Published on January 20th, 2010 | by Thompson1
The Demise of Major League Baseball and Why it Still is NOT Doomed
The Rant of a Baseball Fan…Saying Goodbye to the Metrodome…Buying Championships…Rating the World Series…Bud Selig as the Devil in a Bad Disguise…Why Joe Mauer Deserves More Money Than Alex Rodriguez…and Why He Won’t Get It…Looking Out for the Fans’ Interests…and Making the Game Great Again
It’s a shame the greatest hitter we’ve seen since Ted Williams, and arguably the greatest player in baseball may have to leave the friendly confines of Minneapolis for the dirty, disgusting cities of New York or Los Angeles just to get paid what he deserves. The man is worth a third of Minnesota’s projected payroll of $90 million in 2010…a substantial increase from the $67 million they paid players in 2009, yet the Twins did more with $67 million than half of MLB teams. They were the lowest payroll in the playoffs and were the only team that played a 163rd game that went 12 innings and has been called “The Greatest Regular Season Game Ever Played” by Harold Reynolds and members of MLB Network. After that game and a few light beers they got on a plane and flew to New York, arriving just after 3 A.M. to throw a rookie on the mound against America’s highest paid team and strongest lineup about 10 hours later.
We all know how it ended…especially me. I was there for the last baseball game ever played in the Metrodome. I could see fear in the eyes of Twins fans before I set foot in the Dome, as scalpers were unloading lower level tickets behind home plate at the face value of $60 a seat – a $500 ticket before Joe Nathan’s blown save in Game 2. I was nearly willing to eat my three extra tickets and the $60 it cost to get them just to sit behind Joe Mauer in the biggest game I’d ever attended. But then I realized it didn’t matter where I was sitting. The important thing is I was there. I drove 1,200 miles in 36 hours to see this game, snorted 5 grams of cocaine to get there alive, spent $40 on a speeding ticket, smoked a bag of weed and 3 packs of cigarettes to deal with the losses in the first two games, and I still had 3 gallons of beer to get me through this loss. The truth of the matter is I couldn’t afford tickets behind home plate even at $60. I was broke.
If I thought the fear I observed in those 50,000 fans before the game was bad, I was far from prepared for the pain we all felt watching the Yankees celebrate on our sacred, artificial turf under the conveniently colored roof of our cathedral…the same roof that blessed us with a win just two games earlier against the Tigers and so many times before. I nearly wept watching nostalgic videos of Kirby Puckett robbing Ron Gant in Game 6 of the World Series in 1991. And I wanted to cry for my team, who had shown more heart and determination since that team in ’91. I can’t believe I will never enjoy the rush of air that blows you out of that bubble onto the streets of downtown Minneapolis, where delightful people at Hubert’s Bar and many soon-to-be-empty shot glasses await. But the Yankees were better…are better. Now we all know the price of a championship…approximately $200 million and the ability to handle prima donnas and a bit of steroid use.
The Yankees may have won, but they didn’t win it fairly. It’s not their fault, though. We can all blame Bud Selig, whose bright idea of a luxury tax has sent MLB into a tailspin. I don’t care if Tampa Bay made it to the World Series last year. Their glory certainly didn’t last long, and we all know that a fire sale is the only way the Rays will be able to afford their much needed new stadium, especially with citizens becoming much less willing to raise taxes to build stadiums. Say goodbye to Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton – both of which will end up in either New York or Los Angeles. There’s a big problem with the game of baseball, its revenue sharing, and Bud Selig’s salary.
When it all comes down to it, the game of baseball is still about filling the seats. According to Vince Gennaro’s (2007) study of MLB economics, paid attendance accounts for nearly 50% of total revenue for most teams. Filling the seats means selling five-dollar hot dogs, eight-dollar beers, lucrative luxury boxes, parking passes, in-park advertisements, and merchandise, which can account for 28% of total revenue. Reaching the playoffs can represent up to 4.5% of total revenue, and reaching the World Series can contribute 9% to total revenue.
Here’s the problem. Teams in New York and Los Angeles not only sell-out games, but enjoy ample revenue from television broadcasts, reaching fans beyond the walls of the ballpark. Gennaro (2007) reports that MLB shares only 25% of all revenue across every team, so large market teams get to keep much of their television revenues. New York’s “YES Network generated baseball-related revenues of over $200 million in 2006, exceeding the total estimated revenue of all but six MLB teams.”
