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Theo Epstein on Cardinals’ competitive balance pick: “Last organization that needs an annual gift”

Jul 23, 2014, 9:44 PM EDT

theo epstein getty Getty Images

As we covered earlier, St. Louis got a bonus pick for the 2015 First-Year Player Draft (just after the first round) in Wednesday’s Competitive Balance Lottery. Yes, a team that has made the playoffs 10 times since 2000 and advanced to the NLCS or further in three straight seasons got a handout. And it’s not sitting too well with an executive of the Cardinals’ traditional rival — Cubs president Theo Epstein.

Here’s Patrick Mooney of

The president of baseball operations fired a shot in the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry after St. Louis won an extra draft pick in Wednesday’s competitive-balance lottery.

“I could talk all day about the Cardinals and how much we hold them in high regard,” Epstein said. “That’s a fantastic franchise. They have been for the better part of a century. They do extremely well from a baseball standpoint, and from a revenue standpoint. That’s probably the last organization in baseball that needs that kind of (an) annual gift.”

“Because it’s not necessarily the type of thing that they need, given their performance on the field and off the field,” Theo continued. “They do a fantastic job. It just doesn’t seem like something they need at this point.”

The Cardinals were eligible for the Competitive Balance Lottery because they play in one of the 10 smallest markets (by population) in Major League Baseball. But with a century-old history of success and a fanbase that extends over several surrounding states, they don’t exactly function like a small-market franchise.

A high-ranking executive predicted to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that the Cardinals will use their competitive balance pick to land Rays ace David Price. Yes, unlike most draft picks, these can be traded.

  1. westcoastredbird - Jul 23, 2014 at 9:52 PM

    Hey Theo there’s a guy with goat that needs a seat.

    • Kyle Johansen - Jul 23, 2014 at 9:58 PM

      very clever, do you enjoy getting unnecessary handouts for your team?

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:19 PM

        Not a handout. Besides, even dividing metro Chicago in half, the Cubs still have almost twice the market as the Cards.

        Now, if Theo will tell Dave Ricketts to cut the Cards in on some of his richer TV broadcast money, etc., we’ll talk.

      • Kyle Johansen - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:23 PM

        With the amount of popularity the Cardinals have throughout the middle of the country, you can’t honestly believe the the Chicago market is double

      • Kyle Johansen - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:24 PM

        The Cubs TV contract is worth about $40 mil annually. Peanuts compared to most large market teams

      • paperlions - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:26 PM

        And still bigger than the Cardinals TV contract.

      • Kyle Johansen - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:27 PM

        That’s really not the point though is it. The point is that the Cardinals operate like a large market team and do not deserve to be in the competitive balance soup kitchen lottery.

      • paperlions - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:30 PM

        No, they don’t operate like a large market team. Feel free to look at salaries over the last decade.

        If we are talking about balance based on revenue, feel free to justify the fact that the Cubs have been allowed to spend over twice as much on the draft and in the international market as the Cardinals. They are being rewarded for sucking, whereas teams that play well are penalized for doing so.

      • paperlions - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:39 PM

        Last year was their highest team salary at $115M. The Cubs had higher salaries than that every year from 2008 to 2011, maxing out at $146M.

        The Cardinals have never spent heavily in the international market and they have never spent heavily in the FA market. They’ve never acted anything like a large market team.

        Since 2006, they’ve been in the top 10 in payroll once, at 9th in 2012…and that was only because the Dodgers and Mets started slashing payroll because of their financial problems associated with poor ownership

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:35 PM

        Actually, Fangraphs says it’s more like $50M, not $40M, for the Cubs.

      • chill1184 - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:39 PM

        “They are being rewarded for sucking, whereas teams that play well are penalized for doing so.”

        Teams can still draft/trade horribly which creates a negative cycle. Having an extra draft pick guarantees nothing. We can name several teams in all four leagues who have been nothing but perpetual rebuilds

      • Uncle Charlie - Jul 24, 2014 at 8:03 AM

        Don’t choke on all of that B.S. Cardinals have never been below 13 out of 30 teams in over the last 10 years. So I guess nearly 60% of the MLB needs compensation picks huh, paperlion? Baseball’s best fans at making sh!t up.

  2. chill1184 - Jul 23, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    I think apart from the market clause they should have the requirement that teams should have a below .500 from the previous season in order to get into this pool, call me crazy.

    • indaburg - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:40 PM

      Why penalize Oakland and Tampa Bay for not sucking? How about basing pool eligibility on team valuation or revenue in addition to size of market? That would rule out wealthier teams who don’t need the help, like the Cardinals.

