While the occasional article is free for everyone, the vast majority of this content is restricted to my Patreon subscribers, whose support allows me to write all of this in the first place. Please consider becoming a subscriber! -Marc Normandin
This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to allow me to keep writing posts like this one.
On Monday, Travis Sawchik asked a question to Five Thirty Eight’s audience: “Do we even need Minor League Baseball?” Sawchik’s theory is that so much of player development happens off the field these days, in comparison to how development used to work, that the minors are a waste of time and resources. Sawchik, you might recall, is one of the two authors of The MVP Machine, which looked at how players can kind of just be created these days thanks to advances in analytics and the introduction of the concept of “Betterball,” so this is an arena he knows his way around.
To a point, anyway. As you might also recall, the book brings to mind some key questions regarding labor and homogeneity it does not know the answers to (or even how to answer them), and this article is something of an extension of that. Deadspin’s Albert Burneko, for instance, wants to know who the “we” in Sawchik’s headline refers to, and it’s not an exaggeration that the entire premise of Sawchik’s piece relies on the reader identifying with management in order for it to accomplish the job the author set out for it.
You should read all of Burneko’s piece, as it’s fan-centric and a rebuttal to the idea presented in the initial piece that MiLB exists in the service of MLB teams alone, but I’ll pull this paragraph from it for now:
This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to gain access to the rest of my work and allow me to keep writing posts like this one.
Arguing about what the definition of the word “valuable” contained within the Most Valuable Player award means is a time-honored tradition in baseball. Does “value” mean the best player, or does it mean the best player on a postseason team, the one that helped said team actually make it to October with their presence? It’s always a mess, and yet, The Athletic’s Molly Knight wants to throw another version of the word valuable into the discussion, and it’s one that front offices and owners salivate over, one that should have nothing to do with the MVP award or how we view players.
In short, this article is a list of the value players have created compared to their salaries, or, a way to talk about value in a way that leaves high-paid and awesome players like Mike Trout out of the discussion. It’s a list of the most exploited players in the majors, basically, the ones who are most underpaid relative to their production, but for Knight’s purposes, it’s a list of who has provided the most “bang for the buck.” No, really, that’s what the table showing a player’s $/WAR is titled.
Knight does attempt to walk back her own messaging, by making sure to say this is a list that tells you “which players are most criminally underpaid.” Knight also takes the time to explain that she always sides with the players over owners in discussions of compensation. The problem is that saying these things and then writing this article up with the general framing and takeaways it has made those statements almost meaningless, or at least reduced their impact.