Nationals Baseball: But not THAT big an "Uh Oh"

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

But not THAT big an "Uh Oh"

First things first : Strasburg!

So over the weekend commenter Tombo wrote in and in short, said the Nats better get good quick or they might not be in Washington for long. Anyone who follows the Nats knows that this is pretty much nonsense, but occasionally it's good to go over why - especially if there are people reading the blog that don't follow the Nats.

To start Tombo's most general point is fair. The 2011 Nats scenario, spend a ton of money on questionable contracts, win nothing, draw nobody - IS unsustainable. However, that doesn't mean relocation is on the horizon. Let's review why.

  • First off losing money isn't a big deal if the owner is ok with losing money. The Lerners are worth billions of dollars. If the Nats were losing 20 million a year (a staggering sum) they'd have to lose it for 50 years in a row for the Lerner's to lose 1/3 of their estimated wealth. Because the Nats ownership main business is not the Nats there isn't the same impetus to sell if things go badly for a while.
  • And things haven't been going badly for a while (not money wise anyway) The 2011 model is just that, the 2011 model. Prior to last August the Nats had really made one big financial move, paying for Strasburg. They signed no big contracts and actually walked away from paying large bonuses to draft picks. From 2007 through 2009, they had one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Upping spending a bunch the Nats are still only 22nd in payroll. So even if they are losing a bunch of money now, it's a now thing, not an ongoing thing.
  • And they probably aren't even losing money now. Teams rarely just earn money from tickets sales. The smarter owners get sweetheart stadium deals from the gullible public and rake in the cash through concession deals, parking, local real estate, TV and radio deals, etc. etc. Add to that the fact that the Lerners are infamous for not letting Bob Cracthit put some extra coals on the fire and you end up with a team that is actually likely generating cash, not losing it. Forbes estimates the Nats are 2nd in operating income among all teams. Money is not an issue.
  • And even if it was an issue there are lots of other things to consider for a team to leave. Stadium leases need to be broken. TV deals reworked (the Nats are intertwined with the Orioles on MASN, and no way Angelos is going to give away a cash cow without a protracted legal battle) division alignment maintained, where would the team move (the ownerhsip is locally based). Not to mention that having baseball in the nation's capital was a long term goal of Bud Selig and baseball in general. There is far more impetus for the team to stay and if the owners were losing money and wanted to get out (they're not and they don't), first thing would be a sell off of the team - not a move.
  • Because of the stories of the "Greatest Generation" of baseball, we think relocation is more of a threat than it really is. From 1953 to 1972, a couple decades, 10 teams relocated, but that's the exception. Between 1903 and 1953 - two teams relocated. From 1972 to now - 1 team has, and that took a concerted effort from MLB to destroy baseball in a city (but we won't go into that again).

Relocation is not a threat. It just isn't. Could it ever be? Maybe, but we're a couple decades away from that. Hopefully the Plan expects success in that range of time.

Other Notes:

Say hello to the Chris Marrero you have, not the Chris Marrero you want. Can he hit for average? Maybe. Can he hit for power? Doubtful. Even though he's young the trending in the minors is all in the wrong direction. There are a bunch of great first-baseman out there. The market for the mediocre-fielding singly-joe first baseman died with Frank Chance. (where are the Frank Chance defenders!)



Donald said...

Speaking of call-ups, who makes the majors first -- Harper or Rendon?

Harper said...

Since we haven't seen Rendon in the minors yet and he's got a huge injury behind him, I'll say Bryce.

bdrube said...

There is one other factor regarding relocation--there's currently nowhere else for a team to go. The DC-area has the best local economy in the country right now. The Nats don't draw because they suck, not because people cannot AFFORD to go. That is clearly NOT the case elsewhere.

The economy here is going to take a big hit when the REAL federal budget cuts start to kick in around 2013 or so, but that's a whole different issue.

Wally said...

Yeah, not feeling good about Marrero. He is still mostly young, so there could be an adjustment he'll make to gain (regain?) some power, but overall I don't think that he is very valuable either as a prospect or a trade chip.

What did you think of Milone? I had pretty low expectations, but he probably exceeded them. He was faster than I expected, and I thought that his motion had some deception in it. I loved the control, which was as advertised. Seems like he could pitch as a back end guy for several years somewhere.

Ironic Goat said...

I read somewhere once that each team gets 20-30 million from Seems high, unsourced, but that is what I heard!

Harper said...

bdrube - nowhere? There's always somewhere and MLB would love to have another WC team to balance things out. Though is there anyplace with as many positives as DC? Can't think of one.

Wally - I like Milone, but I'm not terribly high on him. I think he might just be too hittable. It's a fine line with these guys.

IG - this is why I'm trying to start my own team. Easy wins for every other team. That's gotta be worth a couple mill per team right?