April 2, 2016
Baseball season always comes in quietly every year because it gets sandwiched every year between the March Madness Final 4, NBA playoff drive, NHL playoff drive, the Masters Golf Tournament and doing your income taxes. For those who like their sports played outside, baseball delivers in a big way when April comes around. There’s beautiful green grass, the threat of torrential ice storms has passed and the appearance of sunshine on a daily basis puts spring in your step. As a fan, you feel hopeful for your team that is looking improved and there is no need to boo the new free agent with the hefty salary and lighting the bbq signals the end to all misery.
There is plenty to whine about in professional baseball with its obnoxious economics and the inevitable path to fan revolt. Right now, the price of everything related to MLB hasn’t reached its tipping point but it will come. Case in point, Zack Grienke’s contract, the pitcher who walked away from 70 million dollars of guaranteed money from the Los Angeles Dodgers to sign a $205,000,000, seven-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yes, that is 205K. Here is the breakdown; this year he will make $34,000,000. Based on 30 starts, that’s $1,133,333.30 per. Based on 100 pitches a game, that’s $11,333.33 per. Based on 225 innings for the year, that’s $283,000 per inning. I hated seeing those numbers because it’s out of touch with the rest of the league and not good for the long-term financial health of the league. You don’t need me to tell you that this is nuts, but I can’t see how this can sustain itself in ten years.
That is bad news for baseball, the good news is that the current champion, the Kansas City Royals are considered a small market team that won the World Series with a lot of internally developed talent. They did pick up a few free agents but didn’t have a Zack Grienke type contract on the team. Grienke’s team, the Dodgers didn’t get out of the first-round playoffs, so it goes to show you, money is not the ends to the means. The Royals played a sound fundamental type of baseball versus sluggers mashing home runs and pitchers throwing complete game shut outs. The New York Mets had both stellar pitching and big hitters but where no match for the Royals in the World Series.
The consensus around MLB baseball this year is the formable squad that the Cubs have in place. They look good on paper and have odds makers convinced, but in reality, the season is a marathon and good fortune will be rewarded to one lucky team. There are also teams with a lot of young buddy stars like those in Houston and Cleveland who will be fun to watch. I am personally looking for a year of unknowns and dark horses. Seems like you can never write off Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and St Louis for they are the benchmarks for well-run organizations.
As far as things that will take a while to change are the All-Star Game, and its emphasis on making it a game that has significance other than a fan appreciation exhibition. In addition, please Mr. Commissioner do not change the National league into a Designated Hitting league. You can throw in all of the stats in the world about run production and how it would make the NL game more compelling, but it would take away the late game maneuvering and strategy. Also, if salaries are going to rise faster than the rest of the world’s salaries, at least give us a break in the concession line. A hot dog and a soda should never be ten dollars. Costco knows this and offers a dog and soda for a $1.50. Lastly, don’t try to make baseball into an arena football game. If you have ever been to an arena football game, it is a bombardment of loudness and a constant need to stimulant your senses. Sometimes basking in the sun with your friends and family and enjoying the experience is enough. I don’t need heavy metal and rap music blasted between innings and when every batter comes to the batter’s box to get excited. A home run and strike out is the excitement I am looking for and not animated racing dachshunds on the scoreboard. I guess I am sounding like a grumpy old guy, but old guys know what the difference is between style and substance.