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The Yankees Get Richer, The Pirates Get More Piratey
2006-07-31 21:30
by Scott Long

While Major League Baseball has proven over the past few seasons that money doesn't buy championships, the trade deadline still points to its almost total lack of equity. As has been discussed continuously on everything ESPN has to offer, the Yankees scored a major coup by obtaining Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle. This deal mainly happened because New York could take on Abreu's salary. Competing against the Yankees is like playing Poker against the trust-fund kid, as despite how much they are down, they always have the ability to reach into their pocket and try to bail themselves out. I'm not about to break down the Yankees' deals, as Alex Belth of Bronx Banter does the best job of that on the web. My focus is on the other side of the fiscal ledger. The Pirates.

For years and years, (hell it getting close to decades and decades) the general managers of the Pirates make stupid move after stupid move. Current Pirates GM Dave Littlefield has done a lousy job. I would argue that no organization is more poorly run than the Pirates. With this dismal track record, it was little surprise that they would make such bad trades at the all-star break.

One of the few decent moves Littlefield has made during his tenure was signing Roberto Hernandez. In the current climate where veteran bullpen pitchers are more overpriced than crude oil, Hernandez has been solid. Considering that the Pirates are in their customary late July fetal position, it was a good idea to flip him for a young player who had the potential of being more than just a replacement player. So typical of teams like the Pirates, they in return obtained a mediocre player in Xavier Nady, who has a career OBP of .754. While Nady has a slugging percentage of .487 this season, if you look at his splits you will see that the guy loves Shea Stadium, as his OPS is .940 in New York and only .681 on the road.

If it was a straight-up trade, I don't write about this deal, but Olvier Perez was thrown into the package, as well. Now I'm aware of the steep plunge that Perez has taken over the past 2 seasons, but I still think he is worth holding onto and trying to solve his poor mechanics. I mean this was the same guy that people in baseball in 2004 were discussing in the same breath as Johan Santana. Perez is 8th on the all-time single season list of strikeout per 9 innings for his 239 K's in 196 inning year of 2004 . Perez is only 24, but the Pirates needed to give him away.

Another trade which seemed to be a case of the Pirates just wanting to get rid of a disappointment was the dumping of Kip Wells. While Wells doesn't look to be much more than a 4th starter at best, this is worth a lot more than what the Pirates got in return. Let me mention that now that Wells is gone, can the idea that Kenny Williams made one of the worst trades in baseball history when he obtained Todd Ritchie for Wells and Josh Fogg be retired? Over the past 3 years, Wells has had an ERA over 5.00, a WHIP around 1.60, and an overall record of 14-30. Williams definitely made a bad deal, but it wasn't the historically bad one that some try to make it out to be. At least Williams can point to numerous good decisions, something Littlefield continues to strikeout trying to achieve.

No player has been a bigger symbol of how the Pirates don't know how to use the talent they possess than Craig Wilson. Putting a capper on Wilson's often wasted ability in Pittsburgh, he was sent to the Yankees for the lousy Shawn Chacon. The past few years I've had a rooting interest in the Pirates, as I've liked the young talent they have, but it seems like the team is incapable of having a coherent plan on how to best exploit this ability. With the deals they have made over the past couple of days, the Pirates front office have taken further steps in sending the franchise permanently down in the depths of the cellar.

Considering the complete opposite directions the NFL and MLB teams have achieved, it would appear that football season will happen earlier and eaarlier in the nindsets of fans in the 'Burgh. Marketing campaign for the Pirates in 2007: "Yeah our team is dismal, but our ballpark is pretty!" Sad plight for a franchise that one of the best during the 70's and 80's.

2006-08-01 00:15:40
1.   brockdc
Scott, I'm having some difficulty ascertaining your thesis here. Are you blaming the Pirate's abysmal management decisions on the Yankees specifically, or on teams like the Yankees who actually utilize some of their revenue to build a better roster?

It's criminal what's going on: Small market owners are crying poverty and then sticking their revenue into their back pockets. Naturally, no one's calling them out on this, as it's so much easier and more fashionable to malign the Yankees for buying their team. Meanwhile, these fat cats have the obligation to use all of their resources (including revenue sharing $) to improve their organizations. Failing that, even teams with more modest payrolls (Oakland, Minnesota, San Diego, et. al.) remain competetive with shrewd acquistions and sound scouting.

2006-08-01 02:25:33
2.   Yu-Hsing Chen
There are plenty of pretty big money clubs that are crappy too (at least around 90M payroll), this years Braves / Phillies / Astros /O's are all good examples..

The Yankees are taking advantage of dumb spenders, but in the case of the Pirates, it's simply the case of other teams either not needing Craig Wilson or got outsmart by Brian Cashman. Shawn Chacon makes as much as Wilson, and almost any other team could have better that offer if they wanted to.

