For fans of the Phillies and Yankees, this is an exciting week. For fans of the game in general, this could be a lot of fun. But for a pretty significant group of fans, they really only care about their team, and anything that does not involve their team isn’t particularly interesting. For those people, the playoffs can’t end soon enough, so that their team can go about making trades and free agent signings and the like. Right now, they’ve got nothing.
So, I have a proposal. Since Fox wants to drag out the playoffs with interminable off-days that serve no purpose to the fans, let’s create something for the fans of the other 28 teams to enjoy during the end of October. And what do fans enjoy more than hot stove roster mongering? Thinking up ways to get rid of the one guy on the roster they hate more than anyone else.
The solution is obvious – the 28 teams that don’t qualify for the World Series send their General Manager to a large conference room, not unlike what the NFL uses for the draft. Each GM brings one contract, places it in a pile, and prepares for Bad Contract White Elephant.
You’ve all participated in some kind of White Elephant Christmas exchange, I’d imagine. This would be just like that, only the “gifts” would be albatross contracts. Alex Anthropolous would bring Vernon Wells‘ commitment. Brian Sabean would bring Barry Zito’s deal. Jim Hendry would show up with the Alfonso Soriano contract. You get the idea.
Can you imagine how much fun it would be watching Billy Beane reach into a stack of contracts praying to come away with one of the more innocuous deals (Pat Burrell?), only to end up pulling a budget buster like Todd Helton, and then spending the next several hours trying to convince Josh Byrnes to steal Helton in order to not risk getting stuck with Wells, Soriano, or Zito?
Watching the strategy play out would be amazing. Does Dave Dombrowski dump the $10 million he owes Dontrelle Willis that will return him no value or the $18 million he owes Magglio Ordonez that will return him some value? If you have the opportunity to swap Jose Guillen for Carlos Lee, do you take on the extra money in order to get a player who can actually help your team, or do you reach into the stack and hope to come away with something better than either? What GM actually puts a good player in the pot just because he’s not particularly good at judging player value? (Okay, this would probably be Dayton Moore).
Seriously, who wouldn’t watch this? Bad Contract White Elephant would be a ratings bonanza. They could even set it up where all the ad revenue generated through the television rights would be applied directly to the bad contracts themselves, giving baseball a way to get revenue from guys who are generally despised by their fan base.
Make it happen, Bud – this could be the single greatest innovation of your reign as commissioner.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.