The New York Influence Debate Verdict

March 9, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Optimist Prime.

In the debate about whether the success of New York sports teams is important to the success of professional respective leagues Loyal Homer got right to work airing his grievances against the dominance of the New York sports market in his argument. Rightfully so, he criticizes the all encompassing coverage that New York teams receive even when they are mired in the deepest slumps of mediocrity. His assertion, that this undeniable truth may be due in no small part to the proximity of New York to ESPN headquarters, holds some validity. But that is about where our agreements ended.

Loyal Homer focuses too much of his attention on attacking the weak links of the New York sports scene. Obviously the Mets haven’t met (pun unintended) the unprecedented success of the Yankees, but then again, for this debate, that is not a requirement. Both are MLB teams and though the Mets may not always reach the postseason, their cross-town rivals almost always do. While the Mets may be floundering to survive, the Yankees shoulder the burden of league leading success, which I would like to remind Loyal Homer comes at a price. At least in baseball, the unlimited spending the Yankees are able to do yields immediate benefits for the rest of the league in the form of revenue sharing.

But I digress. I simply wasn’t sold on Loyal Homers argument that New York teams aren’t necessary for professional league success.

As for Optimist Prime… while I would love to let you know you are leaving today on that all expenses paid trip to NYC you wrote about in your argument, you are just going to have to settle for a victory in today’s debate.

Optimist Prime won this debate because he was successful in convincing me that New York sports franchises are indeed important to the overall success of a league. He did so, surprisingly enough, with numbers, and not a sheer emotional appeal. Admittedly it probably would have been easy to sway me with a barrage of sentimentality over the rich history of New York franchises. I fully expected him to explain how the storied legacy of Big Apple franchises like the Rangers, Yankees, and Giants have come to transcend geographic boundaries, thus making NYC the national fan base critical for the survival of leagues. Instead he chose to take the majority of this debate down a very different path.

Optimist Prime explored the magnitude of the New York market as a whole. He explained that the 19.1 million fans (roughly 1 in every 16 Americans) in the greater NYC market are a force that quite simply cannot be ignored. Add to that the fact that New York is one of the most demanding sports markets in the world and we are talking about a fan base that must be appeased with winning. If New York teams win, the peripheral popularity and buzz is sure to trickle down to the rest of the league, Reaganomics style.

Loyal Homer tested this premise thoroughly by pointing out how the NBA survived and even grew in popularity despite the decade long struggles of New York Knicks, but the fault with this logic is that it does not rule out the possibility of the NBA doing that much better following in the wake of a league leading Knicks team. There is absolutely no telling how much more growth the league would have seen had the Knicks landed a Carmelo Anthony type player, or just established a winning record over that time frame. Judging by what we actually can measure, we see that there is popular support and growth in leagues that have seen New York dominance in recent years (i.e. the NFL with the Giants 2008 Super Bowl victory and MLB with the Yankees 2009 World Series Championship).

In the end, as Optimist Prime aptly points out, “size does matter” and numbers don’t lie. Like it or not, New York matters.

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The New York Influence Debate

March 7, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Optimist Prime.

New York… The Big Apple… The City That Never Sleeps. No matter what you call it, you are referring to a very special place.

It is a city that serves as THE preeminent cultural trendsetter since virtually the birth of this great nation. It is also a city with one of the richest sports histories in America. Since baseball was being played on the Polo Grounds, New York has been leading the way for the American sports scene. The Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Rangers, Islanders, and Knicks have kept that rich history alive. Sure, there have been lulls in the various teams’ relevance, like the Yankees of the 1980s or say… the last ten years for the Knicks. But overall, New York seems to find a way to always be at the forefront of championship contention.

It is often said that when teams from New York are good, that is a good thing for their respective sport. For instance, the Knicks were a complete non-factor for nearly a decade, but in the wake of the block buster Carmelo Anthony deal, they are back in a big way. So are good things in store for the NBA?

This prompts us here at the Sports Debates to tackle a very intriguing question Is a good team in New York REALLY good for the league as a whole. Does the success or failure of a New York team make no difference?

