:40 PM on September 15, 2009


the pot itself is way too huge

Disagree. People want to spend money going to a game, or parked in front of the tube watching it, more power to 'em.

I refuse to buy an iPhone since I feel the $1000/yr in fees is a ripoff. Gotta vote with your wallet.
posted by Palamedes at 2:42 PM on September 15, 2009


"The Curt Flood decision seems to me to have been bad law in light of the Olivia de Havilland suit, but baseball gets a lot of slack from the US legal system."

Which is kind of the other side of the coin to all the weird-ass congressional hearings that get whipped up over steroids or strikes or what have you.

And yeah, I'm a layman, but it looks like wildly bad law.

"And small-market teams are at a vast disadvantage, and, while it is not impossible, in this day and age, to imagine a Pittsburgh-Kansas City World Series, the likelihood is vanishingly small."

How about a Detroit-Saint Louis World Series? Or a Philadelphia-Tampa Bay World Series?

Big market teams do get more love, but MLB's not nearly as bad as, say, the NBA's open secret of kingmaking. I think the NFL handles the redistribution best, but it's still a league where some contenders return year after year, and some languish for generations.
posted by klangklangston at 2:58 PM on September 15, 2009


I agree with the poster who supports the principle but hates the result. I would not have predicted that baseball could survive the era of free agency -- basically rendering the idea of a "team" meaningless. They couldn't figure out a way to keep teams together and enforce some kind of equitable sharing of revenue between owners and players?

My 9yo son loves the current phillies, with a core of young players that will be intact longer than most, but I can see him holding back ever so slightly, having been bewildered to see the supposedly "win-at-all-costs" Aaron Rowand go for the payday on a mediocre team over the chance to win it all by staying in Philly.

When you consider all that, plus MLB's refusing to show postseason games when kids can actually watch them, it's really a tribute to the game that it's still as popular as it is.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 3:01 PM on September 15, 2009


The equivalent case in European soccer was Jean-Marc Bosman. Unlike Flood, Bosman won his case before the ECJ, meaning that clubs could no longer demand transfer fees for players who were out of contract, and that the number of EU nationals fielded by an EU team could not be restricted. UEFA had formerly restricted European clubs to a maximum of 3 non-nationals.
posted by Electric Dragon at 3:09 PM on September 15, 2009


The European equivalent, as alluded to by vbfg, is the 1995 Bosman Ruling. The effects of the ruling are summarised in this BBC article on 10 Years of the Bosman Ruling.

To my mind, the NFL with the revenue-sharing deal and the CBA have the most successful of the current models in balancing the financial stability and competitiveness of the teams with the individual rights of the players.

To be fair, the European football teams have a more complicated environment in which to operate, as the larger teams compete in both national and European competition. The smaller teams in the national competitions are being starved of revenue in order to allow the larger teams to compete on a European level. Things are further complicated by the fact that the leagues are not a closed shop and the worst teams are relegated to a lower division each year. This further harms competitiveness for the smaller teams, as they are sometimes reluctant to commit to too many lavish contracts in case they get relegated and can't afford the wage bill
posted by Jakey at 3:13 PM on September 15, 2009


I think the NFL handles the redistribution best, but it's still a league where some contenders return year after year, and some languish for generations.

I think that's always going to be the case, but it's not necessarily down to money. The Lions could have had a Yankees-like fiscal advantage on the rest of the league for the last ten years, but with Matt Millen calling the shots they still wouldn't have won anything.
posted by Jakey at 3:17 PM on September 15, 2009


The aspect that bothers me is the rate players change teams. It is impossible to be a casual fan and still keep track of who plays where. Player salaries are silly high too, but that doesn't really matter to me most of the time..
posted by Chuckles at 3:21 PM on September 15, 2009


Players changed teams at roughly the same rate before free agency. It wasn't the superstars for the most part though.
posted by chrchr at 3:57 PM on September 15, 2009


baseball's best center fielder, Curt Flood
Wow, that's... um... debatable at best.

