It’s Tuesday which means it is time for another edition of the Top Ten list. Without further adieu, let’s dive right into the Top Ten fantasy baseball headlines for this last day of May.
10. Better Late Than Never – Ryan Vogelsong of the San Francisco Giants has come full circle in his career to finally fulfill the expectations placed on him almost a decade ago. Vogelsong, initially drafted by the Giants, was the top prospect included in the trade that brought Jason Schmidt to San Francisco from Pittsburgh. The Pirates, who seem to always be in the business of providing other teams with key pieces to their puzzles, were in one of their rebuilding modes and traded away their ace pitcher who was facing free agency. The Bucs acquired Vogelsong with the hopes that he would become the anchor of their rotation for many years. However, Vogelsong sustained an injury and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2002. He would never attain any success with Pittsburgh through the 2006 season. He then kicked around Japan and had minor league stints with the Phillies and Angels until the Giants re-signed him before the 2011 season. After Barry Zito got injured, Vogelsong got the call to replace him and has been tremendous. He is currently 3-1 with a sparkling 1.77 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 32 strikeouts in 40 innings. The Giants will be hard-pressed to take him out of the rotation when Zito returns. He has done enough to warrant a pickup in your league, either NL-only or mixed, but monitor the situation in case he hits a wall or gets bumped when Zito returns.
9. Un-bereavable! – Jose Reyes was placed on the Bereavement List on Monday after the passing of his grandmother. Initial reports were that Reyes might miss the entire week to be with his family. It is now being reported by the Mets that they expect him back by Thursday, which is good news for fantasy owners. The announcement that he was going to be out was made on Monday morning, which may not have been enough notice for owners to replace him in their lineups. At least now it looks like the Mets and fantasy owners will get four games out of Reyes for the week. He has been extremely hot lately, so hopefully this family situation does not throw him off track.
8. Another Soriano Gets Hurt – Last week, the New York Yankees announced that relief pitcher Rafael Soriano would be out another 6-8 weeks with an arm injury that apparently does not require surgery. Now, Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano has been placed on the disabled list with an injury to his left leg. The Cubs outfield has already been depleted with Marlon Byrd’s injury stemming from his beaning against the Red Sox. Tyler Colvin has been recalled to replace Soriano on the roster. Colvin played very well in 2010 and should have an opportunity to contribute while Soriano and Byrd are out. Other outfield options such as Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome do not provide much in terms of power or run production. Colvin is the guy to add if you are looking for a temporary fix.
7. Mauer’s Not Moving – Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has said that when Joe Mauer returns from the disabled list, he will go right back behind the plate as the team’s primary catcher. This decision was made for the purposes of 2011, but going forward, it would be foolish for Minnesota not to start planning ahead for Mauer to find another position. His draft value was completely overrated, as with all other catchers, simply because of their tendencies to get hurt and the fact they cannot play everyday. If you own him on your fantasy team, see what you can get for him in a trade. Relying on Mauer for the remainder of the season will only leave you with disappointment and heartache – much like your 8th grade dance.
6. It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Zimmerman! – Nationals star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is set to play in some extended spring training games as he begins his journey back to the big leagues. Zimmerman has missed most of the season and will be a welcome addition to both the Nationals’ lineup and fantasy owners’ rosters. In a year when third base has been as weak a position as there is in fantasy baseball, Zimmerman was arguably the second or third best option. He was drafted quite early in many drafts, so his injury put a lot of owners in a pinch. When healthy, Zimmerman will contribute in all roto categories. His presence in the lineup should also help Jayson Werth who has struggled mightily to carry the Nationals’ offense and justify his ridiculous contract.
5. Saved by the Bell – Padres’ closer Heath Bell had a frustrating start to the season with very few save opportunities through the middle of May. This was because the Padres didn’t have many leads in games, or when they won games it was by a very large margin. Now Bell has picked up three saves in the last four games and appears to be on track, along with the Padres’ propensity for playing in very close games. Bell is playing for a contract this year, and could be a potential trade candidate. He would obviously like to remain a closer, but it is distinctly possible he gets dealt to a team needing 8th inning help. Continue to ride Bell’s wave as he accumulates saves, but I would recommend you explore trade options for him in case he is traded out of his closer’s role.
