An Ode to Cooperstown

It’s been awhile since I’ve taken time to write, primarily because it’s been tough to watch baseball lately. The Red Sox are a dumpster-fire with a depleted lineup and thin pitching staff and there are only so many ways you can say that this season is not living up to the expectations (understatement of the year). While the Red Sox were finding new and innovative ways to be embarrassed, it was the perfect time to visit the center of the baseball universe: Cooperstown, NY. It had been a number of years since I had the privilege of visiting the hallowed halls of the museum and surrounding area and this year seemed like the perfect opportunity to be in town for my first ever induction weekend. With all the hype and anticipation I was prepared to be disappointed, but was in fact blown away with the entire weekend of events and the passion with which the sleepy, quaint town in upstate New York embraces their baseball history and welcomes tens of thousands of visitors.

Lake Otsego – Photo by Brian Phair

For those who don’t know, Cooperstown is set on the southern shore of Lake Otsego and has a quintessential New England town main street lined with little shops and restaurants. At 25 Main Street, in the heart of downtown, sits the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum which is located around the corner from where most believe baseball was invented. The 3-story building is jam packed with artifacts and tchotchkes from every era of baseball and everywhere you look, you’ll find a new piece of information with a different artifact. For Red Sox fans, there are tons of artifacts represented, everything from Bill Mueller’s bat when he hit 2 grand slams in a game in 2003 to the cleats Curt Schilling wore in the bloody sock game in 2004 to a bat used by Christian Vazquez in the 2018 World Series (the first bat made by the Cooperstown Bat Company to be used on the highest stage) to the original contract Babe Ruth signed with Boston in 1917, just to name a few. Whether you are knowledgeable in baseball history or just a casual fan, there is something for everyone throughout the winding floors of the museum.

Curt Schilling’s cleats from the bloody sock game in 2004 – Photo by Brian Phair

The buzz around town during induction weekend was incredible. The streets were lined with fans wearing jerseys, t-shirts and hats representing almost every single MLB franchise. Former players and hall of famers were signing autographs up and down Main Street (for a price) at the various sports memorabilia shops. As we walked onto Main Street for the first time on Saturday morning, one of the first people we saw was Pete Rose. While obviously not a Hall of Famer thanks to some, let’s just say poor decisions, Rose was taking advantage of the massive crowds to give out autographs and take pictures with fans. Throughout the weekend, former players and Hall of Famers were out and about taking in the atmosphere. There were obviously a ton of Red Sox fans in town to see David Ortiz get inducted into the Hall of Fame and as one might expect, the Dominican community came out in force.

While the weekend as a whole was amazing, the parade of Hall of Famers on Saturday evening was by far the highlight. Watching around 50 Hall of Fame players get paraded down Main Street in the back of pickup trucks was a sight to see. Everyone from 84-year old Juan Marichal to 51-year old Jim Thome had the chance to wave to the tens of thousands of fans waiting to catch a glimpse of their favorite players. Some of the players got off the trucks and signed autographs for fans, even on a hot an humid night. Cal Ripken Jr. was a signing superstar, going up and down the rows of fans signing while sweat was dripping off his head and face. Standing across the street from the Hall of Fame where the parade ended gave us the opportunity to chat and engage with Hall of Famers in an experience I will not soon forget. Being a few feet from Ken Griffey Jr, Trevor Hoffman, Pedro Martinez, Cal Ripken Jr, Jim Thome, and others was incredibly special and an experience you just can’t get anywhere else. Watching some of the greatest players of all time take moments to chat and engage with young fans reminded me how unique the sport of baseball is and how taking a step back to appreciate the beauty of the game is important.

