You Asked!

Just some questions and some thoughts.

Jake asked,

How come the myth of small market teams is perpetuated? Aren’t all owners billionaires and able to buy players if they want, regardless of the revenues they take in for their market?
How come most 3B coaches are clueless when it comes to deciding whether or not to send runners to the plate? If there are less than two outs and the top of the order is coming up and your team is down by four runs, is that the time to gamble?

1.  You are right that most owners are wealthy beyond imagination.  But most owners are experts in other types of business.  What is needed are people in the front office who understand how to put a team together.  You can’t just throw money at the problem.

To your second point about revenues.  Running a team is expensive and mistakes cost tons.  Not thousands….millions.  If a team decides not to sign draft picks or identify good players then the fans won’t come.  Maybe we can say that it is like a small leak in your house.  In the grand scheme of running the house, the leak is not a major problem.  However, if it is left unfixed then it will continue to grow and in the end could cost a lot more that being responsible and fixing the leak when you see it.  Dumb example but that’s what came to mind.

2.  Coaching third base is hard.  I would love to tell you that it is about outs and runs.  But it is about humans who are running those bases.  I would say that decisions are made based on the runner.  If the runner does his job then it is easy for the coach to do his.  If not, then the coach has to make low percentage decisions that may look bad.

By the way, “is it time to gamble” is a good point.  Understanding when to take a chance is vital.

Thoughts

Now that the draft deadline has past, young men will now see a side of baseball that they haven’t experienced before.  Professional baseball is unlike anything that they have played in so far.  It is a blessing to get paid to do something you love, but you also realize that you are playing a very high stakes game that could set you up for life, or set you back depending on your performance.

In 1998, I stepped on the field in Auburn, NY as a player for the Astros NY/Penn League.  When I saw the field I was impressed.  It was a nice stadium that didn’t look anything like the “dumps” I had expected.  But something was different and I noticed it immediately.  The newly signed players were joking around, but those who had played for a few years were much quieter.

I realized that my teammates were not teammates with the goal of winning.  We were now individual athletes where winning to a distinct second to personal performance.  This was mind-bending for me.  I had been blessed with great coaches and taught that one will only be great if they are able to play within the concept of team.  That meant sacrificing personal performance for the win.  That was gone and I didn’t like it.

In the end I decided that winning would probably be more valuable than my personal play.  It was a gamble and many times I thought I was hurting myself.  But I went for it anyway.  That brings me to another point.

Statistics are the biggest mis-indicator (I don’t even think that is a word) of play.  I’m over traditional stats.  In fact, I will take a page out of Warren Buffet’s book for my take.  He says, “Accounting is the language of business.”  Well, that doesn’t mean that P/E ratios, PEG ratios, Debt/Equity, Price/Sales, or Price/Book are individual stats that can tell you if a company is healthy.  Same holds for baseball.  ERA, Wins, BA, HR’s, SLG, and a billion others are not sole indicators of great play.  It is only when someone who can look at a player’s performance in the context of a win that they understand a player’s contribution.

Who knows what I am saying, but the point is that young men are about to jump in the shark tank with the rest of us.  We who have been working for years know how dangerous it can be out here.  Lets hope that those players have great coaches and mentors who can help protect them from the negatives and show them an honest path to playing their personal best!!!!!!!

GO GET ‘EM!

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9 Comments on “You Asked!”

  1. Jake says:

    Morgan,

    Thanks for answering my questions. I agree that you people that understand how to put together a team, but all owners must be willing to spend money because it is necessary, even if you know what you’re doing. I challenge your readers to name a championship team in the past 30 years that worked on a shoestring budget.

    As for 3B coaches, again your point is well taken, it is difficult. The 3B coach needs to know his runners, the situation, the outfield positioning, his batting order, the count, etc. Even then, sometimes you take gambles. But time and again, the mistakes are so obvious, it makes me wonder if the coach considers any of the above elements.

  2. Eric says:

    Morgan,

    You wrote, “I had been blessed with great coaches and taught that one will only be great if they are able to play within the concept of team.” Having played in the 70’s and 80’s at the high school and college level and coached at each of those levels since graduation, I shared your blessing.

    My most recent experiences have been coaching my sons in the early years of little league ball. There are some incredible coaches out there on those diamonds, but I have to believe their job of instilling those lessons of team we learned is so much more difficult today. Kids and parents come to little league with a self-centered, self-absorbed mindset. Nine year old pitchers who cry when they walk someone. Parents who scowl at their 10 year olds because they booted a grounder. All-star teams for 8 year old coach-pitch! Talk about mind-bending. And VOLUNTEER coaches are on the frontline.