There were several center fielders who were at least arguably better than Flood, and a couple who were indubitably better, including this guy named Willie Mays who you might have heard of.
posted by Flunkie at 4:06 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Would games be cheaper to attend if the reserve system were still in place?

Only if the ticket sellers priced the tickets wrong. This is one of the great misunderstandings/lies of MLB. "We had to raise ticket prices to afford player X."

Nope: The price is set thusly -- to maximize the total revenue of ticket sales. Not to fill the house. Example.

You have 100,000 seats. Price the tickets at $1, the house sells out, you make $100K. Price them at $10, and the house still sells out, you make a million. Price them at $100, and you sell 10% of the seats. That's -- well, that's a million too. Hmm. Is there a middle point? Price them at $25, sell 90% of the house, and you make $2.25 million.

So -- the ticket prices are set thusly -- at what the seller thinks will maximize revenues. That's it. Costs the seller must bear don't enter into the ticket price equation -- if the owner raises the price too much, ticket sales drop enough to impact total sale revenue.

Indeed, the crux of the lie is this: "We got famous player X, and we think more of you will want to see the games. So, demand is up, therefore, prices are up!"
posted by eriko at 4:12 PM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


And small-market teams are at a vast disadvantage, and, while it is not impossible, in this day and age, to imagine a Pittsburgh-Kansas City World Series, the likelihood is vanishingly small.

I seem to recall 8-10 years ago a bunch of ESPN talking heads saying that "there are only six teams that could win the World Series this year" and they were all large market teams and this is WHAT IS WRONG with baseball.

Since then (assuming they said this in 2000), every single team originating in a TV market of less than 3 million, save Pittsburgh, KC, and Cincinnati, has made the playoffs at least once.

Among that list are the Rockies (NL Champs 2007), Rays (AL Champs 2008), Cardinals (World Champs 2006). Even the team in the smallest market, the Brewers, made the playoffs last year.

What that says to me is that the problem isn't a lack of money among the small market clubs but a lack of smarts among the Pirates and Royals front offices.

And before you respond, please consider these two words: Yuniesky. Betancourt.
posted by dw at 4:30 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


OK I looked up the '68, '69, '70, and '71 all star lineups on the web.

Amos Otis
Willie Davis
Matty Alou
Paul Blair
Willie Mays

all played center field in major league baseball in 1970.

Curt Flood was a very very good baseball player. He was not unarguably baseball's best center fielder in 1970. His lawsuit was historic. And he did not have a happy baseball life (or maybe even regular life) after that.

I didn't watch much baseball then, but I am pretty sure I would take Davis and Otis over Flood. And Willie Mays was almost the best player in the whole game just a couple years earlier. Curt Flood was not a big star except in St. Louis.
posted by bukvich at 4:34 PM on September 15, 2009


Flunkie you beat me you rascal.
posted by bukvich at 4:35 PM on September 15, 2009


Wow, that's... um... debatable at best.

There were several center fielders who were at least arguably better than Flood, and a couple who were indubitably better, including this guy named Willie Mays who you might have heard of.


It is debatable if you're taking time into consideration. Mays may be the single greatest five-tool CF in history. But in 1969, he didn't win a Gold Glove; Flood did. (In fact, Flood won his sixth in a row.) So, going into the lawsuit, you could say he was the best CF in baseball.

For most of the 60s the NL Gold Glove winners were Mays, Flood, and Clemente. That's a hell of an outfield defense.
posted by dw at 4:39 PM on September 15, 2009


all played center field in major league baseball in 1970.

Flood didn't play in 1970 due to the suit.
posted by dw at 4:39 PM on September 15, 2009


(1) There's a hell of a lot more to being a center fielder than fielding.

(2) Gold Gloves are an absurdly poor measure of fielding anyway.

(3) And even ignoring that, Mays also won gold gloves in five of those six years.

