Fiscal responsibility in MLB is again a thing of the past
Posted: Tuesday December 13, 2005 1:18PM; Updated: Tuesday December 13, 2005 1:18PM
Esteban Loaiza has 21 wins over the past two seasons -- that earned him $7 million a year from Oakland.
Nick Laham/Getty Images
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"Object only worth what sucker willing to pay for it." -- The Firesign Theatre
Oh, how baseball mirrors real life.
We are a nation of compulsive spenders. The federal surplus of $128 billion in 2001 is now a deficit in the rundown neighborhood of $333 billion and American consumers this year have been spending more than 100 percent of their monthly after-tax income. Yes, necessities like gas, heating oil, and medical care are factors, but how often do you pay more for something than you really need to?
I pose this question after watching certain major league teams sling long green like pie-eyed sailors. Baseball's revenues reportedly hit an all-time high of $4.8 billion last year, and franchises such as Toronto and Oakland, which usually wail about being at the mercy of the big boys with the fat wallets, are now blowing $21-to-$55 million on the Esteban Loiazas and A.J. Burnetts of the world.
In the words of the immortal Ralph Kramden, "It came in easy and it went out just as fast!"
This is what you call your good old-fashioned Yankees stupidity. Boss George coughed up $200 million-plus in payroll last season and, according to the New York Daily News, his boys in pinstripes bathed in $50-85 million worth of red ink. Accounting may be the truest form of creative writing, but now that Steinbrenner has apparently spent himself out of over-inflating a farcically thin free-agent market, the A's and Jays are happy to take the lead for him.
The World Series champion White Sox and their $75 million payroll make me wonder why teams insist on overpaying for anyone, particularly when the next free-agent crop will be much better. This fiscal insanity reminds me of my kids. When the Xbox 360 comes out, they gotta have it, but they don't have the scratch because they blew it all on Airheads and Mountain Dew.
If a player like Loaiza can command $7 million per, Barry Zito will surely be lighting $100 cigars with flaming $50 bills and laughing maniacally at this time next year.
Isn't there a kid somewhere in the farm system who is capable of going 12-10 with a 4.60 ERA (the average Loaiza season) at a fraction of the cost? If not, might the money be better spent on scouting and player development? Or (here's a novelty), cutting prices so fans don't have to knock over liquor stores in order to afford attending a game?
But even the dreaded long-term deal has raised its hideous head once again. Johnny Damon, 32, wants seven years? Talk about paying to chain anvils to your ankles and then paying again to have them removed. Forget the cost of moving Manny Ramirez and the $57 million he's owed for the next three seasons, the Red Sox gave Edgar Renteria four years at $40 million and are now handing Atlanta $8 million to take him off their hands after one.
A player in his crumblies, like Kevin Brown, who in 2004 came to the Yankees with two years left on a seven-year, $150-million monstrosity tacked to his forehead, forces you to grit your teeth through the final two or three years while he kills your team and/or your ability to pursue truly worthwhile free agents. Can't live with him, can't shoot him.
All of this managerial merriment requires a constant search for new revenue streams to feed the upward spiral. Thus the landscape is dotted with stadiums that have corporate names, which change like the rotating signs on the walls, and top ticket prices approach or pass $100 in some parks while teams charge you more to see them play "premium" opponents such as the Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs.
Surely the day of ads on bases and uniforms is approaching. I may sound like a drooling loon when I warn about the future scourge of urinal cakes that burble commercial jingles while you sharpen your skates in the stadium restroom, but mark my words, you'll soon be paying top dollar to listen to 'em.
And speaking of new revenue streams . . .
Last week, SI.Com's Phil Taylorwrote a trenchant piece about the pointlessness of the vast majority of the 28 college bowl games, so it was truly heartening to learn that the NCAA are fixin' to add even more of the damned things.
The good folks who will bring you the inaugural San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Dec,. 22) re-licensed such classics as the Wyndham New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 20) and Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 22). A new bowl will be added next year and the NCAA's licensing subcommittee will meet in April to consider making it even easier for 6-5 or 6-6 squads to square off in front of a slackjawed, spiral-eyed nation in the Fourflusher Federal Insecurities Greater Sheboygan Bowl or some such compelling event.
In the the immortal words of Yakov Smirnov, "What a country!"