4. Ike…Yikes – Mets’ first baseman Ike Davis has been on the disabled list for several weeks with a bone bruise and calf strain as a result of a collision with David Wright in Colorado. Initially the Mets thought Davis would be back relatively quickly, but a recent MRI has shown that the bone bruise has not healed as quickly or as well as they would have liked. The Mets anticipate Davis being in a walking boot for another three weeks, which means he will not be doing any rehab or baseball activities until the end of June at the earliest. This is not good news for the Mets or fantasy owners who have come to rely on Davis as a viable option at first base in both NL-only and mixed leagues. His replacement, Daniel Murphy, is too inconsistent to consider as a worthwhile replacement on your fantasy team.
3. Mo’ Injuries, Mo’ Problems for Morneau – Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said that he has been playing with a pinched nerve in his left shoulder and neck that will likely linger for the rest of the season. He clearly hasn’t been the same since he suffered a concussion in July 2010, and most people attributed his struggles and lack of power to the effects of his head injury. However, this revelation of a pinched nerve could easily be the reason why Morneau looks like a shell of his former self. Either way, this does not bode well for fantasy owners who were relying on power production from him. I would recommend exploring trade options for an upgrade at first base because it is questionable what kind of production you can expect from Morneau for the rest of the year. With the Twins so far out of playoff contention, Ron Gardenhire is smart enough not to unnecessarily expose Morneau to any additional risks or injuries.
2. Nothing Worse Than an Injured Johnson – Marlins’ ace pitcher Josh Johnson is eligible to come off the disabled list on June 1, but manager Fredi Gonzalez does not believe that is likely. Johnson is still not 100% but is scheduled to throw a bullpen session later this week. He will need sevetal bullpen sessions and possibly some minor league rehab starts before he comes back. The Marlins don’t need another starter until June 7, but it is not likely that Johnson can be relied on for his return on that day. Fantasy owners should keep him stashed on the DL and try and ride this out until he comes back. He has a history of injuries so this is not all that surprising. But if he misses any extended period of time beyond June 7, it may be wise to start exploring some trade opportunities for a starting pitcher.
1. Bruce is The Boss – Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds is the hottest player in baseball right now. Manager Dusty Baker moved him into the cleanup spot for today’s game against the Brewers. Bruce was named National League player of the week after batting .354 with four home runs and 13 RBI over a seven game stretch from May 23-29. During the entire month of May, Bruce is batting .346 with 12 homers and 32 RBI. I was very high on him coming into the season as I thought he would put it all together after a few years of learning how to hit big league pitching. Bruce has tremendous power and could be a 40-homerun guy. He hits in a loaded lineup and in a great hitter’s park. While he will not likely maintain this torrid pace for the entire season, he is arguably one of the top fantasy players in the entire league and someone that you should target in trade discussions. Lock him up in all keeper leagues.
If you have been living under a rock for the last 48 hours, then you should know that Giants’ catcher Buster Posey suffered a horrific injury on May 25, 2011 when he was run over by Scott Cousins of the Marlins trying to score the go ahead run in extra innings on a sacrifice fly. Posey, the budding superstar and key component of their 2010 World Series championship, suffered a broken fibula and potentially serious ligament damage. He will require surgery and could miss most, if not the rest, of the season. From a pure competitive standpoint, this is devastating to the Giants to lose their catcher, cleanup hitter, on-field leader, and one of the best young players in all of baseball.
Clearly the team and manager Bruce Bochy are upset that they will be without Posey for quite some time. But after the game, Bochy stated that he thought there should be some modification to the rules in order to help protect defenseless catchers from being bulldozed in a collision at home plate. Bochy, a former catcher himself, said he understands that this is part of the game. But his comments and suggestions seem a little self-serving. First of all, Scott Cousins did nothing wrong in his physical confrontation with Posey. Cousins’ job is to find a way to score, including doing whatever he can (within the rules) to knock the ball away from the catcher. Posey was rightfully and appropriately trying to block the plate waiting to catch the one-hop throw from right field.