(4) OPS+ for some people in the years 1967-1969:

Flood: 128, 113, 100

Mays: 124, 156, 124

Reggie Smith: 100, 126, 141 (the 100 was when he was a 22 year old rookie)
you could say he was the best CF in baseball
You could say a lot of things, including some things that are just silly.
posted by Flunkie at 4:50 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was only thinking of Golden Glove wins when I posted that. I mean, there's also, say, Reggie Jackson, who ended up doing OK in '69.

But hey, if that's the most arguable or misleading sports headline you read today, I'll gladly take the revision to "one of the best" or "the best defensive" center fielder.
posted by klangklangston at 4:56 PM on September 15, 2009


Jackson was primarily a right fielder. He played a fair chunk of the season in center in 1970, but that was before Flood's lawsuit. Prior to 1970 (and afterwards too), he never made more than an occasional start in center.
posted by Flunkie at 5:01 PM on September 15, 2009


Ooops, no, Jackson also played a significant amount of time in center in 1972. But the gist stands.
posted by Flunkie at 5:02 PM on September 15, 2009


My 9yo son loves the current phillies, with a core of young players that will be intact longer than most, but I can see him holding back ever so slightly, having been bewildered to see the supposedly "win-at-all-costs" Aaron Rowand go for the payday on a mediocre team over the chance to win it all by staying in Philly.

You bite your tongue! Aaron Rowland smashed his face into the centerfield fence to catch a fly ball. The Phillies didn't value Mr. Rowland so he went somewhere that did. End of story.

Smashed his face!
posted by xmutex at 5:02 PM on September 15, 2009


Ooops ooops, and by "that was before Flood's lawsuit", I meant, uh, the exact opposite.
posted by Flunkie at 5:03 PM on September 15, 2009


Player salaries are silly high too, but that doesn't really matter to me most of the time..

The money is going to go somewhere. People are spending it. Does it go to the players, or the owners? Does it go to the workers, or the fat cats? I don't know why people have such a problem with the workers who create the money having a large share of it. So it goes.
posted by xmutex at 5:04 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Reggie Jackson was also the starting CF for the AL in the All-Star in '69.
posted by klangklangston at 5:22 PM on September 15, 2009


I think the NFL handles the redistribution best

So, the most demonstrably popular spectator sport for the masses of Americans is the most Socialist. . . .hmmmm. . . .*dials, gets on hold for the Michael Savage Program*
posted by Danf at 5:58 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reggie Jackson was also the starting CF for the AL in the All-Star in '69.
Only because of the policy of electing three outfielders, rather than a left fielder, a center fielder, and a right fielder.
posted by Flunkie at 6:32 PM on September 15, 2009


My colleague Brad Snyder wrote a book about the Flood case, A Well-Paid Slave, which is said to be one of the best sports books of recent years.
posted by escabeche at 7:10 PM on September 15, 2009


Steve Wynn wrote a nice tribute to Curt Flood called "Gratitude (for Curt Flood)" on last year's The Baseball Project, Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails album. If you haven't heard the Baseball Project, it's his side band with Scott McCaughey (and utility players Pete Buck and Linda Pitmon) with a collection of songs paying tribute to some of baseball's greats as well as some of the lesser-knowns.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:25 PM on September 15, 2009


Two things... First, calculating the size of teams market is tricky with baseball as some teams have media rights over large areas outside of their metro area.

Secondly, while smaller market teams have been making the playoffs, their windows for remaining competitive aren't really comparable to the major teams, and even then, everything needs to line up within that window.
posted by drezdn at 7:34 PM on September 15, 2009


The NFL only redistributes the money so well because the league has huge TV deals, putting it in a unique position. Each baseball team has to deal with its own TV rights, by selling them to whatever local network, or putting the games on the owner's cable network, or what have you (except for the relative handful on ESPN/Fox). Thus, the Yankees can turn that into a huge revenue stream and the Royals can't, whereas the Cowboys and the Panthers each get an identical cut of the league's TV money.

