Twitter, Darren Rovell, and the Importance of Payroll and Revenue

MoneyDarren Rovell is a well-known business-of-sports reporter for ESPN and ABC News. He is, however, better known in new media quarters as something of a Twitter monolith – he even wrote the rules.

(So weighty is his Twitter presence, in fact, that he will be one of the signature participants at the Cubs’ annual Social Media Night on August 21 (it was a great event last year, and I’m sure it will be worth checking out once again this year)).

Today, Rovell tweeted out some thoughts on a matter of national interest, as he is wont to do:

His comments didn’t strike me as altogether fair or accurate. So I shared my thoughts in the manner the character limitations of a retweet would allow:

To his credit, Rovell offered me the opportunity to explain, even if his response was probably terse:

So I did.

The “hope that helps” was actually sincere – Twitter doesn’t make this kind of thing easy, and I hope Rovell really does consider those issues as they relate the Cubs’ efforts to secure more revenue (to, in turn, put toward the payroll). The process is important, and it isn’t easily dismissed in 140 characters. Having not yet received a response from Rovell, I’m going to toot my own horn and presume that he now considers himself enlightened.

You could call what Rovell does “trolling,” and he’s certainly looking for a reaction. And, since the Twitter space and form doesn’t lend itself to lengthy, nuanced conversations, it’s even easier to consider baiting sound bytes to be mere trolling. I’m not really sure that Rovell sinks to quite that level, and at least he does interact. Not everyone is a fan of how Rovell conducts himself on Twitter (Will Leitch recently put him on blast), but, for now, I remain agnostic.

What you can’t argue is that, if your measure of success is becoming a large and important part of an ecosystem, Rovell is very good at Twitter. Look at this example. He fired off a few tweets, interacted a little, and now we’re discussing him at length.

This concept could make for a very interesting discussion at Social Media Night.

Also, feel free to use this as a platform to discuss the substance of what Rovell said, and what I responded. My final tweet is pretty much the upshot for me: of course teams have to make smart decisions, and of course the teams that make the smartest decisions will do well. But having more money to play around with – especially when you make a few poor decisions, as all teams inevitably do – inarguably helps.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

73 responses to “Twitter, Darren Rovell, and the Importance of Payroll and Revenue”

  1. bbmoney

    The cubs don’t need more revenue to compete…..but it sure would help / couldn’t hurt …… along with making smarter decisions.

  2. whiteflag

    They might not need more revenue in-terms of payroll, but they definitely need more revenue to update player facilities. Having no true batting cage, workout area, etc. is definitely a disadvantage.

    1. CubFan Paul

      They don’t even need more revenue to update player facilities..batting cage..workout area if they stop using revenue for debt services.

      Payments out of the money coming in the doors going to the Ricketts’ debt puts the Chicago Cubs at a disadvantage.

      $40Million.

      1. whiteflag

        I guess that’s true. But should we expect him to quit making payments on the debt? I’m far from a finance expert, so I don’t truly know the answer. However, when it comes to priority I would rank improving player facilities as more important than increasing payroll. I don’t believe increased payroll equates World Series Rings. Saying that, higher payroll does coincide with playoff appearances. But let us not forget the Cubs are still in the upper portion when it comes to payroll.

        1. CubFan Paul

          But should we expect him to quit making payments on the debt?

          No, of course not. Tom Ricketts is a billionaire with many streams of income. I’m saying the Ricketts’ should pay their mortgage/debt on the Cubs out of their pockets, not the money that’s coming into the doors of Wrigley which should be going back into the team.

          1. bbmoney

            The only reason I have even a bit of problem with using Cubs revenues to make debt payments are Rickett’s public comments about every dollar going back into the team.

            We’ve had this discussion ad naseum, I think most people agree that if he hadn’t made that statement there is no moral hazard in using Cubs revenues to pay off the debt. But I guess I shouldn’t speak for most people.

            1. Cubbie Blues

              I just posted this over on the MB. I think it fits in pretty well here:

              Some would take issue with the “all revenue will go back into the system”. I would argue that it still is (which could be argued it isn’t). Would it be ingenuous? Yes, but, semantically still correct. Everyone likes when Epstein uses semantics to always be correct but leading people to think something else, but take issue if Ricketts is doing the same thing. If we are going to be crap why put more money into that crap team.

              On the other side if that money were to be saved for later years and have a $210M payroll for a couple of years that would be pretty sweet as well, but it wouldn’t be able to be sustainable and when it went back down to say $150M everyone would start grousing that Ricketts is getting cheap again without looking that the $150M is still a bump up from where it had been.

