Thursday, August 16, 2007

Detroit is not a small market. Thank God the Tigers are no longer behaving like it is...

The Tigers are in New York City today. The stretch run fireworks start tonight with 4 games against the Evil Empire.

In my mind, the Yankees will always be the Evil Empire, even if some small market fans are beginning to lump the Tigers in with the big spending, large market, teams. Without a doubt, Detroit's front office has been acting quite a bit like the Yankees in regard to signing draft picks.

The Tigers have tried the small market way of guaranteeing failure, by drafting players with signability in mind. They ended up with monstrous busts like Kenny Baugh and Matt Anderson.

Once Detroit's brain trust told the MLB establishment to basically "Get bent," the Tigers picked gems like Justin Verlander, Andrew Miller, and Cameron Maybin, and signed them to big contracts.

It's not a coincidence that the Tigers' future is now quite bright.

I'm sure Bud Selig is spitting mad at Mike Ilitch for ignoring draft pick salary slotting. If you have pissed off Bud-lite, in my mind, you must be doing something right.

Over the past few seasons, the Tigers have flexed their once atrophied large market muscles. Detroit is a top 10 media market (Or top 11, depending on where you look), and for a solid decade, the Tigers carried themselves as if they were comparable to the Kansas City's (31st) or Cincinnati's (33rd) of the world. They also joined them as bottom feeders in the standings.

The Tigers were selling themselves, and especially the fans, short. Thank goodness that is no longer the case.

Do I feel bad for the true small market teams? A little, mostly towards the fans, but not all that much for the franchises themselves. For the most part, the small market owners of the world are, to put it bluntly, richer than sin. But they do have short arms when come to reaching for their wallets.

If you can't afford, or refuse to spend enough, to stay in the game, then spare your fans the grief, and just sell the team. Unfortunately, being a pro sports owner has such a huge cache', and is a boost to their considerable ego, that the bottom feeding owners would rather run the teams into the ground, than give up the perks of ownership.

I've never seen anyone go broke owning a big time pro sports franchise. We all know that they tend to greatly appreciate in value. So when I hear a MLB owner cry "Oh my God, we can't compete, there's nothing we can do because we're a small market!" yet he is richer than God himself, I can't take him seriously.

For example, the Royals David Glass, thanks to his Wal-Mart ties, has a net worth of more than $300 million, and bought the KC franchise for $96 million in 2000. 7 years later, the Royals are supposedly worth $282 million, and that was with the team becoming awful on the field. Pretty good ROI, don't you think?

Despite the inflated value of his team, Glass thinks of singability, above all else, in the amateur draft.The Royals fanbase should be furious with their front office for cheaping out on their draft picks.

Same goes for other hack owners, like small market poster boy Carl Pohlad of the Twins, who has a net worth over $2.6 BILLION, yet runs his team as if they live on poverty row. In actuality, the Twins have been one Hell of a good investment for the miserly Pohlad. He bought the Twinkies for the relative pittance of $44 million in 1984. They are now worth an estimated $288 million! That's well within the lower half of MLB, but nothing to sneeze at, either.

The cheapskate won't pay (Soon to be) free agent Johan Santana what the market rate is bound to be for a multiple Cy Young award winner, or ignore contract slotting, which would have allowed the Twins to possibly draft Santana's eventual replacement. (Because he is going to leave...)

Pohlad toes the MLB line, though he has deeper pockets than Scrooge McDuck, Hank Scorpio, and Daddy Warbucks combined. Please, I don't want to hear any "Woe is us" whining, from anyone other than frustrated fans...

With that sort of money available, the signability of a high school or college ballplayer should never, ever come into question. To a Pohlad or Glass, the $7+ million Ilitch paid high school phenom Rick Porcello is walking around money. Yet they just shake their heads, point fingers, and blame owners like Ilitch for their mostly self-made woes.

What those owners are only concerned about is maximizing their current profits, at the cost of being competitive in the future. Saving a few million on their draft picks now is going to hurt them dearly on the field, and at the gate. You just know we'll end up with more labor strife in a few years, because gazillionaire small market owners want to pocket, rather than invest back in the team, every God damn penny their teams make.

And who gets bent over? The fans.

As pissed off we Detroit fans once were with the Tigers blatantly pinching pennies, we should now appreciate their freer spending ways. Mike Ilitch and the Tigers will never spend, or even have, the stupid amounts of money available to a New York or Boston, but there is no reason they can't effectively compete at the level below. Especially when it comes to the amateur draft.

The Tigers are no longer "Penny wise and pound foolish," skimping at the minor league level while paying journeymen major league free agents much more money than they're worth. Let's hope the small market central division teams never figure that out...


  1. Big Al, I tried to e-mail you via the front page, but nothing happened. Blame it on Blogger. I forwarded your post on small market whiners to Woody Paige of the Denver Post, who has been making the same criticisms of the Rockies' ownership group that you did of the Royals' and Twins' owners. Yours is more eloquent and funny than his. Hope he contacts you about the post

  2. I appreciate the kind words, Uncle! I'll let you know if anything happens!