      • Cris E - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:11 PM

        They’ve done a great job of spreading out the money so just about everyone can afford the players they want to pay. If you ask me, “competitive balance picks” are an anachronism left over from 2004 and we can get rid of it.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:20 PM

        Actually, not so much. Per ESPN:

        Under the current collective bargaining agreement, the base portion of the revenue-sharing plan calls for teams to contribute 34 percent of net local revenue (which includes revenue from rights fees associated with local television contracts), minus actual expenses associated with its stadium, into a pool to be shared with other teams.

        Cable carriage fees and other things are NOT included, which is an additional factor when a team has an ownership stake in the local/regional sports broadcast network.

        I’m not asking for 100 percent revenue sharing, but, it’s not shared that equally right now.

      • simon94022 - Jul 24, 2014 at 7:34 AM

        Oakland is a large market team which has low revenues. The A’s have low revenues because of their ballpark, but more importantly because they have very few fans in Northern California. Successive ownership groups have completely failed over the decades to build a popular brand. As a result, their TV ratings are low, attendance is poor, corporate support is weak, and nobody much talks about them. In years when they do not field an excellent team, it’s like the A’s don’t even exist.

        But none of that is due to any structural disadvantage or a “small market.” Tampa Bay and Kansas City have to overcome the disadvantage of playing in small markets. I happen to like the A’s, but honestly they are an unpopular brand, which is a business failure. Why reward this with extra draft picks?

  3. ripdipbob - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:05 PM

    Why would this surprise anyone? Bud Selig is still in charge!! The commish who killed Americas past time

    • dan1111 - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:13 AM

      You appear to have a unique definition of “killed”, since baseball is arguably more successful now than it has ever been.

      I’m not a fan of Selig, but you can’t deny that baseball has done well during his regime.

  4. rcali - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:08 PM

    Says the guy who hasn’t fielded a competitive team since he was able to buy one.

    • Uncle Charlie - Jul 24, 2014 at 8:06 AM

      Huh, Epstein owns a team? Do you even watch baseball?

  5. Kyle Johansen - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    The Cardinals clearly do not deserve a competitive balance pick. The purpose of these picks is to provide more parity in the league, the current CBA got it pretty wrong if the Cards are in this lottery. One of many items that will need to be addressed on the next CBA.

    • SocraticGadfly - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:21 PM

      Again, parity is about **money.** As soon as rich teams like the Cubs share more of their local TV money, we’ll talk about getting rid of these picks.

      • Kyle Johansen - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:22 PM

        The Cubs have one of the worst TV deals in MLB. I think the Padres contract is twice as lucrative

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:33 PM

        Uhh, actually, not!

        Per Fangraphs, via a post of our own Craig from November 2012, the Cubs rake about 3x the local money per year as the Cards:

      • jm91rs - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:36 PM

        The cards prove every year that parity is NOT about money. That much is clear.

      • kruegere - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:51 AM

        The Rays didn’t get a pick

    • heycraigc - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:36 PM

      Don’t they deserve to be rewarded for being competitive? I think eligible would be a better word in this case, not deserve. Additionally, I think the commenter who said teams that finished over .500 shouldn’t be eligible is onto something. However, the caveat I’d add to that idea is that teams who are currently eligible for a competitive balance pick would still be the only ones eligible to receive picks IF they finish under .500 the previous season.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      “With the amount of popularity the Cardinals have throughout the middle of the country, you can’t honestly believe the the Chicago market is double.”

      This tells me you are confused with the concept of small versus large markets. Chicago is one of the largest markets in the Country. St. Louis is one of the smallest. The Cubs rake in about 3 times that of the Cardinals on the TV Contract alone. Regardless, it should be about small versus large markets. Rather, it should be about valuation and total revenue.

      “The point is that the Cardinals operate like a large market team.”

      Lol! Try to sell this point to Mr. and Mrs. Pujols.

      • Kyle Johansen - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        Acting like a large market team doesn’t mean you have to act stupid, and that’s what the Pujols contract was for the Angels.

        Instead, the Cardinals used their financial flexibility to sign Carlos Beltran to a two-year, $26 million deal and signed Lance Berkman to a $12 million deal. So no, they weren’t paying Pujols $30 mil, but they did go allocate $25 million that season to two players after letting Pujols walk.

        Two years later they signed Yadier to a 5-year, $75 million deal, and this is all on top of Holliday’s 7-year, $120 million contract.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:56 AM

        Exactly Kyle. All smart signings. In the case of Pujols (and not re-signing) Carlos…equally smart. They have always done a great job of building/developing/cultivating from within and reaching out (wisely) in the FA market when warranted. They locked up the games best Catcher and Holliday is going to come off the books at the perfect time (freeing up money for Matt Adams for example). They are also helped by a lot of guys turing down more money elsewhere to sign in St. Louis. A charmed life indeed Kyle. Cardinals fans are spoiled to be sure. But they damn sure aren’t going to just pass on this competitive balance pick. And they aren’t going to apologize for it either. Nor should they!

