When I first read Moneyball, I loved the idea of Billy Beane explaining to Bud Selig all of the obstacles in his way as the general manager of a small market team while the Oakland A’s were winning twenty games in a row. More recently, the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays took advantage of the collective bargaining agreement of the time to create a sustainable line of young talent from which to draw.
And now we see the Florida Marlins reaping the benefits of not only hoarding income from MLB’s revenue sharing program, but also benefiting from $500 million in public funding for the team’s new stadium, by signing free agents that one would think ought to be out of the price range of a team that will receive a chance at extra draft picks through the competitive balance lottery.
Did they not also game the system in a fashion similar to the teams that I’ve admired? Why then, do I feel a twinge of resent with every rumour associating the Marlins to Albert Pujols and a bevvy of other free agents?
In many ways, the Marlins are merely making up for lost time with their spending. It seems unfair that I would’ve criticized their hoarding of revenue sharing money during previous seasons and then not praise them when they actually spend the money that they were saving.
I suppose my ire is saved for the other half of their windfall. Benefiting from a foolish municipality, even as the Securities and Exchage Commission investigates whether or not they did so illegally, when it has the potential to harm the well being of actual people is what’s bothersome to me.
Fleecing another GM on an even playing field is one thing. And even fleecing a politician is something that I’m not going to lose any sleep over. However, fleecing the representatives of the people of one of the hardest hit regions of the economic downturn when it could limit funding for other areas of need for its residents is no longer merely gaming the system for your own benefit. It’s gaming the well being of people so that a baseball team and, if Jeffrey Loria’s reputation stands for anything, an owner’s pockets will be the only parties to benefit.
So, this is why I have a problem with the Marlins spending spree. Game the system within Major League Baseball all you want. Take advantage of the structure that delivers benefits to your team at the expense of others. But don’t extend that practice into areas where it hurts actual people.
After all, it’s supposed to only be a game.