The Jacob deGrom Dilemma

The Jacob deGrom Dilemma

Jacob deGrom is one of my favorite pitchers in baseball. Despite playing for the horribly generally and personnel managed New York Mets, deGrom has been a winner pretty much since he emerged onto the baseball scene in 2014, with only one sub 500 year (7-8). He pretty much relies on a fastball and guts.

deGrom initially wasn’t considered part of the vaulted Mets Generation K, 2.0. That was the Dark Knight Fat Harvey, the acquired for Carlos Beltran Zack Wheeler, the acquired for Cy Young award winner knuckleballer R.A Dickey Noah Syndergaard, and the lefty in the pipeline Steven Matz.

Since then Matz has been hurt every 15 minutes, Syndergaard took the Thor name too seriously and messed up his body, Harvey was banished for being a mess, Wheeler Tommy Johned it up, and deGrom has hands down been the best of the bunch. The dude struck out an all star inning on 10 pitches. He won a Cy Young award with just above a 500 record. He had a season that, if on a good team, he may have won 35 games.

So clearly, as he approaches his big payday, it’s time to make Jacob deGrom super rich. Rich enough to not do those shitty TV commercials selling cars with his bad acting. And that conversation is the Jacob DeGrom dilemma.

Jacob deGrom is almost 31 years old. He has 5 professional season on his resume, so it’s not exactly like he’s overthrown and will have his arm fall off. But he also has two years of arbitration left. Also, He’ll make $17 million for the 2019 season. Assuming arbitration will give him the same or more, deGrom will have made at least $63 million dollars before he hits free agency. Considering the MLBPA pension plan, it’s safe to say that Jacob deGrom will never be poor.

And that’s something Mets fans have to consider. I like deGrom. He has heart. But he’ll be a 33 year old unrestricted free agent. What type of deal are you willing to give a 33 year old pitcher?

My opinion for a deal? 5 years, $110 million, and front loaded so that by year 3 he’s taken home $85 million, and after year 4 $102 million. Here’s the breakdown:

Year 1: $30 million

Year 2: $28 milion

Year 3: $27 million

Year 4: $17 million

Year 5: $8 million

Why the scale? Easy. Tradeabilty. I expect deGrom to be good until about age 35/36. You’re paying him to be good. There’s a strong chance that the Mets will not be good in 3-5 years, but I’ll discuss that later.

The final two years of that deal has terms that are more team friendly, meaning you can trade him. If he wants more security you can add on team options, but this is the extent I’d be willing to go.

Why?

Because I wholeheartedly believe that the Mets will suck for the foreseeable future. They’re majority owned by the Wilpons, who are absolute assholes. Here’s an example of said assholery.

Assholes

When asked if the Mets will be in play for Bryce Harper, one of the Wilpons – I don’t care which one because they’re both fucktards- said “How many teams carry two $30 million players?”

  1. A divisional rival, the Washington Nationals
  2. Your own team carries ZERO $30 million players
  3. At a $20 million standard, your same city rivals have 50% more guys at that price point
  4. Your same league rivals the Chicago Cubs have 100% more $20 million players than the Mets
  5. How many excuses do you have for being not good at baseball?

So we have deGrom looking at a team hoping their minor leagues becaue the owners have already declared that despite reaping insurance policy returns on David Wright and Yoennis Cespedes, they will not reinvest in the team. Also, this is an organization who hasn’t produced any worthwhile infielders players since David Wright and Jose Reyes and hasn’t produced a worthwhile outfielder since Darryl Strawberry. They will not fortify their lineup. The Mets owners came out and said “we can sign two major young free agents and still have a payroll lower than the Red Sox and Cubs but we chose not to, so FUCK YOU, FANS!”

We also have deGrom looking at a rotation that will be vastly different shortly. Expect a Syndergaard trade. It almost happened this winter. It will happen as he approaches a payday. Or maybe deGrom gets traded and the Mets keep Thor. Either way, these guys will not be long term teammates.

Wheeler? Traded by the Mets already for a former Met, to have the deal rescinded because the talent they acquired wasn’t healthy. Matz? Will never be healthy as a Met, despite having a sandwich named after him at the Seaport Deli in Port Jefferson. Harvey? Bust. The Mets could have acquired Gio Gonzalez this winter but instead felt that Jason Vargas was the better option. He isn’t.

So deGrom is largely an island out at sea, a winner surrounded by losers. Which brings us the the dilemma: what to do with Jason deGrom?

Do the Mets pay him? For what? They’re not going to win with him, because they don’t presently win with him.

Do the Mets trade him? For what? When you trade a star, you almost never get equal value. You usually get a handful of prospects.

Do the Mets ride his stardom out for three more seasons? I don’t think deGrom will do that.

What makes this interesting that deGrom’s former agent is the Mets GM. I can assure you in advance that such an idea will go down about as well as making a backup goalie your GM. But as deGrom’s agent, Brodie Van Douchery probably had ideas about what his client should earn. Think at least $30 million. As an employee of the Wilpons, he knows all he can offer is $34 and some subway tokens, maybe a few hot dogs from the walkabout vendors.

Dutch twat

If Brodie is a friend to deGrom- and agents should be, because agents do intake interviews to get to know their clients, the clients families, the clients needs, et cetera- he will trade deGrom to a winner.

If the Yankees sign Manny Machado, deGrom the the Yankees for Gleyber Torres plus seems a logical move. Do a Met thing and add Todd Frazier to the deal to unload salary in the process.

