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View Full Version : The Law of Competitive Balance: why we suck?


SouthSideSoxFan
08-31-2007, 08:15 AM
I was reading the Wall Street Journal today, and there was an article about the NFL that quoted Bill James (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118851609308713987.html), a famous baseball author and now advisor to the Red Sox since 2002, that caught my eye. Specifically, here's what they quoted:
The law of competitive balance: Teams which win tend to slack off. They don't work as hard; they don't take risks to make themselves better. They think defensively. But when a team combines the talent of a championship team with the attitude of a runner-up, the combination can produce -- historically, often has produced -- a team of exceptional quality.
That really hit home for me as the simplest and most elegant description that fits what happened to the White Sox, from the impressive 2005 team winning consistently and having the attitude of a runner-up where they had something to prove and made their own luck, to now being embarassingly bad.

The post-2005 payroll (did I read somewhere the White Sox have the 4th highest payroll now?) made me think of another quote from Bill James I'd also read in the WSJ (http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110010232) recently:
When a team has resources, there is a powerful tendency to solve problems by spending money. It is less attractive to experiment.
For a while there before 2005, it seemed like the White Sox were on the verge of being contenders, without reaching the championship, as working hard and taking risks was easier because they were closer to that goal. Maybe now they've substituted money for that runner-up attitude mentioned above?

drewcifer
08-31-2007, 08:46 AM
Law of Competitive Balance? :rolleyes:

It's called complacency, pure and simple and it happens in all areas of life - not just baseball.

When people experience "success" in business, sports, friendship, marriage, just about anything you can think of, complacency is always going to emerge to risk it's continuation. It's human nature to expect higher reward and to put forth less effort after worth/success is proven.

$ is probably the biggest motivator to incentivize people and make them hungry to achieve again. Sometimes works, but generally not for a prolonged or sustainable period.

soxfanatlanta
08-31-2007, 09:53 AM
$ is probably the biggest motivator to incentivize people and make them hungry to achieve again. Sometimes works, but generally not for a prolonged or sustainable period.

Tell that to the Atlanta Braves.

SBSoxFan
08-31-2007, 10:01 AM
I was reading the Wall Street Journal today, and there was an article about the NFL that quoted Bill James (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118851609308713987.html), a famous baseball author and now advisor to the Red Sox since 2002, that caught my eye. Specifically, here's what they quoted:

That really hit home for me as the simplest and most elegant description that fits what happened to the White Sox, from the impressive 2005 team winning consistently and having the attitude of a runner-up where they had something to prove and made their own luck, to now being embarassingly bad.

The post-2005 payroll (did I read somewhere the White Sox have the 4th highest payroll now?) made me think of another quote from Bill James I'd also read in the WSJ (http://www.opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110010232) recently:

For a while there before 2005, it seemed like the White Sox were on the verge of being contenders, without reaching the championship, as working hard and taking risks was easier because they were closer to that goal. Maybe now they've substituted money for that runner-up attitude mentioned above?

I think in economics they call it the law of diminishing returns. There's myriad reasons why teams succeed and why some are perennial winners. No one has been able to account for every significant factor.

Regarding post-2005, I'd say that Williams' off season moves were anything but complacent. The combination of risk taking and increased resources would seem like a winner. So far, it hasn't panned out.

skottyj242
08-31-2007, 10:27 AM
I've been in the Wall Street Journal twice.

itsnotrequired
08-31-2007, 10:50 AM
Tell that to the Atlanta Braves.

I'm not following...

soxfanatlanta
08-31-2007, 11:22 AM
I'm not following...

If I interpreted the post correctly, drewcifer stated that high salaries do not maintain success over the long run. The Braves under Turner consistently were in the upper half of payroll, and that helped contributed to the 14 division titles they won. Was it the only factor? No. But the $ helped retain and develop talent.

itsnotrequired
08-31-2007, 11:30 AM
If I interpreted the post correctly, drewcifer stated that high salaries do not maintain success over the long run. The Braves under Turner consistently were in the upper half of payroll, and that helped contributed to the 14 division titles they won. Was it the only factor? No. But the $ helped retain and develop talent.

That's what I thought you were saying but drewcifer's point isn't very clear. Atlanta has had a Top 5 NL payroll every year since 1993 (except 2005 when they were #6). They had the highest NL payroll for five straight years from 95-99. Money sure didn't seem to make them complacent.

soxfanatlanta
08-31-2007, 11:31 AM
Money sure didn't seem to make them complacent.

