Three makes a trend, so if you haven't yet you're surely going to soon read articles going on at length about the glory that is teams in small or poor cities keeping young ace pitchers. Be skeptical -- you may see
Our trend began three weeks ago when Florida and
"This is a blue-collar town with hardworking people," the new octupledecamillionaire said at a press conference. "I feel like we're kindred spirits."
All right-thinking people seem to agree that this sort of thing -- and a broader pattern of which it's part -- is Good for Baseball, as it will inspire fans in small markets and keep exciting young pitchers from the clutch of large markets. I'm unconvinced.
The pattern isn't in doubt. There are 17 starting pitchers who debuted no sooner than 2004, are under 30, and have pitched 400 innings with an adjusted ERA of 110 or better in the major leagues. Eleven of them are signed to long term contracts, and most of those delay the pitcher's free agency by at least a year. Unless San Francisco declines an option on
One really can make too much of this, though. It's quite rare for a large market team to sign a young ace on the open market anyway, and not only won't something as flimsy as a contract keep a pitcher like Kansas City's
Everyone has a unique definition of a large market, but the most reasonable one probably counts New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston. From 2000 through 2009, 72 different pitchers started at least 30 games with an average or better adjusted ERA for these teams. Twenty-five of these pitchers were originally homegrown, 23 were obtained in trade, another 23 signed as free agents, and one was claimed on waivers.
Of the 23 free agents, only four --
What actually happens is that rich teams trade for stud pitchers on expiring contracts. This is how the Mets got
As Marlins general manager
Nothing about the contracts any pitcher has signed recently is going to change this dynamic. Whether or not Greinke is under contract, the Royals are going to be awful heading into the 2012 season and will have every reason to move him. Whether or not Johnson is signed, the Marlins are still going to be cheap for the foreseeable future and will trade him if their price is met, as they traded Beckett and
This isn't anything to complain about, by the way. Forty-seven million people -- one in six Americans -- live in one of the four major markets, and there's nothing really unfair about a system that steers great players toward this great mass of people. It's nice that minor league towns like New Orleans and Indianapolis can support football teams every bit the equal of those in big, rich cities, but if NFL teams had to fill their parks 81 times a year the Saints would play in Los Angeles and
Last year, Twins second basemen hit .209 BA/.302 OBA/.267 SLG. That's indescribably bad.
All of this makes
Trying to win a pennant with
Baseball is not a complicated game. Being good is largely about not being bad.