            2. CubFan Paul

              I agree with you 100% that’s why I used the “coming in the doors” line in my previous posts.

              It pisses me off.

  3. cms0101

    Has the Theo/Jed braintrust made their first bad decision with the signing of Jackson? I have to say I was for the signing when it happened. But the more I take a closer look at his numbers over the last several years, I’m starting to think I was wrong, and so were Jed and Theo.

    1. willis

      Eh, there have been some bad moves other than that (if you want to call jackson a bad move). I think he turns it around and becomes what he is…about a 4.00 ERA back end rotation piece. But the way he’s thrown thus far, it’s easy to wonder about the signing. I think what will get into people’s craw more than inking him is the years though. In the case he stays on this course and is mediocre or worse, that’s a damn long contract. Grabbing him for 1 or 2 years would have been much more favorable, but who knows who was out there bidding and for how long. I’m hoping he turns it around or he’ll become a very expensive bullpen arm.

      Trading for Stewart was very questionable at the time, and re-signing him was downright stupid. Paying guaranteed money to Baker was kinda dumb too. Seeing that he may not pitch this year. I think those two are worse than the Jackson deal.

      On the flip, getting Rizzo for Castro was awesome. Trading Marshall is looking like it’s working out. DeJesus was a great signing. Maholm for Vizcaino is still up in the air and won’t be decided for awhile.

      But I don’t think we can label Jackson as a terrible sign just yet. A little more of this and yeah, it’s time. But like you, I was on board with it.

      1. Jay

        They re-signed Stewart for comparitive peanuts because there was absolutely NOTHING out there in free agency and nothing down on the farm. When all you have is Valbuena, you take a flier on Stewart. Believe me, if there was any other choice, Stewart would have been home eating Cheetos and hanging out on Twitter just like he was all last summer.

      2. cms0101

        It is probably too early to judge him. I just don’t love the numbers I’m actually paying closer attention to now. And I know there were other bad moves made. This one is the first larger dollar/longer term signing, which is why it’s catching my attention.

      3. Noah

        Take a look beyond ERA with Edwin Jackson: 3.48 FIP, 3.68 xFIP. The walk rate is high at 4.64 per 9, but the K rate is as well at 9.27 per 9.

        And then when you look at the numbers that are most likely to see massive fluctuations just based on luck in small sample sizes, BABIP against and left on base percentage, it becomes even more apparent:

        BABIP against: .333 this year compared to a .307 career average
        LOB%: 51.7% this year compared to a 70.9% career average.

        You should bet for a regression to the mean on both of this numbers, and his ERA will improve along with those.

  4. ETS

    Did Rovell ever reply to any of your 4 reasons?

  5. Chad

    He’s correct in the fact that the cubs need to make better decisions with their money. I agree only because you need to have a farm system to fill most of your club with cheap/controllable players and then use most of your payroll on a few high profile FAs/extensions. However, the more money you have the more holes you can fill in this manner and you don’t have to be as dependent on your farm system.

    Think how good the Rays would be if they had a bigger payroll. They have a great farm system and utilize it, but if they could lock up guys like Upton and Price when they had them rather than trading them away and hoping that Archer can fill in for example isn’t a great method. They got Longoria signed, but they won’t be able to do much more than that, but if they had more money they absolutely would be better.

  6. SamuraiJock

    To help enlighten me a bit more do we have the following figure:

    In the last 11 seasons, the avg Playoffs participant has been ?? in payroll.

    Assuming the above fact skews to the richer teams i’d say your point is fully made.

    1. Kevin

      Better yet, if we look at winning percentage of teams since the dawn of the free-agency era, would we see a correlation to payroll?

      Anecdotal evidence suggests that higher payroll, while it may not lead to a World Series, would correlate to a greater chance of making the payoffs and a higher win percentage.

      1. hansman1982

        Then you would also want to break it out:

        “Of the last eleventy bajillion playoff teams, these teams spent an average of $X on Y free agents, $Q on guys acquired as a prospect and $R on guys they acquired through trades. They spent $E on guys they acquired through trades of their prospects, $U on guys they acquired using prospects they acquired through trade, $W on guys they acquired through trading free agent acquisitions. Of the guys they traded for they spent $J on retaining those guys past the original contract.”

        Now if we want to boil the correlation down further, you would want to find out what teams are consistently making the playoffs and what those calculations boil down for them.