Cal Ripken Jr. in the parade of Hall of Famers 2022 – Photo by Brian Phair

The induction ceremony on Sunday was an extraordinary experience filled with cheers for the inductees and boos for Commissioner Rob Manfred. Despite brutal heat and humidity and a threat of torrential thunderstorms, a crowd of 35,000 people were there to witness the induction of 7 new Hall of Famers: Bud Fowler, Minnie Minoso, Buck O’Neil, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, and David Ortiz. While the main reason I travelled to Cooperstown was see Big Papi’s induction, I learned more about the other 6 inductees throughout the weekend and I felt a sense of pride to be there supporting their induction as well. It was a deserving class of men who all had significant impacts of the game of baseball in every era of the game (1800s-today) and for most of them, this honor was a long time coming. A great example of the long wait was Gil Hodges, who had a really strong MLB career and played in 7 championships, winning 2, but is most known for being the manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets championship team. Until recently, managerial accomplishments didn’t factor into a person’s induction into the Hall of Fame and that was a barrier to his entry despite the achievement being worthy of recognition. Now, Hodges has taken his rightful place in Cooperstown.

Another great example is Jim Kaat. A pitcher who appeared in 25 different MLB seasons, Kaat always felt he was a good player, but not to the level of Hall of Fame. His steady and extremely long career ended in 1983, but he was never given proper recognition because there was always an emphasis on the numbers, not the longevity (although his numbers should be enough for him to be inducted). The 3-time all-star won 16 consecutive gold gloves as a pitcher and started 625 games (17th most all time). His 25 seasons in the game were the most ever by a pitcher when he retired, now 3rd behind Nolan Ryan (27) and Tommy John (26). After his playing career was over, Kaat coached and stayed connected to the game, becoming a broadcaster in the late 1990s and still continuing that work today. Kaat was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame through the Golden Era Committee, which looks at players who were not elected in their 15 years of eligibility and has a 16-person voting panel. Many around the game believe this honor is long overdue for someone so influential on the game of baseball. *Some might know Kaat for his recent hot-water when he called Nestor Cortes Jr “Nestor the Molester” on a broadcast in June 2022. He apologized and it was settled, but he received some unwanted headlines leading up to his induction.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the way the Hall of Fame handled the induction weekend (with the exception of needing more porta-potties at the ceremony). With the threat of weather in the forecast, they sped up the ceremony (despite it still being very long) and handled the crowds well. Regardless of whether you want to join in with the large crowds and pomp-and-circumstance of an induction weekend or just visit the sleepy town on another summer or fall weekend to see the Hall of Fame when it’s much quieter, you’ll be happy you made the trek. Despite the long ride from the Boston area, I’ll be planning my next trip to Cooperstown very soon.

David Ortiz during his Hall of Fame induction speech – Photo by Brian Phair

Baseball is BACK

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and shortly, we’ll hear the sounds of live professional baseball being played. After an embarrassing 99-day lockout imposed by the owners, a new 5yr CBA has been agreed upon and baseball activities have begun. The season will begin about a week later than originally scheduled, but the expectation is for a full 162-game slate for all clubs. The news on Thursday was music to baseball fans ears and ends a really dark and ugly period in the history of baseball. There will be lasting damage from this public fight, but some of that will be tamped down by salvaging a normal-ish season. It’s time to play ball.

There are some notable changes in the new CBA including an increase from 10 playoff teams to 12. This is one that I feel could have a significant impact on the game. While on one hand it will afford more opportunities for teams to compete in the postseason, it will also impact the trade deadline and bigger in-season moves as more teams will be within striking distance of playoff contention. Also, by adding a team in each league to the postseason, it eliminates the thrilling 1-game playoff between the 2 Wild Card teams that has been fun to watch the last few seasons. I’m not sure how I feel on this shift, but know it’s better than the 14-team postseason proposal that was on the table during the negotiations. Let’s see how it plays out this season.

Additionally, they removed the runner on 2nd to start extra innings (thankfully). This was one of the dumbest rules the league has implemented over the past few seasons and I’m glad it’s gone. It was ridiculous that games were decided by whether the last batter to get an out in the 9th was fast or not. Yes, it may lead to some longer games, but it’s worth it. They also switched double-headers back to 9 innings vs 7, which I’m actually a bit bummed about. I really enjoyed the shift to 7 innings with double-headers, but understand why it makes sense to switch back to 9. It will be interesting in a slightly more compressed season and fewer off-days if there are a significant rise in double-headers throughout the year.