Large market teams have an obvious advantage in attracting the most talented players due to their outrageous television broadcast revenues. Steinbrenner was able to pay off the mortgage for New Yankee Stadium in a year, while the Twins had to beg for 392 million in tax dollars just to remain a team in Major League Baseball. It wasn’t long ago when Selig threatened to make the Twins disappear until they shocked the world and made it to the ALCS. Selig’s an awful leader and should be burned at the stake. And if he didn’t see that tie in the All-Star Game coming he’s a fucking idiot. In fact, all he’s done for the sport is make the All-Star Game worth something and create a steroid policy…both of which came about far too late. The damage had been done.
What’s most shocking about this whole situation is that Selig doesn’t even realize what creates revenue in this sport. Competitive balance creates revenue. The Yankees rarely get high enough ratings to make the World Series incredibly profitable for MLB. The lower the ratings are, the less money MLB makes on advertising, and we all know how many advertisements we have to sit through during a baseball game. Let’s do the math…9 innings per game is 18 commercial breaks at 3 minutes each is nearly an hour of commercials. That’s 120 thirty-second commercials worth at least $200,000 each during the World Series. So MLB and the network hosting the series stand to make $24 million per game, and a sweep stands to make nearly $100 million. Unfortunately for MLB, having two high payroll teams in the World Series keeps many fans from watching because they have no interest in watching someone buy a championship, forcing ratings down and decreasing the value of each advertisement. The two highest TV ratings since the legendary 1986 World Series between the Red Sox and Mets are:
1991 – Atlanta Braves vs. Minnesota Twins (24 Rating/41 Share/35,680,00 Viewers), in which two teams who had finished last in their division the year before fought for the championship for the first time ever. The home team won every game in the series, and we can’t forget Kirby Puckett’s performance in Game 6 and the performances of Jack Morris and John Smoltz in Game 7, which has been called the greatest World Series game ever by a majority of baseball analysts and commentators, including Peter Gammons.
1987 – St. Louis Cardinals vs. Minnesota Twins (24 Rating/41 Share/35,340,000 Viewers), in which the home team won every game.
The highest ratings in Bud Selig’s reign were in 1992, the year he took over as commissioner (20.2 Rating/34 Share/30,010,000 Viewers). Since Selig’s debut, ratings, shares, and viewers are on a steady decline. In fact, ratings in 2008 were at their lowest level ever.
The worst thing that could happen to the World Series is a team that is completely dominant. When a game isn’t close it’s not entertaining. There has to be lead changes, a struggle…FUCKING DRAMA! Remember that great ALCS when the Red Sox came back from 3 games down to the Yankees and were behind in Game 4 only to come back and win the whole damn thing? David Ortiz went yard in consecutive games and Boston went on to win the World Series. I bet you don’t remember much of that World Series, though. Do you remember who their opponent was? Well, they kicked the living shit out of what we all thought to be the red-hot Cardinals. When fans realize the series is over they stop watching, so Games 3 and 4 receive lower ratings and fewer viewers, as was the case last year as the Yankees dominated…and the year before when the Phillies whooped the Rays.
It’s fairly obvious that two highly competitive teams that don’t pay their players outrageous salaries attract the most viewers and advertising revenue. Why? Fans like to watch players who love the game…not the paycheck. Fans see the World Series as the American Dream. Anyone should have a chance to make it and win, but in this era MLB does not consider the values of Americans, their largest market, to make the game a spitting image of the country that’s responsible for it. The Commissioner is too busy spreading MLB overseas to increase revenues in order to accommodate his shitty handling of the sport at home. What we don’t need is a Commissioner taking our sport overseas and giving us all a bad name by fucking up the greatest game in the world for them, too. The World Series, and every game for that matter, is simply becoming a business transaction. Bud Selig and teams like the Yankees take the “game” out of “baseball game.”
Alex Rodriguez is a perfect example of my theory that a baseball game is a business transaction. Alex is the highest paid player in baseball’s history, but he still isn’t the best in the business…with or without steroids. Here are five reasons why A-Rod doesn’t deserve his contract, and why the Yankees do not deserve A-Rod:
1. More money leads to more corruption. It’s true in governments, churches, and baseball teams. Had A-Rod been making less money, would he have been able to afford the steroids he used to pad his statistics while failing to show up in the playoffs all those years? Absolutely. Horse steroids are relatively cheap especially when purchased in Mexico, but when you get salaries A-Rod, Sosa, and McGwire were offered it’s hard not to want more.