  7. Kevin

    I like Brett’s distinction between average payroll and winning the World Series and average payroll and making the playoffs. It seems this line of reasoning screams for some data analysis regarding average payroll of playoff bound teams. Sadly, such data analysis is beyond my pay-grade…

    1. justinjabs

      This was my favorite too, hence the RT.

      As Derrek Lee(?) once said: ‘the best teams make the playoffs, the hottest teams win them.’

      It sucks that the Cubs haven’t won the World Series in our lives. But it would be even worse if they have not been to the playoffs since.

  8. BT

    Rovell is worthless. Stop feeding him.

  9. BTC

    It bugs me that so much gets put on getting more revenue is needed to compete. There are a lot of other teams out there with a lot less money available, and have competed better then the Cubs. I agree with Rovell, that it has really been about dumb decisions. Just look at all the terrible contracts that Jim Henry gave out. We are still feeling the affects of those. We don’t need this new revenue to compete, I think it is more of an excuse. Although, I do agree that having more money is better, and can hide the mistakes that the FO makes. I just think it is a little ridiculous to say that we need more money to compete.

    1. Kyle

      I don’t think we need to choose between making better decisions and spending more money than everyone else. Gaining one and losing the other is just treading water.

      Poor drafting had much more to do with the Cubs’ 2009-present problems than the big contracts did.

  10. Kramden

    Agree with both Rovell and Brett…. But wouldn’t both of you agree this is a chicken/egg argument?

    Like you can’t have one without the other and it’s a circular argument regarding which should come first?

    1. MichiganGoat

      They are both wrong. You need BELLY FIRE first mixed with a healthy dose of SCRAPPY and of course giving 110%

      1. DarthHater

        You know, Goat, sometimes it almost seems like you’re being sarcastic about belly fire and scrappiness.

        1. hansman1982

          Nah, to the untrained eye, discussions about Belly Fire and Scrappiness and TWTW and Heart and Hustle, only appear to be sarcastic.

        2. whiteflag

          The cubs are have been playing really well since we started talking about belly fire.

          1. DarthHater

            I wasn’t going to say anything here, but I did recently ship them a couple cases of:
            8673808256_8716f287d6_m.jpg

            1. hansman1982

              So you’re saying the “goat’s head” story was a cover for them receiving this?

              The Cubs FO was too ashamed to admit they didn’t have enough Belly Fire they concocted the other story.

      2. Cub Fan Dan

        TWTW

  11. KD

    Cool… a national sportswriter said four words to you. Congratulations? Not sure what the point of posting this is.

    1. justinjabs

      It’s an opportunity to discuss their subject matter beyond 140 characters.

    2. Cerambam

      Get a load of this guy

    3. DarthHater

      Cool… You got to display your douchebaggery on the internet. Congratulations?

  12. MichiganGoat

    I’m starting to see just how disconnected the national media concerning the Cubs, today while listening to the Dan Patrick show (as I do during lunch time) they mentioned that the rooftops building are older then Wrigley and hinted that they have leverage because of that – luckily Dan redirected that to reality. But for some reason John Feinstein during the CBS radio bumps is continually attacking Ricketts for not embracing the tradition of baseball blah blah blah blah. My question is how is Ricketts being viewed nationally? Is he starting to look like a bad guy for anyone that only gets their news is quick bumps and headlines?

    1. Jay

      That’s got to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. ( The thing Patrick said)

      1. MichiganGoat

        to be fair to Dan it was one of his cronies that brought it up he actually directed toward Ricketts having an investment to protect and maximize

  13. BluBlud

    Brett, I agree with @darrenrovell 100%. I definitely think a $110 million is more then enough to win a World Series. I also agree the Cubs need to make better decisions. I stated as much just the other day in the post about Theo’s comments. Of course it doesn’t all fall on this FO as they have only been on the Job a short time. But considering that the Rays compete pretty consistently, as well as teams like Oakland, Washington, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Milwaukee, The White Sox, and St. Louis withh similar or less, and considerably less in some cases, It shows that Mr. Rovell is spot on. I do understand that more revenue makes thing a lot easy and helps overcome bad decisions that are made, such is the case for the Red Sox and the Yankees. However, if a FO with a 110 million to spend make the claim that they don’t have enough to compete, then maybe they shouldn’t be in the Front office.

    Now, that does not mean that the Cubs shouldn’t do all they can to increase revenue to improve the product on the field.

  14. Camiata2

    To quote How I Met Your Mother, “lawyered.”

  15. aCubsFan

    I believe that everyone is missing the bigger picture here.

    Generating more revenue is not about spending more money on the major league club, necessarily.