      • sandwiches4ever - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:53 AM

        Yeah, just like those small market Yankees with Mr. Cano.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:57 AM

        Apples and Oranges Sandwich. Apples and Oranges.

      • Kyle Johansen - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:02 AM

        stlouis1baseball – Of course the Cardinals aren’t going to “pass” on the pick and no one is arguing that they should.

        The point is a simple one: the Cardinals should not be eligible for a competitive balance pick when they consistently spend in the upper third of baseball and are perennially competitive.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 24, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        I agree with one of your points. The competitive part. I do NOT agree with the “consistently” spending in the upper third part.

      • Kyle Johansen - Jul 24, 2014 at 3:53 PM

        Look at Uncle Charlie’s comment above with the following link:

        This is where the Cards have ranked the past 10 years in salary:

        2004 – 9th
        2005 – 5th
        2006 – 11th
        2007 – 11th
        2008 – 11th
        2009 – 13th
        2010 – 12th
        2011 – 11th
        2012 – 9th
        2013 – 11th
        2014 – 13th

        Avg – 10.5 highest salary

        On average, over the last eleven years the Cardinals have outspent about 20 teams each year.

        The number that appears most frequently above is 11, so if you want to quibble over if they’ve outspent 19 teams or 20 teams, that’s fine. At the end of the day, the Cardinals outspend the majority of Major League teams.

    • jilljulias - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      That’s my thought too.

      The idea that the Cardinals ‘need’ a competitive balance pick is absurd, and a system that has them in the lottery pool is inherently flawed.

  6. jeffbbf - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:33 PM

    Seems like the picks should be given to the teams with the lowest total revenues, not the smallest markets. In general, these would be the same, but the Cards are an exception. Smaller market, but large, loyal fan base that keeps the park full, the tv execs happy, and the STL logo on everything in about 6 states. But then MLB would have to trust the teams to report their revenues accurately.

    • Kyle Johansen - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:41 PM

      Exactly. This is not difficult to understand…although apparent it is.

    • SocraticGadfly - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:55 PM

      Oh, so the Cardinals should be penalized for being consistently successful enough that they draw fans, sell merchandise, etc., even though they’re in a smaller market? OK.

      • Kyle Johansen - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:34 PM

        No, they shouldn’t be penalized. They also shouldn’t be eligible for a COMPETITIVE balance pick.

      • emdash01 - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:48 AM

        It’s not about being penalized, it’s that the competitive balance pick is supposed to give a boost to teams with low revenue that can’t afford free agent signings as well. It’s hard for anyone but the most blinkered Cardinals fan to argue that the team isn’t on the high end of the revenue scale.

  7. skipcastaneda - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    Theo Epstein needs to worry about his own team and not worry about the Cardinals. He’s a bastard and I’m saying this as a Red Sox fan.

    • Kyle Johansen - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:40 PM

      of course you are.

      two world series weren’t enough?

      • psousa1 - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:09 AM

        Kyle – the two world series were great. He did a great job with amateur scouting and drafting but there were things the last few years to the effect of anything that worked out well was due to the hard work of he and baseball operations and anything that didn’t workout was because of ownership. Example – when they signed Carl Crawford he made the rounds of all the talk shows telling how he had to sell ownership on signing Crawford because they were hesitant. Of course after Crawford was a flop in Boston due to injuries and average to below average performance he shoots his mouth off, as soon as he got to Chicago, stating it was ownership and not him who wanted Crawford.

        You can say he handed out almost a quarter of a billion dollars in bad contracts (Lackey has worked out well the past two seasons so that is 50/50).

    • chill1184 - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:41 PM

      Eh, Im pretty sure there are other GMs in MLB that feel the exact same way as Epstein does and he does have a point, it just comes off as bad because he runs the Cubs.

  8. Kyle Johansen - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    According to CBS the Cardinals entered the 2014 season with the 10th highest salary in MLB at $115 million.

    That’s not a team that needs a competitive balance pick.

    • heycraigc - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:45 PM

      According to Deadspin- – they’re 13th in team salary at $111 mil. And the D’Backs- per that article- spent $1 mil. more than the Cardinals’ on their 2014 Opening Day salary. So, do the D’Backs deserve a pick then?

      • Kyle Johansen - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:47 PM

        CBS had it at $115

        either way, they spent more than half the teams in baseball, due to their larger market. meaning they should not be eligible for this draft.