Personally, if I’m the Mets GM I make that deal where Frasier and Syndergaard go to the Yankees for Torres and their top OF and P prospect, then you add Gio Gonzalez to fill out the rotation. But I’d have to work for the Wilpons, and that would mean I’d be forced to take a turn on the mound every 5th day to reinforce the fact that our payroll is above average, but not intergalactic. Not even league leading.

So in short, do you sign a 31 year old to a 7 year extension paying him $200 million, maybe more? No, no you don’t. What you do is trade a Cy Young award winner for players and prospects. The last time the Mets did that they got Noah Syndergaard and Travis deArnold. Shockingly, deArnold was the key to the deal. deGrom is a little younger, so expect a slightly better haul. A position player, an OF prospect, and a pitching prospect.

If the Mets had a winning mentality, deGrom would be locked up already. They’d have signed Machado. They would have traded Amed Rosario for Realmuto. They would have traded Frasier and put Jeff O’Neil at 3rd. They would have traded Vargas for spare parts and signed Gonzalez. But these are the Mets. Big league enough to be in New York, small enough in New York to be Buffalo.

It’s an embarrassing organization and as I mentioned previously will most likely never produce another hall of famer. Mike Piazza was inducted as being tied to the Mets, but he wasn’t drafted or developed as a Met, which is why he was good. Not since Tom fucking Seaver was a Met a hall of famer. 50 years. One hall of famer. Fuck you, Wilpons.

If I was Jacob deGrom, I’d hope for a trade to a winner. If not, I’d take my free agent ass to Boston, Chicago, or across the Cross Bronx. Because the Mets suck, and will continue to suck. 80% of the last decade sub 500 can’t be wrong.

Everything Old is New Again

Everything Old is New Again

I’ve been going to Islander games live an in person for 3 decades. Before that I was relegated to watching them on my TV at home, on SportsChannel or on channel 9. Yeah, the Islanders used to play on the same station that ran Benny Hill, Bowling for Dollars, and Morton Downey Jr. I remember watching hockey with my Grandmother one day when a fight broke out on the ice. “Beat the shit out of him!” she cheered. I’m not sure exactly which guy she was rooting for as her comment isn’t exactly specific, but it dawned onto me at that young age that hockey is exciting to kids in single digits and seniors equally. Yes, everything that was old was new again.

That young boy got to watch one of the most dominant teams in hockey history. Witnessing 19 consecutive playoff series to younger fans is like Grandpa talking about the moon landing. Yeah, you read about it in books so you know it happened. But the folks that saw it? They EXPERIENCED it. I’m sure young people would tell me how awesome a Kanye West show is, and I’d smile and nod as to not diminish their enthusiasm, but in all honesty, no it wasn’t.

But back to 19 consecutive playoff series wins. I want to talk about #IslesKoolAid. For the large part, Islander fans under 30 have playoff memories consisting of a Shawn Bates penalty shot, and two players carrying the Islanders to a first round victory over the Florida Panthers. They may recall 1993, but they were 5, so I’m sure it’s not as sharp a memory as a good episode of Blue’s Clues.

But #IslesKoolAid loves to dismiss the glory days. Can you imagine a fan base so embarrassed about who it roots for that they discard their past? Could you imagine the ever arrogant Yankee fans saying “Well, you know, if you consider the dissolution of the Negro Leagues and the westward expansion and the absorption of the Continental League, then the Yankees only have 7 World Series in 45 years.” Oh, only 14% of all of the World Series won between 30 teams? Sorry Boston. You’ve got a ways to go.

My point- can you imagine a Yankee fan ever shitting on Babe Ruth? Yet here are Islander fans shitting on Mike Bossy and Brian Trottier and Clark Gilles and Billy Smith and Denis Potvin and Pat LaFontaine? Because clearly John Tavares is a better player. And who else could they root for since 1994? Bryan Berard? Claude LaPointe?

Here’s a true story. The year was 1990. I was an 18 year old asshole working at the newly opened K Mart in West Babylon, NY.  For the opening of the first K Mart on Long Island (which is now out of business over no fault whatsoever of mine) the company went all out, bringing in K Mart celebrity endorsees such as the beautiful even at her age Kate Smith of Charlie’s Angels and the race car driver Mario Andretti (I think. I give a shit about a sport I can do as well as professionals. I once did 130 mph on the Robert Moses. In daytime traffic. Top that, circle driving jerkoffs!)

I liked it better when it was TSS

Anyway, my job that day was to be security to the line that was there to see Pat LaFontaine. Pat was about 25 years old at the time, and would soon screw the Islanders over by demanding a trade based on a broken promise made by then owner John Pickett. The promise was about money, which Islander owners never like spending. I can’t blame them. Neither do the fans.

As I’m standing on line as “security,” I’m noticing that the crowd was mostly female, and mostly between the ages of 15-25. Let me say this- women have an instinct to throw their vagina at anything that can afford them the opportunity to not have to perform a moment of labor north of being in labor, but often south of such. I didn’t feel so useful warding off girls from a professional athlete, so I just took in my environment. And that’s when I noticed something. At 18 years old, I was 100% sure that I could kick Pat LaFontaines ass.

