Roth: Managing the unmanageable

From David Roth at Baseball Prospectus on November 5, 2019:

There was no golden age of baseball ownership, just as there was never really much of a golden age of Wealthy Men Behaving Responsibly. The very richest Americans never really bothered with baseball teams, which have always been more downmarket and difficult than yachts, which left team ownership to local swells. These very rich people were every bit as petty and selfish and grandiosely mediocre as their much richer peers, but they did at least have the appropriate regional accents. Their misgovernance and recklessness and self-thwarting determination to grind the labor force into dust had a certain terroir to it, and while that odiousness cannot in any reasonable way be described as charming—there’s just no sentimentalizing, say, Marge Schott issuing sozzled Hitler apologetics while her enormous dog took mountainous dumps on the infield—it at least had the decency to be weird.

And while the peevish ongoing capital strike in Major League Baseball that ownership has undertaken over the last few years has inarguably been strange and unsettling to watch, it has decidedly not been weird. More or less every team has adopted the same rhetoric and set of values—flexibility, sustainability, efficiency—most of which don’t quite qualify as values at all, and all of which stop notably short of an actual and actionable commitment to winning. The rich people that own MLB’s teams are still drawn from the same caste of real estate ogres and financial services creatures and other familiar stripes of wealth-goblin, but the face of the sport has smoothed and flattened into the recognizable image of a pink man in a blue dress shirt worn open-necked under a darker blue blazer, setting expectations and confidently refusing to commit to anything at all. Which leads us to the New York Mets, and the unusual position of giving the team’s infamous and oafish and relentlessly sloppy ownership credit where credit is due.

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Originally published: November 5, 2019. Last Updated: November 5, 2019.