The Mistake Lottery

DMZ · November 5, 2009 at 9:00 am · Filed Under Mariners 

One of the greatest advantages the Yankees have is that they’re able to blithely make mistakes and move on from them. Their market advantage is so huge that they can afford to pay their players to play against them on other teams just so they can put someone even better in their place. And baseball’s ridiculous territory system protects the two New York teams’ unfairly huge revenue streams.

At the same time, the worst problem for teams trying to turn around their fortunes is that they’re saddled with massive salary drains the previous regime took on.

Therefore, I propose a new yearly draft. The Mistake Draft.

Here’s how it works for most teams. At the end of the year, you get to look over your roster and pick one contract (say, a terrible pitcher with 4y, $48m left). You submit that name to the Commissioner for Life’s office. Your team gets a number of ping-pong balls (because I love the classics), as follows:

(Number of losses in previous season + (17 – Population of team’s metro area in millions)) + Amount in millions remaining on deal

Number of seasons, partial and full, for current GM on that team if over 2 + (Number of years current ownership group in place/2) + Number of years remaining on that contract

Rounded up.

So Carlos! If the M’s had submitted him right off the back, it’d be 63 + 12 + 48 = 123, divided by 17 (Yamauchi bought the team in 1992, we’re not counting the transfer to Nintendo of America) + 4 = 21

123/21 = 5.8.. = 6 lotto numbers.

Going to be tough to beat. And your window closes pretty quickly. And feel free to play around with the formula to come up with something better: I’m offering this as a starting point for something that doesn’t favor stagnant clueless teams (or at least not for long) and also has some small incorporation of the market size inequality. KC needs to get rid of a bad contract a lot more than the Cubs do.

The balls go into the tumbler and… tada! Carlos is a Yankee. He gets to pitch mop-up innings or clap the team to victory from the clubhouse rail or enjoy a long stay on the 60-day DL for acute inadequacy or whatever they decide to do with him. Unless he has a no-trade clause, in which case he gets to waive the no-trade clause or become a free agent. Next year the Mets get to pick up someone’s mistake.

Now you might be thinking that this encourages incompetent teams to change their front offices and/or ownership. Good!

And you might worry that this encourages smaller-payroll teams with new people in charge to take wild gambles in the hopes that they can compete, in the hopes that even if the player doesn’t work out they can still dump them on the Yankees. Also good!

Or that teams might even look at the formula and figure the thing to really do is sign someone sort of good to a 2y, $80m deal loaded $2m, $78m, hoping that they can tag the Yankees with that second year. Good! I mean, uh, given a decent formula teams are still so likely to get stuck with a player that they aren’t going to do anything too crazy.

This might all seem silly on first read. But what are your other options? More progressive revenue sharing? Reform of territory rules to let broke teams bathe in the revenue-rich New York waters? Now who’s being silly?


33 Responses to “The Mistake Lottery”

  1. Phoenician Todd on November 5th, 2009 9:21 am

    So, what, the Yankees get to draw first because they won the World Series, descending from there?

  2. b__rider on November 5th, 2009 9:32 am

    Ha ha! Great!

  3. Mike Snow on November 5th, 2009 9:39 am

    It wasn’t completely clear to me, but is the idea that the Yankees and Mets just alternate turns eating a bad contract from one of the other 28 teams? The lottery system is an entertaining setup, at any rate.

    Legally, I’d point out that not only is it never going to happen, it’s fundamentally impossible to do. You can’t force an unwilling third party to assume obligations under a contract.

  4. DMZ on November 5th, 2009 9:48 am

    Sure you can, the Commissioner can do anything he likes in the best interests of baseball. It’s in the rules.

  5. georgmi on November 5th, 2009 9:50 am

    No, there’s one draw, and that player goes to the Yankees.

  6. DMZ on November 5th, 2009 9:51 am

    Year 1 = Yankees
    Year 2 = Mets
    Year 3 = Yankees

  7. Pine Tar on November 5th, 2009 9:53 am

    I’m not familiar with “territory system”. Is there a primer or could someone explain that?