Don’t get me wrong. LaFontaine has taken tons of hits from pro skaters. He’s also taken tons of concussions. But as I stood there in a pair of Bugle Boy slacks and a tie borrowed from my Dad, I kept glancing back at Mr. LaFontaine. And I kept thinking “I could punch the shit out of that guy.” And at some point he must have noticed my frequent glancing, looking away, and thinking about beating his ass.

Understand at 18 I checked in at an unimposing 5’ 10” and 155 pounds. With a horrible moustache. Sure there were things that looked like abs and biceps, but at best there was a wiry yet angry quality that made the fight in the dog bigger than the dog itself. And I was absolutely certain that I could punch the shit out of this professional athlete.

You can see why I thought like I did…

As an aside, that same year I happened into meeting the Iron Sheik of pro wrestling fame. He was “old” and wrestling at a local high school (Copiague represent!) because he was suspended from the then WWF for a drug arrest. As I saw the Sheik in person I never once thought “I’d wreck that guy.” Probably because his lats were 60 feet wide.

The roughest, toughest…

As LaFontaine kept making eye contact with his goofy security guard, he looked increasingly uneasy and maybe even concerned. I remember the look on LaFontaine’s face like it happened at lunch today. He looked uncomfortable and awkward. It’s probably because he was thinking a lot about leaving Long Island. Just like when that 7 year old kid asked John Tavares about if he was leaving Long Island. 

Maybe he thought I was a Rangers fan. Maybe he thought he could skate without falling down. Whatever he thought, as his time for being paid to be around his fans expired, he never once offered the staff a private moment for autographs. I must have scared him off. Or he was an asshole.

Imagine a die hard Islander fan so disappointed by a player that he didn’t even want to ask said player for an autograph? Also, its not like LaFontaine is an inferior player. Sure, he couldn’t carry the jocks of the top 6 that came before him. And even though inferior to the Trio Grande, he’s still a Hall of Famer. Josh Bailey projects just about the same, because he’s elite. At inseminating.

Now that Kate Smith? Beautiful and charming. She took photos with the staff. And when I say photos, I mean cameras with actual film that need an effort to use. Not a cell phone camera…because no one invented them yet. Not even Joey Motorola.

At this point it’s fair if you ask what the fuck I’m talking about. And there’s a few themes here. Name the top 3 offensively gifted players drafted by the New York Islanders that never won a cup with the franchise. I don’t give a fuck who you thought of. Here’s my list.

  1. Pat LaFontaine
  2. Zigmund Palffy
  3. John Tavares

I put them in order of talent, in my opinion. Also, I feel that Pierre Turgeon- the guy Lafontaine was traded for- is better than all three. But we didn’t draft him, and we traded him for shit, so go live life, Pete.

Now, what do all three of those guys have in common? After leaving, none of them returned as players to the New York Islanders. Dudes drafted in the 1980’s, 1990’s and the 2000’s. Everything old is new again. And here’s the next thing- that’s not the only thing these guys have in common.

These guys were all at their time representatives of promise. Promise that they never delivered on. LaFontaine was the wheelman for the drive for five. Palffy was to usher in the Fisherman jersey era. Tavares was meant to revive the franchise, but just ended up slithering along the lawns of Long Island. They never made an impact. Old, new.

And they all share something else that Islander fans have all experiences at what I feel is an unusual rate. Two things, in fact. Feel free to disagree in the comment section. Here’s the list:

  1. If you have never scored an NHL goal ever, we got you.
  2. If we have a one goal lead and there’s 2 minutes on the clock, we’re going to ruin us.

The first one is an anomaly. I’ve never researched it, but I go to a lot of games, watch a lot of games, and had season tickets for years. Islander fans, how many times have you heard “(Opposing team) goal, his first of the season/career/posthumous scored by number…” It’s fucking stunning how often it happens. Every year. I can’t remember a year without multiple someones popping a cherry with us. Awful.

But the other one is more stunning. As previously mentioned, I watch a lot of Islanders hockey. I remember the days that whenever the opponent pulled his goalie, we just tacked another goal on. I was raised to believe that’s how it went.

Then it changed. I’ll say 1995 was a drop dead line. Suddenly, when the opposing team pulled a goalie, not only did we not grab an empty netter, but the other team scored. Especially if it was in the last minute. To be fair, that also happened a lot in tie games 5 on 5, so there’s assuredly a cultural issue.

TORONTO, ON – OCTOBER 10: Brett Lindros #75 of the New York Islanders skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during NHL game action in which he was completely fucking useless again on October 10, 1995 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)

But the stunning thing is this- the coach doesn’t matter. Good ones like Peter Laviolette, Ted Nolan, Barry Trotz. Bad ones like Steve Stirling, Butch Goring, Mke Milbury. Absolutely horrible ones, like everyone Garth Snow hired because he’s an insecure piece of shit. No matter the coach, we either fail to extend a lead or squander one once the extra attacker rolls onto the ice.

Now, for this season I expected Barry Trotz to fix this. Yes, he inherited just about the same defense that was both worst in the NHL last year as well as having the honor to be among the worst defenses ever assembled. But he has a system. He has goaltender coaches. He’s won a Stanley Cup, making him only the second ever active Islanders coach with a Stanley Cup, and as far as I can tell only the third ever guy to coach the Islanders that won a Stanley Cup in a head coaching capacity. Which sucks considering that they’re 46 years in the making.

