So over the weekend commenter Tombo wrote in and in short, said the Nats better get good quick or they might not be in Washington for long. Anyone who follows the Nats knows that this is pretty much nonsense, but occasionally it's good to go over why - especially if there are people reading the blog that don't follow the Nats.
To start Tombo's most general point is fair. The 2011 Nats scenario, spend a ton of money on questionable contracts, win nothing, draw nobody - IS unsustainable. However, that doesn't mean relocation is on the horizon. Let's review why.
- First off losing money isn't a big deal if the owner is ok with losing money. The Lerners are worth billions of dollars. If the Nats were losing 20 million a year (a staggering sum) they'd have to lose it for 50 years in a row for the Lerner's to lose 1/3 of their estimated wealth. Because the Nats ownership main business is not the Nats there isn't the same impetus to sell if things go badly for a while.
- And things haven't been going badly for a while (not money wise anyway) The 2011 model is just that, the 2011 model. Prior to last August the Nats had really made one big financial move, paying for Strasburg. They signed no big contracts and actually walked away from paying large bonuses to draft picks. From 2007 through 2009, they had one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Upping spending a bunch the Nats are still only 22nd in payroll. So even if they are losing a bunch of money now, it's a now thing, not an ongoing thing.
- And they probably aren't even losing money now. Teams rarely just earn money from tickets sales. The smarter owners get sweetheart stadium deals from the gullible public and rake in the cash through concession deals, parking, local real estate, TV and radio deals, etc. etc. Add to that the fact that the Lerners are infamous for not letting Bob Cracthit put some extra coals on the fire and you end up with a team that is actually likely generating cash, not losing it. Forbes estimates the Nats are 2nd in operating income among all teams. Money is not an issue.
- And even if it was an issue there are lots of other things to consider for a team to leave. Stadium leases need to be broken. TV deals reworked (the Nats are intertwined with the Orioles on MASN, and no way Angelos is going to give away a cash cow without a protracted legal battle) division alignment maintained, where would the team move (the ownerhsip is locally based). Not to mention that having baseball in the nation's capital was a long term goal of Bud Selig and baseball in general. There is far more impetus for the team to stay and if the owners were losing money and wanted to get out (they're not and they don't), first thing would be a sell off of the team - not a move.
- Because of the stories of the "Greatest Generation" of baseball, we think relocation is more of a threat than it really is. From 1953 to 1972, a couple decades, 10 teams relocated, but that's the exception. Between 1903 and 1953 - two teams relocated. From 1972 to now - 1 team has, and that took a concerted effort from MLB to destroy baseball in a city (but we won't go into that again).
Relocation is not a threat. It just isn't. Could it ever be? Maybe, but we're a couple decades away from that. Hopefully the Plan expects success in that range of time.
Say hello to the Chris Marrero you have, not the Chris Marrero you want. Can he hit for average? Maybe. Can he hit for power? Doubtful. Even though he's young the trending in the minors is all in the wrong direction. There are a bunch of great first-baseman out there. The market for the mediocre-fielding singly-joe first baseman died with Frank Chance. (where are the Frank Chance defenders!)