Loyal Homer believes that New York teams make no difference on a league’s health what so eve while Optimist Prime argues the better a team in New York is, the better the league is overall.

Gents, let’s see what New York’s got. Ponder the meaning behind Sinatra’s statement, “It’s up to you New York, New York!”

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The New York Influence Debate… New York Good for Quantity and Quality

March 7, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

It’s not often that I find myself arguing in favor of New York sports teams.

Although I am quite fond of New York City itself, that opinion is derived more from its food, culture, and general vibe than whatever the sports teams are up to at that any in time. Although my wife is from New Jersey, my interaction with most of the New York sports teams has consisted of me antagonizing her regarding their various failures and crushing defeats. When I was assigned the task of arguing that a good New York team is important to a league’s overall health, I originally asked the TSD editorial board for a stipend to travel to New York to research this topic in-depth. Unfortunately, that was summarily rejected. Perhaps they were on to my plan of hitting every food spot I’d ever seen on the No Reservations shows shot in New York City. Whatever the cause, I was forced to research this article from my humble abode rather than the Big Apple. Nevertheless, I believe I have come up with some compelling arguments.

The first, and most obvious argument, is that size does matter. The New York metropolitan area has 19.1 million people in it. Basically, roughly 1 of every 16 Americans lives in and around New York City. Logic follows that if an adequate percentage of those fans become Knicks, Rangers, Giants fans (etc.), then that volume of fans will be healthy for the league’s overall health. Basically, if a big city’s team is good, that generally helps the league’s standing among the fans and media overall (see the Chicago Blackhawks for a prime example of a large city’s team increasing a sport’s overall profile).

New York City is America’s largest metropolitan area, so it seems like the most obvious example of this.

Another interesting argument that occurred to me is that the center of New York sports is, arguably Madison Square Garden (it’s close to Manhattan’s geographic center, at least). Madison Square Garden’s slogan is, “The World’s Most Famous Arena” – and it’s hard to argue that is not the case. The fame and history is borne out by the passion of the Knicks and Rangers fans who have filled the building to seating and noise capacity if either team is within shouting distance of a post-season berth or any post-season success.

Beyond statistical and arena angles, there is the more subtle angle that many New York teams are intimately connected to the past, present, and future of the leagues. The Rangers are an Original Six NHL franchise. The Giants played in the NFL’s “Greatest Game” and have won several league championships and Super Bowls combined. The Yankees are, well, the Yankees (you’ll enjoy this part, Babe Ruthless). Whatever you think of the Yanks, they are the most successful professional baseball (and, arguably, professional sports) franchise in American sports. They have more championships, more pennants, more money, and more fans than any other team. They fill stadiums when they play on the road because some fans love to love the Yankees, and some fans love to hate the Yankees. Even the Mets and Jets have reached notable status repeatedly in the last several years. Even the team that time forgot, the New York Islanders, have won four Stanley Cups. New York sports teams – love them or hate them – often represent the pinnacle of success in their respective sports.

I believe I have laid out a thorough, compelling case for the necessary relevance of New York sports teams in their respective leagues. And if I have not, please donate to my “Travel to NYC To Do More Research” fund (I’m working on a catchier name).

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The Cardinals-Pujols Negotiation Debate… Pujols Deserves To Play Hardball

February 17, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

The St. Louis Cardinals have fallen victim to one of the classic blunders – the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia.” But only slightly less well-known is this – “Never go against a Dominican power hitting first baseman when free agency is on the line!”

The St. Louis front office has engaged in a potentially disastrous game of chicken with Albert Pujols, and by all outward appearances, the front office has lost. Pujols and the club have been deadlocked in a contract standoff for weeks, and it appears the window to get a new deal done before free agency (which has been graciously extended multiple times) has finally closed. This virtually assures that the Cardinals will have to pay an even greater price to reacquire the services of the man who has become the modern face of the franchise and is arguably the greatest player in baseball today – that is, if the team is even able sign him again, considering the sizeable number of suitors he is sure to attract.

