Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Reds weren't always a poorly managed team...

Doing a little research on the Negro Leagues. Night baseball was firmly entrenched in the Negro Leagues by the time the Reds decided to be the first MLB team to try it.
The one man who deserves full credit for bringing lights to the majors is Larry MacPhail, a flamboyant baseball executive and innovator for two decades starting in 1930. In that year, MacPhail became president of the Columbus, Ohio, franchise in the minor league American Association. Among the changes he brought to the club was the introduction of night baseball, having noted other minor leagues team‘s success with it. It was a wise decision. In 1931, Columbus outdrew its parent St. Louis Cardinals club by 30,000 for the season, largely due to night games.

In 1933, MacPhail was elected general manager of the Cincinnati Reds, a franchise that was suffering losing records, poor attendance, and poor finances. Partly through the force of MacPhail’s personality, the National League agreed to allow each of its eight members to play seven night games apiece during the 1935 season. The only team that accepted the offer was Cincinnati. Lights were installed at the old Crosley Field and on May 24, 1935, the Reds defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 in the first night game.

MacPhail’s gamble paid off when fans flocked to the night games. At the end of the season, the Reds total attendance had doubled from the previous year. More importantly, the seven night contests had averaged 18,620 spectators per game; the other 69 home games, a paltry 4700, proving that fans actually seem to prefer non-daylight games. With the increased revenue, MacPhail was able to build winning teams that won pennants in 1939 and 1940 and were the World Series champs in 1940. (emphasis mine)
Read more if you want.

I'm reading a book called Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism. It's mostly free-market enthusiasts talking points, but it does have some good ideas. There's a general recognition - especially after, well, you know, the economic collapse and the Wall Street idiocy and all - that the way things work now (or "work") has no future. Innovation has always been the future. Innovation has always driven real capitalism (as opposed to the corporatism from which we suffer).

Yes, I like to joke (with lots of sarcasm, bitterness, and truth) about large markets and unlevel playing fields and all, but that's the reality at this point. There's no hope of a salary cap or anything close to making things "fair." The truth is, only innovation is going to overcome the big guys. It's true in business, and baseball, being a business, is no exception. Billy Beane was innovative, and the A's won more titles than their Bay Big Brother Giants in this decade.

In this book Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, big firms are a part of the economy and play a role in taking the innovative ideas and making them widespread. That's what the Yankees have been doing - they've taken Beane's sabermetric model and used it successfully. By no means have the Yankees ever been innovative - they just pay more money than others.

I don't think it's a stretch to say that baseball has become a little more uneven since the reign of Emperor Selig. But it's not like baseball hasn't ALWAYS been uneven. The New York teams used to use teams like the Reds as AAAA teams back in the days when the world was in black and white or not even filmed. The best example I can think of is how the Giants got the Reds to give them Christy Mathewson for pretty much nothing (no offense, Amos Rusie - you were at the end of your Hall of Fame career.), who subsequently had 17 HOF seasons before he was traded back to the Reds and played for half a season. (To be fair, the Reds got Edd Roush out of it - guess the Giants couldn't see the Hall of Fame future after 39 MLB games with them.)

Isn't it time for the Reds to be innovative again?

I can think of a lot of things that they could do to draw attendance, but unfortunately in this day and age, you can't say anything without someone stealing it and claiming a copyright. So I'll continue to scour the Reds job openings and wait for the right time.


Jay Hughes said...

Gotta love your blog! The notion of being innovative is something that is peculiar to baseball. Other sports just demand a winner.

Well, being a winner helps.

The problem with innovation is that MLB will doubtless come down on anything that's too creative. There's a master plan at work here that says all the money in according to your ability and all the money back according to your need.

Wait, Trotsky said that.

So, need is what drives the money. You don't need money to be bad at baseball. You need money to be good at it, apparently.

But in looking back at McPhail and the lights issue, it pays to remember that the nation was in the middle of a depression. Major depression. Whatever parallels you can draw are up to you.

I just think back to the 1961 Reds and their improbable dream.

It can be done.


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TS said...

Innovation uber alles. It went into making the Big Red Machine. Rose & Morgan had great on base percentages in an age when only batting average mattered. Plus Sparky was hooking pitchers early and often, ahead of the curve there.