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Santana Situation shows exactly what's Wrong with Baseball

Posted at 1:12 PM on December 30, 2007 by David Zingler (6 Comments)

Johan Santana is still a Twin – for now. The Big Market Teams (BMT) are low-balling the Twins with offers that won’t include another star player (like Jose Reyes or Robinson Cano) or two-top shelf prospects (like Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester). This is a travesty.

Imagine if this were a small-market NFL team – say the Indianapolis Colts – and they were shopping their superstar player, Peyton Mannning. Never happen, right? But if it did, you can bet it wouldn’t be just the New York and Boston teams in the bidding. With a salary cap and meaningful revenue sharing, just about every NFL team could find a place for Manning on its roster, but yet the Twins have a precious few suitors for Santana. As a result, they will get just pennies-on-the-dollar in return.

It won’t end there either. Justin Morneau and maybe Joe Mauer will be next (although the Twins will probably pay the hometown boy). We’ll also watch Delmon Young become a star and then send him to a BMT during his prime. Bud Selig has presided over the biggest era of change in baseball history (expanded playoffs, Interleague play, limited revenue sharing, luxury tax, drug testing), he should make it his mission to level the playing field before he retires.

Comments (6)

This is a shockingly naive take on the Santana situation. Selig and the owners are making more money than ever and they have small market success stories in the recent past to point to whenever salary caps are suggested. There is absolutely no incentive to change anything. Selig has increased revenue across the board for all teams, through ticketing, advertising, MLB Advanced Media (the internet arm), TV revenue, and luxury taxes on the big spenders. The fact of the matter is that every team in MLB makes enormous amounts of money, but the "small market teams," Twins included, refuse to spend it on player salaries. Instead, it goes into ownership profit. Twins fans ponied up to buy Pohlad his ballpark, partly because they were told it would level the Twins' playing field, and thereby would allow them to compete w/ BMTs when it comes to signing star players. Pohlad deserves pennies on the dollar for pinching so many of them where investing in his team is concerned. The problem is that Pohlad is a fan of the bottom line, not the starting nine.

Posted by Tom | December 31, 2007 10:18 AM

A couple of points missed by each of these posts:

David: Remember that Santana controls the whole process. His no trade clause would allow him to simply say no to any supposedly worthwhile trade if the other team isn't to his liking.

Tom: Be careful about invoking naivety. You leave out one major difference between the income streams of a team like the Yankees and a team like the Twins: Local Television Revenue. This is what makes small market teams, small market teams. That money will never be shared equitably.

David: This is also why MLB is different from the NFL. There is no Local TV in the NFL. If there were we wouldn't have heard the outcry about Packer fans not being able to see their team in the game against Dallas.

From my perspective the difference here is that MLB truly behaves as 30 separate companies that cooperate when necessary but otherwise compete against each other. The NFL seems like 32 wholly owned subsidiaries that while competitive in the end are measured by the overall success of the parent.

Posted by JackU | December 31, 2007 12:52 PM

JacKU -- you bring up an excellent point on the TV money and you are right -- that would be difficult to change. But I think it is important for the BMTs to realize that they are only a part of baseball and without viable competition, their relavance and stature is harmed. I am not expecting a miracle, just some progress on this issue.

Also, MLB, unlike the NFL or even NBA, does not have a salary cap and that is mainly because the baseball players union is far more powerful and effective than its counterparts. For decades, the players were basically screwed by the owners, now the pendulum has swung the other way and they need to make some concessions for the good of the sport.

The no-trade clause situation is also a valid point, but that is also largely because of the situation: the main reason Santana won't go to several teams is because they can't pay him and they won't be competitive which is because of the system under which the game operates.

And Tom: I've been as critcal as anyone when it comes to Pohlad on this blog, but you can't blame everything on him.....although it is tempting.

Posted by daveZ | December 31, 2007 2:25 PM

Obviously you have an opinion on Santana's worth that is not shared by any Yankees' fan. Yankees' fans have voted overwhelmingly not to trade Hughes and Melky for Santana. They do not want another high priced pitcher. And why the Twins brass didn't jump on this offer shows what a bad judge of talent they are. Most talent evaluators have Melky and Ellsbury as equal talents and the Yankees were adding Hughes, a much better pitcher than Lester (is he really over his cancer?).
will ever be.
For the Twins to ask for Cano shows they are in dreamland. Cano is either the best or second best 2B in baseball.

Why doesn't your owner, who is richer than the Steinbrenners, open up his checkbook and resign Santana. Maybe that is part of the Twins problem.

Posted by The Ed(itor) | January 1, 2008 9:10 PM

Bud Selig is the worst thing to happen to baseball since the 1919 whitesox scandal.

Posted by Scott | January 2, 2008 5:03 PM

As currently structured, MLB is composed of 28-30 farms teams raising superstars only a few big revenue teams can afford when the players reach their prime. Teams like the Twins have a narrow window to achieve success before shedding stars they cannot afford. The Twins window was last year and they didn't make it. Now they will do into a rebuilding mode and try again in 5-10 years. To suggest the Twins owner just pony up the money is ridiculous and shows the utter contempt and arrogance Yankees fans hold for other teams. The Twins might be able to exercise this option for a couple years, but never on a long-term basis.

The Twins, while they were in Washington as the Senators, and again now as the Twins, have always operated as a baseball only enterprise, unlike the Yankees who make 4-5 times the revenue the Twins organization. Consequently, because of fiscal inequities, the Twins as one of the best low revenue baseball organizations will average a World Series Trip every 20-30 years while the Yankees will perennially be in the playoffs.

The current pattern will continue with MLB fielding first and second division teams as long as revenue sharing and salary caps, the very items which have brought parity and excitement back to the NFL, remain off the table. Under todays system the real losers are all fans (other than Yankee fans that is), but we all know these changes will never occur as long as the owners and players are making money and as long as Bud Seligman remains as Commissioner of Baseball.

Posted by Russ | January 3, 2008 2:01 PM

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