Is Albert Pujols at fault for wanting to be compensated as one of the highest paid players in the game today? Certainly not! Some 24 other contracts have surpassed the 7 year $100 million mark that Pujols’ current deal set back in 2004. While it might be expected that a few of the recent splashy contracts of players like Alex Rodriguez ($275,000,000 for 10 years), Joe Mauer ($184,000,000 for eight years) and C. C. Sabathia ($161,000,000 for seven years) might have exceeded that of Pujols significantly older deal, it should come as an absolute shock that the contracts of Alfonso Soriano ($136,000,000 for eight years), Barry Zito ($126,000,000 for seven years), and Carlos Beltran ($119,000,000 for seven years) surpassed that of Pujols considering the players’ comparative values.

The Cardinals should be kissing Pujols’ cleats right now for the simple fact that he has played for the franchise at below market value for as long as he has. This is after all Albert freakin’ Pujols we are talking about, the man who has been an unstoppable force both at the plate and in the field since bursting onto the scene as the Rookie of the Year in 2001. The same man who is a three time MVP, a nine time All-Star, a six time Gold Glover, and six time Silver Slugger winner. This is the same man who is the active career leader in batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. He deserves whatever contract he wants. Considering he isn’t even the greatest compensated player on his own team – a distinction which Matt Holiday holds with his seven year $120M dollar deal – it seems as if Pujols has every right to demand more money.

While critics of Pujols will point to his desire for a 10-year deal worth around $300M as unreasonable, it is honestly just fair market value. Alex Rodriguez is probably the closest player to Pujols in terms of caliber of talent, and the deal Pujols is requesting is only $25M more than what A-Rod got just three years ago. Admittedly Alex Rodriguez’s numbers have dropped as of late, making a similar deal look like a bad investment for the Cards. But it must be considered within the greater context of the economics of the league.

Albert Pujols would be the most coveted free agent of this off-season, if not of all time. Nearly every team in the league would attempt to acquire his services. There is a common misconception that Pujols may not demand A-Rod type money in free agency because most of the clubs with deep pockets – namely the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies – already have serviceable options locked up at first base, but this theory has some serious holes. It would be foolish to count the Red Sox and Yankees out of any free agent bidding war, as an American League team can always find ways to work a bat, especially one of Pujols caliber, into the lineup. Add to that the fact that Adrian Gonzalez only has a one year deal in place in Boston, as well as the fact that the Yankees could have a spare $90M if C.C. Sabathia opts out and walks after this season, and suddenly these two unmotivated teams have a reason to give Pujols a good look. Even if its not Boston and New York that offer to shell out the big bucks for him, some team will. Teams like the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, and Angels all seem to have the bankroll and the desire to ink a game-changing player like Pujols. Unfortunately for Cardinals fans, baseball is a sport without a salary cap. A team’s unwillingness to meet his demands may very well mean that the franchise must sit idly by while the single greatest asset in team history leaves with absolutely nothing to show for it.

So how did it all come to this? Who is to blame?

This worst-case scenario nightmare that the Cardinals are now in was COMPLETELY avoidable. The team had the resources and means to sign the slugger, even given his self imposed pre-Spring Training deadlines, but the organization chose not to. That blame sits squarely on the shoulders of the St. Louis front office staff.

It should be remembered we are not talking about resigning just any old player, but rather the preeminent player of this era – Albert Pujols. Can you really put a price on that? Apparently the Cardinals did and time will tell if it was worth it.

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The Resigning Derek Jeter Debate Verdict

October 26, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Although I don’t live in New York, I can only imagine that the wind tunnel of New York sports talk radio is directing its gale-force winds directly at Yankee Stadium and the Yankees’ brain trust. New York sports fans are famously outspoken, and in my experience, Yankees fans take that to heights beyond the fans of other NYC-area franchises. We decided, though, we’d help out Brian Cashman and make his decision for him. So, Mr. Cashman, read our decision for you and feel free to send our tiny consulting fee whenever it’s appropriate. Thanks… and now to the verdict.