As a fan, I am excited at the steps that Trotz has made in fixing this squad, but he hasn’t entirely fixed this issue. As an #IslesRealist, I think Trotz is doing a fine job in fighting a decades long uphill battle. Culturally, the Islanders were used to losing and needed a complete culture change. Actually, that’s an overused phrase. They needed a cultural overhaul just to do things like hit an empty net goal.

I mean, look at all of the losing the team has done in the last decade. They lost a voter referendum for a new arena. They lost their present home arena. They lost a draft pick to a mountainside. They lote Turgeon to a dirty hit and a bad GM. They lost a Hall of Fame goalie to a bad GM. They lost an all time wing to a budget. They lost adorable ice girls for a chunky analyst. They lost a GM to a backup goalie. They lost an all star to pajamas. And worst of all, they recently gifted us with a rolling 12 years to failure.

Despite their present success, this year is about growing pains. The Islanders are above NHL 500. But at the same time they’re evaluating a roster to see what stays and what goes going forward, although what stays is a remnant of the aforementioned 12 years of failure based on bad contracts. But that said, even with a new coach, a new GM, new player signings, this team hasn’t consistently been able to lock down a formidable opponent since before Bill Clinton was president. That’s something that good teams do. We haven’t been a good team since we were coached by Al Arbour, who is not only retired but also is permanently deceased.

Sure, you may be saying “But they’re in first in the Metro!” With 30 games to go. And they were first in 2015 with 13 games to go, yet somehow lost home ice and had a 3 more games longer than the shortest playoffs that you can have. And has this team has grown by leaps and bounds?

This team saw an opponent pull a goalie with 10 minutes to go, and managed an empty net goal in the last seconds of the game. Nine minutes. No goalie. No goals. I watched them do nothing against Minnesota when the Wild left a yawning net to dump into.

So how does this team of coach and GM fix that loser mentality? I have no answers here. I’m already hearing that the few of the games at the smaller and remodeled Nassau Coliseum for the 2018-19 season aren’t sold out. That fans are complaining about ticket prices. And I feel that there’s a correlation.

Let’s go back to 1995. The Islanders owner want to unload the team. Anyone interested in the team wants it solely for the land. Pigs at the trough. Spano. Wang. Maldecky. Most of those owners weren’t filthy rich. One of those owners was so non- filthy that White Castle felt like Peter Luger. So what did these skinflints do? Not spend on the team.

In fact, the preceding era into the early Wang ownership spent so little on the team that the NHL instituted a cap minimum. And Charles Wang’s genius was to find ways around spending for a product.

But every Isles owner- Wang included- expected fans to do what they would not. Spend money on the team. And when I say the team, I mean any roster out there. An owner makes $37 million from TV deals, $5 million from league revenue sharing, $3 million in advertising, and has a ticket gate of $30 million with a payroll of $40 million- below the cap floor but using roster bonuses to circumvent the cap- but when fans don’t spend, THEY’RE the bad guys?

So the origins of blowing late game leads comes from owners not investing in players as they implore the fans to invest in the team. This is a nice way of saying “we’re pocketing your cash and giving you a shit roster. Drink up!” And what came from that Immaculate Ingestion? #IslesKoolAid.

People, this is Trotz’s time. He needs a year- maybe two- to repair over a decade of stepping in elephant shit, which is what happens when Garth misses the bowl. Yes he inherited a team that sees 3 goals are a luxury. But they also have expiring deals coming up, some cap space and can really reshape this team at G, D and F.

#Loupon

And this is Lou Lamoriello’s time. Lou has decisions that are more pressing- the trade deadline- and less pressing- the offseason. He has a lot of current key players walking into unrestricted free agency. He clearly needs more offense, but his offensive prospects aren’t setting the world on fire. And he’s also facing losing 3 of his top 6 forwards, and has one restricted forward on the verge of a big payday, if NHL trends continue. He also has to think about this season being one to reset this team, or to make a splash at the trade deadline. So he has a ton of work on his table.

But Jesus Christ, look what it’s taking to shake off the loser mentality from this organization. Two hall of famers at their respective jobs, a billion dollar arena motivating owners, intervention from the Governor of New York, and 9 minute power plays.

I love the surprise that the Islanders have been this season. I’m not sure where this ends now. But they have to do more. This is good, but it’s not good enough. Because theres a remnant from the loser Islanders era- we’ve seen a glimpse of promise here and there, only to watch it go nowhere. So here’s hoping that unlike all of the other times, everything new isn’t old again.

Let’s hope these days are done
Josh Bailey will be Mr. Islander. That’s bad.

Josh Bailey will be Mr. Islander. That’s bad.

Currently the organization’s greatest players hold all of the significant awards. Some of those awards are totally made up. For example, Bobby Nystrom was known as Mr. Islander. Nystrom never really gabbed individual awards, but his tenacity made him the embodiment of what it means to be an Islander. The team still names an annual Mr. Islander as a legacy.

There is one player that should never be Mr. Islander, because it would mean that Mr. Islander is a cuckold. That player is Josh Bailey.

This brief piece will point out two things: one, Josh Bailey has never been and will never be among this organizations significant impact making players. And two, Bailey has a very strong chance of ending his Islander career with the most games played ever by an Islander, which is an insult to players who actually accomplished things.

First off, let me quote liberally from a piece I wrote entitled “Attendance Award.” Since I wrote it, I can steal the fuck out of it.

“I would argue that the most offensive stats Bailey has put up are “games played” and “points per game without playing next to John Tavares” because those stats are truly offensive.

