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January 24, 2003
From The Mailbag
Bartolo Colon, George W. Bush, and the Newly Important All-Star Game
If the Bartolo Colon trade was some big Selig conspiracy, how come Minaya offered Colon a $50-million, four-year extension? Bud had to approve that contract. Only after Colon rejected it, did Minaya trade him. Why wasn't that mentioned? Oh, I get it - if it's A FACT but it doesn't fit the conspiracy template/make Bud look bad in EVERY situation template - just ignore it.
Thanks for your message.
The inherent nastiness of any league owning one of its teams--and we could just as well be talking about Man United or the Portland Trail Blazers or whatever--is what's creating the problem.
I enjoyed your look at the Cardinals' team health. I have to take issue, though, with your characterization of Tino Martinez as "old and fragile." Although Tino is indeed old (and slow, and mediocre, and grotesquely overcompensated), one thing you cannot call him is fragile. He's played in at least 150 games four years running, and hasn't been on the DL since Theo Epstein was in high school.
Fragile is a relative term. While he always manages to play, Tino always seems to be nicked up, hobbled, whatever. Even in New York, Tino was always a "gamer" - out there doing his thing whether or not he should have been.
Edmonds also is nicked and banged up, but also always about one play away from missing the season. A player with that risk needs to be factored into the equation. A comp is a guy like Andruw, who glides, perhaps even loafs, but you never really worry about him hurting himself.
Back problems never go away. Rolen made it through a season. Good. Let's see him do it again. Does this risk make him less valuable? Maybe. Again, I've got to point out the risks. He's obviously a bit less likely to do it again the further he goes without problems, so maybe by next year, it won't even be worthy of mention.
Aren't you setting up a straw man to defend yourself from the gratuitous dig at George W. Bush? The problem that I (and I'm assuming others) had with your needle wasn't that it was political commentary. The problem that I had was that it was political commentary that was completely irrelevant to baseball, the topic at hand.
You're making a logical jump that's not justified. For me to take, for instance, a dig at Bush--whether or not that's in itself justified, or accurate, or anything--doesn't mean I have contempt for readers, and it makes me sad to think that it's interpreted as that. When someone argues in favor of school vouchers, it's not fair to take that as a compliment or an insult of you personally, depending on what your views are.
And you missed my larger point, which is that there is no clear dividing line between politics that involve baseball and politics in general. To repeat an example in the article, supporting Bush means supporting his policies on media consolidation, which has meant the coverage of the game and labor issues related to it are in turn changed. There's no way to separate the world of professional sports and politics.
I have been thinking about the inherent corruption in the Expos' ownership situation. This goes back to when the payroll decision came down (made even worse by the conclusion of the labor deal and a 2nd-place finish), and the trade rumors came and went. I ultimately came with a plan that would have almost certainly worked:
It wouldn't work. If you include all the arbitration-eligible guys and other raises that were due to be doled out, even after axing Herges, Yoshii and say, Eischen, you'd still have well over $10 million to chop off, which means (since Tatis is untradable), you're looking at dumping Colon or Vazquez, or Armas, Barrett, Cabrera + 1, or something along those lines. Having jettisoned Lee Stevens and Graeme Lloyd last year, the team actually didn't have a lot of fat to trim, just a lot of solid players getting expensive at once. Thus a $40 million payroll wasn't going to happen without at least 1-2 significant trades. Still, given the Expos' pitching depth, Minaya could have kept a possible contender intact if he'd have landed even one legitimate bat in exchange for Colon or Vazquez.
Of course if MLB could see the forest for the trees, they'd go for an idea just like yours, letting the Expos try to contend in a weak division with a strong core intact. If they succeeded, your scenario of fans boosting gate receipts would have a good shot at coming true, if the spike we saw after last year's Colon trade were any indication. If they didn't, like you said, they could dump excess salaries at a reduced price near the trade deadline and meet MLB's payroll request. Given Minaya has shown he's playing for the here and now anyway, that would seem to please all parties involved.
The ongoing debate over the decision to award the home field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star game has been an entertaining diversion for baseball fans who are counting the days until Spring Training. What too many people fail to realize is that MLB was looking to fix the game itself, not the random assignment of home field advantage. No one was complaining about the alternating-year method, so why are people only now decrying the fact that the team with the better record doesn't get the advantage in World Series play?