2. Being busted for the use of steroids should void any contract negotiated that’s dependent upon inflated production statistics. General managers should not be held responsible for contracts that were negotiated based on statistics that were a result of cheating, and they should not be obligated to fulfill the terms of those contracts. Would you offer the same salary to a law student that studied her butt off to pass the bar exam and another student who cheated and did very well? Manny Ramirez isn’t worth the same on the juice as he is off the juice. Obviously, David Ortiz isn’t worth a dime without Manny and the juice. And that’s considering strictly production, not the integrity factor, which makes them both worthless human beings in my opinion. Pete Rose put a few bets down on his team and was given a lifetime ban for potentially altering the outcome of games from the dugout. Did these men, who I should refer to as animals, not only alter the outcome of games but the figures of their own salaries? Why were they not kicked out for life? Why is Barry Bonds the homerun king? Why is it that these animals got away with it? The answer lies in Bud Selig’s pockets, which have grown substantially during his reign as King of Baseball during the Steroid Era. Selig’s salary has increased steadily from $6.5 million to $18.35 million per year, which not only takes into account inflation and cost of living increases, but the King’s wardrobe and lavish lifestyle. Selig makes more money than 98% of players in the league, 40% more than NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell, 55% more than NBA Commissioner David Stern, and 70% more than NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman! Why is Bud making all this money? Television revenues. I liked you better when you were just the owner of the Brewers, Bud, and I didn’t even like you then, but at least I got to see your team lose on a regular basis.
3. A-Rod is far from a role model, and I don’t care if you’re a professional athlete or a bartender…you are a role model if just one child looks up to you. He should take a few dollars out of his deep pockets and payback every kid that spent money to watch him play who said, “I’m going to be like Alex Rodriguez someday.” He should be ashamed of himself for misleading them. I don’t remember hearing stories about Joe Mauer shoving needles in his ass to improve his power numbers. He just worked harder and became a better hitter. That’s a role model. Mauer has proven, just as Kirby Puckett did before him, that 28 homeruns a year is MVP-caliber numbers if you hit for average, work your butt off on defense, and play with your heart and a smile.
4. There should be equilibrium amongst player salaries, which would make it impossible for A-Rod to pull down $27 million a year when 24 other players are fighting for a slice of pie that’s no longer twice as big as any other team’s pie. Even if the salary cap is set at $150 million (the league average in 2009 being $91 million), the Yankees would have to cut at least five superstars to play within the rules.
5. A-Rod isn’t even the best player on his own team! Mark Texiera has a higher OBP, OPS, and is the best defensive player at his position, and Derek Jeter is the glue that holds the Yankees together. Texiera may have hit like shit in the playoffs, but I would venture to say C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Petitte had much more to do with the Yankees success in the playoffs than A-Rod’s numbers.
Both the Yankees and Red Sox have openings at catcher after next season with Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek becoming free agents. If A-Rod is making $27 million a year, what does that make Joe Mauer worth to the Yankees? $30 million? With the short porch in right field at New Yankee Stadium, could he be worth $35 million? Hell, Joe hits to the opposite field so well he could hit .400 off the Green Monster at Fenway. Does that make him worth $40 million a year? Well, I can assure you Joe will never be MLB’s highest paid player, and I have ten reasons why.
1. Joe won’t leave Minnesota. He is the face of the franchise. Bill Smith will give him just about anything as long as it’s for at least 6 years and around $25 million a year because Joe brings fans to the ballpark. The Twins can’t afford to pay him $30 million a year because a win isn’t worth as much to them as it is to the Yankees, Mets, Angels, or Dodgers, but Joe is Minnesota born and raised, which makes $25 million a year look pretty good. He invests in his state economy and in his organization. He buys tickets to each game for friends and family. He loves the state, he loves his fans, and most of all he loves his teammates. Joe knows what it means to be loyal to the people that made him what he is today, and his agent, Ron Shapiro, is known to spin deals that allow clients like Kirby Puckett and Cal Ripken, Jr. establish a home and play their entire career in one place.
2. Every player wearing a Twins uniform plays for each other. Joe realizes that the Twins are an organization that treats their players and personnel with the utmost respect. If he were to leave, he wouldn’t be leaving a team…but a family. Carl Pavano’s acceptance of arbitration in order to stay with the team is a perfect example of his devotion to that family. Pavano was with the Twins for just over 2 months, and it was reported by his agent that Carl drew the interest of five other clubs, but he decided to stay because he liked the players, coaching staff, and winning attitude of the Twins. He was the only Type B free agent to accept arbitration. Carl displayed incredible class in making this decision and will probably be rewarded with a long-term deal that will keep him amongst his family for years to come.
