Money driving Mediocrity

Like all things, change is constant. Often, change is required due to the financial ramifications. This has/is happening in sports…Money drives the league to mediocrity.
….Looking at MLB baseball, the high..and extremely high salaries drive changes. Let’s first look at the change in MLB salaries. The MINIMUM MLB pay in 1980 it was $30,000; in 1990-$100,000, in 2000-$200,000, in 2010, $400,000 was the minimum and here in 2020 it is $563,500. Granted, these athletes are the best in the world at baseball…a sport meant to entertain us. The AVERAGE MLB salary in the same years—1980 was $143,756; in 1990–$578,930; in 2000 – $1, 998,034; in 2010-$3.01m; in 2020-$4.43m. This is the average for the entire league of 25 players, 30 teams. So, the upswing of these salaries, the average salary has increased by 2981% over 40 years. These salaries have driven the players and owners to mediocrity as they emrich their investment—through several different avenues—primarily TV.
….It began with the expansion of the playoffs. From the 1880’s to 1968, the only MLB post-season was the World Series. Only 2 of 16 teams qualified for the WS. In 1969, each league went to 2 divisions with 6 teams in each of the 2 divisions. Hence, a league championship series preceded the World Series. Realizing that, 4 of the 24 teams now qualified for post-season. As the decades rolled along, MLB owners immediately realized that post-season games garner the most interest ….and …hence, they could charge more for each ad. The more costly ads would led to better pay-days for the owners. Gradually, seemingly about each decade or so, more teams entered the league and more qualified for the playoffs. Here in 2020, we’ve reached an all-time highest percentage of teams qualifying for the playoffs. 16 of the 30 teams will enter the playoffs this year—only 47% of the teams will be eliminated in the regular season. Probably 3 or 4 have a legitimate chance of winning the World Series Championship. But this big money train is being driven for the financial return. They want more and more playoff games. It opens the door to several… probably mostly…mediocre teams who will compete in the post season for a series or 2. Oh sure….every so often… Wild Card teams have won the Series. Btw….here’s a suggeston…add 1 team to each League (NL &AL)…cut it back to 2 divisions (8 teams each). Have 1 round of 9 games for the League Championship & then a 9 game World Series. The longer the series, the more it favors the better team.
…Money drives the MLB to mediocrity in many other ways. Because players are earning such salaries, the game itself has been toned down. The players are hesitant, reluctant to play “hard” as they did for decades. No more running over the catcher, sliding hard into 2B to help break up the double play, no “high & tight” pitches close to the batter. These situations may shorten a players lucrative career so… the players follow the trend of safety. Nor do players play every day. For decades, players thought that they SHOULD play every day—it was their job. When a starter “sits”, a sub–clearly inferior or he’d be in the everyday lineup–plays. Last year (2019), the only players that played every game were Starlin Castro (Mia), Whit Merrifield (KCR), Marcus Semien (OAK), Jorge Soler (KCR), Jonathan Villar# (BAL). Soooo……we get to watch the 2nd line players often. The thought is that we’re “saving” the player and not wearing him down. That is TRUE for the better player as he sits out and the fans watch the mediocre MLB players take their place.
