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Elias Theodicy: A Complete Defense of Mike Elias

Yet again, the haters are proving to be quite an annoyance on an otherwise great season for the Orioles organization. Mike Elias, PBUH, has proven too competent at his job for the antis to go after, so this year they have formulated a new strategy - attack the plan itself.

Their argument is as follows:

1. You can rebuild and still be a fun team.

2. If Mike Elias's drafting/player development is so good, he should be able to build a team without high draft picks.

3. Therefore spending should have increased in the offseason to build a 70ish win team.

I'm sure many of you who are even remotely familiar with Elias's plan are laughing at such ridiculous claims, perhaps even a full belly laugh! Ho-ho-ho! Such a claim is so boldly wrong in every facet that I have no clue where to begin, so let's start off with claim number one.

Claim number one is the most agreeable, as it is the most vague, however there still other ways to look at this. While yes, a rebuild can still be done with a ≥70 win team, it does not take into account multiple things, such as how effective and fast it is, and what the owner wants for his team. Most importantly - why must it be fun? These will be explored in the counterarguments to claims two and three, so I'm not going to repeat myself for this one. On to claim two.

Claim number two is built on faulty logic, and can easily be defeated by asking the claimant the following question:

Do you believe Mike Elias is good at scouting and player development?

The hater now has two routes he can go:

Yes - Then there is no reason to call for his head as he will certainly build a great roster.

No - Then Mike Elias needs high draft picks.

Now, certainly, Elias is great at scouting and player dev, so we would never respond to the latter as such, but it does show the reality of their claim. If "No" is the response then you can easily provide plenty of examples of Elias's scouting and player dev talents. One might take a more fence-sitting approach and criticize him for tanking without calling for his head. This kind of claim will be explored throughout the article.

Continuing on with claim two, the hater must face the reality of the draft. The better players are up top. These aren't random people scouting, they're professionals. It is far too risky of a play to hope for the best player to fall past the fifth pick, (70 wins usually gets you the sixth). From 2008-15, the best player (rWAR) has been picked in the top five 6/8 times, and Cole may catch up to Rendon soon. On top of that, a higher pick means a higher draft pool, meaning more flexibility. And on top of that, tanking allows for obtaining and improving competitive balance picks and positions. Yes, Elias can and will make good picks later in the draft, 30th to be exact, when our high picks from now are winning it all.

Claim number three is the big one and requires an extensive response. To start out, let me repeat a question from my response to claim one - Why must a rebuild be fun? "Well that answers itself!" is what the typical hater would respond with. Fun is subjective, however, and you will see how intensely so. If something is fun, fans must love it then! There should be enough showing up and tuning into games to make the Angelos boys' pockets fuller than what is happening now, so let's see if the so-called 70 win Orioles would pull enough to do so!

The most accessible statistic to represent fan engagement would be attendance, and the following statistics will come from Baseball-Reference as always. Many have pointed to the Tigers as a great example of a bad team that's fun. They are not completely comparable, as they are a year-and-a-half deeper into their rebuild than us, but sure, we will ignore history for this one. The following table calculates the projected 2021 attendance for both teams by taking the average attendance AFTER both were allowed full-capacity, outliers removed, from both teams and multiplies it by 81 games.

2021

Team

Tigers

Orioles

Est. Payroll

≈72,000,000

≈42,000,000

Average Attendance

≈13,500

≈10,500

Proj. Total Attendance (in 162 game season)

≈1,093,500

≈850,500

As we can see, the fun Tigers team is pulling in a mere 200,000 (+29%) people over the lowly Orioles! This number is made more pathetic when you realize Detroit's market share is far greater than Baltimore's, with SportsMediaWatch clocking Detroit's at 1.863M homes and Baltimore's at 1.130M (+65%!!!). "So maybe Detroit isn't a baseball city!" a hater would scream, voice trembling. Let's look at the two teams' heydays:

Team + Years

Tigers (2011-15)

Orioles (2012-16)

Total Record

440-369

444-366

Avg. Yearly Attendance

≈2,879,200

≈2,274,400

In their heydays, with shockingly similar records, Detroit outperformed Baltimore by 604,800 (+26%). So if the average attendance difference between the two teams is 26% (market share difference), we can subtract that from the +29% for 2021, meaning the so-called fun Tigers are only pulling in a pitiful 6,000 (+3%) more than the Orioles. So for +70% of the price, the Tigers get to pull in +3% of the crowd. Yes, Covid is affecting these numbers, but the percentages are projectable towards TV viewership, as numbers were extracted post guideline lift and new covid cases are similar for both cities, so safety concerns are only barely affecting these numbers. With respects to COVID and other adjustments, the most I could see it being is +10% (and I am being very generous), which is still not nearly enough to justify the spending.

So, let's get back to the question at hand. Fun is subjective, with many fans proving to have a "Championship or bust" mentality. If the team is not contending, then there is no point in watching to these people. Therefore it makes more money to have a $42MM atrocious team over the $72MM mediocre team. So yes, a fun rebuild would be enjoyable to some people, myself included, there just isn't a reason for the owner to make such an investment. Back to claim two - if one is merely criticizing Elias for tanking, he must read the writing on the wall. There are more reasons for Elias to tank than there are to not. In fact, he has zero reasons to not tank. The last gasp a hater might have at this point is to criticize Elias for following orders and keeping payroll low. Well if he doesn't, then he will be fired, and the rebuild will fail.

So now the argument is as follows:

1. "You can rebuild and still be a fun team."

X - Fun is subjective and many hold a championship or bust mentality

2. "If Mike Elias's drafting/player development is so good, he should be able to build a team without high draft picks."

Do you believe Mike Elias is good at scouting and player development?

"Yes, but I don't like him tanking."

X - High draft picks hold value regardless of scouting/player dev

3. "Therefore spending should have increased in the offseason to build a 70ish win team."

X - There are more reasons to tank than to not. (Provide reasoning)

So whose fault is it? Is it the Angelos kids for being greedy and not caring for every fan's enjoyment? Or is it the fairweather fans who decide when they want to watch based on how close the Orioles are to a World Series? Well, that's not for me to decide, as it's clear that one person holds no blame at all - Mike Elias, our perfect and loving GM.

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