(Spend $190m on players talent + uncertainties at the back of the rotation) x owners own another sports team = small market team.
I’ve (only slightly) simplified his argument but that is the basic thesis of Jon Heyman’ latest column. Fresh off declaring that Josh Hamilton’s recent relapse means he should feel morally obligated to turn down a multi-year contract extension in favour of a one year deal, Heyman has now anointed the team with the second biggest payroll in baseball as a small market club.
I know Heyman’s modus operandi with these types of columns is to antagonize people into a response and it’s not worth getting worked up over, but this is a narrative that is already gaining far more traction than it warrants. The on-field issues that Heyman cites to support his point is that the Red Sox don’t have a starting shortstop or confirmed number 4/5 starters. And that’s pretty much it. You would think Heyman could cast his mind back a year or so and point out that the team have only just spent big on bringing in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez but evidently ambition and commitment to winning can only be proven by signing $100m+ every off-season.
As a fan, the current shortstop situation isn’t exactly ideal. Between Nick Punto and Mike Aviles the Red Sox have a chance to cobble together passable production from the position but it’s hardly a given. Any team that has that situation as their biggest problem 1 through 9 doesn’t have too much to worry about from their every day lineup. As for the back of the rotation, again it’s not an ideal situation but I really fail to see the problem with bringing some starters with potential to camp and trying to manage that way until something better becomes available via trade during the year. Roy Oswalt would be nice but why would someone with his reputation want to come and be a 4th starter on a small market team? He’s got to be concerned that they can’t even seem to afford to move into a state of the art new ballpark.
The biggest straw man in Heyman’s argument, however, is his assertion that John Henry buying Liverpool football club has nullified his ability to spend on the Red Sox. Utter nonsense. If Henry doesn’t want to spend big on the Red Sox, it’s not because Liverpool are draining his cash. Henry’s net worth is estimated at around $1 billion. He’s not going to become one of the 46 million Americans on food stamps if he doesn’t cut back on the free agent signings.
The most misleading thing about Heyman’s Liverpool argument (aside from the previously unheard of position of ‘defensemen’) is that he tries to paint Henry as having splurged cash on players for his new favourite team, completely ignoring any income from the sale of players. And those incomes are not insubstantial.
Fernando Torres was sold to Chelsea for the 6th biggest fee of all time – £50m/$79m. For comparisons sake, the 6th biggest deal in baseball history is Joe Mauer’s current contract. Liverpool have also shipped out Ryan Babel (£5.8m/$9.5m) and Raul Merireles (£12m/$19m) plus the undisclosed fees involved in the sales of David N’Gog, Emiliano Insua and others which I would conservatively estimate recouped another $10m or so. Take that $117m worth of income away from the $179m outlay that Heyman mentions and the spending doesn’t look quite so extravagant does it? Unfortunately, this doesn’t fit the small market narrative.