Almost a year after they bought Albert Pujols, the Angels went out and got Josh Hamilton today for a cool $125 million to be allotted over five years. This comes only days after Zack Greinke signed the biggest pitching contract ever with the nearby LA Dodgers, and now there’s almost universal disapproval among baseball fans about how the two teams have gone about their business over the past year.
Many say that the large signings of guys like Pujols, Hamilton and Greinke will lead to these teams’ ruins. And while that was true two years ago, it is not now.
Billion dollar TV deals are now a reality in Baseball. They are something that the Game has never seen, and therefore when we talk about the spending that is done by the teams who have them (the Angels, Dodgers and Rangers), we have to approach them in a new way.
In the past, large and rash contracts would oft become a burden to the franchise that agreed to it since they only had so much they could spend on their team during any given year, and the more money that went to a star player meant less money to spread around to make the rest of the team better. This concept still holds true for 27 of the 30 MLB teams.
But now there are three teams with relatively limitless spending power, and we need to understand that contracts that make no sense under normal circumstances (Pujols, 10 years, $250 million) do make sense for teams that can afford to stick an overpaid star on the bench without batting an eyelash. For instance, when Albert’s time finally runs out, the Angels can simply buy a new first baseman and let him sit on the bench collecting his millions since it’s just pocket change to them. As long as he’s better than the 25th man, the Angels come out in the black.
Put another way, these TV deals have drastically raised these teams’ payroll ceilings well above the current norm, and now they’re all they’re doing is trying to get closer to that ceiling.
I don’t get why this is a reason to hate these teams. (Unless they took away the best player in your franchise’s history, although Cards fans don’t seem to mind that aspect much.) After all, if your team had access to that kind of cash, wouldn’t you want them to use it, albeit maybe a little more carefully?
Right now the general consensus is a hope that the Dodgers and Angels fail after “trying to buy a championship.” But they won’t. The playoffs are more of a crapshoot than ever, so I’ll never say any team is destined for a ring, but they will be in the playoffs almost if not every year because of their spending. They are a new breed, able to spend unprecedented amounts on all 25 roster spots every single year.
This is a system that will succeed. The only way it could not is if management found a way to blow unbelievably high amounts of money on every spot on the roster for several years in a row–something even a casual baseball fan could not manage to do. We may not accept that now since it’s not something we are used to, are comfortable with, or like. But it will succeed.
I just think it’s better to realize that now rather than live in denial until it’s accepted as common knowledge fact ten years from now.