This is a great Geoff Baker piece that everyone on this site who is against playing Jonny Gomes/Seth Smith over "young guys" should read. It's basically an analysis of "rebuilding strategies" and includes this line, which is an observation I've made over the past 2 or 3 years that has turned me off to a lot of the "new school" thinking about baseball (read: Tampa Bay Rays/Andrew Friedman worship) or the indefensible non-sense about hoping "that this team gets a good draft pick" which I read yesterday on another A's/hyper left wing politics blend blog that I'm not sure I'm allowed to mention here:
And then, you have teams that do their rebuilding "the right way".
What this means, in Moneyball-speak, is that teams pursue the cost-effective, bang-for-the-buck approach of growing the best young, cheap talent to form a core, then try to supplement it as it grows wth the most value-generating free agents out there. This will require a shrewd general manager -- one who often gains a cult-like following in his local market, boosted by the occasional fawning national media clips -- to shuffle all the pieces around at a whiz-bang pace.
In the end, Baker basically states that long term mediocrity in the name of building for the future can damage interest in the club so badly that even if and when (but especially if) the team becomes competitive again, attendance will remain low. He cites the poor attendance figures by the Rays as an example.
I disagree with that, and attribute the Rays' lack of fans to a dump of a stadium, much like I do in our situation in Oakland. Look at the Giants. The 2005-2008 Giants were every bit as bad as the 2007-2011 A's, and their attendance didn't take a hit in 2009-2011, when they've been competitive. Cincinnati is a similar example.
Attendance is ultimately tied to a ballpark. Nobody will show up in that monstrosity in Tampa Bay, nor will they show up to the Al Davis Memorial Pit, no matter how good the teams are. But Baker is right is his observation that sustained poor play from a major league team is so corrosive, more so than anything else a pro sports franchise can experience, that it is unacceptable to unnecessarily sacrifice wins today for a marginally, possibly non-existent hope of winning a few extra games 3 years from now. It is occasionally necessary to trade away assets, but it is not necessary to give playing time to low ceiling, unproven players in the name of "seeing what we've got" in favor of guys who have proven they can be at least passable in the majors, on a low salary like Jonny Gomes. The big leagues is a place for big leaguers.
So I say, play Jonny Gomes over Collin Cowgill, and send Josh Donaldson down when he whiffs against even the most mediocre MLB pitching. DH Seth Smith and Manny Ramirez over Chris Carter. Is it worth winning 79 games instead of 75? Absolutely.
Read the Baker piece, it really is good stuff.