Having spent the whole day in the car, I haven’t had a chance to update yet, even though there are about 20 different things that’ve been rattling around in my brain. Let’s see if I can knock out at least a couple of posts in rapid succession.
Five hours of driving gives you lots of time to listen to the radio, so that’s about all I did today. My dial is always set to 105.3 The Fan, a local sports talk station that used to feature Rangers games.
Josh Lewin, who works for The Fan now, spent some time this week crunching numbers on a few Major League payrolls. What he came up with is what the Rangers are currently spending on their team and what they should be spending based on his formula.
Lewin’s methodology is simple: he took the size of the market that any given team is in (number of possible fans based on population) and divided that team’s payroll by that number.
So, if a team spends $100 million for one season and has 10 million potential fans in its market, then the team is spending $10/fan for its players. (Granted, this is a rough estimation and ignores a lot of variables, but it at least gives us something to work with.)
According to Lewin, who is probably more up to date on these things than I am, the Dallas-Ft. Worth market is now the 4th largest in the country, behind only LA, New York, and Chicago.
But DFW has an advantage over those three cities in that we only have one baseball team to support. At the moment, we are the largest single-team market in Major League Baseball.
Based on his numbers, Lewin found that the Phillies spend about $25/fan on their players in a market that is slightly smaller than Dallas. Twenty-five dollars seems very doable, right? That’s about 1 ticket per fan, per year and is about the average in the MLB right now.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Marlins, who spend about $8/fan and are actually a small-market team. Surely the Rangers are a lot closer to the Phillies than they are the Marlins, right?
Not even close. For 2010, the Rangers spent a whopping $11.20/fan on their entire team payroll. Just over $3 more than the Fish, who are a terrible team and don’t draw much of a crowd at all.
Someone might point out that the Rangers get away with their low payroll because they’ve got young guys like Elvis and Neftali, who make rookie minimum-wage. That’s a fair argument, but not everyone who plays for the Rangers is 22-years-old and the guys that are won’t stay that way.
Josh Hamilton is 29 and Nelson Cruz & CJ Wilson are both 30. None of those three, who were all instrumental in the Rangers’ success in 2010, are signed to long-term deals. Is our game plan to carry these guys through their arbitration years and then let other teams snatch them up in the prime of their careers?
Josh Hamilton is the reigning AL & ALCS MVP. Are you telling me that he won’t be fielding offers from the Yankees, Red Sox, and everyone else on the planet if he hits free agency in a couple of years?
What happens when those young guys aren’t young anymore? Do we cowboy-up and offer Elvis big dollars when the time comes?
What happens when a guy like Vlad doesn’t take a 3 month nap in the middle of the season? Are we still talking to him about a 1-year deal or has another team already signed him at this point?
Jon Daniels & Company are about as creative as front office people get, but what’s the sense in pinching pennies when you’ve finally got a budget with wiggle room? I’m not saying spend stupid money and bid against yourselves for every free agent out there, but part with a little bit here and there and keep building. Pull the trigger when it makes sense.
I didn’t want to do it, but I have to talk about Cliff Lee again because it’s this kind of low-ball nonsense that effectively sent him packing. He’s in Philadelphia because the Rangers are sticking to their plan, which I guess is to be the farm system for other teams that are willing to invest in their future. They made a competitive offer, sure, but it wasn’t enough and they knew that and they let him go anyway.
Creative solutions are one thing, but Brandon Webb isn’t going to replace Cliff Lee. I guess it’s hard to be competitive, though, when you’re only the 4th largest market in the country….
According to Lewin, if the Rangers spent as much as the Phillies ($25/fan), their payroll would be about $150MM, which would go a long way towards guaranteeing some level of success. If you spend $23MM/year on an elite pitcher like Cliff Lee, which this team has never had before, you have $127MM left over, which is over twice as much as you spent in 2010.
So, what’s the problem? Why are we not investing in our product? It’s a good product and even just doubling payroll will make it that much better.
New video boards are fine, but I want names on the board that I actually care about. Stop pretending we’re in Kansas City*. Stop pretending we’re still in bankruptcy. Stop hoping that players will take smaller deals because of loyalty or something.
Go out and do something to show everyone that we’re serious about being a real baseball team and not just a nice story & World Series runner-up back in 2010.
(Here’s something interesting that I found just before the 2010 ALCS. It is only sort-of related to everything I just said, but I wanted to share it anyway.)
*And Kansas City, God bless ’em, actually spend $37/fan, effectively quadrupling what the Rangers do in a much smaller market.