Indeed. We agree, then. :smile:

voodoochile
08-31-2007, 11:35 AM
Maybe the complacency factor has been part of the problem as the Sox have fallen out of the race, but early in the season it wasn't hard to see exactly why the Sox were falling out of that race and it had little to do with complacency.

Tangible issues included but were not limited to:


Crede going down for the season
The bullpen which looked so good in April coming apart at the seams in May
Contreras completely falling off the map as a credible starter
Garland struggling with shoulder problems
Thome, Pods and Erstad all going on the DL for extended periods of time. In fact both Pods and Erstad being on the DL at the same time in May was probably as big a factor in the hole that got dug as anything because suddenly there was no viable leadoff hitter. Pods and Erstad were supposed to act as an insurance policy to one another but when both broke at the same time things got bad.
Dye struggling with knee related problems until the second half of the season.These are huge tangible issues that decimated the Sox chances to make a pennant run. Is the core of this team trying as hard as it might given a pennant race? I honestly don't know and wouldn't be surprised if the veterans were playing out the string, but given the talent and experience level around them, who can really blame them and does it really matter?

In a normal business setting, you'd fire the department manager, tell the VP to fix it or else, hire a guy who would cut and hire and cut and hire until the department was back on track and meeting corporate directives, but you can't do that in baseball and sometimes you have to simply play for next year and wait for the off-season to see how things develop.

There is talent in the starting pitching, late relief and middle third of the lineup. The development of Fields gives the Sox options with Crede too. How KW rebuilds the rest of the team to surround what is a solid core of veteran talent remains to be seen.

soxinem1
08-31-2007, 11:48 AM
Maybe the complacency factor has been part of the problem as the Sox have fallen out of the race, but early in the season it wasn't hard to see exactly why the Sox were falling out of that race and it had little to do with complacency.

Tangible issues included but were not limited to:

Crede going down for the season
The bullpen which looked so good in April coming apart at the seams in May
Contreras completely falling off the map as a credible starter
Garland struggling with shoulder problems
Thome, Pods and Erstad all going on the DL for extended periods of time. In fact both Pods and Erstad being on the DL at the same time in May was probably as big a factor in the hole that got dug as anything because suddenly there was no viable leadoff hitter. Pods and Erstad were supposed to act as an insurance policy to one another but when both broke at the same time things got bad.
Dye struggling with knee related problems until the second half of the season.These are huge tangible issues that decimated the Sox chances to make a pennant run. Is the core of this team trying as hard as it might given a pennant race? I honestly don't know and wouldn't be surprised if the veterans were playing out the string, but given the talent and experience level around them, who can really blame them and does it really matter?

In a normal business setting, you'd fire the department manager, tell the VP to fix it or else, hire a guy who would cut and hire and cut and hire until the department was back on track and meeting corporate directives, but you can't do that in baseball and sometimes you have to simply play for next year and wait for the off-season to see how things develop.

There is talent in the starting pitching, late relief and middle third of the lineup. The development of Fields gives the Sox options with Crede too. How KW rebuilds the rest of the team to surround what is a solid core of veteran talent remains to be seen.

Probably the best assessment of this season and this situation. We will just have to wait and see.

KenBerryGrab
08-31-2007, 11:50 AM
One thing that has come to the fore is, when you try to market-time as Kenny did so well in 2005, the odds are against you. He tried to ride the Konerko-Dye window with the pre-2006 deals, which were all defensible at the time, and he again was betting he knew better with the "power arm" deals and faith that Cooper could get them all on a productive path.

So now the club is down two seasons, spent its most marketable prospects and left the minor league cupboard bare. I think we all need to keep in mind that an urge to "do something" very often does not result in success.

And, please, now that the club will have some higher draft choices, can we let the grudges built up over Bobby Seay and Bobby Hill drop? Automatically excluding much of the top tier of amateur prospects because of distate over dealing with one agent is not a way to quickly recover.

drewcifer
08-31-2007, 02:10 PM
I was speaking about complacency on the part of the players, not the front office.

Atlanta has had a high payroll on a consistent basis, sure - but do you see them throwing big $ to fix small problems? When was the last time anyone can remember Atlanta getting burned on a big, lopsided contract? Grossly overpaying? Getting bad results? They mind their farm system and spend on development along with identifying big league talent early and signing good contracts.

As a result, Atlanta has done a good job of both being a consistent division winner while not overpaying for that - paying probably a fair market amount for that success in hindsight.

Atlanta has never paid anywhere near $100M either - $91 in 2003 was the closest they've come. And they got 101 wins and won the division by 10 games.

