What usually happens when I write a BCB article is that I will start it, slap at it like a cat playing with a mouse, and eventually submit it to Al to be edited and published. Sometimes, after I submit an article, he'll ask about another one. Usually, it's been in the queue for a bit too long. When I began working on this one, I had three others ready to go. I finished and submitted the others. At that time, this one was called "Major Market Fallacy".
I'll be back to add a bit more later, but here is Part 1.
Occasionally, here and elsewhere, a decent discussion will be going on about some aspect or another of the current state of the Chicago Cubs. Like an upper-level volleyball game, one side makes a solid assault over the net. The other side makes a nice save, barely keeping the ball alive. After a nice set, another cannon-shot is launched to the other side. Another save. Eventually, someone says, "The Cubs are a major market team, hence, their fans deserve better." And the ball sails out of play.
There is no validity to "The Major Market Theory" in baseball. Today, or in recent history. There simply isn't. There might have been in days long since passed. But as of now, it doesn't apply. Big market teams are not more successful at winning championships than others just because of the size of the city they play in. That they often have more success is often due to other factors, one of which is better financing through ticket sales or television money. However, winning is not based on the size of a city or market.
For a team to be successful, in largely any level of any organized competition, it needs three things. It needs talent. It needs a solid fanbase. It needs to be well-run. With those three things, and a bit of good luck, any team can have a run at success. But, all three are needed.
But, but, but Yankees.
It's absolutely true that the New York Yankees have a large amount of fan support. However, in none of their title runs have they had bad management or lousy talent. Which of the three is the most important isn't necessarily important, though, for invalidating the Major Market Fallacy. What is needed is to show the New York Mets, from the same general area, have only two championships since divisional play began. That is one more than was won by "Nobody."
The Yankees were a tepid franchise after the MLB draft kicked in 48 years ago in 1965. They had a success drought until the mid-1970s. Was that because their market-size tanked? No. It was more because they were a somewhat poorly-run team in those years. Once George Steinbrenner took over, the championships started -- then stalled again as the talent stream subsided.
When they ran off a string of homegrown talents: Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and others, they were good again. Experts are questioning their pipeline now. And, totally by coincidence, they are struggling.
To the best of my knowledge, most Big Apple media outlets note both the Yankees and Mets during broadcasts. While coverage might not be 50/50, the market size is pretty much the same for both teams. That the Yankees get more money from the market has more to do with history, success, and saturation than color scheme. The Mets were adored in 1969 and 1986 more than the Yankees. Why? They won.
While the Yankees may be the city's media darlings, more well-heeled as far as ticket sales, or whatever, that doesn't account for the Mets having the same number of titles as the much-smaller market Pirates or Twins. Both Minnesota and Pittsburgh had their titles in a rather short span when they had good leadership, talent, and fan support.
Pittsburgh has often had good fans. However, with the team flagging on and off the field recently, the fans have had better things to do than watch a listless team lose with regularity. However, with an improved front office, they now also have a better team, as well. And better things appear ahead. And the fans are starting to enjoy the team again.
Funny how that works.
The second-largest U.S. market is Los Angeles. The Dodgers have two titles since divisional play began. The Angels, who you might or might not consider to be Los Angeles, have one. If being a major market mattered, you would expect far more than that. But it doesn't. Championships are won by good teams that are well run, with good fan support. Not masses of people. Or media outlets.
If media outlets determined anything, the country's third largest market, Chicago, would have more titles since division play than there have been "cat games." But that isn't the case.
Some teams have been successful with small markets, even more so than Pittsburgh and Minnesota. Oakland has won four titles since divisions began. Cincinnati and St. Louis have three. I'm confident that had to do with WKRP's success in prime time, and the Gateway Arch creating time rifts. It couldn't have been because their squads were good. That would violate the Major Market edict.
Just because your city is populous, doesn't mean your ownership and executives know what they are doing. In reality, just because you aren't winning titles doesn't mean you're doing things entirely poorly. There were things that some Cubs teams have done in the past that were very good. The fan support has often been amazing. There have been some very wise transactions.
However, it has largely been a case of too few. Too few developed. Too few good trades. Too few of the things that champions do.