  8. Rboyle0628 on November 5th, 2009 9:18 am

    Hahahahahah DMZ that is priceless. Total quality. I guess this would be the first and only time I’d like to see the Yankees picking first.

  9. Dennisss on November 5th, 2009 9:18 am

    This almost feels like it was drawn up by an M’s fan with a specific player in mind…

  10. Jim on November 5th, 2009 9:28 am

    Why not a mistake draft where each team puts up one lousy contract and takes another. We dump Silva and see if Barry Zito or Vernon Wells does well in Seattle? If it doesn’t work out, you put him up in next year’s mistake draft.

  11. Tuomas on November 5th, 2009 9:42 am

    Suppose the Kansas City Royals offer Jack Wilson a 2 year, $100 million deal. Five million payable in year one, ninety-five in year two. The Kansas City metro area is roughly two million people. The franchise had 97 losses last year. David Glass has been the owner for 9 years, and Dayton Moore has been the GM for 3 years. Throwing those numbers into your blender gets the Royals 23 ping pong balls to dump Jack Wilson’s remaining $95 million over one year.

    I think it might be better to switch the positions of the length and the owed sum. What makes bad contracts bad isn’t just the amount of money left, but the length of time. It’s pretty hard for a short deal to be bad, unless we’re working with ridiculous amounts of money.

    I’m not sure how this would work, practically, but the formula, I think, needs to look something like:

    Contract / Mitigating factors

    which would include the quality of the team, the size of the market, changing ownership or changing front office leadership.

    Another option could be some form of amnesty, where a contract that reaches a certain level of putridity becomes non-guaranteed. The thresholds for amnesty eligibility would alter based on the size of the market, the size of the contract and the situation of the ownership and the front office. One advantage this has is that the players have less incentive to sign franchise-crippling contracts, as in the Jack Wilson example above. The mechanism maintains its purpose as mistake relief rather than becoming a weapon.

  12. dchappelle on November 5th, 2009 10:14 am

    Oh, I kind of like Dave’s white elephant party better.

    Seriously though, what’s wrong with just using a salary cap? Has worked fine in the other leagues.

  13. TomG on November 5th, 2009 10:22 am

    I still say MLB should create a one-off expansion team, the Las Vegas (or wherever) Tarps and hold a reverse expansion draft in which each team supplies one player of ignominious cost to staff a full 25-man roster (plus five reserves), which would then be subsidized by luxury tax dollars. It’s a win-win for everybody: teams get bailed out of their crappy contracts, MLB gets to expand into new markets, players are still getting paid, and not to mention the expansion team’s fans, who get to spend the entire offseason hearing about their newer, slimmer opening day starter.

  14. scott19 on November 5th, 2009 10:37 am

    I think the term “acute inadequacy” pretty much sums up Jose Canseco’s marvelous stint with the Yanks back in 2000…

    Oh wait, I forgot — he was their “official” backup right-handed designated hitter.

  15. Joe C on November 5th, 2009 10:37 am

    I’d implement something like this differently. Every team can pick one contract to dump. After ranking the teams in reverse order of their three year averages of total revenue and record, the worst team must take a contract working all the way to the best team. So The Royals would take on the smallest contract, some player who has some upside, or their own player. And the Red Sox or Mets would be saddled with a Mike Hampton-type 10 year mega-deal for an injured player and the Yankees, picking last, would get Carlos Silva.

  16. laloffice on November 5th, 2009 10:42 am

    Instead of alternating between the Yankees as Mets as lucky recipients, let’s formulate that end of the equation too…

    Number of wins of previous season + number of millions spent in on FA (Aggregate over 3 year period) / $M contributed in revenue sharing the previous year

    Any team without a positive revenue sharing contribution is ineligible for the contract lottery due to a null set.

  17. Manzanillos Cup on November 5th, 2009 11:19 am

    Deep down I wish MLB would just expand and put another team in New York.

  18. junior sabernomist on November 5th, 2009 11:23 am

    I still like DMZ’s old plan, where the teams have to pay annual fees based on the potential revenues of their markets.

