As you’ll see in some of the links below, baseball is a broken sport. Attendance is down, television ratings are dismal, and the average fan is a 57-year-old white male. For a sport that is playing rope-a-dope with irrelevance, an extended work stoppage is not an optimal way to reverse course. There’s no sugar coating it, but for a game that’s probably worth $500 billion or more collectively, the powers that be seem to care little for killing the goose that lays its golden eggs.
I suppose the main takeaway is this: Why should fans care about baseball if the league and its owners don’t care about the game’s fans? For 50 years, the guys that call the shots have been more concerned with winning the battles than losing the war. Baseball is entertainment and an expensive vice at that. The casual fan cares little about which side has an edge in negotiations.
Far be it from me to choose the owners over the players, and I will not do that, but, the optics of players fighting for increased wages and easier paths to the open market do not sit well with the middle-aged fans. Those dudes are struggling to put their kids through college while keeping up with their mortgage payments. The average US salary is $94,700, skewed higher thanks to the excessive compensation plans of an ever-growing list of corporate executives. In reality, most of us make somewhere between $30,000 and $60,00 per year.
The minimum MLB salary is $570,000 and a good number of players make at least $1 million per year. Heck, teams sign guys to million-dollar minor league contracts who have little chance of sticking, though they’re not guaranteed deals. That perceived entitlement doesn’t sit well with much of Main Street America.
Though we should be more cognizant, most of us are able to tune out the ungodly annual salaries of this country’s elite, like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Tim Cook. The league’s owners know this too, so the casual fan is blind to the excesses that are the fruits of MLB ownership. A guy who makes $35,000 per year and can’t afford to take his kids to a ballgame will usually gripe about player salaries as the root cause. That’s because we see those salaries as expenses rather than investments. In the eyes of the common fan, a negative on the balance sheet causes ticket prices to rise, which is not true.
That’s the narrative that the MLBPA needs to change. Players get all the headlines, and ultimately they’re the scapegoats in the eyes of John Q. Public. Tom Ricketts claiming the Cubs suffered biblical losses seems as farcical as anything you’ll read in The Onion. In fact, it’s downright dubious at best. But Max Scherzer claiming that owners are cheapskates after signing a three-year $130 million deal smacks of entitlement and elitism. He’s an expensive meal ticket, and not much more, but that’s not how most fans see it.
The quote by Joe Sheehan at the bottom of this post is telling. As fans, we’ve accepted terms like “competitive balance” and “major market advantages” while teams like the A’s, Rays, Pirates, and Marlins cry poor. Owners don’t buy baseball teams for the love of the game. They buy them because they are money-making machines, and all 30 are highly profitable or there would be regular ownership turnover among the league’s small-market franchises.
Baseball is so profitable that William Morris Endeavor, the largest agency in America, is buying up minor league teams, including the Iowa Cubs. They’re the same agency that books the Red Hot Chili Peppers, owns Lollapalooza, and bankrolls most of Hollywood.
Jerry Reinsdorf is the worst example of all. For 40 years he’s convinced White Sox fans — and Chicago taxpayers — that his team suffers from a competitive disadvantage because it shares a city with the Cubs. Pardon my French, but that’s a steaming pile of bullshit. That organization has no clue as to how to best market the team.
To put it another way, Mark Cuban probably wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to buy the A’s just because they play in Oakland. The Bay Area is the nation’s sixth-largest market. Sure, the Coliseum lease sucks, but the team isn’t hemorrhaging money like they’d want you to believe, and a smart businessman could find a way to untether himself from that deal.
If you want to be upset because we’re likely to see $500-600 million player contracts in the next few years, that’s fine. Just remember that those contracts only become available because team owners can afford that kind of investment.
Cubs News & Notes
- Though the Cubs are said to be strongly interested in Carlos Correa, they may have an in-house answer at shortstop with X-factor Nico Hoerner.
- Corea has switched agencies and will be represented by Scott Boras once the lockout ends.
- David Ross dropped in on the Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball team and posed for a photo with legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
- Jon Lester has a compelling case for Hall of Fame induction. The veteran lefty will become eligible in 2026.
- Ian Happ could be a trade candidate this winter/spring.
- Happ is living the life of an aristocrat during the lockout. Last year he was the king of coffee. This year, he fancies a well-rounded cabernet.
- Thanks to prospects like Brennen Davis, Owen Caissie, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Nelson Velazquez, and Alexander Canario, the outfield is a strength of Chicago’s farm system.
- It seems a medical emergency may have prevented Greg Maddux from signing with the Yankees instead of the Braves when he left the Cubs in 1992.
- Over the last 3,470 games, the Cubs and the White Sox both have 1,735 wins and losses.
Odds & Sods
Sheehan went on a bit of a social media rant, the gist of it being that baseball is not just a “business.”
Apropos of Nothing
If the lockout extends into the regular season, I’ve decided the Albuquerque Isotopes will be my go-to team this summer. I simply must order a baseball jersey for my fantasy baseball draft, whenever that may occur.
MLB News & Notes
The 2022 Hall of Fame vote may be the most polarizing of all time, and it looks like most of the writers are leaning heavily on analytics to help them choose who they’ll vote for.
1972 stands as one of the game’s most important and controversial years, both on and off the field.
Tom Brady said baseball was his first love, and he was allegedly a power-hitting catcher with a potential big league career when he chose football instead. Brady was chosen by the Expos at 17 years old in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB Draft
Negotiations & Love Songs
In the battle of billionaires and multimillionaires, who are you siding with?
There are still at least 60 unsigned free agents that are expected to land major league deals once the lockout ends. It would seem that unless a deal is struck by February 20, spring training will be delayed, if not the start of the season.
This year’s work stoppage goes far beyond labor issues of the past and could put the future of the game in peril.
The owners seem to have little concern for dwindling attendance, a rising age demographic, and television ratings that have been less than stellar.
Rob Manfred has been a PR nightmare for the league this winter, too.
Negative news aside, Evan Drellich of The Athletic doesn’t believe labor negotiations will be as contentious as they were during the 1994-95 work stoppage.
Headed for Home
Jon Greenberg of The Athletic wrote a superb tribute to the life of Les Grobstein ($). Raise your hand if you remember Sports Phone in Chicago, and buy yourself something extra special if you remember the actual phone number. Thanks to “The Grobber,” we’ll always have the full, NSFW version of former Cubs’ manager Lee Elia “swinging for the fences” in 1983.
Lester was a shining example of character during his time with the Cubs.
When I wrote about Red Sox pitchers drinking beer during games in 2011, the rotation froze me out. Beckett was obsessed with finding "the snitch." I thought it was going to be a problem, but Jon Lester didn't let it. He knew that he had screwed up, not me. Showed real character.
— John Tomase (@jtomase) January 12, 2022
They Said It
- “[Hoerner] is a really impactful player. He knows he may move around next year. He knows he may not. I think I would just say that he embraces that. He knows his versatility is really valuable. He knows that the modern game really does embrace what he does well.” – Jed Hoyer
- “Every MLB team can afford to pay market rate for great baseball players. If there is one idea that has to be eradicated, it’s the image of some teams — and their owners — as ‘have nots.’ Stop letting people wealthy enough to buy baseball teams play victims.” – Sheehan
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
She’s Gone by Daryl Hall with Anderson East – East is one of my favorite, slightly-under-the-radar performers. Anything from “Live at Daryl’s House” is usually spectacular, and East pairs well with the veteran soulster. Check out “This Too Shall Last” when you get a chance.