    Baseball operations also includes the minor league teams and players and their facilities along with scouting. So just because the major league team is generating more revenue doesn’t necessarily mean that all that additional revenue is going to be spent at the major league level, especially when from day one Ricketts has said he wants to build a continuously competitive team from the draft and home grown players.

    1. Cub Fan Dan

      Hopefully generating more advertisement & TV revenue is also about not having to jack up ticket prices as well, but I’m sure that’s more a supply-demand thing (got my HS economics down).

  16. Smitty

    So has anyone ever questioned/called Ricketts out on using the profits towards his debt financing?
    I ask because we have now begun to assume he is being disingenuous, but I haven’t heard an official statement that it is what they are actually doing.

    Like you have said, Brett, it is his business so use the money how he wants. If that is what he is doing, he needs to quit with the BS about every dollar going back into the team.

  17. JulioZuleta

    Rovell’s argument that the average WS contender has been 11th highest payroll is very weak. First of all over the period he chose, the average WS contender averages 10.5, not quite 11. Also, he cut off those numbers at a very advantageous time. If you go back 15 years instead of 11, the average WS participant averages 9.2 in payroll (Average payroll rank of the team that wins the WS is 7.6). If you tried to make the argument that money did not affect World Series participation, the average WS participant would be ranked 15.5 (median of 30 teams) in payroll.
    A deviation of 6.3 (15.5 (expected average) – 9.2 (actual average)) means that the average World Series participant is ranked 40.6% higher than you would expect. In a game that involves so much randomness and so many injuries, that is a pretty damn high percentage. More evidence: in the last 15 years, teams that had a top 5 payroll in that year made the WS 9 times; teams in the bottom 5 of payrolls? Once.

    Also, this ignores the fact that the wealth is often concentrated within divisions. For example, the AL East and West often combine to have 5 or 6 teams in the top 11 in payroll, yet until last year, a maximum of 3 of those teams could even make the playoffs.

    Obviously, teams need to make smart decisions. Also obviously, Ricketts is being a little misleading when he says “We need this renovation to bring a WS to Chicago.” But, to say that the Cubs don’t need more money to compete is ridiculous.

    1. JulioZuleta

      Hmm, I thought he said 11th. He said 12th, he was off by 1.5. Trollllll

      1. JulioZuleta

        *Used USA today payrolls

    2. hansman1982

      Anytime a sample is cut off without using a round-number or an even year (like saying, since 2000), it should be suspect.

      1. JulioZuleta

        I did 15 because it seems normal. Not sure what it looks like if I got 16, 17…

        1. hansman1982

          That’s what I am saying, 10, 15, 20, etc… seems more like a random-ish number grabbed out of thin air. Going with 12, 16, 17, seems like you started with 10 or 15, didn’t get the number you wanted and then started hunting for the answer you want.

          1. bbmoney

            pretty clearly if he wanted to really make some kind of point he should have just started with the beginning of the WC era.

            And frankly it’d be a much better point if he could still make the same argument about playoff teams in general…..because at least I feel like the playoffs are *mostly* a crapshoot.

    3. BluBlud

      In the last ten seasons, there were 14 WS participants ranked 8th or lower in payroll. Thats 70%. That means that 70% of the participants had a equal or lower payroll then the Cubs averaged. These numbers include Texas(2010) 27th, TB(2008) 29th and Colorado(2007) 25th.

      Of the 10 winners, 7 of them had a payroll that was 8th or worse. That means 70% of the teams had a payroll equal or worse then the Cubs. This includes Florida in 2003 at 25th.

      I think saying the Cubs don’t need more to compete is spot on. I doesn’t mean they should do all they can to increase the revenue to make it easier.

      1. BluBlud

        *shouldn’t*

      2. JulioZuleta

        You must be looking at different numbers than the ones I currently have on my screen. Also, 8th out of 30 is top 26.7%…Those are big market teams. Also, for the start of this year, the Cubs are 14th in payroll: in the past 15 years there have been 4 teams that were 14th or lower that appeared in the WS. Out of those 4, 1 team has won the World Series. If money didn’t matter, that number should be 8. Eight teams ranked 15-30 should have won in the last 15 years, but only 1 has.

  18. Tommy

    Well, I don’t know about Rovelle, but you convinced me.

    Incidentally, I don’t twitter, and I have no idea who Rovelle is.

    1. DarthHater

      Sounds like a brand of wristwatch.

  19. Frank

    Who needs money? Nobody. As long as you can pull Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Matt Cain, and Madison Baumgartner out of your farm system and strike gold with Ryan Voglesong.

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