In a sport that does not contain much contact outside of inadvertent touching, it is perfectly legal for a baserunner to plow directly into the catcher in his attempt to score. Of course there are situations where a baserunner goes beyond the scope of fair play and plows into the catcher with the sole intent of inflicting injury. Those are rare instances and should be dealt with accordingly. But here, Cousins clearly had no intent to inflict injury. His initial reaction after touching home plate was to express concern for Posey who was laying on the ground in obvious pain. Cousins has since said he couldn’t sleep that night knowing he had inadvertently injured Posey.
This was a legal and fair baseball play that had an unfortunate result. Catchers are taught at an early age how to block the plate on incoming throws to prevent a baserunner from scoring. The rationale is simple…don’t let the other guy score. Of course there is an inherent risk of injury any time there is fierce contact at that rate of speed and with a catcher’s attention also focused on receiving the throw. Posey knows that. Bochy knows that too. No one was complaining about the rules regarding contact at home plate before this happened, but hindsight is always 20/20. Protecting players from injury is always a primary concern and priority for any major sport. But injuries can happen anywhere and anytime. Remember, Luis Castillo injured himself walking down the dugout steps. Does that mean that all dugouts should be equipped with escalators to prevent such further injuries?
Collisions at home plate are a part of the game and always have been. Catchers assume that risk, as well as a myriad of other risks, simply by playing the position. There is a reason that catchers’ equipment is called the “tools of ignorance.” The position itself leads to more injuries because of how physically demanding it is on the human body. The plethora of injuries to catchers, especially superstar catchers, seems to be at an all-time high. Joe Mauer is constantly injured and he is being considered for a position change in the near future. Victor Martinez has played a lot of first base and DH over the last few years to keep his bat in the lineup. When Posey eventually comes back, it is highly likely he will exchange his catcher’s mitt for a first base glove. The Washington Nationals and Bryce Harper deserve a lot of credit for recognizing these risks by grooming Harper as an outfielder. If he remained behind the plate in his professional career, he would be more at risk for frequent injuries and a lesser impact with his bat. The trend of moving good-hitting catchers from behind the plate has started and will now really pick up steam.
What happened to Buster Posey is unfortunate. The primary concern is that he is able to fully heal after surgery and regain the full range of motion and use in his leg. He is young enough where his body is more apt to recover. But anyone who complains about the legality of the play or the rules that govern it is missing the point. I understand why Bochy is so upset and why he questions the rules. But was he questioning a pitcher’s ability to throw inside fastballs when Matt Cain hit David Wright in the head in 2009? The answer is no.
For the May 24, 2011 list of newsworthy fantasy baseball events and happenings, I have truncated it down to five for this week. Before I delve into this week’s list, I must disclose something to you loyal readers. I am a lifelong Mets fan (hold your laughter and tears). This week has been even more embarassing to admit that, even after the last few years of collapses, disappointments and failures. If you haven’t heard, Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon was recently quoted in an article written by Jeffrey Toobin for the New Yorker where he essentially threw his three best players under the bus. He said Jose Reyes will never get Carl Crawford-type money in free agency, David Wright is not a superstar, and that he was a schmuck for signing Carlos Beltran to the 7 year/$119 million contract solely based on the 2004 playoffs (oh and that Beltran is now only 65-70% the player he once was). The disclosure I want to share with you is that Wilpon also said that my writing skills are mediocre at best and that I am as humorous as the German Funnybot from South Park. Thanks Mr. Wilpon. Onto the news.
5. No Way Jorge – Rockies starting pitcher Jorge de la Rosa suffered a tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow which means he is likely headed for season-ending Tommy John surgery. De la Rosa felt discomfort early in his start tonight in the first game of a double-header against the Diamondbacks. The Rockies received the news no organization wants to to hear, especially when it comes to a valuable and successful left-handed starter. De la Rosa was already having a solid 2011 campaign as he was 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA and 52 strikeouts. Now he is headed for the DL and will likely miss the remainder of the season assuming he does go for the surgery. If you are in a keeper league and have the space, hold onto him as he should be back by the July 4 holiday in 2012 (assuming he has surgery in the very near future).