The wins to player cost ratio in Atlanta has consistently been near 100% - This means there are marginally very few wins gained due to $ spent on player payroll as compared to the rest of baseball.

soxfanatlanta
08-31-2007, 02:21 PM
When was the last time anyone can remember Atlanta getting burned on a big, lopsided contract? Grossly overpaying? Getting bad results?

http://i.a.cnn.net/si/images/baseball/mlb/players/4994.jpg

Ahem... :redneck

To your point about the $100 million barrier:when Time Warner took over, they put a clamp on the payroll budget, and it has showed over the past three years. Luckily as you stated, they focused on their farm system and are reaping the rewards with their young position players. (Pitching is another story)

I hope the Sox follow their lead.

drewcifer
08-31-2007, 02:33 PM
http://i.a.cnn.net/si/images/baseball/mlb/players/4994.jpg

Ahem... :redneck

To your point about the $100 million barrier:when Time Warner took over, they put a clamp on the payroll budget, and it has showed over the past three years. Luckily as you stated, they focused on their farm system and are reaping the rewards with their young position players. (Pitching is another story)

I hope the Sox follow their lead.

Geez, in all honesty I forgot about Mike Hampton. But still I wouldn't call that a fleecing either ('05 sucked, though).


Year Ag Tm Lg W L G GS CG SHO GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WP BFP IBB BK ERA *lgERA *ERA+ WHIP
+--------------+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+--+------+----+----+----+---+----+----+---+---+-----+---+---+-----+-----+----+-----+
2003 30 ATL (http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/ATL/2003.shtml) NL (http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/NL_2003.shtml) 14 8 31 31 1 0 0 0 190.0 186 91 81 14 78 110 1 10 823 4 1 3.84 4.16 108 1.389
2004 31 ATL (http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/ATL/2004.shtml) NL (http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/NL_2004.shtml) 13 9 29 29 1 0 0 0 172.3 198 86 82 15 65 87 1 3 760 3 2 4.28 4.31 101 1.526
2005 32 ATL (http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/ATL/2005.shtml) NL (http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/NL_2005.shtml) 5 3 12 12 1 1 0 0 69.3 74 28 27 5 18 27 0 1 284 0 0 3.50 4.40 126 1.327
See Carl Pavano for the definition.

Me too on the Sox following lead. :smile:

soxfanatlanta
08-31-2007, 02:43 PM
Geez, in all honesty I forgot about Mike Hampton. But still I wouldn't call that a fleecing either ('05 sucked, though).

Keep in mind he has not pitched an inning since 2005 and is getting paid $15+ million this year. I forgot how much Florida and Colorado are pitching in for this guy, but he's a bust any way you look at it.

Makes Contreas somewhat less painful, IMO.

drewcifer
08-31-2007, 02:56 PM
Keep in mind he has not pitched an inning since 2005 and is getting paid $15+ million this year. I forgot how much Florida and Colorado are pitching in for this guy, but he's a bust any way you look at it.

Makes Contreas somewhat less painful, IMO.

Contreras is much more painful. Florida got fleeced more on the deal to send him to Atlanta than anyone else.

Linky (http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/news/021118hampton.html)

soxfanatlanta
08-31-2007, 02:59 PM
Contreras is much more painful. Florida got fleeced more on the deal to send him to Atlanta than anyone else.

Linky (http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/news/021118hampton.html)

Main difference is that there is some chance JC couldcome back next year and be respectable. Hampton? Not gonna happen (TJ surgery).

drewcifer
08-31-2007, 03:11 PM
Main difference is that there is some chance JC couldcome back next year and be respectable. Hampton? Not gonna happen (TJ surgery).

#1 - I hope to God, not. Let him make his comeback somewhere else, if at all.

#2 - Mike has a 13 year career in the bigs with a career ERA under 4 and really good peripherals. He can still have value to the organization, even if he's not on the mound. We know his age. He's younger. He's better.

Jose? Not even close to any of the above and he costs more to boot.

itsnotrequired
08-31-2007, 03:40 PM
Atlanta has never paid anywhere near $100M either - $91 in 2003 was the closest they've come. And they got 101 wins and won the division by 10 games.

Atlanta's total payroll was $106 million in 2003.

And what does $100 million have to do with anything? That barrier has been broken only 9 times in the NL and by only 4 teams (Mets, Braves, Dodgers and Diamondbacks). Only the Mets and Dodgers have broken it more than once.

drewcifer
08-31-2007, 03:52 PM
Atlanta's total payroll was $106 million in 2003.

