Will today ruin baseball?

Well, it’s strike day. I haven’t talked about it. I was hoping if I ignored it, it would go away. That strategy rarely works, but there’s always a first time.
Let’s face it: This is the Crybaby Billionaire Boys’ Club vs. the Crybaby Millionaire Boys’ Club.

Players complain about how they used to be treated as slaves. Well, they aren’t anymore. The league minimum–the minimum is more than some doctors make. Baseball players work nine months out of the year, counting spring training. They have to travel a lot, but they don’t have to work full 8-hour days, usually. When they do work, they do things I do for fun (and usually have to pay to do).

Yes, in the 1960s, there was a problem. Those problems have been solved for a very long time. Players’ greatest fears are that their salaries won’t necessarily double at the same rate they did before. Well, boo-hoo. Today a decent utility infielder makes what George Brett made at his peak, and George Brett isn’t hurting.

Now, the players talk down about the fans. Even Neifi Perez talks down to the fans. Neifi Perez! The worst everyday player in the majors. Mr. .257 on-base-percentage. Mr. Where-have-you-gone-Donnie-Sadler?, for crying out loud! “They’re just fans,” Neifi says. “What do they know?”

Who cares what the fans know? (What I know is that Felix Martinez isn’t the worst shortstop in Royals history anymore.) They pay your salary. Though it’s certain Perez won’t be back in Kansas City next year, and questionable whether he’ll be playing baseball at all. Serves him right. He’s a lousy player and a jerk. Kansas City deserves better. For that matter, Baghdad deserves better.

I don’t have any sympathy for the players.

The owners complain about competitive imbalance and salaries rising too quickly. The problems are largely their own making, but at least most of them recognize there is a problem and are trying to solve it. As recently as ten years ago, there was no way of knowing who was going to be a contender. You could take a good guess, but several teams would always surprise you. Is anyone really surprised the Yankees and the Braves are the teams to beat this year?

Now Oakland and Minnesota have proven you can create a winner on a budget. They spend smart. That’s good. Not every small or medium-market team spends smart. But when New York can spend five times what a small-market team spends, there’s a problem. Oakland lost Jason Giambi to the Yankees; in a few years they won’t be able to afford to keep both Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada either. Who cares about the players or the owners–that’s unfair to the fans.

Most of the owners are on the same page. Even Tom Hicks, who can’t seem to spend his way out of last place but not for lack of trying, wants a luxury tax and revenue sharing. He sees the need for rules to follow. George Steinbrenner won’t be happy until every team but the Yankees is bankrupt and the second-best team in baseball is the Columbus Clippers, the Yankees’ AAA affiliate. But he’s in the minority.

The owners are being the more reasonable of the two. That feels weird to say. Isn’t that kind of like saying Ayatollah Khomeini was reasonable about something?

A lot of people are saying if there’s a strike, they won’t be back. Some of them will make good on that promise. I know I’ll be back. Baseball’s broken. I see this strike like a car crash to an alcoholic. You don’t wish the car crash on anybody, but if the car crash leads to the person finally seeing the problem and doing something about it, then the car crash can do some good. With some people, it takes a car crash. But with some people, even a car crash isn’t enough.

And the players and owners are just like that drunk behind the wheel–not giving a rip who gets hurt as a result of their irresponsible actions. Who cares about the people who make their living selling concessions at the ballpark? Not the players and owners. That’s an established fact.

I’ll be mad if they can’t come to an agreement before the deadline. But I’ll be madder if the strike doesn’t accomplish anything. There’s only one thing worse than a drunk, and that’s an incurable drunk.

I know what we need. A few good men who love baseball–who love baseball more than money–need to step up to the plate and do the right thing. And no, I don’t really care if that happens tomorrow, or if it happens during a lockout in spring training while Jason Grimsley and Johnny Damon and Todd Zeile and Steve Kline sit at home.

I think it might be refreshing to watch a bunch of guys who’ve never touched steroids, who are actually glad to be getting paid to do what we used to do at recess, and who play every inning like it’s the 9th inning of Game 7 of the World Series, don’t you?

But there are no promises. So we wait. And I’m fully aware that if the worst happens, I might be the only baseball fan left.

That’s OK by me. I’m a Kansas City Royals fan. I’m used to being alone.

6 thoughts on “Will today ruin baseball?

  • August 30, 2002 at 9:26 am
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    Hmm… replacement ball players?

  • August 30, 2002 at 11:32 am
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    Dave, I’ve got three words for you: River City Rascals. I don’t go to Cardinals games that often anyway, watching the games occasionally on TV. Baseball’s really not my primary free-time activity, much less my sport of choice. But if I do want to see baseball, heading down to a minor league park may be my only personal option if these whiners screw it up.

