Well At Least You Won't Starve, Brewers Fans
When I was at university there were many days, weeks and months when I’d have to live within a very strict budget and not step outside the margins of that thrifty policy. That framework often meant eating stuff I didn’t care for and refraining from spending money on the temptations of recreation or good food and drink. I definitely didn’t enjoy having to say ‘No’ most of the time, but it was for good reason. I simply couldn’t afford those luxuries at the time.
That same mindset may be what the Milwaukee Brewers are trying to apply to their offseason. At a time when clubs like the Los Angeles Dodgers are spending wildly, some teams are going in the reverse direction when it comes to payroll and finances. Many factors, such as local TV contracts, separate clubs and their financial capabilities, and Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has been critical of the lavish spending in baseball in the past. The baseball world recently saw the Dodgers sign starter and former Brewer Zack Greinke to one of the largest contracts in baseball history. Meanwhile, the Brewers are saying they can’t get to a third year on a potential contract for third-tier starting pitcher Ryan Dempster. Obviously, the financial imbalances in baseball make for a tilted, warped and somewhat obscene marketplace. Nevertheless, according to GM Doug Melvin, the Brewers’ plan all along has been to wait for the market to come to them, down to their level, as it were.
The only problem with that approach, really, is that it’s hard to know when to strike, and a team doesn’t want to be left without a seat at the table. It’s not as if a path to winning is paved by spending money but a team likely has to spend something to fill holes, and a small-market team needs to spend wisely, exponentially more wisely than the fat cats. I certainly don’t blame the Brewers organization for trying to be patient in a madcap market where many teams are throwing money around willy-nilly. It has to be a challenge to take a public-relations hit and just hold back, do nothing but due diligence. Is it difficult to accept this as a fan who helps support the team? Absolutely. Seeing guys like reliever Jason Grilli come off the board is frustrating, especially after the bullpen horrorshow of 2012. At the same time, I can understand why the Brewers would be hesitant to throw several million dollars per year at a reliever who could just as easily stink next year as shine.
Without going into the question of whether the Brewers actually lost money in 2012, I would say that, as a fan, I would have preferred some advanced warning about this offseason’s course. I didn’t expect the team to go out and sign Greinke or to spend like one of the big boys. I also didn’t see them being as frugal as the Miami Marlins when it comes to free agency. As the Kansas City Royals proved last night, the ‘price of pitching’ is very, very high. Brewers fans and the organization itself may just have to take a principled stand and say: 1) The team (and by extension, the game itself) cannot handle these astronomical prices and the disparity of resources thereby implied, and 2) There is nothing about which to be ashamed if you must go dumpster diving and eat frozen pizza. We can just assume there’s no chance to get Anibal Sanchez or even Jair Jurrjens. I would encourage Brewers fans to lower expectations for this offseason right now, if those expectations are not already sunk below the surface. Then, if something does happen on a grander scale, it will be a major surprise. As it is, no news is good news, because while it’d be nice if the Brewers made a move to improve, I’d rather them wait it out than make a catastrophic mistake in this perilous market.