3. Joe has a conscience. I know we can’t say that for all professional athletes, but Joe is a special specimen. He’s nothing like Torii Hunter who idolized Kirby Puckett and stated many times he wanted to play his entire career in Minnesota only to leave for big dollars in California. And Torii knew that the Twins had the potential to be a perennial force in the playoffs, so don’t tell me he left to win a World Series. If I remember correctly, Minnesota played more games than the Angels did last year. As soon as Torii left I forgot all about that overrated hypocrite because I knew Denard Span was better than Torii would ever be, and his .311 batting average, .392 on-base percentage, and average defensive zone rating of 10.345 at three different positions proves my point. Torii hit .299 with a .366 OBP, and a zone rating of 8.781…and won a Gold Glove somehow. The funny thing is Torii even told Denard before he left, “You will be better than me.” It doesn’t surprise me that earlier in the year while visiting the Metrodome, Torii stated he would love to return to the Twins and finish his career. Newsflash, Torii…you’re no longer welcome. We already have 3 outfielders that are better than you and a DH that happens to be one of the best fastball hitters I’ve ever seen in Jason Kubel. Our front office, our coaching staff, and our fans don’t like players that run out on their team, so play out your contract in Anaheim, or Los Angeles, or whatever, and latch onto another AL team desperate for a DH that will hit a few homeruns but strike out 20% of the time so you can suck themdry. You don’t even deserve to ride the pine in Minnesota. Do you think we would allow Joe Mauer to come back and DH after leaving for big money in New York? Well, maybe, but he’ll be better at 40 than you were in your prime.
4. Justin Morneau plays for the Twins. Joe’s longtime best friend and former roommate may not have been available down the stretch this season due to a back injury, but if anything, that should give Joe hope for the future. The fact that the Twins still battled their way into the playoffs without their former MVP just goes to show you what they will be capable of in the future.
5. Joe may have the best manager in baseball in Ron Gardenhire. The man is severely underrated, and the fact that Mike Scioscia of the Angels got Manager of the Year in 2009 only proves how corrupt the game of baseball has become. Gardenhire was robbed once again. He did more with so much less. He won 17 of 21 games down the stretch to reach the playoffs…and he did it without his former MVP, Justin Morneau. Gardenhire runs a great system, and players who don’t buy into the system like Carlos Gomez, Alexi Casilla, and Luis Ayala get traded, demoted, or released. Sure, Ron and I don’t always see eye to eye, but you can’t deny five AL Central Championships in eight years.
6. Joe gets hitting instruction from the likes of Rod Carew and Tony Oliva in training camp…not that he needs it, but why not stick around and hear what two of the greatest hitters of all time have to say?
7. Target Field. That’s it, and that’s all.
8. Joe thinks about his legacy. You can’t be the only catcher to win three batting titles and not think about your legacy. Joe would like to tell his grandchildren that he played his entire career in the state they currently reside and never considered leaving for any amount of money or publicity.
9. Joe is humble and shy. He doesn’t want the barbaric attention New York or Los Angeles has to offer. He praises his teammates for their effort before he even considers himself. He understands that without them he is merely a .365 hitter that gets stranded on base all but 28 times a year.
10. If Joe were to leave, the fans of Minnesota may never forgive him. If you thought trading Johan Santana and letting Torii Hunter walk away was a devastating year, just think about Joe’s departure and forcing Minnesota fans watch the best player in baseball beat their team, and every other team, to a bloody pulp every game for more than a decade. Johan only pitches every fifth day and Torii will never be as good as Joe. In fact, I doubt Joe would be able to walk the streets of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area ever again, and if he did it would never be the same.
Twins fans rejoice. Joe Mauer is going nowhere, but keeping Joe Mauer in Minnesota is only one step that needs to take place to put MLB on the road to recovery – the road toward competitive balance and satisfied fans that feel their team actually has a chance. There are still major problems sucking the hope out of fans everywhere. Sure, losing Joe Mauer to the Yankees will only piss off a few fans and thrill Bud Selig’s most important fans – the ones that produce the most revenue. If Selig thought pouring beer on Chuck Knoublach from the left field stands in Yankee Stadium was bad, just think how Twins fans will feel watching their savior, Baby Jesus, playing in unholy pinstripes. I suspect a few Twins fans will hold on to that beer to wash down the bottle of depressants they’ll use to commit suicide.
It’s interesting that Microsoft’s dominance of the software industry was called a monopoly and New York’s dominance of the baseball industry was called a dynasty. The worst thing that could happen to the industry of baseball is a dynasty, and to keep this from happening it’s imperative that a salary cap be established and enforced. I don’t care how much extra money Steinbrenner has to throw at players. I guess he’ll just have to throw it at horse races…or wipe his ass with it for all I care. There must be balance within the sport, as there already is in every other sport, because competition is not only good for industry, but good for consumers as well. And in the entertainment industry, who is it that we’re attempting to entertain? Owners? Players? Commissioners? I think not.