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New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer has no time for teams that tank to make a profit, fielding a team with no intent to win.
While Scherzer didn’t mention the likes of the Baltimore Orioles or Pittsburgh Pirates by name, I’ll take his words a step further. Baseball has a tanking problem, as small-market teams opt to rebuild through the draft and their farm systems, rather than spending big in free agency.
This impacts marketing and ticket sales, but it does allow teams to eventually field a winning team on the cheap with players on pre-arbitration contracts. Sounds dandy, right? Well, what if some of those said prospects don’t work out?
That’s when things get tricky, and playoff droughts leave fans wanting far more. Patience eventually wears thin, even for players.
Max Scherzer: Teams go into season with ‘no intent to win’
“This negotiation is about the integrity of the game from our eyes,” Scherzer said, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Jorge Castillo. “We feel as players that too many teams have gone into a season without any intent to win during the past. Even though that can be a strategy to win in future years, we’ve seen both small-market and large-market clubs embrace tanking, and that cannot be the optimal strategy for the owners.”
Those same teams are using youth to their advantage, in hopes of getting a discount on a young projected star before they reach that level. Look no further than Ronald Acuña, who the Braves signed to an eight-year, $100 million deal in 2019. He’s worth far more than that these days.
“Playing in the big leagues is everyone’s dream, and teams are now leveraging that desire to gain financial control over a player’s career,” Scherzer continued.
Professional sports is a business, so it can be understood why owners would try and take advantage of this model. Where it goes wrong, however, is when teams are stuck in an endless rebuilding cycle ala the Pittsburgh Pirates’ of the sports world.