Some of the other shifts for this season are the universal DH (which has been discussed at length), a limit to the number of players you can option to the minor leagues (could play a significant role in roster makeup), a draft lottery to discourage teams from tanking for draft picks, and the ability for teams to sell advertising patches on their uniforms (who will be the first to sell rights?). For the 2023 season, there are a few bigger changes that will impact the game significantly. The elimination of shifts, a pitch clock, an automatic strike zone, and a more balanced schedule will fundamentally change the game. Whether the changes make the game better or not is yet to be seen, considering there is a lot of time to determine the exact details of each piece. I’m sure there will be thousands of hours of discussion on the 2023 changes as this season wears on (and that’s probably just on this blog).

Overall, there are changes that make sense and some that don’t (and I’ll surely dig deeper into all of them), but as long as the MLB can play a full season and we can watch professional baseball almost every night from April through September, I’m happy. I understand those who are complaining about this or that detail, but for me, I’m welcoming baseball back with open arms.

Baseball Headed Down a Disastrous Path

Despite teasing baseball fans with 7 different back and forth meetings on Monday, the MLB and MLBPA were still not in agreement on a new CBA. The fake deadline to not miss regular season games imposed by the owners was extended to 5pm on Tuesday and that has come and gone. The MLB has now cancelled opening day and the first two series of the season and it’s clear the owners are willing to miss a month of the regular season to try and leverage everything they can from the players union. To describe this whole situation as a shit-show would be too kind and the fact that Rob Manfred can’t get the job done and get players on the field is a failure of leadership. His comments about declining revenue for the league shortly after negotiations broke off on Tuesday should piss off anyone who cares about the game of baseball.

Rob Manfred: “The last five years were difficult from a revenue perspective.” In 2019, the last season before the pandemic, MLB revenues jumped for a 17th straight year to a record $10.7 billion, per Forbes.

Tweet by @JMastrodonato on Tuesday shortly after the 5pm deadline passed

While both sides spent time going back and forth in some capacity every day for the past week, the owners seem to be unwilling to seriously compromise and even at times negotiate in good faith. They made it very clear they are willing to miss a month of games in order to get what they want and are trying to wear out the players to keep a few more dollars in their pockets. They obviously feel that by being millionaires and billionaires, they can absorb a hit like 30-40 fewer games easier than an MLB player making the minimum $570,500, which is true. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be thrilled with $500k+ per year in salary and as a whole it’s the rich fighting with the richer, but the tactics and unwillingness to budge more than a centimeter for the owners is brutal. Manfred isn’t helping the cause by spewing false rhetoric about revenues and profits being down. He clearly doesn’t have the leadership qualities needed to find a compromise and doesn’t seem to care about the damage that cancelling games could cause to the game long-term.

As a lifelong baseball fan, the idea that this negotiation is still going on and regular season games are being cancelled is beyond disheartening. I’m not going to claim that I won’t watch another game if this goes on longer, because those who are real fans of the game will come back in full force once the league gets back up and running, but prospective fans and those who are not as strongly connected to the sport may have a harder path to returning or beginning to watch. The constantly quoted demographic is the age of the average baseball fan compared to all the other major sports. The younger audience is not interested in the sport as it stands and won’t even have the chance to invest if there is no product on the field. Whatever little bit of positive public perception that was left for the MLB has surely taken a gut punch the past few months and will continue to nose dive as more games are inevitably cancelled.

One of the most heated debates on a baseball article I wrote as of late was when I expressed my excitement for the DH in both leagues. People came at me from all angles about how “this isn’t real baseball” and “it takes the strategy out of the game.” There was real passion for the game in many of those comments, but the attitude and direction was stuck in the past like many of the current owners. Evolution in sports is inevitable and if you can’t see that, you’re missing the bigger picture. From the addition of the 3pt line in basketball, to the shrinking of goalie pads in hockey, to the addition of padding and helmets in football, sports evolve to meet modern audiences and need to react (to some degree) to cultural shifts. For most baseball fans, if the game had not changed since the 1940s, the viewership and fan support would be significantly lower than it is today, regardless of where you like or agree with all of the changes that have been made.

