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November 13, 2001

6-4-3

More on Contraction

by Gary Huckabay

Wade through the stream of codeine-affected consciousness with me today:

  • From Peter Gammons's ESPN column, Saturday, Nov. 10th:

    "Players and their lawyers don't understand this, but the fact is that the national economy has to have a dramatic impact on the market. Before this week, club marketing offices have been told to expect a downturn of 20-40 percent in corporate sponsorship, luxury box and season ticket investments. No salary arbitrator is going to care, but that is a lot of money."

    OK...everyone repeat after me...

    Arbitration is entirely at the discretion of ownership. If a club doesn't want to offer a player arbitration, it doesn't have to do so. Clubs continue to bleat about rising salaries, but there's a simple solution to the decade-old cries for "cost certainty":DON'T OFFER THE CONTRACT! You say you'll lose Jason Giambi if you don't offer him $102 million over six years? Well, find an alternative. Put together a platoon. Take a chance on Roberto Petagine. Use the money somewhere else where it makes sense.

    This kind of whining goes on in every business. Eighteen months ago in the Bay Area, businesses were complaining about having to pay $60,000 a year for mediocre talent, even on an entry-level basis. (Things have changed at this point, in case you haven't heard.) If you don't want to be saddled with the contract, go with a substitute. There is no God-granted right to have the talent you want at the price you want. I'd love to have Randy Sasaki running my software development team for $40,000 a year, too.

  • One phrase that's getting to annoy me when discussing baseball finance and economics: "clubs like the Yankees."

    There are no clubs like the Yankees. The Yankees have been well-financed and shrewd, and the two things are directly related. The Orioles and Red Sox have had the cash to keep up with them, and several other clubs aren't far behind. The Yankees have been innovative in terms of generating revenue, have invested their cash relatively well, and have been successful as a result. Not to be too much of a Social Darwinist, but mediocrity in MLB has been a CHOICE for the vast majority of clubs...and for every single one in the U.S. Well, I guess that is a Social Darwinist position, which shouldn't surprise you.

  • No one seems to care that one of the clubs being considered for contraction, Satan's ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Carl Pohlad's Minnesota Twins, are making money, and were in contention for most of the year. (Please don't e-mail me about my inconsistency in calling both Carl Pohlad and Bud Selig Satan. From now on, we can refer to Ye Olde Commissioner as Beelzebud.)

    This whole situation is terribly unseemly. No matter what the facts are, or what ends up happening, there's really no way to describe how MLB ownership has handled this in any other way except "shabby." The timing of the announcements, the lack of respect for the intelligence of the media and the fans, the crippling of the clubs who are trying to run their businesses under the cloud of potential disbandment--just plain shabby.

  • I still haven't received anything close to answers to the questions central to contraction:

    1. What problems is MLB facing that require drastic action?

    2. How will vaporizing two clubs solve those problems?

  • The bright side. Yes, there is a bright side to all this childishness. As it stands now, the general public is undereducated regarding the alternatives to Major League Baseball. Most large metropolitan areas have a thriving local baseball scene, ranging from amateur to semi-pro to independent. Leagues like the Western League are a tremendous alternative to MLB, providing an amazingly high caliber of play for a very low price, both in terms of cost and in terms of the time investment for watching a game.

    If you're involved in, or a fan of, a league that has relatively low-priced games, ample parking, good food, and players that are fun to watch, e-mail me with the contact info for your league, and I'll publicize it here. Throw us some links to some great alternatives, and we'll get the word out.

  • No, we don't sell Bud Selig sock puppets. But if the reader who offered to send me one will do so, I'll send them a copy of Baseball Prospectus 2002, and make a donation to WEAVE in their name.

    Of course, there's no way I'd actually put my hand in it....

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Gary's other articles. You can contact Gary by clicking here

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