Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Astros are not the Marlins

With all due respect to Peter Gammons, who has been honored by the Hall of Fame for excellence in baseball journalism (which, incidentally, does not make him a "Hall of Famer"), he is slightly full of crap.

Gammons tweeted early this morning that:
It's awfully hard for Bud Selig to come down on the Marlins for slashing payroll when the Astros are at $21M.

There's your typical national journalist, who simply looks at numbers, and not the reason behind them. The Marlins are a totally different animal than the Astros. How so?

1. "Slashing payroll?" Come on.

The Astros have not slashed payroll. They cleared out dead weight. 

In 2010, the Astros' payroll was $93.2m. In 2011 it was $71.1m. In 2012, they closed the season at $37.7m. That's a decline of 59.5%, before you get into the possibilities of 2013's payroll (which looks to be in the $25-30m range). But you look at the salaries of whom they were ridding themselves: Brett Myers' $11m contract. Wandy Rodriguez's $34m contract. Brandon Lyon's $5.5m. No more Carlos Lee at $18.5m per year. Just stopping there represents an impressive amount of money. Yet when each were traded, the response was either "It's about time," or "Luhnow is a genius."

Does Gammons want the Astros to replace all that payroll, especially after his September 2012 column in which he wrote:
What Crane, Postolos and Luhnow inherited was a team that was in the World Series seven years ago but was drained of talent because former owner Drayton McLane did not invest in the Draft.

You simply cannot retroactively blast the Astros for doing what everyone agreed should have been done at least three years earlier.

The Marlins have a special case. They dumped $181m in contracts in one day. That's not slashing payroll, that's 1929 on Wall Street. Their Opening day payroll in 2012 was $107.7m. Baseball-Reference estimates their payroll in 2013 to be $45m - a 58.8% decline in three baseball months.

Nobody wrote about how the Astros' rebuilding plan was "a baseball tragedy" as Jeff Passan did regarding the Marlins. Nobody wrote about the Astros disgracing baseball, as Time Magazine did. Nobody called the Astros' actions "inexcusable," as the Sporting News did.

2. The Astros didn't commit fraud.

Late in 2011 the SEC opened an investigation into the Marlins' ballpark deal.

CBS Sports wrote at the time:
The city and county are paying for nearly 80 percent of the $634 million stadium. The subpoenas focus, the report says, on the Marlins trying to determine the team's ability to pay for the financing of the stadium. Last year, the Marlins' financial records were leaked and they showed that the team had received the most money in Major League Baseball from its revenue-sharing system, while not investing it back into the team. The team said it was financial strapped and needed help from the city and county to build the stadium, which it ultimately received.

And then they went out and signed those $181m in contracts, wooing Albert Pujols, promising to put a competitive team on the field, a promise which didn't make it to the All-Star Break. Passan wrote in the above-linked article that, by the time the balloon payments are due on the ballpark, it will cost Miami-Dade taxpayers $2.4 billion.

Of owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson, Passan wrote:
And these were two men who for years lied about their finances, lied about their intentions, lied all to get Miami to build them a $634 million ballpark that was supposed to end this wretched cycle of turning a major league franchise into a swap meet.

For Peter Gammons to mention the Marlins' long-term plans with the Astros' long-term plans is, at best, lazy. At worst, it's ignorant.


Anonymous said...

The Astros also won't be pocketing revenue sharing payments. That's the real issue. Houston isn't spending their own money. Miami isn't spending money that MLB is giving them. Coming down on the Marlins has no connection with not coming down on the Astros.

Andrew said...

The Astros don't need to be spending their money right now on expensive free agents and they dont have any players right now who are deserving of long term multi year contracts. Just spending money to say you are spending money is a reckless way to build a baseball team. I have faith that when the time comes to hand out large multi year contracts that the ownership will do so. Right now there is no need to do so.

Anonymous said...

We're still hosed with little hope in sight.

Juvenile Court Clerk - Bryan Trostel said...

If you think there's no hope in sight you haven't read anything about the farm club that I've written.

Hope for this season, ok I agree, there's little hope. But we'll start seeing some of our best prospects arrive in Houston late this summer and things should start looking up shortly thereafter.

Anonymous said...

Sure, they are not the marlins, but this idea that 20 million is perfectly acceptable is wanting, IMO. The rationale is that players making money would only block prospects. What? Crane couldn't pay some decent starting pitchers, or some decent bullpen arms. Just who is being blocked?

I'm not expecting big names, or even a league average team salary, but this shoestring budget shouldn't be reflexively dismissed. It's freakin Houston, not Oakland or Tampa Bay.

wmartin said...

If we did sign a middle-of-the-rotation starter or a decent (not great) free agent, how much better would the team be? Maybe the Astros win 70 games instead of 65 this season but are still a long way off from the playoffs. I like what Crane is doing and I think giving the young guys time to develop with no immediate rush for perfection is just what this team needs at this point.

Anonymous said...

For one, they would show the community that they at least care about winning and they care about their own product and brand. That is more important than wins at this point.

Rightly or wrongly, Crane is viewed as one who values his bottom line over the product. I for one suspect that to continue well into the years others expect him to open his pocketbook. Some people are what that they appear to be.

hooksfan said...

Anonymous, did you attend any Houston Astros Minor Leagues games last season? I'm a season ticket holder for their Double-A affiliate, Corpus Christi Hooks. I've been attending games since 2008 and I can tell you as a fan our family has endured four years of a farm system that was pretty barren with the exception of a few bright spots. Look at our 2011 record, 50-90, which was the worse record for full season Minor League teams. Fast forward to 2012 our roster had close to 10 players acquired through trades made by Wade and than Crane. Add the players that were acquired by Cane and Co. Before the deadline and you had a farm system that performed superbly compared to the year before. 2012 saw Tri-City lose in the Championship game, Corpus Christi lost in the divisional playoff and Lancaster won the Cal League Championship. OKC wasn't eliminated from the post season until the last game of the season. The Houston Astros care about winning, product and ask we're the proof is.......look at the farm system. Just be patient.

Anonymous said...

I have attended numerous minor-league games, for years. I know the team, and its system very well. This isn't about patience. I have an abundance of that. This is about showing your fanbase that you care, that Houston is a major market, not some backwater place forced to cheer an opening act pieced together on the fly.

AC's post above is an example of a team sacrifing no long-term development, yet at least aspires to respectability. Well within the means of a franchise in a major, wealthy metro area.

Terence said...

Uggg, I think the point of the above post was to prove how average this team could be if we sacrificed all long term development. Playing those pitchers, outfielders, and Lance Berkman proves how mediocre this team could be if it spent $40M and desired absolutely no long term development. I'd much rather see young OF, pitcher, DH types get a chance to play and see if any of them could provide future value, rather than watch a bunch of old veterans play for their retirement fund.

79-83 in the AL West is celler dwellar, not respectability.

Juvenile Court Clerk - Bryan Trostel said...

Terrance gets it.