Loyal Homer made a very compelling statistical argument that Jeter is certainly not the player he was at the beginning of his 10-year contract. Indeed, he may not be the same player he was just last season. He also, at least in my mind, successfully parried the point made by many Jeter aficionados that he is well worth the money and a lengthy contract because he could eventually become a DH for the Yankees. Loyal Homer points out that Jeter’s declining statistics may not portend the kind of offense the Yankees would like to see out of the DH spot when Jeter gives up his spot at shortstop.

Where Loyal Homer began to lose me, however, was when he stated that financial considerations may enter into the equation for the Yankees. While I could see the two parties squabbling over the length of the contract and things of that nature, I cannot imagine the Yankees playing the “Hey Derek, we don’t have the money” card. Even facing an off-season with some moves to be made, I cannot imagine the money machine that is the New York Yankees and YES Network running out and forcing the club to kick Mr. November to the curb.

After wiping the slobber off my copy of Babe Ruthless’ argument I began to examine some of the points he made. He writes, “Derek Jeter is worth every penny the Yankees shell out for him and more.” While I don’t disagree that he was, I’m not convinced that he is. Loyal Homer brought some statistical analysis to the table that seemed, in my mind, to be superior to Babe Ruthless’ breathless opinion. Later in his post, Babe refuted a semi-scientific fielding effectiveness study by implying the originators of the study brought some undisclosed bias to the table. While I’m not saying that’s impossible, I needed more than Babe’s opinion to counteract the statistics brought to the table by Loyal Homer.

When Babe Ruthless started talking about Jeter’s legendary status, however, I began to tilt my verdict in his favor. While I am not sure that Jeter’s legend is quite as bright outside New York as it is inside New York, there is no doubt that he is one of the greatest Yankees of all time. More importantly, the Yankees deal in legends – it is the backbone of the organization. They are rightly regarded as the greatest franchise in baseball and, simply put, they are not going to kick a guy to the curb who is going to have a plaque in Monument Park. While there may be some public sniping, I truly believe the Yankees will do what it takes to put Jeter in pinstripes for the rest of his career – and they should.

While I would regard Babe’s victory here as more of a scorecard win than a knockout, a W is a W and an L is an L. Congrats, Babe, and watch in the mail for your victory prize – three free therapy sessions with 30 Rock’s Dr. Leo Spaceman to cure the man crush you have on Derek Jeter. Enjoy!

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The Resigning Derek Jeter Debate

October 25, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

It will be an interesting offseason for Yankees’ fans. While I’m sure many of them are currently weeping and gnashing teeth at their ALCS exit and spotty bullpen, a potentially more significant decision looms on the horizon for the Bronx Bombers.

The face of the franchise, Derek Jeter, just completed the final year of a 10-year, $189M contract. General manager Brian Cashman and the boys will be doing a lot of soul-searching over this off-season to find the right contract to keep Jeter in pinstripes without damaging the franchise’s financial ability to acquire more high-priced talent.

Thankfully, we at the Sports Debates are here to help the Yankees’ front office. We will debate the question of whether or not Jeter deserves a similar contract to his last one, a contract that pays tribute to his consistent on-field production as well as his stature as one of the greatest Yankees of all time, or a smaller contract tied to the fact that he is a 36-year-old playing a position often reserved for younger ballplayers.

Babe Ruthless will be arguing that Jeter deserves another big contract because of everything he has given and continues to give the Yankees franchise. Loyal Homer will argue that Jeter deserves a smaller contract due to his age and some aspects of his play. May the best man win!

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The MLB Playoffs Home Field Advantage Debate Verdict

October 11, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Optimist Prime.

This debate took some crazy twists and turns. I believed I had a good idea of the direction each argument would take, but both writers surprised me.

I was very interested to learn that a smart, professorial type chooses to spend his hard-earned intellect analyzing sports. Dr. Ray Stefani has compiled an impressive study, as Optimist Prime highlights in his article. The study completely breaks down the numerical value of home field in a formula, also providing insight into a fan’s impact on a given game – something we all know makes up a large part of what constitutes home field advantage. Needless to say, it is a good thing Bleacher Fan wasn’t writing in this debate, as I am sure he would have some choice words for Dr. Stefani’s analysis on the value of the fan.

