In the fall of 2016 you may have been like much of America, captivated by the Chicago Cubs’ run to the National League Championship and then the World Series, which ended a 71-year National League pennant drought and a 108-year World Series drought, both of which were records for Major League Baseball.
Me? I was probably the only person outside of Cleveland rooting for the Cubs’ World Series opponent, the Indians.
This wasn’t easy for me as the Cleveland team was prominently wearing an obviously racist logo, after repeatedly being asked by various Native American groups to change its name.
So, why root for the In.. ahem.. I mean, Cleveland’s team? At the time, the city of Cleveland was in a championship drought of its own that went WAY beyond its baseball team. When it strictly comes to baseball, Cleveland had participated in the World Series five times previously, with its last win back in 1948. But, that’s not why I was rooting for the In.. I mean, rooting against the Cubs.
You see, Chicago’s DMA is three, while Cleveland’s is 19. That’s why.
What is a DMA you ask? A DMA, or “designated market area,” is a region or geographic area in the United States where local television is measured. Think, bigger DMA equals bigger population, bigger marketing opportunities, bigger money.
So, while much of the country was pulling for those loveable losers from Chicago (DMA 3), I was pulling for the team with a smaller DMA (19) than the Twins Cities, which had a DMA of 15.
What does it matter, you ask? Because Major League Baseball isn’t fair.
Consider that in the last 20 years the World Series has been won by a team with a top-10 DMA 15 times. Only 4 times has a team from a smaller DMA than the Twins, hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy. Florida (DMA 16) in 2003, St. Louis (DMA 21) in 2006 and 2011 and Kansas City (DMA 32) in 2015.
Unlike the NFL, Major League Baseball has no revenue sharing, so the playing field, or in this case, the diamond, is heavily tilted toward the teams with larger DMAs because these teams can spend more money and simply buy the best players.
At MLB’s recently concluded winter meetings, the top free agents went to teams with some of the largest DMAs. Those who didn’t splurge this year are still bloated from recent spending sprees (Yes, we’re looking at you Boston Red Sox, 2018 World Series champs, DMA 9).
The top free-agent, pitcher Gerrit Cole, went to the New York Yankees (DMA 1) for a record $324 million over nine years. Left hander Stephen Strasburg resigned with the Washington Senators (DMA 6) for $245 million over seven years, but that didn’t leave enough money for his teammate, third baseman Anthony Rendon, who was forced to sign a seven year, $245 million deal of his own with the Anaheim Angels (DMA 2), where he will be teammates with outfielder and three-time MVP Mike Trout, who was until this week, baseball’s highest-paid player.
So, how in the heck do the Twins compete with that?
They don’t. At least not through free agency. To be competitive the Twins’ only shot is to be better than the competition at identifying and investing in talent in its earliest stages. Then, the team needs to be proactive and re-sign talent before current contracts expire and current players hit free-agency.
Failing to do any of those things forces the Twins to trade, where again the team needs to be better than its trading partner at valuing talent. Failure to do any of those things puts the Twins right back with the Kansas City Royals.
You remember the Royals, right? The team from DMA 32 who won the World Series in 2015? This team managed 81, 80, 58 & 59 wins in the four seasons since, missing the playoffs and forcing them to rebuild rather than just go out and buy themselves another World Series, just like the Twins have to do.