ROME, Italy. Major League Baseball is changing, and there is no better time to see that than right now.
Some interesting things are happening.
First, look at the past two World Series winners and how they got there: Chicago and Houston. In August of 2012 the Astros — faced with a multitude of empty seats at Minute Maid Park — were 40 games under .500 and clearly the worst team in baseball. Sure, there were plenty of Houstonians phoning in and asking the Astros why they weren't signing free agent stars to stop the bleeding when they had the money. More than a few canceled their season tickets because they didn't like the answer.
"No way Jose."
The Astros were taking full advantage of the 2012 collective bargaining agreement between the Suits and the Players Association that awarded — no, incentivized is the better word — tanking. And we all know about tanking, right? The Sixers? The new agreement gave the worst teams the most money to spend on amateur talent. That June in 2012, the Astros got the first pick in the draft. They got it again for the next two seasons.
There became a new way to win: Let payroll nosedive, lose, and spend money in the draft. You watched a team win a World Series that did exactly that. Houston used the Three-Ring Sign.
Cub's GM Theo Epstein in 2011 took a team that hadn't won a World Series in 108 years and won it all five years later. How did he do it? Besides hiring a damn good manager, Joe Madden, Epstein used the Three-Ring Sign. Here's the formula for the Three-Ring Sign: 1) Draft smart; 2) make a couple of ingenious trades without giving away the farm, and 3) sign a few free agents to fill in. Nothing real big like Harper or Trout. More on the Carlos Santana level. It's not important to look at each move Houston and Chicago made. What's important is the process they used.
And when you use the Three Ring Sign, you're not good one year, you continue to be good. Houston and Chicago will be right back in it this season.
As you are reading this there are currently over 100 free agent players looking for work, including some elite free agents such as J.D. Martinez, Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Greg Holland, Neil Walker, Logan Morrison, Jonathan Lucroy, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, and Lucas Duda.
But they're being ignored. Why? Because the game is changing and smart GM's like Philadelphia's Wizard, Matt Klentak, is making The Tree-Ring Sign. Therefore, most of the 2018 free agents go unwanted because they don't fit the new way to win. It will be most interesting to see what happens to them.
Future free agents may reconsider how much they can make in free agency. And how long contracts will be. Did the owners know exctly what they were doing in 2012?
Here's the thing. There's a big fat warning when you use the Three-Ring Sign: DON'T GIVE 26-YEAR-OLD SOMEBODIES LONG TERM, MULTI-YEAR DEALS, WHERE IN THE LAST 3-4 YEARS OF THE CONTRACT, THEIR NUMBERS DROP FASTER THAN THE TIMES SQUARE BALL.
Well whoopy doo. Now you can become a major league general manager.
So what's this mean for the Phillies who will soon want to follow in the footsteps of the Super Bowl Champion Eagles? This: Forget about Bryce Harper or the Eagles fan in California. Neither will come to Philly because they fall into the warning above. The one in capital letters.
We all know the Wizard has brought a new game to town and you can see it unfolding. When the timing is right, the Wizard will pull some strings on a trade or two and make some ingenious free agent signings. Nothing big mind you, just a few guys that fit in. Like a Shake and Bake. The Wizard has already taken the first steps, signing Carlos Santana. He collared a new manager, who might get the players laughing — I mean lookit, he already got Howard Erskin hot and bothered over coconut oil. Howard, who knew?
So forget Bryce Harper and that kid from Millville. The Phillies are going to do well this season. If Gabe Kapler can keep them loosey-goosey, and the Wizard manages the Three-Ring Sign — as they say in South Philly:
"Ron, who knows?"
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