Saturday, January 11, 2014

If I Were a Free Agent (National League)....

It's January, it's miserable weather outside, so how about a good ol' fashioned thought exercise?
If I were a free agent in baseball, and all teams were interested in me equally and money was equal, where would I go?

First let's set some ground rule assumptions and explain the methodology.  Assume that I'm 29 with a wife and a small child, so I won't be as interested in whoring around a town as if I were a 22 year old rookie.  Also assume that we would live either in the city or just on the edge of it, because I don't want to have to drive 60 minutes and fight rush hour traffic to get to the ballpark.

So here's four criteria that I would set up to evaluate each team if I were a free agent:
1.  Ownership (OWN) -- Do I trust the owners?  Is it a stable ownership situation?  I don't want to work for people that the community doesn't respect or like.
2.  Competitiveness (COMP) -- Let's say I'm looking for a 5 year contract as a free agent.  Is the team going to be competitive over the next 5 years?  I don't want to go somewhere and immediately have the team go into a rebuild.  This also factors in the farm system to replenish talent.
3.  Quality of Life (QOL) -- This is kind of an all-encompassing view of the city.  Is it safe?  Are there things to do, both recreationally and culturally?  How's the food scene (of course I'm factoring that in)?
4.  Stadium (STAD) -- I want to have a nice place to work so the stadium and the fans that contribute to the atmosphere are important.

I'm going to go through each of the 15 National League teams and score each of them in each category on a scale of 1 to 5.  Let's see where they all grade out.

15.  Miami (5 points)
      OWN (1) -- Basically, Jeffrey Loria is a detestable human being and a horrible owner
      COMP (1) -- The Marlins are bad now, their farm system is pretty bad so what-you-see-is-what-you-get, and Loria won't spend money to improve it
      QOL (2) -- Miami is dangerous.  It's also full of fake, plastic people.  I'm not Adonis over here, so the appeal of South Beach wouldn't appeal to me or my young family.  Only positive is that Florida has no state income tax, so cha-ching, more money for us.
      STAD (1) -- The stadium looks atrocious, that center field sculpture is an affront to good aesthetics, and it's hard as hell to hit homers there.

14.  New York (8 points)
       OWN (1) -- The Wilpons are not vile like Loria, but they got mixed up in the Bernie Madoff thing and lost a ton of the Mets money, thus crippling the franchise.  They also make a lot of bad baseball decisions on big money guys.
       COMP (2) -- The Mets have some pieces in play on the team, especially on the pitching side, with more on the horizon.  They should be spending around $150M per year, since they're a New York team, so you have to think that spending will increase at some point.  However, a cloud still hangs over the team on the finances.
       QOL (3) -- I'm not a fan of New York City, as I freely admit it's too big for me, but it is New York City.  There are a nigh-infinite amount of things to do and restaurants to sample.  The best actors are here for plays, TV shows, and movies.  But it's still NY and it's still dirty.
       STAD (2) -- Citi Field is kind of bland for me and it's a tough offensive environment, but it's new and clean and the fans are loyal.

13.  Milwaukee (10 points)
       OWN (4) -- Mark Attanasio seems like a pretty devoted owner that is willing to go for it when the opportunity presents itself like it did a few years ago.
       COMP (1) -- The Brewers are not going to be good in 2014, their farm system is terrible, and I think they have a long road to hoe to get back to the playoffs.  They need to sell off some bad contracts, trade some good players, and rebuild the farm.  Plus, I would not want to say I'm teammates with Ryan Braun.
       QOL (2) -- I have never been to Milwaukee, but I'm going to guess it's not a ton of fun.  The weather is kind of rough and I can't imagine there's a lot of culture vultures up there.  But, hey, sausages!
       STAD (3) -- Miller Park seems kind of sterile and I'm not wild about retractable roofs, but I have to imagine their fans are extremely loyal to the team.

