The wider view on the draft and economics
ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been a lot of good discussion around here about the economic and competitive implications of the draft, and what it means for baseball. Arguing against the draft, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seemed at times, creates the perception youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re arguing that small-market teams should wither up and die.
So I’ve given a long-simmering article I’ve been working on a quick polish and pushed it out. This is where I am on the baseball economics issues, so that my arguments against the draft can have a little context.
I support revenue sharing done well.
I oppose public funding of stadiums.
I support allowing teams to build their teams any way they wish.
I support a free market for baseball talent in general (so no drafts) and understand thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not going to happen.
Teams should work without a net.
From the top:
Unless baseball allows teams to move freely, it needs to do revenue sharing, because its messed up territorial rules means some teams have massive economic advantages that are for all intents unsurmountable for even the best owners of other teams.
Take the Mariners. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve done an amazing job marketing and building a fan base in Seattle in the last ten years, helped of course by the new stadium. But no matter how well they do, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re never going to have the media contract the Yankees will get, because the Yankees are one of only two teams in the largest metro area in the country.
That said, I favor revenue sharing done right: there are some really good plans out there (Keith Woolner, mine), but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s clear that todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plan does a lot to discourage some teams from working towards being competitive. Any plan that hurts the Indians and Mariners for doing a great job while giving money to bad teams in large markets is hurting the game.
Funding stadiums Ã¢â‚¬â€œthis has been hashed out before, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll gloss over this.
To the big point, then: if the economics of baseball are leveled, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to see teams run off in all different directions. If they want to spend on Dominican baseball academies, great. Free agents? Good for them. Domestic talent? Knock yourself out.
Right now, the weird way talent acquisition works means that American players are hugely underpaid compared to foreign players of comparable ability, for reasons that are pretty clear if you think about the economics of the whole thing. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unfair to domestic players, and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m baffled why this never gets mentioned.
What youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d see would be a lot like what you see in international scouting now, only on a much larger scale. For the top prospects, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be open competition and (quite likely) it would look crazy (see the Travis Lee incident). But smart teams could build their farm systems however they liked, and given the risk/reward ratio of the draft, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s quite likely that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d see guys like Andrew Miller get their $8m, but other interesting non-star prep players teams like and that fit well into their system would get modest, rational deals.
It also means that teams in need would compete equally. If the Royals were bought out tomorrow by a new ownership group and wanted to revitalize the farm system, they could do it Ã¢â‚¬â€œ they wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be limited to getting one top domestic prospect in the draft, a pretty good one in the 2nd round, and so on. They could go after everyone they thought might help, all at once.
Teams could look for value across markets Ã¢â‚¬â€œ anyway, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m digressing.
When teams are able to compete fairly in the marketplace, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d see an explosion in the ability of teams to do cool and interesting things, and to rise and fall on their own abilities, rather than being supported in failure by badly-implemented revenue sharing and a draft that hurts competition for domestic prep athletes. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be no reason to have a draft at all.
To me, these issues go hand in hand, and this is why I oppose more revenue sharing as itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s currently done and putting ever-greater pressure to restrain draftee salaries, which together are sold as part of a plan to achieve greater competitiveness: itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s further down a road that we know already doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help the game.
I hope that makes things a little clearer. Level the field, let ’em play.