It was interesting to note that home field advantage for Major League Baseball is a factor of only 7.5 percent – by far the lowest of the rated sports. Simply, home field – and by extension the crowd – just does not play a major factor in changing the outcome of a game. Statistically, this is impossible to refute and a blow to the value of the fan overall when it comes to post-season baseball.

But, statistics generally paint with a broad brush and try to define qualitative factors within a mathematical structure. In other words, stats can’t measure passion, and home crowds provide plenty of it. Just ask the Chicago Cubs. The famed “Bartman” incident happened at Wrigley Field, and I’m guessing few of the Cubs’ players at the time saw any advantage in that. But, the interference plays mentioned in Babe Ruthless’ article are not exclusive to the home field, which is really what is being evaluated within the framework of this debate.

For baseball, even the most passionate fans that are incredibly smart and always cheer at the proper moments of a baseball game will inevitably be unable to have any impact on the outcome of the game without violating protocol. Fans are a huge part of the home field advantage equation. But, Babe Ruthless was unable to convince me that fans’ impact is substantial enough, and that home field makes a big difference. Therefore, Optimist Prime wins the argument.

Now, that doesn’t mean Babe Ruthless’ argument isn’t outstanding. He makes one point in particular that nearly swayed me to his side, even in the face of overwhelming statistical evidence offered by Optimist Prime.

Babe is absolutely correct that home field players know every dirt and pebble on the infield and have a feel for exactly how much space separates the warning track from the wall. But in today’s modern era of baseball those nuances are not completely foreign to opposing teams. Within the same league teams get ample opportunity to play one another, so ignorance is no longer an excuse in this case. Interleague play further dilutes any advantage home teams have over the opposition.

Babe’s article is infused with too much conjecture and guess-work to sway me. Sure, a roaring crowd COULD impact the way a player plays, but not necessarily and not every time. Baseball is unique because the player – the batter in particular – has the power to control the crowd by stepping out the batter’s box.

The nuances Babe Ruthless draws attention to are not incorrect, but if they really DID make a significant impact on a home team’s prospects it would show up in the win-loss analysis the good doctor compiled. While it is true that fans can literally reach out and alter a game, they aren’t supposed to and it rarely happens.

I also do not believe that baseball managers would unilaterally declare a desire to play all games at home. I know of many Chicago Cubs managers who lament the unpredictable wind. I also suspect that Florida Marlins’ managers in the past were not wedded to the idea of playing every playoff game in front of a smattering of decidedly unenthusiastic fans (seriously, how do sports survive on South Beach??). Some managers also know that their team plays better with an edge a player can only develop when playing on the road, and will rent out a hotel in the team’s hometown in order to simulate the road experience and create the edginess needed to win the post-season.

I honestly wanted the home field and fan support in baseball to give the players and teams a great advantage. But, all of the factors that define home field – from fan presence to a player sleeping in his own bed the night before a game – do not appear to make any difference with baseball. The game is played the same way regardless of what field it is played on – from MLB parks to urban sandlots. In fact, baseball’s ubiquity is one of its endearing qualities. Anyone at any time is able to play baseball, and the game has been that way for almost 150 years. Maybe the fans and some home cooking don’t make a dramatic impact on the outcome of a game, but the fact that baseball has been played the same way since Abner Doubleday is pretty great. Baseball may not have home field advantage, but it does have history. And it always will.

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The MLB Playoffs Home Field Advantage Debate

October 11, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Optimist Prime.

It’s natural as fans to believe that playing at home ALWAYS gives the home team a distinct advantage.

But absolutes in sports are dangerous.

For baseball teams in October the assumption is that home field matters. But the rhythm of fan cheering in baseball is entirely different than football. While hometown football fans scream when the opposing team is about to go into score – in an effort to boost the defense and make it difficult for the opposition to communicate – baseball fans don’t exactly scream in a distracting way to the opposing team.

After watching some high profile visiting team wins already in this baseball post-season, the question begs: Does home field advantage really matter in the MLB post-season?