We also have to address the elephant in the room. Hi Garth! And thanks to Garth, there’s this simple fact: if Josh Bailey plays out his present six year deal with the Islanders, he will have spent 16 years doing nothing with the same franchise. Why is that a big deal?

Understand that 6 years of a healthy Josh Bailey- healthy meaning 75 games a year- would place Bailey’s career total of games played at 1165. This number of games played would make Josh Bailey the all time leader in games played for the New York Islanders, surpassing all of the Islander Hall of Famers and legends.

You know, maybe with 1165 games, Bailey will close in on the top 12 in points.

Coattails

Can you imagine a player with as many games played with so few accomplishments? And I’m sure that #IslesRealists all recognize that the Bailey extension was the ultimate “Fuck you” to the franchise by Garth Snow, who is looking to get his fat ass attached to something in the records book somehow without doing much, as per usual.

But the point of this is not meant to bash Josh Bailey. Well, actually, it is, but even I have to pay respects to the next potential Mr. Islander. But how?

Bailey is accomplished neither offensively or defensively. He has a highlight reel that can play on Snapchat. In looking at some way to honor Bailey for a career full of nothing special, we have to dig deep into the well of meaningless awards. And what award is the most meaningless? A service award.

“5 Years on the Job!” What a shitty award. That’s no accomplishment. It means you knew enough to show up to work to grab 130 paychecks. “Perfect Attendance.” Great! You did the most basic element of what you were supposed to do, and perfectly! Sadly this is all Bailey has given us to work with. So we’re going to do that.

Introducing the first ever New York Islanders Attendance Award. And the initial recipient? Josh Bailey. In over 700 games, Bailey has failed to accomplish anything tangible in the form of successful, team lifting, awe inspiring results. Or even just scoring 20 goals in a season.

What he has done, however, is show up to work. So much so that he’s among the pantheon of Islander greats. For just showing up.

Sure, he hasn’t grabbed assists like the top 10 draft pick playmaker that he was promised to be. And no, he hasn’t scored goals on a clip equal to legendary 200 goal scorer Bob Bourne. His total points are also nothing to marvel over despite being in the league for a decade. And I can assure you he’s not leading the franchise in hat tricks. It took him a decade just to break into that club, the fucking zilch.

No, today we honor Josh with the only thing no one can take away from him: he knows where the arena is.

So kudos to Josh Bailey for finally being recognized both for his lack of greatness, but also his contractual perseverance to be listed sans accomplishments among the greats. Take a victory lap Josh. You’ve earned it. And see you at the rink for the next game…continuing your lifelong quest at being statistically insignificant.”

So there’s the first part of my thesis. Bailey is not an impact Islander. Part of that isn’t his fault. He was a first pick brought into a rebuild. And part of his lack of impact is his fault. As a rebuilding piece, there was probably better available.

Understand that Bailey will be in the top ten all time in Islander scoring if he lives out this contract. He’s about 100 points off from 10th place, and he has five plus years to do it. Even at non-coat tail riding pace, Bailey was good for 160 points in 5 years. Now that he’s got scorers who do the work for him, Bailey will probably end up passing Snake Tavares as a – GAG – top 5 scoring Islander of all time. He’s 202 points away from that, so if he finishes this deal the New York Islanders can proudly point to him and say “This is the next face we’d put on our Mount Rushmore, after Bossy, Trottier, Potvin, and Gillies. And a year or so like last year? He’d pass Gillies, too.

Now, the second part of my premise- why is this bad? Because what organization would want a player so unaccomplished to go down as anything other than what he is? A defensive liability. A coat tail rider. A guy that never achieved 20 goals. A guy with one playoff series win- of which he hardly contributed- in 11 seasons. This frankly is not what you want as the upper echelon of franchise history. This is the type of winning production that causes teams to relocate. Which has already happened in Bailey’s tenure. And may do so a second time.

This is bad because this is a team that had a drafted core that won a series of Stanley Cups. When Garth Snow had the same opportunity with 5 top 5 picks – including a 1st overall- who was the first building block? Bailey. And all we have to show for that Snow rebuild? Bailey.

Look at a team like St. Louis. The Blues have never won the Stanley Cup. That’s a franchise where Bailey belongs. Look at a team like Arizona. The Coyotes have never won a cup. There’s where a player like Bailey belongs. The Florida Panthers come to mind as a good Bailey spot. Instead we are saddled with a nobody that’s won nothing until his contract runs out because no one is trading for his scary talent. All we have to do is sit back and watch his assault on the Islanders record books slowly unfold. An assault as enjoyable like sexual assault.

As we wrap up, I want to leave you with this final thought. If you had to pick any 70 players in the NHL to form a travel team to bring hockey to other parts of the world and show them the best players in the game, does Bailey make that list? No, no he doesn’t. Does Bailey make a list of personal award winners? Not today. Championships? No. So understand that this inconsequential nobody is at some point going to be enshrined in team history as the one player that represented us the most. Not the best, just the most. He showed up.

Is that all we want from our team? For ourselves? Is that in any way satisfying?

Failing Owners Should Be Made to Sell their Shitty Team

Failing Owners Should Be Made to Sell their Shitty Team

By Dan Radzicki

People have dreams. For a LOT of people, the dream they have is to be a major league athlete. Maybe the Quarterback that leads his team to a win in the Big Game. Maybe it’s having the ball in the 9th inning to win the game. Or maybe you want to be the player that is first to hoist Lord Stanley’s trophy. Or hold that big metal basketball against your head because you were the next Jordan?