2006-08-01 04:05:22
3.   big ike
As a Pirates fan, I'm more than ecstatic to move Casey, C. Wilson, Hernandez, Perez, and Wells. Casey's been hurt, and is is an UFA at the end of the year, Wells is SO exasperating (great stuff, but always a 50-50 chance of walking the pitcher), Hernandez is a 41 yr old middle reliever, Perez has been god awful the last 2 years and not too concerned about doing anything about it, and Craig Wilson while being mismanaged his whole career (he's a much better fit for the AL) and was good as gone as a FA.

They moved 20 million in 2006 salaries (Chacon's an UFA at the end of the year, too) and got what they could for what are, in their own way, damaged goods. Why pay that? To finish 25 instead of 30 games under .500?

I would have been glad (if they could) to move everyone over 30, since they're not gonna be on the next good (I hesitate to say great) Bucs squad. Littlefield's no genius, but he does alright with the constraints that the cheapskate Pohlad/Luria-esque ownership group that owns the Bucs gives him.

2006-08-01 08:53:14
4.   underdog
1 I think he was pretty clearly ripping the Pirates for their own mismanagement and lack of a cohesive plan or vision. That has nothing to do with the Yankees having deep pockets. Should the whole thing again. And yes, it isn't only finances that makes or breaks a franchise's success, as Oakland is an example (though they usually can't afford to hold on to that young talent once they mature and their contracts expire). But the Pirates could have gotten minor league talent, or younger players with a good future instead of the ones they acquired.
2006-08-01 08:54:32
5.   underdog
3 But 3 makes a good point, too, in that the Pirates moved some damaged goods and a lot of money - so I suppose it could make sense if they prove they can use the extra money wisely and both replenish the farm and sign a couple of good free agents. I just haven't seen them do enough of that in the past.
2006-08-01 09:12:40
6.   Scott Long
I knew the post could create some confusion to what my main point was. It basically spoke to 2 points.

1. The Pirates are the worst run organization in the majors. (I will let you decide if the Royals are a major league team)

2. The Yankees have a huge advantage over almost every team in baseball, as they can go out and trade for most anyone, as they can eat any salary. This is why I picked them to be World Champs at the start of the year, as I thought they would go out and make a move like the one they did. I suspect it will put them in the playoffs, where they will have the best lineup of 2006 and quite possibly the best pinch hitting bench in the history of the game.

Underdog does an excellent job of explaining my thoughts on the Pirates. I think in the world of where pitchers are in such demand, to basically give up on Wells and especially Perez, for little back is unpardonable. Think what these 2 could have gotten them just last season?

If I was a Pirates fan, I would set up a petition drive to make the Owner sell the team to someone who really wants to win. It wouldn't probably work, but at least it would create a larger national conversation on how a team with a publically funded new stadium can be so miserably run.

2006-08-01 09:14:41
7.   Todd S
Don't give the Pirates any credit for moving Wilson. They sold low. They could have moved him last year for more, they could have moved him in May or June for more, but they didn't. Instead, they traded him for a guy who's been terrible this year that was likely to get waived anyway. And that doesn't even cover the scenario of playing him more to take advantage of his OBP and power. Horrible, horrible mismanagement.

Another point that I think gets skipped over by the national media is what a disgrace the other PA franchise is. Why does a city as large as Phildelphia get away with a salary dump two years into a new stadium? The return they got on Abreu and Lidle is pathetic. Why do they even need to dump salary? It just gets my dander up, tell you what...

2006-08-01 14:56:19
8.   traced out
Hey, wouldn't most big market teams spend 19 million to get abreu for 1 1/3 years? it's overspending, but it's better than a lot of the deals last offseason.
2006-08-01 16:39:30
9.   das411
6 - Didn't the Pirates just turn down a sale offer from Cuban or something like that...?

7 - Grrr b/c our stupid ownership wants to halve our payroll for next year!!

2006-08-01 17:21:56
10.   big ike
9- Cuban said he's like to buy the Bucs but they're not for sale. Why would they be? Their team salaries= revenue sharing from MLB, so all the money from tix, concession, etc... is pure profit. Well, that's assuming the revenue sharing payment isn't reinvested into added scouting and minor league development.

Personally, I'm more than skeptical. MLB teams don't open up their books to the public and for good reason- fans would be outraged, especially the ones that cry poor.

Bucs' ownership sucks and it's a shame b/c the stadium is without peer and if they were sniffing .500 it'd be packed and noisy as hell.

2006-08-02 00:02:33
11.   joejoejoe
Jeff Passan, Kansas City Star, January 27, 2006:

"The first check arrives June 1 every year. No one in the Royals organization wants to talk about the money...According to two sources with knowledge of the numbers, the Royals received about $55 million last year — more than $30 million coming from a central fund that distributes money to all 30 teams, and another $20 million-plus in revenue-sharing dollars given to teams with local revenues below the game's average.

That the Royals could more than cover their $36.9 million payroll last year by simply existing is a microcosm of baseball's growth from $1.2 billion a year in revenues when commissioner Bud Selig took over in 1992 to nearly $5 billion last season."