4. Concussion Discussion – Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts will be out at least several more weeks due to experiencing concussion-like symptoms as a result of a head-first slide he made. Head injuries are difficult to evaluate in terms of severity and ability to overcome. But this is just the next injury in a long line of injuries suffered by Roberts. Once considered one of the top options at second base in fantasy baseball leagues, Roberts has fallen into oblivion due to missing so much time over the past few years. His days of 50 stolen bases and 100 runs scored appear to be over, mostly because he cannot stay healthy. If you have DL spots on your roster, you should stash him. In all likelihood, Roberts will be back at some point unless his symptoms persist. If he is available on the waiver wire, he is definitely worth a pick up.
3. The Grandy Man Can – Yankees’ outfielder Curtis Granderson is having an MVP-type season as he has carried the Yankees through the first quarter of the season. After a four-hit night on Tuesday, Granderson is batting .275, 16 homeruns, 35 RBI, 37 runs scored, 6 stolen bases, an OPS hovering around .950, and a sudden ability to hit left-handed pitchers. He has been a fantasy stud thus far, and hitting in between Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira should provide him with great protection, lots of strikes to hit, and plenty of RBI chances. He will likely slow down his insane homerun pace, but in the end he should end up with 30-35 homeruns and 90 RBI depending on where he is in the lineup.
2. Go Back to Canada – Mets’ outfielder Jason Bay is the highest paid Canadian baseball player…ever. After putting up huge numbers for years with the Pirates and Red Sox, Bay signed a lucrative 4 year/$66 million contract.with the Mets prior to the 2010 season. In the year+ that he has been in the Mets organization, he has been nothing short of horrendous. Of course there was going to be a learning curve for him to readjust to National League pitching and deal with the unfriendly confines of Citi Field. Generally speaking people were patient with Bay in 2010, which ended early due to a concussion. Now in his second year with the Mets, Bay has been injured and unproductive the entire season. He left tonight’s game with a stiff right calf and a lingering .230 batting average, two homeruns, and under ten RBI. Keep an eye on Bay when and if he returns. He is quickly reaching the point where dropping him is a viable consideration.
1. Catcher in the Rye – Twins superstar catcher Joe Mauer should be starting to play in live games this week as he works his way back from bilateral leg weakness. Mauer is clearly a great hitter and someone the Twins will be banking on for many years to come. In order to preserve Mauer’s bat and career, he may be given a shot at a new position as the Twins start the process of getting him out from behind the plate. This makes sense on all levels. The rumors are that Mauer will be slowly transitioned to third base. If that is the case in 2011, then next year Mauer could actually be worth spending an early round pick on because he will still qualify at catcher yet be at a position that can keep him healthy and on the field everyday.
Much props go to the Minnesota Twins for their ability and willingness to re-sign Joe Mauer to an enormous contract extension with ENORMOUS dollars owed to the reigning American League MVP. The Twins’ signing of Mauer to an 8-year, $128M contract extension got me thinking and reminiscing about a paper I did in my Honors English class during my senior year of college at Penn State. Having to pick a topic for my paper which would serve as almost my entire grade, I clearly wanted to write about something I loved and already knew about since I really didn’t care about classes anymore after being accepted to my law school. So I decided to write about Major League Baseball and its financial and economic issues and disparities. In this paper, I cited certain solutions being entertained by Major League Baseball, which, at the time, included contracting the Minnesota Twins. Now 9 years and multiple AL Central championships later, the Twins are opening a brand new outdoor ballpark and will be fielding a team led by the homegrown superstar who just signed the 4th largest contract in sports history.
Please enjoy my article below, which was originally submitted to my professor on April 5, 2001. Keep in mind the article below was written by me when I was 22 years old and without a lot of writing experience. If anyone has any thoughts or comments on the article, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here on the blog.
