The Changing of the MLB Front Office and Transactions

Throughout the history of America’s past time, numerous ways to go about building a championship team have developed and been torn down. The big role in team development for most of the 19th century had nothing to do with free agency, as players, due to a reverse clause, were bound to one team for life, in most situations. It wasn’t until 1969, that a player addressed the issue with his concerns. That player was Curt Flood, who took his case all the way to the Supreme Court wanting an arbitration process, but Curt lost the case. Then in 1975, two pitchers played a season without a contract, stating that it could not be renewed if it wasn’t signed. In result, they both became free agents, in essence the beginning of free agency. Before 1975, players only switched teams if they were traded (the new team had to buy out the wholesome of the player’s contract), so the freedom of players ability to pick whatever team was interested, was quite intriguing. Because of salary increasing overtime since the start of payment back in the early 1900’s, players started leaving their original team due to being offered large sums. Steroids also started to kick in, which physically enhanced major leaguer’s numbers. In result of players raking up big statistics, team’s started shelling out large bucks to stars. So, the thought was, the more money the team has and the more stars they could get, would bring them championships. Now days, rings cannot be bought.

Ever since the Oakland A’s in the early 2000’s took Bill James’ idea of money ball and created a playoff team, many have followed. It’s been more so the last few years that the idea of hiring smart Ivy-League type executives to run the team though, has been more popular. Sure buying out star players still makes for a great team (on paper), but that doesn’t mean that a poor team with a bunch of nobodies can’t be just as successful; after all the game still has to be played out, as baseball is never over.

One cause of front offices to consider the money-ball aspect, is the effect of team chemistry on the road to the Fall Classic. This is one of the main reasons why star players have been dealt to other teams for the bare minimum. For example, during the trade deadline in 2012, the Red Sox unloaded Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers for the average 1B, James Loney. Then the very next year the Sox won the Series with guys like Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, and washed up Jake Peavy leading the way. What is going on in the background of these major moves.

A lot of front offices now don’t even have a titled GM, they have multiple smart, college educated people with a mind of numbers. How did the Rays put together four 90+ win seasons from 2010-2013 with numerous average no bodies on the roster? The Rays had guys like Andrew Friedman and Mathew Silverman (educated guys with a business background) running the show. Everyday now, teams are seen dumping star players for young prospects and hiring new front office executives. Why is that? It’s because those businessmen have heard from their buddies (who are either managers or coaches) that star players are nice to have in the lineup, but not in the locker room; also that baseball is a heavily strategic game that does not need superstars (unlike a game like basketball) to win.

Slowly but surely every major league system is transferring over to this rout. To just name a few: the Dodgers (just hired Andrew Friedman), Mets (have Sandy Alderson running the show), and the D-backs (Tony LaRussa along with a whole accounting department). What these smart panels of operators are doing is remodeling the chemistry in the club house (the Dodgers did it this offseason), gathering or keeping bright kid prospects (Red Sox not willing to give the Phillies their prospects), dumping big contracts (Matt Kemp to Padres or Upton to Padres), and putting money into the stadium for the fans (Cubs building new bleachers) because after all, baseball is in the entertainment world. Again the game is changing, not only on the field, but also behind the scenes, as baseball is becoming more intelligent everyday.


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