      • heycraigc - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:52 PM

        The flip side to your argument is that large market teams aren’t spending- i.e.: Houston.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:52 PM

        Actually, the answer is:

        No NL Central team with a better record than the Cubs deserves a competitive balance pick.

        I believe that’s what Kyle is trying to tell us.

      • Kyle Johansen - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:04 PM

        Haha very nice. My point is simply that the Cardinals are not one of the “have nots” in baseball. As the article referenced, they’ve built up a large fan base and do not lack for revenue. They have salary commitments in 2014 in the upper third of baseball. I said nothing of the Pirates, Brewers or Reds.

        The NL Central is a great division and all non-Cubs teams are on an incredible run. The Cards, however, are more similar to the Cubs in terms of revenue generating popularity than they are to any of the other NL Central team.s

    • paperlions - Jul 24, 2014 at 8:21 AM

      You are quoting and linking to 2013, not 2014.

      • Kyle Johansen - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:36 AM

        CBS apparently has some work to do on their website then, but that only reinforces the point that the Cardinals should not be getting a competitive balance pick with a team that has spent $226 million on player salaries the past two years.

  9. saints97 - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:21 PM

    So when looking at a group of teams who have similar resources, MLB should only reward teams who do a crappy job with the resources they have, and not reward those who maximize their resources?

    Reward the unsuccessful and lazy. Any idea what that encourages?

    • SocraticGadfly - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:49 PM


      • xmatt0926x - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:41 AM

        I never do the thumbs up/thumbs down thing. I made an exception this time everyone who insults Amaro should be rewarded. Please continue insulting him every chance you get. There will be a special place in heaven for you.

      • Kevin S. - Jul 24, 2014 at 7:04 AM

        Not a fan of Ruin Tomorrow, Jr.?

    • emdash01 - Jul 24, 2014 at 9:50 AM

      It’s not a system about ‘rewarding’ anything. You’re spectacularly misunderstanding the point of the extra pick.

      • saints97 - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:14 PM

        Yeah, it is a system to bring balance between large markets and small markets, and high revenue and low revenue. If you don’t see where the Cardinals fit there, then you are “spectacularly missing” the advantage that a large market brings. Doing more with less should be encouraged.

  10. chrisernst82 - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:14 AM

    Whats worse is when teams refuse to spend money on fielding a competitive team but expect to ride the coattails of those who do. Mainly the Astros, they turned a profit of over 50 Million last year and are basically making a mockery of the system. Until that changes there should be no change in revenue sharing. If you wanna hate the Astros just check the link below. In 2013 there were 64 players in baseball who made more than the whole 25 man roster of the Astros.

    Though as of March 14th only one team was turning a higher profit than the Astros. Anyone wanna guess who? Yup the Cards, 2nd highest attendance and 2nd highest TV ratings. It is pretty bogus they get the pick, but i dont mind. Go Cards!

  11. wannabeGM - Jul 24, 2014 at 7:41 AM

    Reblogged this on stlcardinalsminimo and commented:
    interesting prediction that the Cards will trade pick for Price

  12. jarathen - Jul 24, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    There’s an irony over a team like the Cardinals getting balance picks for having such a small market when according to MLB’s blackout rules they also get the entire state of Iowa.

    • Kyle Johansen - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      That is hilarious and a great point.

    • perryt200 - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      Come on, if you were an Iowegian who would you root for? The Cubs?

      • jarathen - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:44 PM

        I’m not from Iowa but rather Orange County so I root for the Angels. But most Iowans I know are Cubs fans, with the Cardinals a fair second. Twins are third, and ChiSox, Brewers, and Royals don’t rate.

    • saints97 - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      And Iowa brings in the ratings about like a city block in Chicago. Markets aren’t measured in square mileage.

      • jarathen - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:44 PM

        That’s true. It’s just an axe I really enjoy grinding.

  13. jsala02 - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    I don’t like the Cubs or the Cards, but I agree with Theo on this

  14. stlcards0216 - Jul 25, 2014 at 5:00 AM

    U guys r crying about this not being fair but what’s fair about these teams with 200+ mill in player salaries? The cards are in one of the smallest markets in mlb. Only reason they are able to spend the money they do is because of the fan base they have been able to build. And it’s picks like this that make it so they can put a winning team on the field to build the revenue. They don’t have the luxury to finish in last place every year and still be able to spend 160+ mill. If the cards sucked that bad for 2-3 yrs they would be in the bottom 10 of revenue.

  15. stlcards0216 - Jul 25, 2014 at 5:13 AM

    There’s 3 teams in the bottom 10 that actually belong there also. So should all 7 of the other teams be punished because those larger market teams are hoarding money? It’s funny those 7 larger market teams salaries aren’t much higher than what they get from their tv deal. At least the cards spend the money that we make em.

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