Now is the time for owners to step back and appreciate the situation they are in and the responsibility they have in getting players back on the field. There is still compromise to be found on the players side as well, but the owners seem to be digging their heals in over what will amount to small changes in their bottom line when all is said and done. It doesn’t matter how well your “negotiations” go if the end result is a kick in the nuts to the entire sport you’re investing in and an ugly, public display of greed isn’t going to pull in the younger audience, or frankly any audience. The clock is ticking and with each passing hour, the sport I love is taking another public hit in the stomach. End this madness.

Love for the Universal DH

When the MLB officially announced the universal DH would go into effect this season (if there is one), it was confirmation of the inevitable. It’s a win/win for owners and players in a time when it seems like they can’t agree on much. Since the announcement however, there has been significant pushback from certain segments of fans about the decision. One person even took up residence on the streets outside Dodgers Stadium with a sign reading “Death to the DH” to protest the change. While that’s clearly one person looking for attention, I’ve seen more and more fans disagreeing with the decision and I just can’t understand any legitimate reason why a universal DH isn’t good for the sport of baseball.

Regardless of whether you are a fan of low-scoring games or HR-filled contests, the universal DH is a much better product than having pitchers hit. For most pitchers, they are faced with the situation of needing to sacrifice over a runner or swing away (or not swing) and hope they don’t get hurt. In 2021, there were 4,829 plate appearances featuring a player who was pitching that day across both leagues and those plate appearances resulted in just 462 hits and a .110 average. The vast majority of those at-bats were non-competitive, which is terrible baseball to watch. The outcome of the at-bat was pre-determined based on who is or is not on base. If you compare the pitchers at-bats to the DH spot, players in the DH spot in the lineup produced a .239 average in 2021. The numbers show a significant increase in legitimate and competitive at-bats when there is a DH in the lineup. Additionally, you add a power-element for those who like lots of runs with a DH vs a pitcher. Pitchers produced a HR every 284 plate appearances in 2021, while players in the DH spot produced a HR every 24 at-bats last season.

There is certainly a lore around pitchers hitting and it seems like we see videos of a pitcher getting a big hit or RBI regularly, but that’s a rare occurrence. I’ve read a bunch of people making the argument that we won’t ever get to see a player like Bartolo Colon hit again with the universal DH and while that’s 100% true, it’s also extremely misguided. Everyone remembers Colon’s big HR in 2016 at the age of 42 and the excitement around that hit lingered for years. Well, in Colon’s career 326 plate appearances during his 21 seasons in the league, he hit .084 with 1 HR and 11 RBIs. Is that 1 hit worth hundreds of non-competitive, terrible at-bats that were unwatchable? The overall product would have been, and will be going forward, more enjoyable to watch. With the universal DH, pitchers in the National League won’t have an automatic out in every single lineup (never fear, there will still be plenty of easy hitters in many lineups) and we will finally be able to accurately compare pitchers in both leagues without needing the caveat that one was in the AL vs the NL.

As it relates to the players, the universal DH is a great thing for the sport. The DH allows an additional position player to get in the lineup every single night and it affords older players who have lost a step defensively a place on a roster and playing time. It creates more opportunities for players like Red Sox DH/LF J.D. Martinez, who would have been confined to the AL when is contract is up, but now can explore options in both leagues. The expansion in the NL now allows a team the option to take a player who is a defensive liability and remove them from the field while keeping their bat in the lineup. It opens up opportunities in both leagues for future stars like 1st ballot Hall of Famer David Ortiz, who was tremendously talented in the batters box, but was just average or below defensively. 

My least favorite argument against the universal DH is that it’s not “real baseball” or “not the baseball I grew up with.” First off, if you are saying either if those lines you’re probably right in the baseball average demographic, 50+ years old. Second, every single sport grows and evolves over time to attract a broader audience and fit the current environment. Just as basketball added a 3pt line and hockey reduced the size of goalie pads, baseball needs to adapt. I would argue that baseball is significantly further behind than other sports in terms of bringing in younger viewers, which in the long term is detrimental to the league. Adding a more competitive batter in the lineup every night is at least a push in the right direction (albeit a very small one).