Players vs. Owners: A Study on the
Economic Disparity and Escalating Salaries
Within Major League Baseball
Baseball is commonly referred to as the National Pastime, but as the 21st century begins, a common question asked is whether or not baseball is passed its time. In an era where baseball players are making more money than people can ever dream of, there is still whining and crying over salaries, payrolls, contracts, and conditions. At the conclusion of the 2001 season, the labor agreement signed in 1995 between the players and owners will expire. At present time, there has been no extension of the agreement to be found, nor is there much hope that the players and owners will be able to reach a settlement in order to avoid yet another work stoppage.
Should another work stoppage occur after the 2001 season, Major League Baseball (MLB) may never be able to recover as they did from the 1994-1995 strike. Many of the same issues that caused the strike seven years ago are at the forefront once again in 2001. Revenue sharing, salary caps, collective bargaining, free agency, and contractual contingencies are the key issues that the players and the owners disagree about. In this essay, I will highlight the opinions of the Commissioner of MLB, the President of the MLB Players’ Association (MLBPA), the most powerful agent in baseball, as well as various authors whose works documented the labor negotiation history between the owners and the MLBPA. Furthermore, I will argue that changes need to be made in order for baseball to continue to be the National Pastime by citing specific examples from the last 5 years. These examples will be justified by documented statistics and professional opinions.
The gross revenues of the top clubs as opposed to the bottom have grown by $53 million at the top level and to only $8 million at the bottom. And so the disparity breach has grown.” (Meet the Press, 7/9/00) These words were uttered by Bud Selig, the Commissioner of MLB, on the growing disparity among teams. Stan Kasten, President of the Atlanta Braves (owned by billionaire Ted Turner) said, “The problem is we do have economic problems in our game that football has found a way to deal with, that basketball has found a way to deal with, even hockey has found a better way to deal with it than baseball has. I wouldn’t want to predict how problematic discussions will be. But clearly it’s a bad economic situation that we have in baseball.” (Sports Tonight 12/19/00, internet) In the last 34 years, the average salary of baseball players has multiplied 118 times from $19,000 in 1967. That compares to the Consumer Price Index, which has only quadrupled within the same period of time. (Associated Press, internet)
With the average salary topping $2 million for the first at the start of the 2001 season, teams with larger budgets and economic advantages continue to be the dominant forces in the league. With 25 players on a roster averaging $2 million per player, that means the average club is paying $50 million for their players. What this says is Montreal, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Florida, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Oakland are below average and, thus, cannot compete with the larger markets. (Bednar 2000, internet)
To further illustrate the extreme disparity among baseball teams, the New York Yankees’ 2000 payroll was $113.4 million, the highest in baseball history. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Minnesota Twins’ payroll was $15.8 million. That means the Yankees’ payroll was 716% more than the lowest payroll in baseball. (Bednar 2000, internet) Moreover, the Yankees’ average salary in 1999 was $3.2 million, compared to Montreal’s which was $538,258. (MLBPA 1999, internet)
So how is this possible? According to the 1995 national television rights sale, $1.7 billion was to be divided equally among all teams for five years. The difference comes from the local broadcasting rights that benefit teams in large media markets. The Yankees generate over $50 million just from local television rights, whereas the Twins only generate $2-3 million during the same fiscal year. (Staudohar 2000) The large market teams, such as the New York Yankees and Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians will presumably always have money to spend on players’ contracts to ensure their clubs remain competitive. It should come as no surprise that these teams are perennially in the playoffs and are the teams that have the most success. So as the current labor contract is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2001 season, a new set of economic standards need to be enacted so that teams like the Minnesota Twins, Montreal Expos, and Kansas City Royals can leave spring training without the knowledge that they will not be able to compete during the season.
As a result of the 1995 Collective Bargaining Agreement, a luxury tax was imposed on the five highest spending teams. These taxes would be reallocated to the low revenue clubs; however, the top five teams have only paid less than $4 million each, thus, negating the purpose for this luxury tax. (Goodman 2000, internet) Even with the luxury tax in place, teams like the Yankees still prosper from their location, sponsors, and media contracts. George Steinbrenner, owner of the Yankees, has thrown his money around in the last five years to produce four World Series titles. Outside the normal revenue from attendance, merchandise, and concessions, the Yankees also receive money from endorsement deals with Adidas, Madison Square Garden Network, Fox Sports New York, Cablevision, and Yankee-Nets Corp. (Business Week 1998, internet) All of these deals give the Yankees unlimited finances to spend on players’ contracts. This gives them an unfair advantage over poorer teams like Minnesota, Montreal, and Kansas City who cannot afford to sign their own players once they become free agents.