….For years, complete games were viewed as good by the players and management—not now. Now, the management want to limit the inning/pitches of the “ace” with the supposition that the pitchers career will be extended. This is contrary to the accepted policy of permitting a pitcher to continue…even to the end of the game…if he’s doing well. I could go way back 100 years but let’s begin at 1960…..start of modern baseball. In that year, 4 different pitchers led the league with most complete games—18! Frank Lary (Detroit Tigers; Vern Law (Pittsburgh) and the Milwaukee Braves had Warrren Spahn & Lew Burdette. Two starters on the same team with 18 complete games!! In Bob Gibson’s best year, 1968, he went the distance in 28 games! But, it wasn’t just HOF pitchers going the distance. In 1980 Rick Langford (Oakland) registered 28 complete games the following year he hung up 18 complete games. His lifetime record? 73-106!! In 2019, Shane Bieber (CLE) & Lucas Giolito (CHW) led the MLB with 3 complete games. There were in fact only 45 complete games across the entire MLB in 2019. Why….for some, it’s pitch counts (somehow, teams now think that limiting every pitcher to the same pitch count will “save” their arm) that continue to lower from year to year. It’s my thought that if a pitcher is constantly removed at 115 pitches that his arm will adapt and NEVER be strong enough to go beyond that total. Why not keep extending the total for each pitcher. Let his arm get stronger…not atrophy from lack of use beyond a certain point. Shockingly in 1988 there were 41 complete games that took 96 or fewer pitches. Some possible reasons–There were usually pitchers batting usually once or twice–easy outs. Those complete game pitchers threw strikes, got ahead in the count and got the batter to swing at their pitch (usually knee high). The pitch count wasn’t the end all as it is now in the MLB. Winning each game was paramont. Stunningly…at least to me… with bigger, stronger, better conditioned athletes—the pitch count expected of a starter continues to dip annually. Why? Primarily, owners/mgmt. have the idea that by limiting pitches, the productive lifetime of a starter will last longer as a STAR pitcher. Along those same lines, the more changes… the longer the game…. the more commercials. There are other factors that work against that approach-Maybe its due to the “situation” rt v rt; Lf v Lf (btw.. don’t ALL these MLB pitchers face batters from both sides of the plate throughout their entire career?) or maybe..it’s because there are fewer outs on the bases… or maybe…especially with the majority of pitchers now throwing as hard as they can with fastballs & hard sliders that don’t find the plate, the number of pitches goes up for every batter…ever so gradually…. annually. To my eyes, there are far too many “hard throwers” instead of pitchers. Guys who lean on fastballs with great velocity but without good movement or location seem to be the latest trend across the MLB. It REALLY doesn’t have to be THAT way! Check out Adam Wainwright, Kwang-hyun Kim….work with a good pace, mix up the pitches, locations and speed. Curves can be thrown with a downward trajectory, slide trajectory, combo. Fastball only pitchers with different types of movement can still “do it” successfully. Lance Lynn is a perfect example. John Lackey was another. Further, for years the MLB operated with a 4 man starting staff…now it’s a 5 man rotation with an extra day of rest each cycle. Apparently with the big money being spent on starting pitchers these days, it drives the teams to attempt to stretch out their successful pitching years by pitching them less often. Hence we see the aces fewer times and more of the mediocre(5 inning guys) “starters” in the regular season.
….Money drives the MLB to promote their “future” stars. They want the fans to be anxious to see these “brand new” stars …or those in the developmental stage so as to build up the excitement about the future. With that in mind, a look at the rankings of the top farm systems in the MLB–#1 Tampa Bay #2-Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are doing it the ol’ fashioned way—by the draft. After this year’s draft rated #2, in 2020 pre-season they were ranked #5. In midseason 2019, their ranking was #6 and preseason 2019 #10. Rated #3 currently-San Diego Padres ….who already have one the most exciting teams in the MLB. At #4 is the Seattle Mariners witht #5 being Miami. The Cardinals are listed at #18 team in prospects.
….The MLB teams aren’t alone in this drive to mediocrity. The NCAA now invites 68 teams to the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament. What is the lowest seed to ever win the championship? #8—Villanova in 1985. All these other possible “Cinderella’ teams” might last another game or another weekend…but it DOES drive up interest..you bet….hence ..more ratings & more money more mediocrity instead of excellent teams.
….the NBA has been sending 16 of their 30 teams to the playoffs for a few years now. The lowest seed to ever win the title was #6 seeded Houston Rockets in 94-95. Mostly Mediocre teams begin the NBA Finals Tournament. Reason—Same story as MLB, NCAA…money driving mediocrity.
….Thanks for the read! My pay will remain the same as last week  Please respond on my Facebook Page with your thoughts. Or…use just 1 click to get to http://www.bobryansportsblog.com to “catch up”.

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