Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Despicable Them: Baseball Strikes Out

Latest Image on the new Yankee Stadium.

Image via Wikipedia

Ah, just listen to the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. But it’s not a game anymore, only a newly-minted circle of the super-rich whose teams are wagered on in office betting pools and imagined to be gods by children.

Kids always felt that way about their hardball heroes, back to when they knew them by nicknames like Babe, the Iron Horse, DiMag, and the game-changing Jackie.

The new crowd of super-athletes is known for living in over-priced castles inside gated communities and, sooner or later during their careers, for disappointing their youngest fans with very unsportsmanlike behavior, and here we speak of Bonds, Clemens and their ilk. You know, the Brave New World of Take the Money and Run. But there are reasons this came to be.

We cannot blame only the players. There are other culprits and they wear no uniforms and win no games at the last out with talented derring-do. No, they wear suits and are a breed of American that has fashioned its own image of social contempt in places like Wall Street and uh, oh, yes, Sports.

I speak here of a few owners. A year ago, upon the death of Georgia Steinbrenner, I created an unauthorized epitaph of his having compromised the future of baseball. It mattered not to New Yorkers that he gave them what they’re used to: a sense of entitlement without their deserving or having to work for it. That, after all, is the Big Apple Way.

In sum, there was a long history of owners making a lion’s share of the money from the athletic talent of others, meaning, by improper compensation to those who made it for them. Such thievery always results in a union, what Americans with short memories think of today as the devil itself.

The players union set about to correct this imbalance and succeeded mightily in doing so. Now people blame them for high salaries while owners in their high-priced threads escape the notice of all.

One union tactic was free-agency, by which players would no longer be enslaved by a single owner but could, in timely fashion, benefit from an open bidding process. Credit for this goes to Marvin Miller, though people who don’t pay attention think it was the brain-child of Steinbrenner. But he only benefited from it. The impression is that George was the richest man in America and where else would he belong but in New York, and what else could he possibly spend his money on other than to make them happy?

But there were and are lots of owners with as much filthy lucre than he ever had, like the Cubs’ Rickets family and the Angels’ Arte Moreno, but Bob McLane of the Astros has a bit more and John Malone of the Braves a lot more. Mr. Nintendo Man who holds the Mariners has a whole lot more.

The difference is that to them baseball is a game, albeit a quite profitable one. To Georgie it was life and death, not to mention a chunk of his big fat ego. When a player was in free agency, the others would bid a reasonable amount but George would wave blank checks, and hence got A-Rod, Giambi, Abreu, and all the rest. To wit, he bought an all-star club with cash on the barrel head, many of whom had to sit on the bench a lot, given that nine others were already on the field.

That is how he compromised the future of baseball. He had everyone else chasing his rich kids. That house of cards eventually would have played itself out, if only all other owners stayed put and stuck to salaries that were generous and that made sense. Then the Red Sox blew the lid off by out-Yanking the Yankees, dishing $50 million just to talk to Matsuzaka and another 50 to sign him. That was obscene.

But it caught up quickly with the Sox, as it is with the boys in the Bronx. Players in their prime no longer want to finish their careers in pin stripes, witness Cliff Lee, who blew off all that money to go with the Phils. The Sox haven’t and never will get back their full investment in Dice-K, and after shelling out an insane new contract for Josh Beckett, have watched him start to tank right along with Papelbon. Now the heavily-favored Sox have begun the season without a Top Three pitcher who can avoid dishing up home run balls.

Meanwhile, please notice that the Twins are always right up there, making it to the playoffs though just short of winning it all, and they do it with sensical prices. All the USA ought to be rooting for them.

What gives me most satisfaction is that failure is settling in with the Yankes just after their building that new monstrosity(see photo) across from the old Yankee Stadium. Ironically, in that short distance, they abandoned their storied history, and Steinbrenner is succeeded by his doofus sons, known otherwise as the Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum of modern baseball.

What clueless fans still don’t know is that tix sales for the new stadium plunged seven percent the first year, and though the team is worth much more than what George bought it for, it’s leveraged 95% to Stadium debt.
Modern athletics, not just baseball, is on more of a slippery slope than it may eager guess. And it’s more than greed:

It’s just despicable.

2 Responses to “Despicable Them: Baseball Strikes Out”

  1. It’s early! I hope Beckett proves he’s worth the cash–and he has his first opportunity tonight [April 6].
    I’m extremely worried about Dice-K’s [first] outing…on the other hand.
    I’m an optimist- and a Sox fan (terrible combo, btw), but even I think [the next] game in particular is going to be very, very stressful.
    I would be a supporter of salary caps, but honestly, it’s too late. i don’t see it ever happening- and you’re right, it’s sad.

  2. Thank you again for your knowledge and research – presented as an easy read. We learn that all that’s lucre is not talent. I never would have given Steinbrenner credit for baseball’s money spiral, but you make a great case for it. Comparing his relatively meager wealth with the super owners makes him a likable villain, though a rich one by most standards. Heck, he loved the game – just had a big ego.

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