Salary Cap as a Labor Issue
All professional sports such as football, basketball, and hockey have suffered similar work stoppages and labor disputes as baseball has. However, baseball has always tended to set standards that are followed by other sports. For example, baseball was the first to break the color barrier, to form a union, to create a collective bargaining agreement, and to have an actual work stoppage. (Staudohar 2000) However, one instance where baseball needs to follow a trend set by other leagues such as the National Basketball League (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL) is to establish a salary cap on payrolls.
With salary caps in place, teams have a better chance of being able to keep their own players by putting a ceiling on individual salaries. For example, Alex Rodriguez, who signed a 10 year/$252 million contract with the Texas Rangers in December 2000, would be more likely to have resigned with the Seattle Mariners because no other team could offer more money. Essentially, bidding wars would end and testing free agent waters would give the owners some control back to restore the ludicrous salary structure of players’ contracts that exist today. (Staudohar 2000)
The problems of testing free agent waters and forcing teams to cave into demands stems back to Ryne Sandberg’s contract negotiation demands in 1992. He was due to become a free agent after the 1992 season, and during negotiations prior to the season, Sandberg and the Cubs reached a stalemate. He demanded that by a certain date, if a deal could not be struck (if the Cubs would not give him what he wanted), then he would end contract negotiations and test the free agent waters after the season ended. The threat worked and the Cubs gave in to his demands. (Jennings 1997) Andy MacPhail, general manager of the Twins, was quoted as saying “I don’t blame the players. It’s the owners’ fault. We keep giving into them.” (Jennings 1997, pg. 47) While Sandberg’s demand for a 4 year/$28 million contract seems respectable now, it was the largest contract in baseball history at the time. As a result of his demands and the deadline imposed on owners, the floodgates opened for agents to step in and raise the stakes.
With players’ salaries escalating to astronomical heights, there are many factors that have contributed to this occurrence. Agents have played significant roles in negotiating contracts and getting desired salaries for their players. However, this significance only traces back to the inception of free agency in 1976 as a result of Catfish Hunter, Curt Flood, Andy Messersmith, and Dave McNally’s grievances filed against MLB and settled in Congress. The results were in favor of the players because of MLB’s exemption from the Sherman Antitrust Laws, which essentially allowed players to receive as much money on the open market and teams to spend unlimited amounts for these players’ services. (Staudohar 2000) The exemption to the antitrust laws came from a Supreme Court decision back in 1922 in Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League. (Cohen & Finkelman 1995)
Scott Boras, who represents such players as Alex Rodriguez, Greg Maddux, Bernie Williams, and Kevin Brown, is one of the more infamous agents around. This reputation has been attributed to him as a result of his handling of contractual negotiations in which the salaries achieved had shattered past records. In the winter of 1998, Boras negotiated Kevin Brown’s contract with the Dodgers for 7 years/$105 million, which at the time was the richest in baseball history. It took Boras less than two years to shatter his own record by negotiating Rodriguez’s contract with the Rangers for 10 years/$252 million, far more than any other sports contract in history. These astronomical salaries are as a result of free agency and an open-purse philosophy. The role of the agent has progressed since free agency’s inception to the point where an agent not only negotiates the contract, but also handles investment portfolios, offers tax and real estate advice, and other financial planning. (Staudohar 2000)
In an interview on CNNSI in December 2000, Boras described his job in terms of MLB’s growing revenues: “My job is defining market places for my clients, help them fulfill their goals as any attorney would for their client. We’ve had great increases from $390 million in the early 1990’s all the way up now where our television revenues are at $2.6 billion plus another $850 million for the ESPN rights.” (Sports Tonight 12/19/00, internet) So Boras’ argument is that since there is more money from television contracts being pumped into baseball, then that money should all be sent back to the players by the teams that reap the benefits of the larger markets, such as the Rangers. This just perpetrates the already existing problem of increasing the disparity of the rich and poor.