Babe Ruthless will argue that home field does matter, but he won’t limit himself to his Yankee-colored glasses. Sure, the Yanks have a great home field environment, but the Yankees aren’t the only team in baseball. Optimist Prime will argue that baseball is the same game regardless of where it’s played, so home field does not matter.

Gentleman? Play ball.

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The Sabathia versus King Felix Debate… Sabathia Dethrones a False King

October 5, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Sports Geek.

Since today is the first day of the MLB Post Season, The Sports Debates decided to celebrate the season with an old fashioned “who is better” style debate over two of baseball’s best – C.C. Sabathia and Felix Hernandez. The ace from the Big Apple owns the league when it comes to wins, but King Felix rules from his thrown atop the ERA ranks. Both pitchers are unquestionably among the best in baseball, and both pitchers are crazy talented. But Sabathia is the only one to get consistent results from his talent. He converts starts into wins, and that is the all important difference between contender and pretender.

Effective Pitching Wins Championships

We have all heard the old cliché that pitching wins championships, and it is true… or rather mostly true. I think a more appropriate expression would be “effective pitching wins championships.” Effective pitchers are the guys who get outs, not just the first time through the lineup, but when the game is on the line. They are the guys that keep leads even when their team’s offense isn’t firing on all cylinders. But most importantly, effective pitchers win games. A guy doesn’t have to have the most dominant stuff to be the more effective pitcher, he just has to use his stuff to win ball games.

Unfortunately for Felix Hernandez, despite all his talent, his ability to convert that talent into W’s remains largely untapped. At season’s end Hernandez owns a 13-12 record, and as a result finds himself on the outside looking in during October. Obviously he is at a disadvantage with a less explosive offensive than what backs Sabathia, but to simply dismiss a difference of eight wins as a lack of offense would be foolish. Sure the Yankees have power, but the Mariners have speed. They boast a formidable lineup with a terrific one two punch at the top of the order. With arguably the best leadoff man in baseball, Ichiro Suzuki, atop the order and a sparkplug in the number two hole in Chone Figgins Seattle certainly has the potential to put up enough runs to stay in games. Similarly, it would be equally as inappropriate to attribute all those losses as a lack of bullpen help. Again, Hernandez may not be able to turn the ball over to Mariano Rivera, but David Aardsma racked up just two fewer wins than Mo this season, so that theory doesn’t hold either.

C.C. Sabathia, on the other hand, is certainly an effective pitcher. He has won 21 games this season. That is more than any other pitcher in the American League, and ties him for the most wins in all of baseball. It should also be noted that Sabathia was able to accomplish this in the ultracompetitive A.L. East, frequently facing potent Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox lineups. Sabathia is the unquestioned ace of the New York rotation and has led his staff to accumulate 94 wins, the second most in all of baseball. The bottom line, however, is that Sabathia gets wins. Whether it is the fact that he works deep enough into the games, or he just comes through in the clutch, Sabathia finds ways to win games – and that’s the difference.

Sometimes Stats Lie

Baseball is probably the most statistically driven sport, but when judging players it is important to consider the right categories because sometimes stats can be deceiving. I do not mean that statistics are faulty or inflated, but that certain statistics are not valid measurements of a players worth.

The strikeout statistic is a perfect example. During the regular season, 14 players recorded 200 or more strikeouts, among them were John Lester (225 Ks and a 19-9 record), Roy Halladay (219 Ks and a 21-10 record), and Adam Wainwright (213 Ks and a 20-11 record). Looking at these players’ dominant strikeout totals and impressive win-loss record one could assume that players with large strikeout totals must also be effective pitchers that win a large majority of their games. But that would be a misnomer. In fact, of the 14 players to record 200 plus strikeouts, nine of them had double digit losses as well, and three of them only won one more game than they lost, including Felix Hernandez. Similarly, while low ERAs may sometimes be indicative of excellent pitching, the stat is not always an accurate correlate of winning baseball. Only a little more than one-third of pitchers in the top 21 in ERA won more than 14 games.