Not me. Nah.

Sure, when I was 13 I wanted to be the starting centerfielder for the New York Mets. But then I faced major league pitching at one point and realized it was time for plan B. I thought “maybe a coach?” So I tried that, and it was fun, but it came with limits. Coaches have short careers, and can’t manage a roster, so coaching was a fleeting thought.

The next want was General Manager. Anyone who has read the last near decade of these blogs on various platforms knows that I was 100% confident that I could do a better job with running the Islanders than Garth Snow. But who couldn’t?

However, walking from a different career into a GM spot is something that no team would do. After all, who would hire a guy with no experience to run an entire organization? They’d be a world class moron for such. #Wilpons #Wang Another dream deferred.

Thank god he’s gone.

What about ownership? Now, that’d be something awesome. But how to finance a sports team? Can you or I buy a sports team? Can we mortgage a house to buy a team? Can we get a few buddies to join in to cover the difference?

I was quoted in Newsday a few years back (https://www.newsday.com/long-island/liers-scoop-up-tickets-for-325m-powerball-jackpot-1.4257051) saying that if I hit a big Powerball jackpot that I would absolutely buy the Islanders and keep them playing in the Nassau Coliseum. That wasn’t a lie. Say I won and cleared $500 million and used all of the money to purchase the team. Financial advisors would say I’m stupid. It’s always a bad idea to put your eggs in one basket. Why would I do such a thing? As a Series 7 license holder, wouldn’t I want to keep a few bucks for myself instead of put my eggs in one basket? Wouldn’t I want to diversify? Save for a rainy day? Earn some profits from the investment?

If I bought a pro sports team, I just did.

Owning a major league sports team is akin to having a bank account with a crazy interest rate. Say I did spend the entire lottery winnings on a sports team. Would I be afraid of a downturn in value? Would I be afraid of my $500 million becoming $400 million a year or two later?

Not a fucking chance.

Look at that pig Donald Sterling that owned the LA Clippers. He bought that team for $12 million in 1981. He sold the team for 2 billion dollars. I’m not sure about how many investments earn 1400% in 30 years. Even if interest rates were 10% a year, it would take 140 years to see the same return. Of course you can add the value of the tax breaks, business write offs, annual profits, and you’re looking at the Clippers guy that hangs with gold digging skanks making money all the way during his ownership on top of his $1.988 billion profit. Well beyond $2 billion. So he earned 1800%? And won what exactly?

What about…well, just name the owner that lost money. These other rich shitbags that buy franchises, make some changes, usually fail, then sell to make a fantastic profit while simultaneously holding a city hostage for the new owner to come in and get a sweetheart deal. Oh, does that sound crazy?

Look at the deal New York State gave to the New York Islanders. There are lots of arenas within 20 miles in state of each other. There’s an arena in Queens. There’s an arena at Jones Beach. There’s a remodeled Nassau Coliseum. There’s a Barclays. MSG. So why was New York in such a need to build a Belmont, where the owners will PAY NO TAXES. NOT A DIME.

Do Long Island homeowners pay taxes? The highest in the country. Now you know why. We pay for rich assholes.

Do you think that two guys who agreed to a sale price with Charles Wang- another guy that vastly profited from owning a sports team- suddenly had to add a third owner because they didn’t have a bigger picture? They kept money in hand so that they could make a billion dollar investment for a new arena complex. And to stop paying taxes. And to increase the resale value of the team. After all, what’s the resale on a team with a Stanley Cup winning coach in a brand new 19500 seat arena with a hotel and shopping complex next to a major horse racing site that pays no taxes to anyone? With a Hall of Fame general manager? You think when Ledecky and Malkin sell the team- and they will- they’re not seeing a $2 billion return? You don’t think they’ll double their money? After Wang nearly tripled his? Pfft.

The astronomical returns these owners make are unmatched by hedge funds, companies that play with options, and other investments. Why? Because nothing appreciates without such unique circumstances. Cities want a team. That demand inflates a value from the get go. Cities with no teams will make plays to take your cities investment. Ask the salty fans in San Diego about football or heartbroken Hartford fans about how your team can be poached. Look out Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes! Why? Because another city will overpay to steal your brand and organization and history.

Just look at the expansion fee paid by the new Seattle NHL team, or the last fee paid by Las Vegas. Vegas dropped $500 million just to exist. That means that every other team in the NHL is worth more than $500 million. Seattle is paying even more. The baseline for owning an NHL organization is just about $700 million. Has any owner paid as much as $700 million dollars to field a team?

Check out the NFL Raiders moving to Las Vegas. Or the Chargers returning to Los Angeles. Or the Vancouver Grizzlies moving to Tennessee. Every time these team moves they became more valuable. BAD TEAMS SOMEHOW BECOME VALUABLE. Does your beat up jalopy gain value after 10 years of depreciation? No, no it doesn’t.

I begrudge none of this profiteering on the surface. It’s American to steal as much of someone else’s money as you can. However, I do have issue with the representation of a very basic concept of capitalism. That idea? You get what you pay for.

Sports teams owners buy and sell teams at amazing profits with assured regularity. But who really owns a team? What is a balance of power? What if fans never showed up for a game?

