Much of my assessment of any public outcry is based on my social media timelines. I'm rarely seeking out articles on topics like the Mookie Betts contract extension, as most people have a different measuring stick than I do. Some loathe long-term deals like that, for some reason. Some think they justify similar contracts for other players, regardless comparisons. I'm a fan of professional entertainers being well-paid, as it encourages further entertainment. Here are a few of my thoughts on Betts' new contract.
First, I don't think any current Cubs player comps well to Betts, who has has Baseball-Reference WAR seasons of 2.3, 6.1, 9.5, 6.3, 10.6, and 6.9. His last five seasons have been over six wins above. No current Cub can make the same claim, and none are especially close Kris Bryant has had one season above six wins over. Javier Baez hasn't had any over six, but has been 5.8 and 6.0 the last two seasons. Kyle Hendricks had a peak of 5.8 in 2016. By the numbers, Betts has been better than any Cub, and has excelled both offensively and defensively.
The Dodgers' willingness to extend a player who's been better than any current Cub didn't come in a vacuum. They haven't won a World Series title since 1988, and this current run of Dodgers players are likely good enough to win a title in the next five seasons. After all, they have scads of rather good players, many of them making relatively little in the MLB scheme of things. Not only did Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, and Max Muncy all make less than $1 million in 2019, the Dodgers talent pipeline is functioning far more effectively than the Cubs pool. This allows the Dodgers the patience to develop their players as best as possible, with limited concern on rushing any to MLB before being ready. It also allows them the opportunity to trade away for value players doing well in their pipeline, but not quite well enough to represent MLB quality. Their MLB roster has few holes, and their pipeline figures to keep churning effectively the next five to ten years, with more of a "success horizon" than a "competitive window." They are the poster children for developing talent from within.
The Dodgers television contract is pointed far more toward "bringing in revenue" than toward "encouraging viewership". As Cubs fans are wondering if Comcast will cover the Marquee Sports Network as of Thursday morning, plenty of Dodger fans haven't had easy video access to the product in a number of years. Nonetheless, LA wins its division annually without across-the-board viewership. Which is more important? Winning consistently? Or a broad ability to watch the product? I'm banking on the added revenue making it easier to afford Betts.
Lastly, I'll talk a bit about the Cubs ownership being cheap. Fans like to toss off terms without definitions. How would "we" know if Tom Ricketts and crew "are being cheap"? It's rather obvious to me that most of the MLB owners would rather retain wealth than spend it. After all, some are less than interested in bankrolling players in the so-called Triple-A player pool beyond the standard stipend. Whether Ricketts is paying the players adequately or not, if he isn't, he's far from alone:
More mistreatment of MiLBers: Some MLB teams are not paying for housing for MiLB players in the 60-man pool. They also aren't paying salaries yet (just the $400/wk stipend). That means some MiLB players are losing money right now by being in that pool of players.— Garrett Broshuis (@broshuis) July 22, 2020
Should Ricketts extend his own players as the Dodgers have Betts? Perhaps. The Cubs have nobody nearly as good as Betts, and don't have the promise of breadth and depth of quality league minimum talent on the way. Perhaps Ian Happ and David Bote take another step or two toward consistency, or maybe they don't. The Dodgers have most of the future fairly well covered (at relatively low cost) for the next few years, internally. With the Cubs, an inordinate strain is placed on a handful of unproven players.
Perhaps Tom Ricketts is cheap. Being less able to account for the future than a team that rarely misses in any draft or international cycle shouldn't be the yardstick by which that is measured. That the measuring stick also includes a fan base that can't watch their team play on basic cable across the viewing area makes the comparison all the more humorous. The Dodgers are able to afford Betts over a historic precision in talent development, and a disregard toward the interests of viewers. Be mindful of your complaints, Cubs fans.