12.  Philadelphia (11 points)
      OWN (4) -- I don't much about David Montgomery, but he sure seems willing to keep this team well-funded for the payroll.  I docked him a point for the seeming unwillingness to admit it's time to rebuild.  The Phils just keep getting older.
      COMP (2) -- This team is on the decline and their farm isn't very good.  However, they may try and buy their way out of trouble on the free agent market in the coming years.
      QOL (3) -- Philly has a lot going on, the food scene is good, plus it's situated well for a trip to NYC, Boston, or Baltimore for the family if we were interested.
      STAD (2) -- Citizens Bank Park is tiny and seems kind of sub-par for being new.  The Philly fans are notorious for being rude, inconsiderate, and obnoxious, plus quick to turn on players.

11.  Arizona (12 points)
      OWN (3) -- Ken Kendrick and his ownership group seem OK, but the team has had some questionable financial moves over the years, with a lot of deferred debt that hamstrung the team for a while.  Currently, they're funding the team adequately.
      COMP (3) -- I'm not a huge fan of the work of GM Kevin Towers, but he's active and always trying to improve (at least in theory).  They have a good farm to supplement the majors, too.  The team in the present will be competitive.
      QOL (3) -- Phoenix is really nice if you like a desert climate.  In the summer, when I would be here most, it's hot like a sauna which is kind of a bummer.  But it's always sunny, at least.  There's not a whole lot of culture to the area, but the readily available Mexican and Southwestern food would appeal to me.
      STAD (3) -- I've been to Chase Field when the roof was closed and it resembles an airplane hanger.  The fans are pleasant enough, but because many are transplants from elsewhere, I would never feel like there were "true" fans.

10.  Atlanta (13 points - tie)
       OWN (3) -- Liberty Media Group owns them, but they've kind of treated the Braves like a line item with a fixed budget that can't be exceeded.  They're also moving the stadium from downtown to Cobb County, kind of like the Cranberry Township of Atlanta, and forcing it all on the taxpayers.
       COMP (4) -- They have a solid front office and always seem to be steady.  They'll make a move or two, if they feel they have a chance, which is all you can ask for.  The farm is pretty down right now, but there's enough in ATL to keep it solid for the next few years.
       QOL (3) -- I've never had a burning desire to visit Atlanta.  We connected through there a few times, but that's it.  There's a lot to do and you're relatively close to the ocean for vacation.
       STAD (3) -- As mentioned, the Braves are leaving the 1996 Olympic-built Turner Field for greener pastures in Cobb County.  There will be a new stadium while I'm there as a theoretical free agent, but who knows what it will be like and what the fans will be like.

9.   Cincinnati (13 points - tie)
      OWN (3) -- Bob Castellini seems pretty solid and he's kept the Reds well-funded.  They definitely have an upper limit on their payroll, though.
      COMP (4) -- The Reds are going to be there for the next few years and they have a few impact pieces still on the farm, even if the overall farm is so-so.
      QOL (3) -- Cincy is kind of a mirror image of Pittsburgh, but it can get a little rednecky in spots, too.
      STAD (3) -- Great American Ball Park is kind of cheesy and it's a bandbox, but their fans seem pleasant enough.  The tiebreaker is basically, 'would I rather live in ATL or CIN?' and it's come down to CIN.

8.   Washington (14 points - tie)
      OWN (5) -- The Lerners keep the Nats well-funded and want to win.  They're a premier destination for free agents because of the willingness to spend.
      COMP (4) -- The Nats are going to be good for the foreseeable future, but their farm is kind of blah.
      QOL (2) -- Washington is congested, humid as hell in summer, and government driven 1st, 2nd , and 3rd.
      STAD (3) -- The park looks nice, but Anacostia is sort of a neighborhood in transition.  The Nats are still "new" to the city and it's seems like most people that attend are lobbyists entertaining clients.

7.   Los Angeles (14 points - tie)
      OWN (5) -- Stan Kasten and the Guggenheim will spend whatever is necessary. They are the Yankees of the West.
      COMP (4) -- The Dodgers are going to be contenders, but they could get to be a conglomeration of all-stars and not a true team.  The farm is so-so, at best.
      QOL (2) -- LA is a sprawled-out mess that is also full of fake people, mostly transplants trying to parasite off of someone else in the city.  There's a lot to do, but no one to befriend to do it with.
      STAD (3) -- Dodger Stadium has a nice setting, but it sits in a sea of asphalt.  Their fans are basically hooligans and the ones that are normal come late and leave early.

