I used to fantasize about winning the lottery and buying a major league baseball team. That was back in the days when a team's value was still within the reach of lottery winnings. These days, to use a winning lottery ticket to purchase a team you'll need that prize pool to rollover a couple of hundred times in order to get to the $700M to $2 billion dollar range. I think that's one of the reasons I, and many others, play fantasy baseball. We get the chance to do the things we wish the owner of our favorite team would do.
Owning a fantasy baseball team is fun, but it only scratches the surface of what running an actual major league team would require. There's so much more than drafting and trading players. Here are a few things outside of roster management that I'd implement if I were an owner:
- Feed the minor leaguers. It's often mentioned how a player's time in the minors is a grueling life of bus trips and fast food, but as an owner, one of the things I could change is the way minor leaguers eat. The days of post-game, reheated hot dogs would be replaced with nutritious meals of healthy food such as fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and low-sugar drinks. A typical minor league season runs approximately 130 games. It would cost around $500 to provide a meal for the 25 players and coaches. To give the team a healthy choice, and to keep them away from the fast-food, I'd provide the club with two meals a day. A mid-morning brunch-type and a post-game dinner. The cost would be about $130,000 a year. Throw in the cost of hiring a cook/nutritionist and the price should come in at around $200,000 a year per team. The Angels currently have 5 minor league teams (Orem, Burlington, Inland Empire, Arkansas, and Salt Lake), so the total cost would be slightly less than $1 million dollars a year (some teams less than 130 games a season).
What would be the benefit? Healthy players. A team spends millions of dollars scouting, drafting, signing, training, and developing, why not spend a little more to keep those valuable commodities in top condition? It would also increase and improve the development time it takes to get a player through the minor league system. If the player is healthier and able to play more often at a higher level, the team would be provided with more talent. Another benefit, although probably not very high for a teenage/early 20's player, would be sign ability. It could make a player who is having a hard time deciding on going to school or signing with a team to know at least they'll be fed decently.
- Improve the front office. There's been a lot written about WAR. WAR is now the stat many use to determine how a players overall performance rates to other players, but how about the front office? Wins Above Replacement at the front office level could be calculated on the moves a team makes. A good GM or scouting staff who consistently make good trades, or finds those prospects who develop into above average players creates wins for his/her organization. If a person from the player development department of a major league organization repeatedly provides players who help create wins, shouldn't that person also get credit for the win? Finding the top player development personnel would be a top priority if I were an owner, and to entice those top performers, I'd pay more. A lot more. If someone proves the ability to provide top talent, or even above replacement talent, they are worth as much as the player providing the in-game performance. I'm not saying I'd pay my scouts millions of dollars, but I would pay over and above the going salary scale to get the top talent working for me. To pay $300,000 for an extra win at the front office level is a bargain when the going rate for free agent players is approximately $5 million per win.
- Stop doing it the same way. Nothing is more frustrating than spending money on outdated things. You get a new phone, and 6 month later a better one comes along. That new, faster computer you bought last fall is now on clearance at Walmart for half of what you paid for it because the newer, faster model is out. As a major league team owner I'll refuse to pay for outdated things. Things like basing a player on body type or how hard he can throw, or using players in specific situations based on roles rather than matchups. My organization will embrace new thinking and those people who understand and acknowledge change. Part of the change I'd make in #2 would be hiring people who aren't necessarily baseball people, but common-sense people. People who can look at a situation from different perspectives other then "that's the way we've always done it".
- Embrace the internet. My team would make bloggers feel important...because they are. Sites such as Halos Heaven provide free publicity to the teams they cover, as an organization, why not help them do that? Obviously, not every site would get treated as mainstream publications do currently, but if a site gets above a certain level of page views and unique visits, they'd be given the opportunity to promote my team as much as possible. Seriously, what's the downside?
Editor’s Note: SBNation's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Wednesday night’s MLB games. It’s $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on Wednesday. Here’s the FanDuel link.