With the MLB struggling with viewership and in the middle of a public, ugly CBA negotiation, the addition of a universal DH is at least one positive step forward. Finally we can put to bed the days of fundamentally different strategies depending on your league. I, for one, am extremely excited about this change and anyone who wants to see baseball not only survive, but thrive, should be as well. Now, let’s hope for a 2022 baseball season.

RIP Jeremy Giambi

In a shocking announcement on Wednesday afternoon, we learned that former MLB player 47-year old Jeremy Giambi had passed away at his parents house in California. The younger brother of fellow MLBer Jason Giambi, Jeremy had a short 6-year career in the bigs with the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies, and Boston Red Sox.

In 510 career games, Giambi belted 52 HRs and had 209 RBIs. He spent the final year of his MLB career with the Red Sox after being brought in to be a low-cost slugger at DH who could also play first base as the Red Sox tried to capitalize on the moneyball style of building a roster. Unfortunately for him, the Red Sox also brought in a guy that some of you might know, David Ortiz. Giambi struggled in 2003, appearing in just 50 games and hitting .197 with 5 HRs and 15 RBIs and that would spell the end of his time in the majors.

Giambi is known for one major MLB blunder that cast a shadow on his career. In game 3 of the 2001 ALDS, the Oakland Athletics were down 1-0 but up 2-0 in the series over the New York Yankees. In the bottom of the 7th, a Terence Long double sent Giambi all the way home after a bobble and he decided not to slide into home as Derek Jeter cut off the throw and was able to nab Giambi at home. With a slide he likely would have been safe and it is considered one of the biggest blunders in Athletics and MLB history. The Yankees won the game and the next two to win the series on their path to a World Series title.

Giambi, along with his older brother Jason, admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in the 2003 balco hearings. The two of them were very close and were able to play together in Oakland during the 2000 and 2001 seasons. While I think Jeremy enjoyed his brother’s success, he was often compared to him and overshadowed by him.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Giambi family.

Dumb and Dumber: The MLB CBA Negotiations

As the calendar turned to February, there are less than 2 weeks until the planned start of spring training. Unfortunately, the MLB and MLBPA (MLB Players Association) don’t appear to be any closer to an agreement on a new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) and an end to the lockout. With each passing day, the likelihood of a delayed start to the season or a shortened season grows exponentially and the damage to the sport grows deeper and deeper. Now that we are 2 months into the “negotiations”, a reasonable person would expect some serious progress, if not a resolution, but we haven’t really seen either. For a sport that has been struggling to bring in younger viewers for some time now, a prolonged stoppage and a shortened season could be a devastating blow.

Almost exactly 2 months ago, the MLB work stoppage began after MLB owners voted to unanimously begin a lockout when the current CBA expired. This is the first work stoppage in 25+ years and at the time the lockout began, there was some hope that both sides understood the devastating impact of a dragged out negotiation and would take that into consideration when making concessions. Unfortunately, that was just naïve optimism and both sides haven’t made any significant effort to bridge the gap since December. The two sides barely came to the table in 2021 and set their sights on jumping back in after the new year. After weeks of little to no movement, both sides have been meeting more regularly the past few weeks, but it’s been reported that they aren’t even tackling the major economic pieces that are dividing both sides at this point.

With the lockout not likely to be resolved quickly, let’s take a simple look at the main disagreements between the players and owners.


This is the easiest disagreement to understand. The players want the minimum salary to move from $570,500 to $775,000, while the owners are proposing a scale, beginning with $615,000 for their first year, then $650,000 in year two, and $700,000 in year 3. The players want to be paid more from day 1 and the owners want to pay less. Pretty simple economics.

