Last season the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds had identical records—67 wins, 95 losses.
Both teams had managers who had never managed before, fired them, and replaced them with managers who have never managed before.
Both teams had the second-worse starters ERAs in their respective leagues. Cincinnati’s was 5.02, Texas’s was 5.37.
Both teams are coming off seasons where attendance dropped dramatically as a response to their teams’ poor play on the field.
So, both teams came into the offseason in similar situations. But each has taken a different path.
The Rangers have decided to throw in the towel and stink for another year or two. They have populated their rotation with bargain-barrel sore-arm pitchers whose only job is to get them to 2022 or some other mythical point in the future when the Rangers will be good again. And they weakened an offense which wasn’t all that strong to begin with.
The Reds, on the other hand, have decided to try to field a competitive team. (In fairness, though, it should be pointed out the Reds have finished last five seasons in a row.)
Yet the Reds are the ones being criticized by the baseball “experts” for their approach. “They aren’t going to make the playoffs, so why are they wasting the money?” is the prevailing thought.
And that, in a nutshell, is everything that is wrong with the game of baseball right now. No, scratch that, not the game of baseball, which is too beautiful to kill, but everything wrong with the industry of baseball right now.
This thought that teams should tank and have long rebuilds is totally disrespectful to fan bases and paying customers. Which might be exactly why there are fewer and fewer paying customers.
Even if your team is going to be bad, you want heroes to root for. You want to think you have a chance to win that game. That your team is actually trying to win a game—not the players on the field, of course they are trying, but the front office.
When teams are no longer trying to win, it cheapens the game. It dims the light.
The question teams ask shouldn’t be, “What’s the point in paying for star players when it’s not going to translate to significant movement in the standings?” but rather “What’s the point in fans turning on the TV or driving out to the ballpark to see the team that’s not even making an attempt to win?
You can’t take your fans for granted. And you can’t expect this erosion of your fan base to regenerate itself.
The Rangers had so much momentum. A football town was actually paying attention, was actually interested.
And they threw it away.
This is the tale of two cities. Two teams. Two very different approaches.
Let’s see how it ends up working for each of them.