    The players say they have to cash in on their careers when they can. At the same time, they say the average career of an MLB player is five years, and most farm players don’t get into the bigs. Sounds like most baseball players should have a *backup plan* called “getting a job”. That’s what most class A/AA/AAA runts do when their careers are over. Shouldn’t the guys in the majors? Hell, they get a pension, and they have lucrative promotional and broadcasting opportunities after their careers are over. And they’re WHINING? I’m usually OK with Joe Morgan, but he makes the “cash-in while you can argument” from the broadcast booth to supposedly counter the view that players are rich brats. That’s hypocrisy to me. Here’s a guy still cashing in on his career talking about how there’s basically no life after your career is over. Huh? Frankly, the players sound a lot like Mike Tyson to me right now. “I have to feed my children. I need another 10 million.” Yeah, right, whatever.

    Joe Morgan should take a look at Larry Patey. Larry used to play for the St. Louis Blues. He had a decent career in hockey, from what I know of him. But now he sells real estate, and he’s pretty good at it. Larry doesn’t whine, and he’s made something of himself after his playing days were over. He’s an example of, dare I say it, a real man.

    Why should baseball players be exempt from working after they’ve had their fun, and have been paid for it to boot?

  • August 30, 2002 at 11:57 am
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    And it looks like this is all moot. The sides have agreed to a deal.

    But I still stand by my comments. We’ll all be doing this again in 2006 if the “modified cap” doesn’t rein in these runaway salaries. Both sides need to make some fundamental changes in philosophy to keep this game alive.

  • August 30, 2002 at 1:21 pm
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    Thank goodness that baseball will continue! By the way Dave, you wouldn’t have been the last fan. I’d be out there with you.

    One thing I am trying to do is see more minor league games. It’s cheaper to take the family, I get to sit closer to the field, and the players seem to still have a little bit of the joy of the game showing.

    Steve, I think I disagree with you a little bit. I think the idea that the players (or anyone!) should cash in while they can is good, solid advice. If someone offered me huge bucks to do something I have a talent for, I certainly wouldn’t turn them down, just because it’s a lot of money.

    And Joe Morgan does work now, after his career. I can tell that he has put effort into becoming a good broadcaster. Just listen to the people like Mike Piazza that sit in the booth during the All-Star game exhibitions. They sound terrible! Being a good broadcaster is a lot harder than it looks (sounds?) and I think Joe Morgan should get some credit for the work he has done.

  • August 30, 2002 at 2:05 pm
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    I wholeheartedly support the minor leaguers. For me, it’s the Chattanooga Lookouts. I can take my family of 5 for $40, less than 1 decent ticket to the Braves game. I can go to Chattanooga, visit the aquarium, have dinner, go to the game, and spend the night for about the same as going to Turner field, parking, tickets, 5 overpriced hotdogs and 5 overpriced cokes. And it only takes 30 minutes longer to get to Chattanooga, even though I’m in a suburb of Atlanta.

  • August 30, 2002 at 2:58 pm
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    One thing the players need to do is the same thing you and I do. I don’t go and blow my whole year’s salary every year. I save. So the average major-league career is five years. At a quarter-mil a year, that’s $1.25 million before taxes. Figure real income of $600,000. Put half of that into an index fund, get a real job, and forget about it. Say you’re 30 when your big-league career is over. By the time you’re 65, that’s grown to nearly $10 million, assuming the historial 7-year doubling on the DJIA.

    Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. And that’s aside from any pensions, social security (ha!), or other savings the former player might accumulate over that time.

    The problem is that so many players blow their salaries on fancy jewelry, expensive cars, and other flashy things. Paying them more money won’t give them a better future. They’ll buy fancier things. That’s something I’ve noticed, even with myself. I make almost twice as much as I made in 1997. I was saving probably 25% of my income then. Today, I’m saving just about the same dollar amount–maybe just a little more. My spending habits increase with my salary. And that’s true of most people I know.

    Freddie Patek and Willie Aikens were both minor stars for the Royals in the 1970s. Aikens spent his money on cars and jewelry. He was broke before his career was over. He left baseball in 1985. Became a drug dealer. Now he’s in prison.

    Patek took the money he had and opened a car dealership. He’s had a hard time financially the past few years, but that’s because of medical expenses his daughters incurred. They’d put a hardship on almost anybody. But Patek did all the right things. Were it not for his extraordinary circumstances, he’d be a moderately wealthy man.

    Cash in while you can? Sure. But don’t count on it solving all your problems, and don’t get so greedy that you destroy your sport along with it. The players who are making $2 million a year and having financial problems would have financial problems whether they made minimum wage or $25 million a year.

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