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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Extra Innings: Spend more money

Big-market teams should spend like it.

extra innings-henry blickenstaff

        I am well aware that just last month, I went on a tirade claiming that baseball was broken because of the lack of spending limits. But, just because I don’t like the system doesn’t mean certain teams aren’t stupid for not taking advantage of it. Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs — I’m looking at you.

These are two of the most popular sports franchises in America playing in two of the largest media markets in America. Both have parlayed that combination into insanely high revenue. You’d think that would correlate to high spending, but the Cubs and Red Sox payrolls ranked 11th and 13th in baseball last year, respectively. 

These clubs’ lack of spending has been in the news lately. On Tuesday, Rafael Devers, Red Sox third baseman, spoke to the media, calling out the front office through a translator for not giving the team enough support.

“They need to make an adjustment to help us players too, to be in a better position to win,” Devers said.

Given that a lack of starting pitching has crippled the Red Sox for several seasons, he was probably referring to the fact that the only real help Boston has gotten this offseason in that department is Lucas Giolito, who had an ERA near 5.00 last year.

It’s not just this offseason, either. Since their 2018 World Series win, Boston’s most notable free agent signing has been Trevor Story, and let’s just say that hasn’t been a great story. I guess the front office was too busy trading Mookie Betts, a trade which was more or less encouraged by ownership as they were unwilling to spend what it took to keep him in Boston.  

As for the Cubs, the purchase of the team by the Ricketts family in 2009 has been largely beneficial compared to the tenure of the negligent Tribune Company, the previous owners. But since the Cubs’ 2016 World Series title, by far their biggest free agent signing has been Dansby Swanson and, overall, they’ve consistently shied away from swimming in the deep end of free agency and the trade market. This offseason, the club played a stupid game of chicken with free agent and 2023 Cub Cody Bellinger, and although they re-signed him for three years at $80 million, the contract allows Bellinger to walk after either of the first two years.

If you read that and thought that ownership lacks money, you’ll be surprised to learn about the Ricketts’s many recent financial undertakings; the family embarked on a $550 million renovation of the historic Wrigley Field in 2014, bought substantial property surrounding the park. They’ve turned Wrigley and the public space adjacent to the park, Gallagher Way, into a ‘baseball Disney World’ and a huge cash cow. Did they really make this investment to avoid spending big money on players?

Despite effectively being able to print money, Ricketts suggested on Monday that it would take even more revenue to increase spending and the team was reluctant to exceed the competitive balance tax threshold. He also praised the Arizona Diamondbacks for their playoff run on a low payroll. With all due respect to Arizona, the Cubs have no business following the Diamondbacks’ model, given the massive revenue gap between the two teams.  

Big-market teams should not behave this way. The devotion of Red Sox and Cubs fans makes the team owners obscene amounts of money and the owners should spend that money on putting together a consistently competitive team. They owe it to the fans.