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What about the little guy?

Matsuzaka derby doesn't bode well for small markets

Posted: Thursday November 16, 2006 12:50PM; Updated: Sunday November 19, 2006 10:43AM
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Only a few teams had the resources to make a serious bid for the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Only a few teams had the resources to make a serious bid for the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka.
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Oh, this has been a great week for the Red Sox, hasn't it? They're absolutely giddy in New England. They've made the most talked-about offseason play in several baseball winters, stuck it to the hated Yankees, opened up all sorts of new marketing possibilities and, if everything works out, they've strengthened their rotation considerably.

So what if the Sox will have to shell out a total of perhaps $100 million to get Daisuke Matsuzaka under contract. Who cares? The Sox are loaded. And you can't take it with you.

This is great news for Barry Zito, too. And Jason Schmidt. And any other free agent with a pulse and a decent agent. It's great for baseball, isn't it? Hey, it's the middle of football season, and the Hot Stove has never been hotter.

Except that I have to wonder how this Matsuzaka bidding, this whole whacked-out offseason ($56 million for J.D. Drew?) is playing in Kansas City right now. And Pittsburgh. And Milwaukee. And Tampa Bay. Maybe I'm singing the same old small-revenue and mid-revenue blues. After all, as Ray Charles used to sing, them that's got are them that gets.

But this seems worse than usual. In fact, I don't know if it's ever been quite this bad. Shelling out that kind of money for the best talent is something only a handful of teams can do.

That can't be the leveling of the playing field that Bud Selig has talked about for years. Is this parity? Is this competitive balance?

Because, from here, this looks really bad.

This whole Major League Baseball-fed vision of a game where even the smaller guys have a chance to win seems awfully hard to swallow this week. What has changed to make it better? What evidence do we have? The Cardinals? They were 11th in payroll this season.

Nothing has changed. The Red Sox win the Matsuzaka bid. Somebody else gets stuck with Gil Meche. The Mets or Yankees or Angels or some other big-moneyed team will pony up for Alfonso Soriano or Barry Zito. Mid-America gets Gary Matthews Jr.

Come on, let's not fool ourselves. The Royals, Brewers and Pirates might have more money to spend this winter -- maybe more than they've ever had -- but that means squat when prices are going through the roof for everybody, and the rich teams are driving the market. Soriano may get $100 million or more. Carlos Lee will get close to it. Who can afford that?

I'll tell you who can't: two-thirds of the teams in baseball.

This propaganda about the playing field leveling out because of revenue sharing ... don't buy it. Seven different World Series champs in seven consecutive years ... don't buy that it's easier now for the little guy to compete and win a Series. It's not. To have a "reasonable" chance these days you still have to have a lot of money. A ton.

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