Thursday, April 11, 2013

MLB Needs To End This Service Clock Nonsense, And, Of Course, Will Not

Come back when we care
Tonight in Anaheim, my A's smacked the Angels around again, winning their seventh in a row to do something fairly unheard of in the Billy Beane Era -- get off to a hot start. These wins, you will be surprised to learn, count the same as any other time of the year, and it costs you more or less the same to go to the games.

The other really wonderful thing, at least to my mind, is that my baseball team did something amazing: they played their best players. There is no clear savior cooling his heels in Sacramento; Oakland is doing the rather amazing thing of actually using their best players, rather than delaying the clock on anyone's start.

Part of this is, of course, just where the franchise is. When you are Oakland, clocks really don't matter that much, since many players are going to be gone before they even get to the arbitration level, and the park situation prevents the organization from ever thinking that they've got an audience without wins. But it also means that there is a tactical advantage at work here, which is that Oakland is better equipped to win games in April, and their opponents are not.

Does this matter? Of course it does. Across the diamond from my A's tonight were the Angels, who decided that Mike Trout didn't need to play all of 2012 at the major league level, and most likely missed the playoffs because of it. In St. Louis, the Cardinals are cooling Oscar Taveras, the best OF prospect in baseball, though to be fair, the starting unit of Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holiday isn't exactly screaming for relief. Texas has Jurickson Profar cooling his heels in the minors, along with Colorado's Nolan Arenado, the Reds' Billy Hamilton, the Pirates' Gerrit Cole, the Mariners' with Mike Zunino, and so on, and so on.

The best young players in baseball aren't playing at the highest level. Everyone good with that?

There's a word for a business where the same price is charged for a lesser product, and that word is fraud. Rather than fix the arbitration clock system, or the inadequate revenue sharing / enforced minimum salaries (preferably with the almighty cure for all such ills, relegation), MLB has allowed the Rookie of the Year race to becoming utterly and completely neutered, and made clubs like Boston or Minnesota look charmingly naive for starting the year with Jackie Bradley and Aaron Hicks -- aka, guys who earned a job in spring training, who have the potential to sell some tickets and add some spice.

In a better world, the owners and players would get together and fix this, mostly by just changing up the clock system to be by the day or month, rather than the year. They'd recognize that anything that rewards teams from starting their best players for the maximum number of games is, in fact, bad for baseball, and sends out a strong message that you are a chump to pay attention to the full year.

Instead, of course, we'll just have this system grow and grow for years, like an unchecked weed, and watch the only major league in America that chokes off fan interest in rookies.

Can you imagine how good baseball could be, if only it didn't have such absurdly bad management?

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