Look at the New York Mets. The Mets are one of the worst run organizations in all of sports. They play in maybe the biggest market in the league, own their stadium, have their own basic cable channel, insure large player contracts to get a financial return on injuries, actually profited (allegedly) from the Bernie Madoff scandal, and yet spend money organizationally like it’s the Deer Park Little League.  

If I were the Mets GM (see prior dream jobs) my payroll would be 1 cent less than the amount that triggers the luxury tax. My scouting staff would number in the hundreds, maybe the thousands. I would poach scouts, coaches, executives and management from other organizations as a practice, not a rarity. I would have one rule- everyone I hire has to be smarter than me, because those guys will make me look good. Garth Snow never got that. Nor do the Wilpons, who hired an agent to run an organization. An agent that negotiated half a dozen Mets players contracts. That’s like making the guy that does your dry cleaning the buyer for Macys.

Back to the Mets. In the past decade they had two playoff appearances. 20% of the decade was playoff bound. Sounds acceptable? Well, what about the other 8 years?

Sub 500 winning percentage. 8 losing years. Does a World Series loss and a playoff loss balance out 8 years of being shit? No. It’s just a new place to lose. Losers.

Does Charles Wang’s 12 years of ownership with 3 playoff appearances and one series win deserve New York state taxpayers to be on the hook for all of the taxes their new arena will generate for 40 years? Hell no.

And do teams need to be so cost prohibitive that some owners have teams in multiple sports because regular multimillionaires are priced out of ownership? The LA Rams are owned by the same guy that owns the Colorado Avalanche. It shouldn’t.

But how do we fix such a system where demand is inflated and supply is limited? The same way your company looks at your job. Yay capitalism.

It’s time to fire the dead weight. It’s time to increase the supply of owners.

Here’s the starting premise. If your team in any major sport misses the playoffs for 5 consecutive years, you have to sell your team. Why’s that?

Most sports leagues have greatly expanded the money making playoffs format, and in doing so have created extra regular season buzz as your favorite team moves towards making a postseason. That’s all good for a fan experience. But what about the fan experience for a team that loses a lot? What’s the consequence for a team that disappoints fans on an annual basis? Sell.

What would selling more teams cause? Think about what would happen if 5 of your neighbors all put their houses up for sale at the same time. What would happen to the asking prices of their home? What would happen to the value of your home? Everyone plummets. In some neighborhoods it allows for social mobility to happen. American dreams, yo.

Now apply this to the sporting world. How many people would be able to buy the New York Knicks? A $4 billion franchise? But say the Knicks HAD to be sold. Suddenly the price drops significantly. Maybe a consortium is able to pull together funds to own a team. A consortium that wants to win, instead of an owner who wants to badly jam on guitar with celebrities as his team again misses the playoffs as the owner refuses to hire a coach with a championship pedigree.

Capitalism promotes this idea. Winners win, losers go bankrupt. Anyone flying on TWA lately? Driving a De Soto? Eating at Wetsons?  So why are sports owners exempt from this risk? If your product fails, fuck you. NEXT!

So here’s the premise. It’s January 1 2019. An investor named Mike Oxhurts buys an NBA team. Mike has until the 2024-2025 season to just make the playoffs. First question- is this a heavy burden?

No. In the NBA half of the league makes the playoffs. Well, ok, what if his team sucks?

If they suck? They get to draft elite players. They have ability to add established superstars. If they suck it’s simply the choice of ownership to do so. To steal from their fans. To lie to the community. There is no reason for a team taking one of the top 10 best college players two or three years in a row on a 7 man team with the option to acquire an established player to not at least appear in the playoffs. Forced sale.

And not on the owners terms. Say a team is worth a billion dollars. But they missed the playoffs for 5 years in a row, so clearly they’re overvalued. Your billion dollar company is now a $750,000,000 company. BOO HOO. That’s how Wall Street works.

In hockey more than half of the league makes the playoffs. If you can’t make the playoffs in a 5 year span, BOO HOO. Sell. NEXT!

Baseball has a somewhat more selective deal, but with wildcards 10 teams are playoff bound. Opportunity!

Football’s playoffs format needs a degree in chemistry to understand, but 12 out of 32 teams show up. In major sports the playoff participation rate varies between 30-55%. That’s a 42% average. To make it easy we’ll say half.

The agony of perpetual defeat.

Half. Here’s an experiment. Flip a coin. Try to get the results wrong 5 times in a row. It’s impossible. But to demand winning from a team? That should be the goal. Why is that goal impossible? Why would owners want to lose?

That’s an easy punchlist. First off, it’s a long term investment guaranteed to gain value disproportionally to other investments. Next is that the chance to cook books to offset gains in other businesses that these guys own to fatten up their tax returns. After that, you have the guaranteed bank account of not losing on the investment unlike living with market volatility. The ability to relocate creates a new financial incentive. Then there’s what I call the Kool Aid factor.

What’s the Kool Aid factor? It’s something I’ve had to live with since I was 13. By the age of 13 the local teams I rooted for had won 7 championships and lost 2 more. 13 years, 9 title appearances, 7 wins. Add to it the local teams I didn’t root for who provided 4 more title appearances and 3 wins. 13 years, 13 title appearances, 9 wins. Fast forward 8 more years, and local teams added 5 more titles appearances and another championship. So what is the kool aid factor?