Competitive Balance

Luxury Tax

There are a few major areas that are focused theoretically on creating a more balanced league and the first is the luxury tax. It boils down to this: limiting big market teams (i.e. New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers) from spending unlimited dollars on every free agent player and thus preventing smaller market teams from fielding a competitive team. You can see how the players would want the luxury tax to grow more significantly because it would mean higher overall salaries from larger market teams. The players have proposed an incremental growth from $210 million to $273 million by 2026 and the owners obviously want a smaller increase, proposing steady growth to a max of $220 million in 5 years. There are also some proposed changes in the fees for going over the threshold which I’m not going to dig into, but as you can see, the gap is pretty significant.


Another area of league balance revolves around teams tanking (losing games to get better draft picks). Both sides seem to agree that it’s an issue in the MLB (finally) and a draft lottery is a suitable solution, but they are disagreeing on which picks should be included in a draft. Essentially now, if you finish with the worst record, you get the #1 pick, 2nd worst gets the #2 pick, etc. A draft lottery would mean that any team that does not make the playoffs would have a chance at the #1 pick via a lottery, which in theory disincentives teams to lose games to get a better pick. That’s where the agreement ends, because the owners want only the top 3 picks to be decided by the lottery and the players want the top 8. It’s a fight between the owners wanting more control over draft order and the players wanting a more fair and competitively balanced league that discourages serious tanking. This is one area I think a compromise could be relatively easy to achieve.

Player Control


There are two areas of negotiations that revolve around player control and the first is arbitration. In its simplest form, the current arbitration system allows teams to control players who have been in the league for more than 3 years and less than 6 years if they do not already have a contract agreed upon. The system allows teams and players to negotiate a one-year salary each year and if they do not agree, the contract negotiations go to an independent arbiter to make a decision on the player’s salary. The idea is that a player gets a comparable salary to similar players who have received contracts in the recent past and remains in the team’s control. For top tier players, the teams are able to pay them less than they would make on the open market and retain their services until 6 years of service time are complete. After year 6, the players are eligible for free agency and the teams no longer have any control.

This is an area where owners said they would not negotiate, but the players association continues to push. The MLBPA initially asked for arbitration to be after year 5, then retracted that proposal. The current proposal from the players has shrunk and they are now basically only fighting for arbitration eligibility at 2 years vs 3 in the current system, which is out of the question according to owners.

Manipulation of Service Time

Like arbitration, service time manipulation this is an issue of player control for owners (and as always, money). Right now, there are certain requirements a player must meet in order to have a season count toward their service-time (essentially years in the league). By keeping top players in the minors for longer than they should, teams are able to manipulate that player’s service time, keeping them in team control longer (i.e. a longer period of time until they become free agents and thus need to be paid a much higher salary). This is connected to the “bonus pool” for pre-arbitration players also, because there would be certain benchmarks a player needs to hit in order to be eligible.

It boils down to this: both sides identify a need for changes in this area, but owners understandably want to retain control of a player’s contract for longer because it saves them money and the players want to be able to jump to arbitration or free agency earlier because it increases their earning potential. The owners have proposed a plan to incentivize teams to promote top 100 minor league prospects by giving the team an extra draft pick if they do, but the players don’t believe the incentive is strong enough to encourage a team to essentially relinquish a year of control for a top player. An often used example of this practice is 3B Kris Bryant with the Cubs. He was not on the opening day roster in 2015 despite clearly being ready for the majors. The team made excuses about him needing more time to work on his defense, etc, but it was clearly BS. He was called up strategically a few weeks later so that at the end of the season, he fell 1 day short of 172 days of service time required for it to count as a service year. This gave the Cubs control over Bryant for an extra season so he didn’t become a free agent until this offseason (and still is thanks to the lockout).

Unfortunately for fans of baseball, both sides are pretty far apart in negotiations as of today. Is it possible the two sides make an earnest effort and resolve most of their issues soon? It’s possible, but not probable. It’s not looking like either side wants to move the needle more than a little at a time and at this pace, baseball won’t return until summer and take another huge punch in the gut. The average baseball fan is age 57 (according to Front Office Sports), significantly higher than any of the other 3 major sports in the United States and has been growing. The league has been struggling to bring in younger fans and the MLB and MLB Players Association holding an ugly public fight over who gets more money is not exactly helping. As a baseball fan, I hope this ends soon and doesn’t further drag the sport into oblivion.