6.   Colorado (14 points - tie)
      OWN (4) -- The Monforts seem solid, even if the one likes to do a little drunk driving, and pride themselves on having a high-character team that makes the region proud.
      COMP (2) -- I don't know if the Rockies have a direction to the franchise right now.  The team seems in lost on the competitiveness spectrum at the moment.
      QOL (4) -- Denver seems like a cool place to live with a lot of recreational opportunities.  It does snow in April and in October, occasionally.
      STAD (4) -- Coors Field has a good setting, even if it is mammoth, and the fans seem passionate.

5.   San Diego (14 points - tie)
      OWN (3) -- The Pads ownership has been in flux in recent years with the John Moores to Jeff Moorad transition falling apart. Ron Fowler recently bought them, but doesn't seem to be putting a lot of money into them.
      COMP (2) -- I have even less idea what direction the Padres are going.  They are trying to compete, but seem to have a ton of holes.
      QOL (5) -- If there's a perfect climate in the United States, it's here.  Great food, great climate, right on the beach.
      STAD (4) -- I really love the look of Petco, even if it is an offense suppressor.  Do the fans care about their sports teams with a beach at their beck and call?  For the tie between the 4 teams, it came down to living in a perfect climate.

4.  Pittsburgh (16 points - tie)
     OWN (3) -- Bob Nutting seems like a good person, but as an owner does not seem like he will ever fully invest to attain or retain all the necessary pieces.  This is a small-market team that will need to reload and occasionally totally rebuild.
     COMP (4) -- This team is built to compete right now and have a completely loaded farm to augment the talent as needed.
     QOL (4) -- Admittedly biased, but there's plenty to do in Pittsburgh.  It's very safe for kids, too.  Only the suspect climate loses a point here.  Low cost of living means you can stretch those FA dollars, too.
     STAD (5) -- PNC Park is pretty much a perfect ballpark with a perfect setting looking over the river and the city.  When the Pirates are winning, the fans will be ultra-passionate.

3.  St. Louis (16 points - tie)
     OWN (5) -- The Bill DeWitt group plows an unbelievable amount of revenue into the team and seems to make all the right baseball decisions.
     COMP (4) -- The Cards are going to be contenders for a long time, as their farm has given the team a ton of young talent to build on.  The farm is drying up a little bit, though.
     QOL (3) -- St. Louis is kind of dangerous in spots and there's not a ton of stuff to do.  It's a good, solid Midwest town, though.
     STAD (4) -- Busch is a very nice stadium and their fans are some of the best in baseball.  Just not a great view, though.  St. Louis won the tiebreaker because I think they're a better bet to stay a winner longer than Pittsburgh.

2.   San Francisco (17 points - tie)
      OWN (5) -- Peter McGowan and company have re-invested every dollar from their World Series run back into the team and kept the payroll high.
      COMP (3) -- The Giants are full of graybeards and kept players out of blind loyalty for past glory (Lincecum).  They need a rebuild, or at least a reload, and have a bad farm.
      QOL (4) -- Ton of things to do in San Fran, lot of great food and recreation, but...earthquakes.  Plus living in San Fran there's a high cost of living.
      STAD (5) -- AT&T Park looks absolutely gorgeous and you can hit a homer into the Bay.  Giants have very passionate fans.

1.   Chicago (17 points - tie)
      OWN (4) -- Tom Ricketts has a ton of money, but he seems hesitant to use it.  Also seems to be holding the City hostage for Wrigley improvements.
      COMP (3) -- The Cubs aren't great now, but their farm is top-notch.  It's only a matter of time before the Cubs start spending a ton of money.
      QOL (5) -- Chicago has everything you would want, as it's a major city.  The climate can be rough at times, but the food and the culture more than make up for it.
      STAD (5) -- It's Wrigley.  Baseball, at least the baseball from the good days, is meant to be played in a place like this.  With all of the Cubs' misery, the fans are undyingly loyal and passionate.  The lack of earthquakes and the city of Chicago are why the Cubs would be #1 spot.

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