Friday, November 13, 2020

Spending Wisely is Cool

Nice feature on former Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill in the New York Post yesterday. He was the first person interviewed by Sandy Alderson for the same position on the Mets. If the reporting is correct, he's still the only one the Mets have interviewed for the position. That might be the case, or it might be indicative that the organization does a lot better job of not leaking everything that happens to the press any more. According to Mike Puma, the piece's author, the final selection will be made in the next week to 10 days, so I'm assuming there will be names of other interviewees popping up shortly.

Hill did a good job with a very small budget in Miami, and I guess the thinking is he could utilize the creative thinking he developed working for the Dollar General of Major League Baseball while enjoying a real budget. The Mets haven't really done a tremendous job of finding value in the marketplace, particularly when it comes to building organizational depth, so Hill's skills in that area could provide useful. It's going to take some years before the farm system builds into a dependable pipeline of talent. In the meantime, talent is going to have to be mined from other places.

Sandy Alderson didn't have a large market budget when he was GM of the Mets. He also didn't have a really great track record of finding value with his free agents signings, as Joel Sherman noted in the Post. I never blamed Alderson for everything that went wrong during his tenure, by that point I don't think anyone could have come in here and made much of a difference. The Wilpons with money to spend were a large enough obstacle to the Mets success, without money it was pretty hopeless. Still, if the Alderson regime did a better job of finding value with the money they did spend, things could have been at least a bit better.

That's basically why I'm not rooting for the original band to get back together again. J. P. Ricciardi can stay with the Giants as far as I'm concerned, and Paul DePodesta can stick with the Browns. As a group, they did a nice job improving scouting and development with the limited resources ownership handed them, but they fell short when it came to getting maximum value out of what they were given.

The point of hiring Hill or someone with similar experience would be to utilize those abilities to get maximum value out of whatever money the team has to spend. Even if Steve Cohen allows his baseball people to run the largest payroll in the game, it would still be important to spend it wisely. At his press conference, Cohen mentioned that he could give his people permission to spend on multiple top free agents, and the likelihood would be that 5 years down the road the team finds itself saddled with a bunch of bad contracts.

Cohen was right, of course. Spending wisely at the top of the market is important. You have to plan ahead intelligently if you want to be competitive year after year. You have to consider the implications of that contract all of the way through. If the system does its job of producing good and great young players, you need to plan ahead for what it might cost you to keep some of these players long-term — so important to building a team identity. These decisions can really impact sustained success.

But it's also important to find value to fill out your roster. A team's success in finding value lower down the roster is likely going to be the difference between having a good team and having a great one. That's why, at least to me, it's so interesting to watch for who Alderson is interviewing for the baseball operations job. Hill is a guy that has a track record of finding value without a huge budget, and that's still going to be a desired skill even without extreme payroll constraints.

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Speaking of spending money wisely, I find myself continually looking for ways to spend less on conventional tv. I left cable tv behind for YouTube TV a couple of years ago, and at some point after Christmas I'll take a look at other streaming services to see if I can save some more with someone else. I find myself watching less and less tv from the major networks and cable networks, and more streaming programs.

Mets baseball is important to me, and I'm lucky in that regard when it comes to YouTube TV. Where I live in Connecticut, the Yankees and Red Sox dominate, with a significant minority of Mets fans. Yankees fans lost the YES network a while back. As far as I know, other than cable, the only streamer that still has YES is DirectTV's streaming service, which is almost as expensive as cable. Red Sox fans just loss NESN from YouTube TV, and will have to go elsewhere to watch Red Sox games next season.

Regional Sports Networks are some of the most expensive channels on any cable or streaming package, and you don't really have any choice in how you pay for them. They're either in your package or not, and you still pay for them even if you're not a fan. Because of that, more and more TV providers, whether cable or streaming, are not willing to pay the exorbitant fees these RSNs charge. It gets increasingly harder to find a package with your team's RSN at a reasonable price. It wouldn't shock me if the same thing happened to SNY on YouTube TV that happened to YES and NESN, and then I'll have a choice to make.

I read with interest this piece by Evan Drellich in The Athletic this week. Rob Manfred felt that not having fans in the stands at games this past season caused lower than usual tv ratings for the sport:

The 2020 regular season on regional sports networks ended with the 29 U.S.-based clubs averaging a 3.0 household rating, down 12 percent from the 3.4 rating a year ago.

This was in a year that more people found themselves stuck at home with less to do, so this number seems quite significant to me. Manfred can blame it on a fallout from not being able to attend games, and maybe he's right, but I have to think at least some of the decline came from people not willing to pay for more expensive tv packages that included their club's RSN, especially if they suffered a negative impact from the COVID-19 epidemic.

Sports is one of the few things on tv where a significant number of people watch live and sit through commercials. Advertisers value these networks highly. That's part of the reason that RSNs are willing to spend so much for the rights to carry a team's games. They also charge the cable and streaming providers a hefty fee for the rights to carry the service, and that fee is charged per subscriber, whether they watch that channel or not. The people who run these RSNs know that fans of a team will be unlikely to use a service that doesn't carry their channel.

With more an more people cutting the cord, including even older people like me, I wonder how much longer this model will be sustainable. To tell you the truth, if YouTube TV drops SNY, I might just sign up for a VPN and use MLB.tv to watch Mets games by disguising my location. (Google it, if you're interested) That would be a pain, but I'm kind of tired of the idea where SNY is the deciding factor in how I consume tv. Baseball has profited for quite a while from huge broadcast rights fees, but they've been painfully slow to adapt to the changing way that people consume content these days.

When I was younger and single, I was hardly ever home. If that was today, I wouldn't be willing to pay even what it costs to get a streaming tv service. If I didn't have access to Mets games, I likely would just stop watching them for a while. I'm sure plenty of folks who are that age and stage of their life now who are happily living without access to SNY. It really seems to me that baseball needs to find a better way to make a team's games available to a broader spectrum of consumers. The current model makes less sense every year.

Thanks for stopping by and spending some time here today. We'll be posting new content in this space throughout the offseason. It's a great time to be a Mets fan, and all of us who have stuck with this team for more than a few years certainly deserve that.

Please stay safe, be well and take care. Let's go Mets!


 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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