Because of this success, fans got “full” from winning, like the team was a buffet and the fans ate enough. They never asked- why did a franchise that was championship caliber stop seeking and/or providing such? But the fans were somehow satisfied with a “good run” of titles, which in all fairness is hard to sustain, and hard to jump back into after you lose. Or maybe it’s not. We’ll discuss that later.

Instead the conversation became “We can return to glory if we just believe!” The Philadelphia 76er’s even made this their mantra- trust the process. The process got assraped in the playoffs last year…BUT THEY MADE THE PLAYOFFS! That’s an improvement. And the best part- under my plan, the owner gets 5 more years to sustain improvements.

So I’m sure you’re thinking like I am. You’re saying “Owners hire league presidents. If they are afraid of losing their team, they’ll fire league presidents.” No, they won’t.

League presidents add value to franchises. So do you think in a sport where half a league annually earns a postseason paycheck that they’re going to fire what works over what doesn’t? You think Jerry Jones sitting on $3 billion dollars really wants to see his doofy league president take a hiatus? Well, he does, and 30 owners shouted him down. Everyone not named Jerry Jones.

But what if some owners in the club would suddenly not be in the club. What would a league likely do in the face of flailing owners? They’d expand the playoff format.  Owners would pressure each other to make the NFL regular season one or two games less to add 6 more teams to the playoffs so nobody has to sell. Truth be told, I’d rather see 14 regular season NFL games and more playoffs just for the excitement, so that makes my suggestion even more enticing.

Wait til the 5th Wild card round…

And baseball would probably make 4 divisions per league and 4 wildcards, and the wild card with the worst record plays against the team closest to them in record- think 8 versus 9- to see who is the last to make a play in. Suddenly you’ve expanded baseballs playoffs from 10 to 18. So if you’re one of the 14 or 32 that can’t qualify for the vastly expanded post season? SELL.

The next issue I can think of- what if there is a strike or lockout? That season does not count, because it’s not a true season. However, no league CBA can be under 6 years.

I’m sure you’re saying “Well, what if the new buyers want to move a team?” Sure, that’s an option and may even be the impetus for a purchase. So here’s a solution. A Divorce tax. Any man that’s been divorced knows how the court turns that marriage based on love for both into a viscous ass raping based on finances created in fantasy land where the man is impoverished. A housewife has an annual value of WHAT? Amazing nonsense. But it can set a precedent.

SADDLEDOME, CALGARY DOWNTOWN SKYLINE, EARLY TO MID 1980s (HERALD FILE PHOTO FROM PHOTO DESK, NO CREDIT, NO DATE GIVEN)

Say the Calgary Flames hold true to their threat of moving out of the old Saddle Dome. Sure. How many years were you here? OK, so you claimed how many tax breaks over those 35 years? OK you have to pay half of that back in a lump sum and the rest in annual payments.

Also, there’s an Alimony tax, the tax on a team’s future earnings. Which is another bullshit thing courts do – tax a man’s pension decades after a marriage breaks up. How come they don’t make the person receiving such suck dick for it, like he was accustomed to in the marriage? So your new team is making money in Houston? Great, we get a piece for the next ten years. We need to get back on our feet and save for a new team. And we don’t even have to such off the old team.

Lastly there should be a relocation fee to season ticket holders. “Hey loyal fans, sorry we fucked you. Here’s three years of seat fees, on us to say thanks for the years of your support.” Can you imagine an owner treating their fans with such dignity and class? Me either.

Won’t owners just shift ownership to a family member or a shell company? Not if you make rules against families in consecutive generations passing teams back and forth, and do enough due diligence on a shell company to make sure it’s not run by an absentee or a bad owner.

Maybe this opens up American sports to foreign investment. Didn’t Nintendo own the Seattle Mariners? And they were good?

Some people will say that this plays favorites for large markets at the expense of small markets. But the “small market” 2015 Kansas City Royals won a World Series. The Tampa Bay Lightning have recently both won and lost playing for a Stanley Cup. Green Bay may be the smallest professional market and yet the Packers are multiple time champions. The Cleveland Cavaliers brought a title to Cleveland for the first time in…before man walked on the moon. So are the rest of the “small market” guys shitty owners? Do they deserve to lose a team?

The answers are maybe and maybe. If you look at sports team champions, there’s usually patterns of teams that are well run and return to post season in their era of good coaching and management. I would never sleep on the San Antonio Spurs as long as Greg Popovich is head coach, but they aren’t winning a title in the next two years. But when Pop retires?

Look at the Yankees in the year change between Joe Girardi and Arron Boone. Girardi took a team that was expected to be an 80 win team to a few innings away from a World Series. Boone took a team expected to be in a World Series and had them get smoked by the eventual champion Boston Red Sox. When a great coach leaves, there’s almost always a step back. Did the Mets do better without Davey Johnson? The Cardinals without Tony LaRussa?

Good news Jets fans. When Belichick goes, there will be intolerable pain in Boston.

And that small market argument is invalid. Large market teams can eat a dick, too. The Knicks have been awful for a decade plus. The Flyers stink. The Nationals lose a lot. There are plenty of big market teams that will get impacted by this. And here comes the best part.

When they do, there will be lower prices and new owners with a motivation to win. Not old owners with a motivation for fat TV contracts to larden up their portfolio and eventually create a class system upon the sale of the team. So folks, root for some core changes, and think bigger picture. Imagine how much more fun would be if your team was playing for a championship every game of the season? Until then, you’ll get the same crap you’re presently being fed.

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