All in on the Arm Barn

In one of the most click-baity, attention-grabbing moments of the past week, PETA decided to take on the MLB in the most bizarre way: by attacking the bullpen. PETA claims that the term bullpen refers to the area in which cows are held before slaughtered, thus is offensive to animals, or people, or something? I guess their attempt to grab attention worked because I’m writing about it, so mission accomplished. For me, the most interesting part of the whole story is the new name they suggested for the bullpen, the “arm barn.” While I don’t really care for the reason it was suggested, I love the name.

We have yarn barns for sewing supplies, shoe barns for footwear, and bedding barns for all things sleep-related, why not have arm barns for pitchers? It’s catchy and fairly accurately describes what it’s like when you put a group of men in their 20s and 30s together in a small space for 3+ hours nearly every single night. In an animal barn, when the door opens, all the animals stand and hope they are going to get some attention from the person or people entering. In the arm barn, the phone rings and all the pitchers on the bench perk up and look with anticipation to see whether their name will be called to warm up and come into the game.

Just like animals in barns, the confined space can get to pitchers after awhile. Around hour 2 or 3 of a baseball game, you’ll see pitchers stand and stretch, pace around the few feet they have, and grab a drink of water. Pitchers all dream of someone opening the door and letting them run through into the larger, still fenced in grass area. When the time comes, they burst through the door and sprint 200+ feet like they’ve been held captive, because, well, they have been in a small rectangular space for hours and hours with only each other.

Now close your eyes and imagine the PA announcer saying, “Now warming up in the arm barn, Adam Ottavino” or Dennis Eckersley saying on the TV broadcast, “Sale is starting to lose command of his cheese, time to get the arm barn going” or “The Red Sox have one of the best arm barns in all of the MLB.” If that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, then I don’t know what will.

It’s a perfect solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, which is what we all need. We don’t need to address the actual issues with the game of baseball, because the arm barn is the priority. The “speciesist roots” of the term bullpen is a joke (and I’m not 100% convinced it’s not a actual joke), but now I can’t imagine going forward without making the change. The time is now to ‘raise’ the arm barn.

Money Doesn’t Win Championships in MLB, or Does It?

After the Red Sox eliminated the Yankees in the AL Wild Card on Tuesday, it added another year to the Yankees championship drought. The loss naturally resulted in a flurry of memes and stats, including the amount the Yankees have spent on payroll since winning their last championship. That got my mind racing about whether the pay-for-title model the Yankees and others have employed over the years is actually true and results in success. Let’s examine.

For the purposes of this analysis, I’m looking at data from 2011 through 2020, a 10-season span. Obviously things can, and will, change this year as the playoffs progress and a champion is named, but a 10-season sample should give sufficient data to make some conclusions about recent trends in the MLB. For the purposes of this analysis, I used two metrics: CPW (cost per win) and CPWW (cost per win weighted for the postseason). CPW is fairly straight forward and takes the team salary and divides it among the number of wins a team amasses in the regular season and/or postseason. That metric didn’t feel like it captured the importance of postseason wins, so I created a modified version, CPWW, that assigns extra value to postseason games, increasing by each round. For example, if a team advances to the division series, each win is worth more than a wild card win and less than a championship series win. Now, to the numbers.

Over the last 10 completed seasons (2011-2020), the Tampa Bay Rays have the lowest cost per win (CPW) when you factor in the playoffs at $764,184.25 ($721,391.52 below the league average). When using the weighted metric I created (CPWW), it is even more impressive at $743,359.33 per win, which is $730,145.55 below the league average. That essentially means the Rays are operating at half the cost of the average team in the league and 1/3 of the cost of the top teams, which is astounding. While the Rays haven’t won a title in the last 10 years, they were a runner-up last season and have won 17 postseason games in 10 seasons, more than 19 other franchises. By comparison, the 2nd lowest CPW is the Oakland Athletics at $888,723.41 per win (over $124,000 per win more than the Rays) and they have only won 8 total postseason games in the last 10 years, never advancing past the division series round. It can easily be argued that the Tampa Bay Rays have accomplished more with less than any other franchise, and it’s not even really close.