And what does $100 million have to do with anything? That barrier has been broken only 9 times in the NL and by only 4 teams (Mets, Braves, Dodgers and Diamondbacks). Only the Mets and Dodgers have broken it more than once.

How many times have we? What was the result?

You lob 'em, I'll hit 'em.

itsnotrequired
08-31-2007, 04:16 PM
How many times have we? What was the result?

You lob 'em, I'll hit 'em.

Huh? You stated "Atlanta has never paid anywhere near $100M" which is not only false but also a crummy benchmark as very few teams have paid over $100 million on payroll.

The point is Atlanta has been a "Top 5" payroll team for about 15 years now (dropped off considerably this season though). They paid top dollar and maintained a high level of play for many years.

drewcifer
08-31-2007, 04:33 PM
Huh? You stated "Atlanta has never paid anywhere near $100M" which is not only false but also a crummy benchmark as very few teams have paid over $100 million on payroll.

The point is Atlanta has been a "Top 5" payroll team for about 15 years now (dropped off considerably this season though). They paid top dollar and maintained a high level of play for many years.

I was speaking about complacency on the part of the players, not the front office.

Atlanta has had a high payroll on a consistent basis, sure - but do you see them throwing big $ to fix small problems? When was the last time anyone can remember Atlanta getting burned on a big, lopsided contract? Grossly overpaying? Getting bad results? They mind their farm system and spend on development along with identifying big league talent early and signing good contracts.

As a result, Atlanta has done a good job of both being a consistent division winner while not overpaying for that - paying probably a fair market amount for that success in hindsight.

Atlanta has never paid anywhere near $100M either - $91 in 2003 was the closest they've come. And they got 101 wins and won the division by 10 games.

The wins to player cost ratio in Atlanta has consistently been near 100% - This means there are marginally very few wins gained due to $ spent on player payroll as compared to the rest of baseball.

See?

Show me where you got $103 on player payroll also.

itsnotrequired
08-31-2007, 04:51 PM
See?

Show me where you got $103 on player payroll also.

Are you suggesting Atlanta has been paying "fair market value" over the last 15 years?

http://asp.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/salaries/totalpayroll.aspx?year=2003

voodoochile
08-31-2007, 04:55 PM
See?

Show me where you got $103 on player payroll also.

The Braves have consistently had one of the highest payrolls in baseball for most of the time you are referring to. Whether they cracked the 100M barrier is pretty much beside the point.

I wrote an article for this site talking about payroll and how it affects the chances to make the playoffs. Whether you agree with those points or not, the fact is between 1988 and 2003 the Braves had the 4th highest average payroll in baseball.

http://flyingsock.com/Columnists/Laffer/PayrollTable.htm

If you want to read the article, here it is too...

http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com/rwas/index.php?category=2&id=2414

drewcifer
08-31-2007, 04:58 PM
Are you suggesting Atlanta has been paying "fair market value" over the last 15 years?

http://asp.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/salaries/totalpayroll.aspx?year=2003

Yes, I'm not only suggesting it, I'm flat out saying it.

For the 3rd time - What were the results Atlanta has received for their payroll????? They are NOT overpaying. But this thread is about a natural tendancy to want more pay for success and money being tossed around as a stop gap to solve problems which is RARELY successful, and if it is, not long term (the point I made).

What in the blue hell are you missing?

The Braves are spot on in terms of wins gains in termed of $ spent! That includes late season moves, playoff bonus wins, ....everything.

If you don't get it by now, I quit INR.

*And I never said $100M is any kind of benchamark other than to try and get people to see we've spent it twice in a row and failed (it was a White Sox parallel).

SBSoxFan
09-02-2007, 08:19 AM
Yes, I'm not only suggesting it, I'm flat out saying it.

For the 3rd time - What were the results Atlanta has received for their payroll????? They are NOT overpaying. But this thread is about a natural tendancy to want more pay for success and money being tossed around as a stop gap to solve problems which is RARELY successful, and if it is, not long term (the point I made).

What in the blue hell are you missing?

The Braves are spot on in terms of wins gains in termed of $ spent! That includes late season moves, playoff bonus wins, ....everything.

If you don't get it by now, I quit INR.

*And I never said $100M is any kind of benchamark other than to try and get people to see we've spent it twice in a row and failed (it was a White Sox parallel).

One world series title, same as the Sox? Anyway, using Atlanta as an example to support your premise that tossing money around "as a stop gap to solve problems ... is RARELY successful, and if it is, not long term," seems contradictory.

I don't get your point either. So, you're either way over our heads or not explaining yourself clearly enough. :dunno: