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Sunday, June 24th, 2018



Great discussion the other day regarding teams ‘buying’ championships. My point is it just doesn’t work. Go through the decades. Cubs recently. Yankees recently. Dodgers probably started the whole trend.

Don’t get me wrong, having a hefty payroll helps. But teams that fail to develop players from their own farm systems are doomed. It’s the best way to control player costs and those players have value that can be used to obtain other players.

The Yankees were brought up, of course. But when the Yanks were winning post-strike championships, what was the core of their team? Jeter, Rivera, Bernie Baseball (an all-time Zoner favorite), Pettitte, Posada, Leyritz, Mendoza.

Now they have a $200 million payroll yet can’t seem to win it all. The farm system dried up. They have Cano and Wang this year–2 more players they developed and have made an impact. Without them they likely don’t make the postseason.

So it was then brought up, of course, that teams like the Royals can’t compete because they have low payrolls. I argued that it wasn’t so long ago the Royals were winning and packing Kauffman Stadium, mostly due to players they developed. Saberhagen, Brett, Willie Wilson, Frank White, Quiz, Gubizca and others made that team great.

Their farm system quit bearing fruit and their major league club suffered. People quit coming to games and it was baseball’s version of a vicious circle.

It was then argued, of course, that teams like the Royals cannot keep their star players because they will make too much money for them to retain them. I won’t disagree on that although I remember the 90′s Indians doing a great job of signing all of their young players and getting them locked up through arbitration and in some cases the first year or two of free agency. They developed players, identified who their core was and signed them long-term. And though they never won a title, they were very good for a long stretch.

The problem with teams like the Royals is that throguh mismanagement they have not received adequate return for their star players. Cases in point are Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon.

Damon was coming off a huge season in 2000 in which he hit .327/.382/.495 with 214 hits, 136 runs, 88 RBI and 46 stolen bases. He received some votes for MVP on a Royals team that went 77-85.

The Royals had to deal him as he had only one year left on his deal. He wasn’t re-signing with K.C. so it was time to get something for him while they still could. But they failed terribly. Not only did they deal Damon but also 2B Mark Ellis. They took part in a 3-way trade and in return all they received was Angel Berroa, A.J. Hinch and Roberto Hernandez.

Hernandez was a 36 year-old closer. Berroa and Hinch have been total busts.

The next opportunity the Royals had to capitalize on was the Carlos Beltran trade. They participated in another 3-way deal and again the results were not favorable.

The Royals received pitcher Mike Wood, 3B Mark Teahen and catcher John Buck. Buck and Wood are major leaguers but not good ones. Teahen finally showed promise this season. But the deal is another bust overall.

The Royals don’t suck because they have a low payroll. They suck because they can’t develop many good major league players. And the ones they do develop they fail to turn into other good players.

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  • PV

    Another point to add: the highest paid players are often veterans whose peak years are behind them. They earned their big money off their peak years and/or extended periods of production. It doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable anymore, just that the likelihood of decline is greater, and then eventually, it becomes inevitable. See Big Unit, Giambi, Sheffield, Mussina.

    The other category of high-paid guys are those that had breakout seasons and then got overpaid. See Carl Pavano.

    Then there’s just bad decisions. See Jaret Wright.

    You see where I’m going – paying a guy during his peak years rather than as a reward for them is more the exception than the rule. Which is why payroll does not always equal success.

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