If I say that the comments have really improved after the registration requirement (truly, they have – I’m impressed), am I just begging for trouble? Especially considering what follows …
- Jeff Passan has long been among the best national writers out there. He’s smart, he writes well, and he frequently breaks new ground. That’s why his hit piece on the Cubs’ offseason on Friday really took me by surprise. Not because it immediately makes me question Passan’s standing as a resident smart dude, but because, when the resident smart dude is saying these things, you have to take note and consider them critically.
- The article, which was part of a series on each team’s offseason (still kinda early, no?), focuses on what Passan calls a “cheap,” “small-market charity case” that projects to enter 2014 with a payroll in the bottom five in baseball. Let’s be clear on some things: no one could, or should, argue that it isn’t deeply disappointing that the Cubs are where they are right now, in terms of big league competitiveness. We’re five years removed from the last relevant Cubs team, and a sub-$100 million payroll is, yes, a little ridiculous. But, outside of a throwaway line or two without explanation, Passan doesn’t seem to entertain the realities of the Cubs’ financial limitations right now (restrictive loan covenants that artificially depress spending, significant debt service payments, significant revenue-sharing obligations, delayed renovation, etc.).
- Moreover, and more importantly, there are no specifics on what the Cubs should have done differently in the very offseason Passan is shredding. I don’t see too many contracts out there that made sense for the Cubs (and that’s assuming they wouldn’t have had to outbid the high bidder!). With a team that projects to be a high-60s-low-70s win total type, absent a spending binge that would be implausible for any team not in New York or LA, there was no playoff projection in the Cubs’ 2014 future. Hell, spending enough to get the Cubs to a 90-win projection – playoff caliber – could have set them up for the very same long-term problems they were facing back in 2011. You know, the problems the current process is trying to unwind. In other words, pointing to a shoddy payroll as evidence of “cheapness” is pretty meatbally and short-sighted. Spending just to spend is unproductive, and there’s no glory in 75 wins instead of 70. It’s not as if fans are suddenly going to be coming out in droves to see a $100 million loser in August instead of an $80 million loser in August. If the Cubs look poised to receive better internal contributions in 2015 when next offseason rolls around and they still don’t spend? Then this kind of piece would be appropriate (something Passan seems to acknowledge in the conclusion – like I said, he’s smart and all that).
- In the end, Passan says some useful, accurate things – some of which are critical. But the tone of the whole piece feels inappropriately harsh, given the above. Credit to Passan: after the piece came out, he chatted with folks – some of them nasty – on Twitter for quite a while. When was the last time you saw someone do that after writing a piece that was necessarily going to enflame some passions?
- You can see statements here from Alex Rodriguez, MLB, the Yankees, and Tony Bosch on the arbitrators decision yesterday to reduce ARod’s suspension to 162 games. The latter three are pretty much what you’d expect, and Rodriguez’s long statement is what you’d expect, too. It implies that he does, indeed, plan to challenge the ruling in federal court, as difficult and costly as that road is.