  19. eastcoastmariner on November 5th, 2009 11:30 am

    Teahan to the White Sox. Getz and Fields to the Royals.Maybe Dave was onto something in his offseason plan when he said the White Sox might be interested in moving one of their arms(Danks) for a upgrade at second base(Lopez) and some bullpen help(Lowe)…

  20. maqman on November 5th, 2009 11:41 am

    May I suggest a different tack?
    The fans support the whole game, MLB, teams, FO types, players, managers, broadcasters and agents by buying tickets, jerseys and cases of Bud, etc. Without the fans they’re all SOOL So the fans threaten to strike and not purchase anything associated with the game unless MLB requires every contract of every game participant that is paid for their participation to include a clause that any of them can have their contract voided by a vote of more than 50% of the teams fan base during every year. Each vote can be required to include a ticket stub or a receipt for a jersey or a case of Bud or whatever a fan has paid for during the year.
    It would be fair; somebody would have to be a big target to garner the necessary percentage of the votes. The Ichis and the Gutis are safe, the Bavasis and Silvas get sent home with a complimentary fruit basket, after all it’s not personal. We could make the Yankees pay for the tickets home and fruit baskets and the legal costs of defending this clause for all appeals up to and including the Supreme Court or the International War Crimes Tribunal. They could refuse of course and try renting Yankee Stadium out for Tupperware parties.

  21. Milendriel on November 5th, 2009 3:46 pm

    Mmm, Derek, your formula states that it uses number of losses for the numerator, but your calculation used the Mariners’ win total.

  22. JMHawkins on November 5th, 2009 3:46 pm

    Nah, too complicated. How bout instead, whenever the Yankees or Mets sign a player, the Commissioner flips a coin. Heads, the NY Team keep him, tails, the player is randomly (weighted by losses) assigned to another team with the NY club still paying the contract.

    This rule is waived any time the total salary of players actually on the NY team roster is less than 120% of the average of the rest of the league.

  23. mln on November 5th, 2009 4:29 pm

    Year 1 = Yankees
    Year 2 = Mets
    Year 3 = Yankees

    This system would be fun to have, if only to see outraged carpet-chewing from Yankee fans.

  24. TranquilPsychosis on November 5th, 2009 4:49 pm

    This system would be fun to have, if only to see outraged carpet-chewing from Yankee fans.

    Don’t we already see that every time another team has the termerity to win against them?

  25. joser on November 5th, 2009 5:06 pm

    This system would be fun to have, if only to see outraged carpet-chewing from Yankee fans.

    Somewhere in this comment there’s an angry lesbian joke fighting to come out.

  26. mark s on November 5th, 2009 11:45 pm

    I liked Dave’s white elephant better. But yes, it sucks the Yankees can just throw money at a mistake.

  27. TranquilPsychosis on November 6th, 2009 8:51 am

    Somewhere in this comment there’s an angry lesbian joke fighting to come out.

    Where’s Rosie O’Donnell when ya really need her?

  28. dawsonct on November 7th, 2009 2:40 am

    Put two more teams in the NYC metro area, one in N. New Jersey and another on Long Island or White plains or further up the Hudson along the I-84 corridor. It is the metropolitan area most capable of absorbing more teams:


    I believe the NL has a VERY old agreement with Troy, N.Y and Worcester, Mass. to return teams to those cities.


    Baseball will then have 16 teams in each league and they could then revert to two divisions, eliminate IL play, and change the schedule to play most of the games within your own division.

    Keep the wild card with the top two non-div. winners.

  29. DMZ on November 7th, 2009 9:30 am

    Thanks for that. If you could please use the link button in the future so we don’t have to edit your comments, that would be nice: long links hose formatting on some people’s browsers.

  30. dawsonct on November 7th, 2009 11:20 am

    [this is not a forum]

  31. Liam on November 7th, 2009 12:11 pm

    Being able to preview your comments would greatly help with formatting.

  32. DMZ on November 7th, 2009 12:37 pm

    Interestingly, when we tried that, it didn’t.

  33. dawsonct on November 9th, 2009 12:55 pm

    Jeez DMZ, I can’t seem to do anything right. Sorry. I’ll keep plugging away, avoiding personal attacks and swearing on the, uhh, comments(?). Hopefully my presence will become a bit more innocuous over time.
    Go mariners.

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