With Opening Day closing in, we’re doing a few short posts on the major storylines that will likely dominate your conversations about the Reds this season. You can find the previous installment, about manager Dusty Baker's future, here.
So just exactly when did this small/big market dichotomy nonsense in baseball achieve its status as accepted wisdom? Without benefit of the available research handy, I would hypothesize that it was popularized in full force around the same time as Bud Selig’s organized campaign on behalf of ownership in the 1990s to extort states and/or municipalities into paying for all of the brand new palaces in and from which they make their millions of dollars. Throw in the fact that the Yankees organization began a contemporaneous run of on-field dominance—a run which almost never receives its proper attribution to smart player development and management—and voila: A myth becomes crystallized as fact.
Okay, sure, Cincinnati is smaller than New York City, but these things tend to be relative to the extent that every city that currently hosts an MLB team is a big market when compared to most of the rest of the country. Which is why you never saw Selig threaten to move the Expos to Canton a few years back. As long as Congress continues to let MLB run itself cartel-style via the anti-trust exemption, we will never know precisely how much each club rakes in annually. Fortunately for us, every year Forbes magazine does its best to provide some insight by estimating total values for all 30 teams. This year the Reds ranked 24th, at a value of $424 million, which is a 13% increase over the previous year’s estimate and well on its way to doubling Castellini’s 2005 estimated purchase price of $270 million.
This rather long-winded segue is to say that if we begin to hear Cincinnati Reds, Inc. question their ability to afford Votto's next contract, well, then the answer is “bull.” So the question becomes one of whether they should sign him, based on purely baseball reasons. And the answer to that question is: “Are you f*#@in’ kidding me?” This is a 6-win player with one MVP already in the case, an All-Star caliber season last year, and a player who will turn 30 in 2014. Throw in the fact that he plays good defense, shows no typical characteristics of premature loss of baseball skills, and holds that humble, plain spoken aura about him which is so amenable to the Midwestern fan base, and you have the very definition of Franchise Player. Go ahead, take a look in the dictionary. I’ll wait.
Though I just finished arguing that this wasn’t a monetary decision, let’s go ahead and take a glance at that, too. As of now, the Reds have a mere $30 million committed to salary in 2014 between Bruce, Cueto, Chapman and Marshall. Of the first-time arbitration-eligible class of that year, the most likely players due major increases include Stubbs, Leake, and Latos. (At least I hope these three will be due big arbitration bumps in 2014 because it will mean they have been earning their keep by helping to win multiple NL Central crowns.)
Life after Joey is survivable, as any one player’s contribution to this team sport is inherently limited—look at this year’s consensus prognostications for the post-Pujols Cardinals for an extremely relevant example—but in this case, it’s just not particularly advisable.
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