The Tampa Bay Rays are off to the ALCS to face off with the Houston Astros, a sign that the Indians’ small market ways can work.
Do you know the one team in baseball that is worse off than the Cleveland Indians in fan support, fan attendance, revenue, and payroll? The Tampa Bay Rays. The Indians were 24th in payroll for 2020, the Rays, 26th with a difference of $9 million between them. The Rays heading into 2020 had the top-rated minor league system, while the Indians had the 12th. The Indians, however, improved their standing some with the Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger trades.
While fans are crying about re-signing an overrated (but quality player) in Francisco Lindor, it needs to be drilled into the heads of fans over and over and over again until they begin to realize that big-names don’t win in baseball. The best ran clubs do. This isn’t the NBA. One player cannot and has never changed the course of a team so much that it goes from the bottom of the basement to top of the charts overnight. It’s also not a sport that you can expect many people to come to the same conclusion on. A guy like Bryce Harper is paid gobs of money, but is only a career .276 hitter and has only hit 30 home runs three times.
Yet, he’s a six-time All-Star and is making $26 million dollars and for what? Mediocre numbers? Among award qualifying outfielders, Harper was 12th in home runs, 17th in RBI’s, 24th in batting average (36th with RISP). Granted, he was second in on-base-percentage and fifth in OPS. Why? Because he led all outfielders in walks (49) for 2020.
If you’re paying $26 million for a guy who walks, the Carlos Santana (47) is about to get paid.
The Rays and The Indians know the big secret about baseball, stars don’t win games. They’re good for marketing, sure. They’re good for growing fanbases to sell tickets or screen time. They’re not needed to win games. That’s the lie that fans don’t want to believe. This isn’t like any other sport in the world. This is a sport where the real MVPs are the President of your ballclub, the GM of your ballclub, and the Manager of your ballclub. If you don’t have three good guys in those three positions, your team is doomed, no matter how many All-Stars you boast.
The Indians didn’t lose their series against New York because New York had a higher payroll, they lost because their pitching fell apart. Their pitching that was league-leading and uber dominant in the 2020 season. No amount of money thrown at Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, or Yasiel Puig would’ve saved the Indians from that collapse.
The Indians are a brilliantly ran organization and if the Rays win over the Yankees on Friday night is proof of anything, it’s that smaller markets don’t need guys on mega-deals to compete.