On the flip side of that coin, the New York Yankees have a staggering $2,257,967.25 CPW including playoff games, which is the highest in the MLB over the 10-season span. How has paying 3x more per win than the Rays helped them this past decade? It really hasn’t. The Yankees have only won 6 more playoff games (23 total) over the same span and have not even reached the World Series, while the Rays did once. When using the weighted CPWW, the Yankees are still on top of the pile of cash at $2,193,311.80 per win, edging out the Seattle Mariners by around $100,000. Based on a Yankees/Rays comparison, you could correctly argue that money does not win championships, but it’s important to zoom out a bit to see the league trends overall.

Of the 10 teams to win the World Series, 50% have a 10-year CPWW below the league average and expanding it out a little, 50% of the 20 teams playing in those 10 World Series were in the bottom half of the league in CPWW, which is quite staggering. There has only been 1 World Series matchup in the last 10 seasons that pitted 2 teams in the top 10 CPWW against each other and that was the 2018 Boston Red Sox vs Los Angeles Dodgers series (#3 vs #4).

Year Winning Team (CPW rank) Losing Team (CPW rank)
2020Los Angeles Dodgers (#4)Tampa Bay Rays (#30)
2019Washington Nationals (#12)Houston Astros (#26)
2018Boston Red Sox (#3)Los Angeles Dodgers (#4)
2017Houston Astros (#26)Los Angeles Dodgers (#4)
2016Chicago Cubs (#8)Cleveland Indians (#27)
2015Kansas City Royals (#20)New York Mets (#10)
2014San Francisco Giants (#18)Kansas City Royals (#20)
2013Boston Red Sox (#3)St. Louis Cardinals (#19)
2012San Francisco Giants (#18)Detroit Tigers (#5)
2011St. Louis Cardinals (#19)Detroit Tigers (#5)
*Data compiled and calculated by Brian Phair

Just looking simply at total wins (including the postseason) for each franchise compared to their CPWW further proves the point that money does not win games or championships on the whole. The top two franchises in win totals over 10 seasons are the Dodgers (#4 in CPWW) and Yankees (#1 in CPWW) which isn’t super surprising, but then 6 of the next 9 franchises on the total wins list are in the bottom half of the league in CPWW, including the bottom two teams in CPWW, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics. I’ve inserted the table below to show you all of the rankings. There are definitely some surprises in the list.

TeamTotal Wins
(including playoffs)
Rank of
Rank of
Total Playoff
Los Angeles Dodgers9323446
New York Yankees8821123
St. Louis Cardinals879151936
Washington Nationals855121219
Cleveland Indians833272712
Boston Red Sox8302323
Tampa Bay Rays821303017
Oakland Athletics80229298
Atlanta Braves799212112
Chicago Cubs7958819
Houston Astros794242636
Texas Rangers7879912
Milwaukee Brewers787262511
San Francisco Giants783171825
League Average771.64n/an/a12.64
Pittsburgh Pirates75728283
Arizona Diamondbacks75622223
Los Angeles Angels753770
Toronto Blue Jays751111110
New York Mets74810108
Detroit Tigers7415617
Seattle Mariners724420
Kansas City Royals724202022
Philadelphia Phillies720652
Baltimore Orioles72014146
Cincinnati Reds71719172
Minnesota Twins70716150
Colorado Rockies69613131
Chicago White Sox69118161
San Diego Padres68823232
Miami Marlins67025242
*Data compiled and calculated by Brian Phair

Once I started down this rabbit hole, I fully expected that higher payroll and higher cost per win (CPWW) teams would have a decided advantage with a few exceptions (i.e. the Rays), but I was proven almost completely wrong. While this analysis does not say any team can win a championship on any payroll because there are a million other factors, it does definitively prove that having a high payroll does not guarantee anything in the current MLB and it is absolutely possible to win with less, even for teams not named the Tampa Bay Rays. What are your thoughts?

Want to learn more about the CPWW metric? Reach out via email.