When Tom Ricketts went in a different direction, there were new priorities. New directions gained traction. And new people were making the calls. Will they work? I have no idea. I would like to think spending more of an emphasis on player development will develop better players, but this is largely uncharted territory for me. One thing is clear, though. Not everyone is happy.
Where I live in Rockford, they recently put up a roundabout to replace a very busy four-way stoplight. Naysayers were having a field day. It will never work. There will be crashes like never before. It will be too confusing. It's been up a few months. I live less than a mile away, and I've heard nothing of massive pile-ups, and increased casualties. A standard three-minute wait has turned into an occasional slowing down for merging traffic. In short, it was a terrible thing.
Until it worked without a hitch.
Yeah, it sucks that the Cubs have been horrible for mumble-mumble years now. The problem isn't the fans. That they are on hiatus is completely understandable. And justified. The things needed to make the Cubs good are the same as ever. They need good talent, good leadership, the fans, and some luck. The talent is increasing every year as the front office is getting better productivity from scouting and development. The waves of talent are getting closer to levels where it will be more easily noticed.
Will it be enough to catch the Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds soon? I hope so. A commitment to developing talent internally seems to be not only a no-brainer by the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement, but also what the wise teams are doing now. Of course, the teams that are winning (or desperate) are very willing to make hefty expenditures for individual players. The Cubs brass is neither, to this point.
Should the brass be spending more money on talent? Possibly. This is a new time as far as the value of an 'added win' on the roster. It used to be assumed another win could be bought for five million dollars, in theory. That number is, or soon will be six million, barely stopping on its way to eight or more. Except, adding talent at a reasonable cost is easier for a competitive team. Robinson Cano might have helped make the Cubs competitive in 2014, but his $240 million contract might be a bit onerous on the Mariners in a few years. Money doesn't buy championships. Talent brings home trophies. As of now, the Cubs are still a bit talent-shy, sadly.
And, fortunately or not, Cubs ownership for the foreseeable future opted to do a complete rebuild. Cussing out the owner or the front office won't change that. While they may be delusional, they think building from the ground up starts mostly from the ground up, not at the "expensive veteran free agent" level.
Be it the post-George Steinbrenner Yankees, the Magic Johnson Dodgers, or the present-day Chicago Cubs, long-term success will be largely keyed on, not the number of people who live in a given radius, but by how well the corporate planning and execution work. Are the right players signed, extended, and traded? Are good financial deals executed? And, can the team get a timely two-out hit once in a while?
One final glance at the market sizes note that Houston's Astros are in turmoil (seventh in market size) and Arlington's Rangers (Dallas is at number five) have been very close to a championship recently. However, neither has a title. Which would be hard to believe, if being in a large market matters. But it doesn't. It's about talent, leadership, fans and luck.
Any team with those four traits has a chance to win. Without the first three, the fourth won't matter. Without leadership, it's tough to locate talent. And in the current state of affairs, without leadership, it's really tough to buy the talent either.
As you likely know by now, I am a very eclectic fan of music. Whether rock, jazz, blues, symphonies, ensemble pieces, arias, or operas, it depends on my mood. One type of track I tend to enjoy is when the song starts, has a bridge, varies slightly after the bridge, and everything comes together at the end. The symphonic and operatic worlds are awash in these types of pieces, but there are a few like that in the more popular realms. On is No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature by The Guess Who. The original Hawaii Five-O intro and outro music (taken as a pair) pulled this off so well, I'm happy I loved the music as a kid. In the sports genre, Illinois Loyalty from down Champaign way shows some of the traits as well. The folks at "South Park" pull it off well in a blue fashion, as well.
After finishing Part 1, I had to take a break. I had been a bit long-winded, and gotten across a point. A problem was, I knew it wasn't the point, and I wasn't sure how to resolve it. So, I progressed with other things, leaving this Undun (ha, a "Guess Who" pun). Fortunately, within 36 hours, the Cubs added reliever Jose Veras, and the Cubs squad was improved. But, surprisingly, this roster move helped me finish my article. You'll find the reasons for that in Part 2 here at BCB Sunday at 9 a.m. CT.