The NFL also has the advantage of a spineless union to kick around, not to mention the numerous benefits of being run by a fascist instead of a bumbling car salesman, but that's peanuts compared to the equalizing effect of sharing some $20 billion.
posted by Copronymus at 7:35 PM on September 15, 2009


Or a Philadelphia-Tampa Bay World Series?

Philly's not a small market.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:49 PM on September 15, 2009


I refuse to buy an iPhone since I feel the $1000/yr in fees is a ripoff. Gotta vote with your wallet.

On the other hand, MLB's iPhone app (live games in my pocket, streaming video and multiple audio streams to choose from*, with stats and pitch by pitch breakdowns a few clicks away) is probably the single best iPhone app available today.

(*hate the homer announcers? Switch to the visiting team's broadcast. Love it.)
posted by rokusan at 4:10 AM on September 16, 2009


The canard that small market teams cannot compete is repeated often but does not stand up to even a moment of scrutiny. There were many dynasties and repeat-repeat-repeat champions in baseball's olden days, but from 2000, there have been nine World Series played, and all of these teams have made it there:
Philadelphia
Tampa Bay
Boston
Colorado
St Louis
Detroit
Chicago
Houston
Boston
St Louis
Florida
New York (Yankees)
Anaheim
San Francisco
Arizona
New York (Yankees)
New York (Yankees)
New York (Mets)
Of eighteen teams, that's the Yankees three times, the Red Sox and Cardinals twice each, and no other team returning to the championships. That's fourteen different teams (of a maximum possible eighteen) who have won their league in the last nine years alone.

Half of all franchises have played in a World Series this decade alone. How much more parity do you want? You would not get more various results from even a random lottery.

Baseball today does not have a parity problem. It is a myth.
posted by rokusan at 4:21 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, massaging the definition of "small market team" until it fits the argument is weak sauce that peppers almost every article on the topic.

Washington, Seattle and Baltimore are big market teams that have not been competitive in a long time. All the money in the world didn't help the modern Mets or Cubs. Other teams that have been bad forever include the Royals and Pirates, who are small markets. But that's hardly a pattern.

The pattern that does exist? All these teams, large market or small, have been badly managed. Therefore, they lose.
posted by rokusan at 4:27 AM on September 16, 2009


> All the money in the world didn't help the modern Mets or Cubs.

*cries*

But rokusan is totally right about the "parity" thing. What a bunch of hooey.
posted by languagehat at 6:59 AM on September 16, 2009


Washington, Seattle and Baltimore are big market teams that have not been competitive in a long time.

The Nationals have only been in Washington for what, four years? And before then they were the MLB-run Expos, essentially a team of players that MLB ran so there could be a 30th team while they figured out what to do with them since they were barely drawing 9000 a night in Montreal.

And I have to disagree with the Mariners not being competitive. They were competitive this year until the Angels stepped on the gas in July. And they also had a winning record in 2007; that year they were in contention until Labor Day weekend. If you're leaving out Toronto because of their recent seasons, no reason to include Seattle then.

Baltimore, well, they're terribly managed, but they're also playing in the same division as the Yanks and Sox and Rays, so it's not like they're the Pirates, who have been playing in the relatively easy NL Central for years without any success.
posted by dw at 7:51 AM on September 16, 2009


And I have to disagree with the Mariners not being competitive.

Disagree away. In fact, it could be argued that damn near every team in baseball is competitive, or has been recently. Which is the point I wanted to make: the revenue/budget gap between rich and poor is real, sure... but it has meant almost nothing in terms of results.
posted by rokusan at 7:59 AM on September 16, 2009


Baltimore, well, they're terribly managed, but they're also playing in the same division as the Yanks and Sox and Rays..... [so it's almost hopeless]

But as recently as two years ago, you could have said that about Tampa Bay. And Toronto a few years before that.