In the end the only statistic that really matters is winning. C.C. Sabathia knows how to win better than almost any other pitcher in baseball, and it is because of that fact that I would trust him with the ball anytime he is healthy, rested, and ready to take the mound. His successes on short rest in last season’s playoffs are a testament to his ability. This season he’ll be given the chance to put those skills on display again, while Hernandez will be thinking about 2011. That’s just about as much proof as you need.

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The Winning versus Wealth Debate… The Bad Business of Winning

September 9, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Recently some leaked documents blew the lid off of one of the worst kept secrets in sports – the Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t exactly trying too hard to win. Absolutely shocking, isn’t it? But breaking news reveals the mind blowing truth, that a team which hasn’t had a winning record in 18 seasons may not have their financial priorities set on winning.

Now that the sports world has officially lost its innocence – having been to Oz, met the man behind the curtain, and learned the ugly truth that some teams value dollar signs more than a W – what does this mean for the future of sports? And what next? I suppose someone will try to tell us that mascots aren’t real either. Yeah right. Like I’m going believe there isn’t a mute, jersey wearing gorilla. that likes to dunk basketballs off of trampolines in Phoenix, Arizona, or that there never was a real-life giant yellow, baseball loving chicken roaming the greater San Diego Area. That will be the day.

The answer to today’s debate question – whether or not governing agencies of professional sports force teams to pursue winning rather than earnings – is a resounding no! Profitability is its own form of success. Not every team can win the championship, but each season teams can try to earn more money than the last and use that income to sign better players, make stadium renovations, or improve in any manner they see fit. Don’t believe me? Ask the Washington Redskins, who routinely rake in a pile of money. While the franchise’s win-loss record may not seem like they are accomplishing that much, the bank account is another story entirely. And it is that same bank account that makes the signing of players like Albert Haynesworth possible (whether the aforementioned signing works amicably with others is a different story entirely.)

The point is a few bad apples (the Pittsburgh Pirates) should not ruin the whole bunch. Some small market teams have devoted fan bases that simply want to watch their town’s pros play on a regular basis, even though they may have no hope of being a contender for the league championship (I’m talking to you, fans of the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Timberwolves). Should these teams be forced to scrap their individuality and adopt the culture and spending strategies of their bigger market counterparts, robbing them of their uniqueness? The answer is another big no, because it is impossible to regulate such an intangible subject as a “winning strategy.” There is absolutely no way to effectively regulate the approach teams take towards winning, largely because no single path leads to success.

Baseball illustrates this point perfectly. Where one organization may build its roster around dominating pitching, another club may feel that a potent lineup will carry the club to the pos-tseason. Strategies vary even more when you consider that some teams prefer to groom prospects from the minors (e.g. the Atlanta Braves) while other clubs prefer to take advantage of trades and free agency (e.g. the New York Yankees) to acquire their big guns. Those are very different approaches which will come with very different price tags.

Any plan to encourage teams to emphasize winning over economic success would certainly place rules on minimum spending and participation in financial ventures such as free agency. Baseball, football, basketball, and other professional sports all have a fair share of underachieving teams that probably don’t put as many resources into teams as they get out of them. But any effort to stipulate how teams spend money in pursuit of a winning strategy would surely end in disaster. Such capricious disregard for an organization’s autonomy undermines most teams’ efforts at rebuilding and would create unnecessary bureaucracy during the off-season. While encouraging teams to reach their full potential is a noble goal, this simply isn’t the path to accomplish it.

But if, perhaps, the brain trust behind this conformist push were successful, the most likely scenario would be minimum team salaries and quotas for off-season spending. This would raise the bar for a leagues lowest achievers, but it certainly wouldn’t put them into contention with the biggest spenders. The Yankees, Lakers, and Cowboys are still going to acquire the highest price talent on the market, and the miserly teams like the Pirates are still going to do the bare bones minimum to meet league regulations. This approach does not eliminate the existence of “haves” and “have nots” in a sport, it mandates that penny-pinching teams go through the motions of acting more competitive. Forcing a team to spend arbitrarily to meet a predetermined benchmark is not a means to the intended end of encouraging teams to pursue winning. It’s an exercise in futility.

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