I'm guessing Pittsburgh is in a similar situation to KC - living like a leech off the success of other franchises. The Yankees (and Yankee fans by extension) contribute $75 million dollars to MLB through luxury taxes and revenue sharing each year. That's not unfair. It's not like the NFL where you play 8 home games and have a national TV contract. The Yankees earn their money with a regional cable deal and by drawing 4,000,000 fans. Why should Pittsburgh get that money? Small-market owners are content to field awful teams as their franchise value appreciates. That's not the Yankees fault. I don't know how you stop it but the solution isn't taking more money from the Yankees.

Professional soccer leagues in Europe don't have the problem of perennial dog teams because the worst teams get relegated to the minor leagues and the best 2nd tier teams (the equivalent of AAA) get promoted to the major league. It's more complicated than just getting a better owner in Pittsburgh. The luxury tax and revunue sharing coupled with the anti-trust exemption enjoyed by baseball creates a hiding place for a few loser owners in small markets. It doesn't have to be that way (see Minnesota) but laziness and greed make Pittsburgh and Kansas City comfortable losing.

2006-08-02 07:27:07
12.   Scott Long
I buy into the argument that the Pirates are stealing money from their fans and MLB, but the part about the Yankees just being more aggressive than all other teams and should be respected because of it, just doesn't wash.

Toronto, Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit could have taken on Abreu's salary for next year, as well, but it would have wrecked their overall structure for the next couple of years. Most of these clubs can't afford to guess wrong on more than 1 big salary player and expect to stay in the playoff chase. The Blue Jays gamble on A.J. Burnett will be a good example to watch over the next 4.5 years. If these teams would have whiffed so hard on Pavano and Wright like the Yanks, I don't see how they would have any chance at the playoffs in their loaded divisions.

2006-08-02 16:24:21
13.   joejoejoe
12 I understand that the disparity in salaries is an issue for competitive balance but the Yankees are the dominant team in the largest market in the US. It's natural that they have more revenue. A market solution would locate more than two teams in NYC. You can say that is spoiling New Yorkers by giving them more baseball but that suggests baseball is some kind of finite resource. I live in Daytona Beach, Florida and have no MLB team within 4 hours. But I have a A-level minor league Cubs affiliate that is 10 minutes from my house. Living in different cities involves compromises. I miss taking to train to see Yankee games after work but I couldn't walk to the beach in NY either. Not ever commmunity gets to have every good thing.

When Kansas City had management as good as the Twins - they won the World Series but both championships were the exception, not the rule. It's not New York's fault they have a giant economy. There are 4 Yankee fans in NYC for every Pirate fan in Pittsburgh if you look at the populations. Transferring the dollars fans spend on the Yankees through tickets, merchandise, and YES subsciptions hardly seems fair from the eyes of a Yankee fan.

2006-08-02 20:13:53
14.   Scott Long
I agree that there should be another team from New York, in the market, but I'd like to see the Mets or Yankees try to be sold on that concept. Of the 3 major sports, only MLB has a system where one team can have nearly twice the payroll that every other team has year after year. The Abreu deal just magnified it.

Yankee fans. Try to put into perspective that you are an A's fan and each time you develop a great player (Giambi, Tejada) you will lose them to a larger payroll team. Sure you can compete if you do nearly everything perfectly, but you don't get the multiple mulligans that the Yankees get.

This is the big reason that so much of the country has gotten a disconnect from the game, where the NFL and NBA have grown. Outside of a couple of exceptions, baseball has become an Eastern Seaboard driven sport. I love it, but the financial disparity will keep it in this place. Sure the Pirates and Royals are run horribly and don't seem to have motivation to win, but there are other smaller market teams who are striving to win, but between losing superstar players and not being able to stockpile veteran talent to win down the stretch keeps them from being a consistent force in the playoffs.

When you have an overall team salary double of most of your competitors, there is only so much the competitors can do. When the Royals won the World Series, it was the day when their payroll wasn't that far behind the Yankees. It definitely wasn't 160 million (just guessing) different.

Ultimately, I could give a flying PHUCK what seems fair from the eyes of a Yankee fan, when it comes to fiscal issues. Love you JOEx3, but I have to be honest on this subject. Just consider it brutal Bronx-like personal honesty.

2006-08-02 22:32:37
15.   joejoejoe
14 I grew up outside Hartford, Connecticut saw the small market Hartford Whalers "fail" and move to Carolina so I can sympathize with small market teams. The Whalers had the highest percentage of fans with season tickets within a 50-mile radius of their arena of any NHL team, it's just that they had the smallest population of any franchise. The loyalty of the fans couldn't overcome the economic disadvantages.

It's Bud Selig and MLB that sets the rules, not the Yankees. If we were talking about pizza franchises and suggesting NY Pizza use their profits to pay for all the dough and cheese for KC Pizza AND NY Pizza patrons had to pay more for a slice to subsidize the guy in KC who likes pizza it's easy to see it's not an ideal system.

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