So the other five teams have all been able to compete somehow... which further undermines the validity of any Baltimore excuse.
posted by rokusan at 8:02 AM on September 16, 2009


Half of all franchises have played in a World Series this decade alone. How much more parity do you want? You would not get more various results from even a random lottery.

Yes, you would.

From this recent thread at baseballthinkfactory, here's a table of teams by market size (in $100m) and number of wins 2000-09.

NYY 262 944
BOS 155 901
STL 56 899
LAA 147 881
ATL 102 874
OAK 61 872
LAD 175 845
CWS 90 842
MIN 69 840
SF 84 839
PHI 130 832
SEA 112 820
HOU 86 820
CLE 84 810
NYM 244 804
ARI 64 794
FLA 95 792
CHC 105 789
TOR 96 788
TEX 103 761
COL 59 749
SD 45 749
CIN 69 729
MIL 39 725
DET 95 712
WAS 78 698
BAL 124 688
TB 87 680
PIT 54 672
KC 38 657

The correlation is 0.48. If you look at those numbers and think they look like the wins were divvied out by lottery, you're nuts.

What's true is that money can't buy you a championship. Short playoff series introduce a lot of randomness. But money can buy you the opportunity to contend for the playoffs all or most of the time.

I don't have any strong opinion about whether the league should do anything to enforce "parity." But the view that the Yankees and Red Sox win a lot of games primarily because they're well-managed, or because they possess intangible qualities of gritty champiness, seems kind of unsupportable.
posted by escabeche at 9:29 AM on September 16, 2009


So the other five teams [in the AL East] have all been able to compete somehow... which further undermines the validity of any Baltimore excuse.

Since the 1994 realignment, there have been three other teams in the AL East, not 5. Tampa Bay made the playoffs last year, the only time they ever have. The last time the Orioles made the playoffs was 1997. The last time the Blue Jays made the playoffs was 1993. I guess if by "compete" you mean "once every ten years or so can finish higher than third," then yes, the other teams in that division have proven that they can compete.

As for the other teams in the original AL East, the Indians left the division in 1993 not having seen the playoffs since 1954. When the Brewers left they hadn't been in the playoffs since 1982. (To be fair, it was a lot harder to make the playoffs before realignment/WC.)
posted by escabeche at 9:39 AM on September 16, 2009


In 1970, Mays was 39 years old, and -- while still productive -- well into his decline phase. I'm not sure if Flood was the best center fielder in baseball at the time; but the idea certainly isn't laughably.
posted by steambadger at 11:15 AM on September 16, 2009




Pick a team uniformly at random from the (14-team) AL for each of nine years; pick a team uniformly at random from the (16-team) NL for each of nine years. How many different teams do you get?

Simulating ten thousand runs of nine seasons each, at least eight teams make the World Series in each run; the number of teams making the WS in 8, 9, ... 18 runs are 2, 7, 77, 381, 1160, 2249, 2824, 2082, 943, 250, 25.

In particular, the median number of teams making the World Series in the simulation is 14 (bolded above). This is the actual number that rokusan says we've seen.

But that doesn't prove anything. The average playoff team has a larger market size than the average team, given escabeche's market size numbers; it just happens that pennants have been spread out pretty well around the large market teams.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:38 PM on September 16, 2009


So the other five teams [in the AL East]

Since the 1994 realignment, there have been three other teams in the AL East, not 5.


Let's get this right. From 1977 to 1993, there were seven teams in the AL East. From 1994 on, there have been five teams.
posted by dw at 8:32 PM on September 16, 2009


If you look at those numbers and think they look like the wins were divvied out by lottery, you're nuts.

Escabeche, please don't change my claim and then ridicule the version you invent.

You did your math on regular season victories. My information was about championships. There's no wonder you form a different conclusion, but calling my very different point "crazy" isn't very constructive in any case.

But even within your table using different criteria, the "success" of small, smart teams like STL and OAK vs large, badly-run teams like BAL support the same point I was making above.

