Dec 23, 2008

What's Wrong with Baseball

Alright. About the worst news a Red Sox fan can get occurred today. After spending weeks courting free agent Mark Teixeira and offering one of the highest contracts in baseball history, at the last minute today the Yankees swept in with 12 million dollars more and landed the big fish. Nevermind that I am a Red Sox fan and am feeling quite a bit of jealousy right now. I can acknowledge that. Never mind that the Red Sox had just as much of an opportunity to meet Teixeira's demands and fell short because they wouldn't give 1.5 million more to an already overpriced contract.

The Yankees have once again proved what is wrong with the current state of baseball operations. They have shown once again that they are the best team money can buy. They have shown that they are more concerned with flaunting their enormous revenue stream than they are with fair and balanced competition. After all, aren't greed, indulgence, buying your way to power the new American way? Isn't it just sound economics to build your own empire without regard to how your decisions affect your competitors. It's the Wal-Mart way!

So far this off-season, the Yankees have signed three high price free agents and have committed $400 million dollars over the next 8 years. They have pulled out of their deep pockets and snagged the big ones. Some will say that fans shouldn't be upset because the Yankees are just taking their profits and putting it back into the product for their fans. They say that the Yankees actually cleared $88 million off their payroll this year and have only spent $65 million. They say that the Yankees are just trying to reward their fans with the best baseball team they can. To that I say "Bull Butter!"

Let's first remember that the $88 million that the Yankees cleared off their payroll is twice as much as the payrolls of teams like the Rays, Royals, and other small market teams. Those teams can't clear that much off. Let's also remember that the Yankees have more income than any other team. With their YES Network, their large (and increasing) ticket prices, and their other business means that they have more revenue to spend than any other team. Their payroll last year was over $200 million dollars and they just paid a $26 million luxury tax (Something that Bud Selig seems to enjoy). They just finished a $1 billion stadium and in the process received millions of dollars from New York city residents through taxes.

Let's remember that the Yankees now currently own the 4 highest paid contracts in professional baseball (ARod, Jeter, Sabathia, and Teixeira). 4! The Yankees have 7 of the highest 10 contracts in the history of professional baseball. That just sounds wrong. It's not about fairness, it's about balance and making sure that every team that suits up in March will have an equal opportunity to compete. It's about fans in Kansas City, and Cincinnati, and Oakland actually having a something to root for other than a .500 record. There are fans in some cities that have grown up without knowing what a playoff team looks like for most of the last 20+ years. No team has taken advantage of the Free Agent system than the Yankees.

I heard it said today that George Steinbrenner "showed the world that you have to spend money to make money." I understand that principle. Big Daddy George did a good job of helping all teams to evaluate the product they put on the field. He also made the game more about greed than competition. He made it possible for snakes like Scott Boras to make millions of dollars giving small-market teams the shaft. Boras and the Steinbrenners represent all the worst of sports.

Some will say, "Matt, your team has one of the largest payrolls too." I know. I realize that the Red Sox spent $130 million (far short of the Yankees $200 mill). I know that their free agent spending enabled them to compete and win 2 World Series in four years. I know that they are sometimes exploiting the system too. But not this time. This time John Henry and Theo Epstein refused to play Boras' game. And they paid for it too. However, I feel they escaped with a little class. They showed that they were willing to bet on the 2007 World Series MVP and the third best player in the American League (Youk) last year rather than be held hostage to big contracts.

What will be the result? The Yankees will probably be a better team and could (definitely should) have a great record with their monster lineup. The Yanks might even make the playoffs. (You should with the best team money can buy) They may even buy their way to a championship. However, they will not gain respect. They will gain little admiration.

Again, some will say, "You're just jealous Matt. The Yankees gave the Red Sox the shaft again. They did the same thing they did with ARod." I cannot plead innocence. Whenever the Yankees pull one over on the Sox, my jealousy does rise. But so does my hatred for everything the Yankees stand for. I have not always been a Red Sox fan. I have always been a Yankee hater. In the 70's, I was a Reds fan because Pete Rose, George Foster, and Joe Morgan played baseball hard and with class. In the 80's, I was mostly a Tigers fan because I loved the way Alan Trammel and Lou Whitaker played the middle and Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris played with heart and talent. However through all my baseball fandom, I have always had a vitriol for the Yankees. Not because they win, but because of the way they do it. Now, I think I have enough fuel to advance my hatred for many years to come.

Boo Scott Boras. Boo Hank Steinbrenner. Boo the spineless baseball commissioner Bud Selig. Boo the MLB Players Association.