    I believe, and I think you’d agree, that this all bleeds the joy out of playing for so many kids who end up quitting and miss out on so many years of playing the game they loved when they were 8 years old. There’s so many avenues to keep playing when the peanuts they call a college scholarship don’t come in, NCAA Division III for example. Or maybe it’s being cut from the high school team — there are rec leagues out there.

    I have to say, Morgan, I consider you one of the lucky ones, or more accurately, one of the blessed ones.

    Be honest with us Morgan, in your estimation, what proportion of major leaguers play with that unfettered joy of an 8 year old? Is that even possible?

    • Eric I don’t think that any of them get to play that way anymore. I know that people hate to hear that, but the game changes at the Professional level. The fact is that players, front office, and owners are all making their living doing this job. There is rarely agreement when that many people have their jobs at stake. But, that doesn’t mean that the people involved do not love the game. In fact, I would argue that going through that experience and not giving up shows us a lot about the love they all have for the game.

      Morgan

  3. Andy says:

    Morgan,

    I think I have to disagree with you on the second part of your article. Baseball is a sport that, if everyone play to maximize their strength, the team would be better off. For example, if batters get on base more often and hit more homeruns, team will score more and thus increase the chance of winning. Individual feats will have a cumulative effect overall. Unlike basketball, where someone taking many shots will directly reduce other people’s chance to shoot.

    • I’m confused Andy. I agree with you that if a team plays together they will be a bigger benefit. The fact is that players are not rewarded for sacrificing themselves for a win. They are rewarded for personal achievement.

      Morgan

  4. lisa gray says:

    morgan,

    i hope you don’t mind if i post this awesome blogpost about life in the minor leagues
    http://thunderbaseball.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/minor-league-baseball-investing-in-the-future/

    i have never understood why on earth teams, especially rookie league teams full of adolescent growing males, don’t/won’t spend what is for them pocket change to decently FEED their players. like a wise woman i know once said to me – you don’t go putting kerosene in your mercedes and expect great performance.

    i have never understood why Organizations insist on picking out a few players every year who they designate as Future Successes and pimp them to the heavens and ignore all the others. why on earth not try to grow as many players as possible?

    and most of all, why on earth suppress/release minor leaguers who excel when they weren’t expected to?(see doug arguello at AA Corpus this year)

    – as for youth sports,
    these days parents see sports as an apprenticeship for their kids – it is not SUPPOSED to be “fun” any more than some 10 year old working for a stonemason 200 years ago was having a good time. my sons don’t want to play little league with all the ROOLS and adults yelling and hostile. they like baseball fine when they play it in the backyard with their own rules – like when they have jana brattain Dog play michael bourn and they have to chase her around to get the ball back in to the pitcher….
    – my niece plays little league and has to put up with other adults screaming obscenities at her because she is a girl (and is better than the boys) and she is constantly told to go play softball with the girls. she sticks with it from pure defiance, not because it is “fun” and yeah, i DO see a lot of other parents chewing out their kids for bad throws/allowing little league home runs, etcetcetc

    you’re right about the “team” stuff disappearing amid a lot of stats. the statists are very often convinced that there is absolutely nothing about performance that can’t be measured. ida know bout that. and truth is that very often, scouts may only see a guy play for 1 game and even babe ruth had bad games (getting caught stealing to end the WS???!!!) and if you see someone who walks 4 times, you can’t assess his swing or ability to adjust to pitches. somedays, sinkerballers can’t get the sinker to sink.

  5. Andy says:

    What I mean is that if players choose to protect themselves, such as slide hard to break DP, burn their arms by putting up a lot of pitches, or other activities that can potentially cause injuries, in the long term they can help their teams more. There is more benefits for the team if their players can take care of their health.

    Sometimes managers overuse their players in order to keep their jobs. Mike Mussina was known for taking himself out of the game when he was pitching for the Orioles, because he does not want managers harm his career so managers can keep their jobs. Look at Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, if they could take themselves out of the games when their pitch count soars, they might still be healthy and maybe Cubs would have already won few championships.

  6. Dan Duran says:

    Your concept of “team” makes me think of the SF Giants right now. Those guys are a fun bunch to watch right now: Having a great time in the dugout, spurring each other on, sharing in both victories and defeats as a team. There’s not a true superstar in the bunch by media standards. Even Tim Lincecum has shown that he is just as hitable as the next pitcher this year. But these guys all seem to enjoy playing the game, like we did back in high school and college. Aubrey Huff has said many times how much he enjoys playing in this environment, having never been on a winning team before, and he’s having a career year. Pat Burrell won a championship with the Phils in his prime and has also commented on how much fun he is having right now. I think with the right front office, managerial staff, and player personnel the concept of “team” takes on an entirely new meaning. I think Coach Bochy has a lot to do with the team’s success.


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