Like any business, teams perform badly when they are run badly. This is a much, much bigger influence on their performance than the size of their market, which is a distraction usually vented by small-market fans who think "if they only had more money" their owners and managers would suddenly become smart and successful. It's also bandied about by owners whenever they want to raise ticket prices. They "need" that money to compete, right?

Doesn't work.
posted by rokusan at 3:40 AM on September 17, 2009


So the other five teams [in the AL East]...

My bad. I was choosing between "five" and "other" and ended up with a bastard error. Someday I'll learn to edit instead of type-type-type-Post.

Ready, fire, aim.
posted by rokusan at 3:42 AM on September 17, 2009


win a lot of games primarily because they're well-managed, or because they possess intangible qualities of gritty champiness, seems kind of unsupportable.

Nobody made any claim of "intangible qualities of gritty champiness" except you. Can you stop with the straw-man arguments, already? There are meaningful things to discuss here without throwing torches into random hay bales on the way past.

The Yankees have been awful at other times in their history, even though they still had the largest market, so what was the difference? I say it's those running the business and making decisions for the future of the team.

At the moment, the Yankees are a well-run team. They happen to use expensive free agents more than some teams do, but that's not a result of their market: it's a calculated business decision. It's not a guarantee of success, historically, all on its own (see Baltimore or Texas). There are many small teams owned by billionaires who could carry $200m budgets if they chose to. They choose to run smaller, presumably more profitable or less risky businesses.

The Yankees today are a well-managed business that makes good business decisions. Therefore, they are successful.
posted by rokusan at 3:52 AM on September 17, 2009


> The Yankees today are a well-managed business that makes good business decisions. Therefore, they are successful.

Compare and contrast with the Mets, a rich team in the exact same market. The Mets today are a badly managed business that makes bad business decisions. Therefore, they suck so badly they pray every morning when they get out of bed for the continuing existence of the Washington Nationals, the only thing that's keeping them out of the cellar they deserve. And their fans are left to post bitter self-loathing comments about it.
posted by languagehat at 6:05 AM on September 17, 2009


Sorry, let me clarify. Here are 3 possible accounts:

1. Size of market has a much, much bigger influence on success on the field than does quality of management.

2. Size of market and quality of management both have substantial effects on success on the field, of roughly the same orders of magnitude.

3. Quality of management has a much, much bigger influence on success than does size of market.

It seems like you favor account 3. I favor account 2. I think the relative success of Oakland and St. Louis, and the relative weakness of the Cubs, is an argument against account 1. I take your remark that signing expensive free agents is "not a guarantee of success, all on its own" also to be a rejection of account 1. I think there are people out there who believe account 1, but I don't. (Just as there are people who believe in "intangible champiness," but not you -- sorry, it came out reading as if that remark was pointed in your direction.)

Under account 3, you'd expect team performance to be close to uncorrelated with market size. I just don't see that. It's not true for regular-season performance, and it's not true for pennants; looking at your list of 18 pennant winners of the decade, 12 are in the top half of market size according to the numbers I used.

Under account 2, you'd see some poor teams succeeding and some rich teams underachieving, but overall a clear trend in which teams with bigger revenue streams tend to do better on the field. And that's exactly what happens.

Question 1: do you really think, for instance, that the Yankees just "happened" to sign C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira and the Red Sox just "happened" to get Jason Bay, and that this is completely unrelated to the size of their market? Would all or any of those guys would be playing in Kansas City if the Royals had smarter management? This is a serious question, I'm not trying to be snarky.

Question 2: How do you measure "well-managedness?" Presumably you don't mean "wins a lot," since then "The Yankees today are a well-managed business that makes good business decisions. Therefore, they are successful" would be a meaningless tautology. But then, seriously, what do you mean? I don't follow the Yankees that closely, but it seems like they make as many lousy decisions as any other team.
posted by escabeche at 8:32 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


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