Effects of Escalating Salaries
To illustrate how escalating salaries and loss of revenue are affecting certain MLB teams, I will use the 1997 Florida Marlins and the 1998 San Diego Padres as examples of what is wrong with baseball economics today. The Marlins, who entered the league as an expansion team in 1993, opened their checkbooks and signed a plethora of free agents before the 1997 season so they could be competitive. Wayne Huizenga, owner of the Marlins, spent millions of dollars on stars such as Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, Gary Sheffield, Devon White, and Alex Fernandez. The results- the Marlins defeated the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series, thus becoming the quickest team in history to win a championship after entering the league. The problem was that Huizenga was losing money on his investments as the revenue did not exceed the expenses. So to compensate for economic losses, Huizenga proceeded to have a “firesale” of his championship team. That means he traded away his superstars for younger, cheaper prospects. Brown was traded to San Diego, Leiter to the Mets, Alou to the Astros, Sheffield and Bonilla to the Dodgers, and White to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Just one year after winning the World Series, the Marlins finished in last place in 1998, hardly having the appearance of a world champion.
In 1998, the San Diego Padres won the National League pennant and went on to lose to the Yankees in the World Series. However, after spending money to get to the Series on stars like Brown, Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley, and Greg Vaughn, the Padres could not meet expenses. So San Diego proceeded to let Brown, Caminiti, and Finley all walk as free agents and trade Greg Vaughn, who hit 50 homeruns in 1998, to the Cincinnati Reds for players of less value.
What this goes to show is that teams without large media markets cannot put a competitive team on the field over a consistent period of time. Kasten, President of the Braves, believes that it takes “great ownership and management decisions” to attract players and put teams in the playoffs. (Sports Tonight 12/19/00, internet) Kasten also believes that new stadiums are what pumps up revenue and attracts players to come play. In the last 10 years, Chicago (White Sox), Baltimore, Cleveland, Texas, Colorado, Seattle, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Detroit have all had new stadiums built. In every instance, the years following the inception of a new stadium have produced increased revenues, and in due time, success. (Bednar 2000, internet) These stadiums have been funded by the cities in which the teams play. However, the problem with teams like the Expos, Twins, and Royals is that they will not fund new stadiums for their teams to generate revenue and promote success. That is why the solution can only be found if MLB relocates some suffering franchises.
As previously stated, teams that cannot make certain amounts of money to pay their players and be competitive on the field should be relocated somewhere that will enable them to be prosperous. The last team to relocate was the Washington Senators, who became the Texas Rangers in 1970. It is now time for baseball to use relocation as a means to an end to save these indigent, struggling franchises.
Furthermore, baseball needs to enlist a salary cap on each team, putting a ceiling on what players can make per year. Additionally, there should also be a minimum cap in place which requires teams like the Twins to spend more than $15 million on a whole team while players like Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Hampton are making more money per year than the whole Twins’ team. (Bednar 2000)
Teams need to be able to show their fans that they are ready, willing, and able to put a competitive team on the field with players that were developed within their own system. Teams like Montreal and Kansas City have tended to supply richer teams with their home-grown talent once they become too expensive to sign. Players like Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, and Johnny Damon were all traded because their own teams could not afford to keep them once they became established stars. This cannot continue if baseball wants to remain our National Pastime.
In conclusion, baseball today is marred with economic disparity, labor negotiations, collective bargaining disagreements, and other maladies that make it hard to empathize for people making, on average, $3.2 million. (Bednar 2000, internet) After the devastating strike of 1994-1995 and loss of the World Series, baseball can ill afford another work stoppage after the 2001 season when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement ends. A solution to the economic problems chronicled by Commissioner Bud Selig, tycoon George Steinbrenner, superagent Scott Boras, and President Stan Kasten needs to be expeditiously found if baseball is to survive. With baseball more popular than ever, attendance records being set in stadiums around the country (Jennings 1997), it is time for the players and owners to come together and remember why they got into this sport in the first place: for love of the game. The money will be there to be earned. But there needs to be some stability and balance throughout the league so that everyone can have the opportunity to earn that money.