Posted on: December 22, 2010 3:52 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 1:05 pm

From Bad to Worse

At the close of the General Manager meeting in Orlando last month Allan Huber (Bud) Selig offered up to the press his desire to add another wildcard and another round to the playoffs.  The response from the GM’s was favorable, but not for a one game playoff.  Selig did not expect that such a change would be in place until 2012.

Bud Selig is in a damage control mode as his time as Commissioner draws to a close.  He is widely thought of as the author of the ill will between the MLBPA and ownership, reverting back to the 280 M dollar payment by baseball to the players as the result of a court finding ownership guilty of collusion.

  He was acting Commissioner when baseball shut down in 1994 cancelling the World Series.  He was Commissioner when the steroid era flourished putting the records of a century of baseball in conflict.  He was the Commissioner when the All-Star game was played to a tie.  He was the Commissioner when the post season was first played in the month of November.

Selig has been a controversial figure; he has pumped more money into baseball than perhaps every Commissioner before him.  Certainly baseball owners have made money, although some will plead poverty as they cut salary on teams whose worth has escalated far beyond ownerships wildest dreams.  Players chase contracts that exceed 20 million dollars in some cases.  Virtually every player has an agent, negotiating those contracts and taking a percentage. .  Colleges today offer courses in ‘Sports Representation’.  The Media led by the alphabet soup of ESPN, MLB, in addition to the over the air FOX, ABC, etc. are paying huge premiums for the best packages.  A certain indicator they must be ekeing out a living. 

It would appear that ‘Bud has met every ones needs except for the fans.

Selig’s desire to repair his legacy will cost baseball in some unseen fashion as he negotiates the addition of another layer of playoffs.  In this arena, despite the benefits the Players Assoc. members have garnered under his appointment, Selig has been raw meat in a tiger’s cage.   The likely cost will be exposing fans to inclement weather even further in November than we have already visited. 

It wasn’t so very long ago that the World Series was played and over before mid-October.  Those were games that if you were attending you probably brought sunglasses.   You might have heard the voice of Mel Allen in any number of years telling you it was a beautiful day for a game.  Maybe it was Ernie Harwell or Jack Buck describing the shirt sleeve crowd.   If you go back far enough it might have been Russ Hodges or Red Barber setting the scene for a mid ‘50s’ Giants or Dodgers world Series.   Just maybe it was Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson or Ralph Kiner from Shea Stadium in 1969.  Every game played without lights, without an overcoat, without scarves, mittens, or hand warmers.   We know that New York and Philadelphia are cold at 8:30 pm in Nov., In years to come we will find out about Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, and maybe even Pittsburgh. 

No Commissioner has done so much to disenfranchise the fans than Allan Huber Selig. 

Posted on: November 5, 2010 4:39 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 1:06 pm

Change is Good.....Sometimes

It is commonly heard that what distinguishes baseball from the other sports (NFL, NBA) are the statistical records.  I always believed this.  The numbers 714, 60, and then 61 and 511 were as imbedded as my phone number.   It was held that Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs and the 61 of Roger Maris were cut from the same cloth and the subsequent numbers posted by McGwire and Bonds were also relevant.  

I have been a fan of the game for more than 50 years, actually closer to 60 years now.  It is just now that I realize the reason that baseball, encompassing the modern era 1901-2010, cannot be tied to its numbers.  It is a phrase that you and I have all used ‘level playing field’.   Granted, it is still 90 feet from home to first and the pitchers mound is still 60 feet 6 inches away, yet despite the dimensions, the field has been level for only a portion of the ‘modern era’.

One playing field was from 1901-1946, a field which excluded a segment of our country from playing in the Major Leagues.  During this period future Hall of Fame players were not permitted to compete at the Major League level, players whose abilities and skill was beyond question.  Names like Josh Gibson, Ray Dandridge and Cool Papa Bell.  Satchel Paige played in the Majors, but as a 42 year old rookie.  The courage of Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson removed the invisible but legible “Negros need not apply” sign above the door to the Dodger locker room on opening day 1947.  By the close of the decade the St. Louis Browns, Indians, and NY Giants had taken down their signs.  More than 12 years after Robinson set foot on the major league diamond, the Red Sox promoted a part time infielder Pumpsie Green from triple A and the task undertaken 12 years earlier was complete.

1947 ushered in the second playing field, a field that was open to all those with the skills to exceed.  It was a time when many of today’s fans got their first taste of the game that would last a lifetime.  It was a period blessed with great players whose names bring back memories.  Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Stan Musial, Ted Williams who had a foot set on both field 1 and 2, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Johnny Bench, Willie Stargell and Sandy Koufax.  It was also a time that brought a number of changes to the game.  Each fan has to judge for themselves if the changes were positive or not. 

Greener Pastures and Expansion;

Pay attention this part starts to get confusing.  Prior to expansion the Major Leagues embarked on a period of musical chairs.  The Braves moved to Milwaukee with the Browns heading east to Baltimore and renaming themselves.  The Brooklyn Dodgers and NY Giants headed for Hollywood and Fisherman’s Wharf and finally the Washington Senators moved to Minneapolis as the Twins.   Just as the Senators left town the new Senators arrived along with a team in Los Angeles, the Angels.  The Angels are still in California, but they are not sure if it is LA or Anaheim.  Meanwhile the Senators departed for Texas and a new name, Rangers.

In the year following Washington and Los Angeles giving birth to two new teams, Houston welcomed the Colt .45s and New York started a love affair with the Mets.  Perhaps Colt .45s was too violent a name, because 3 years later they became the Astros.  A few years passed and then the growth continued The NL added the Padres in San Diego and stepped across the board to Montreal to create the Expos.  The AL settled a team in Seattle, the Pilots, who would barely unpack before moving to Milwaukee to replace the Braves who had since moved to Atlanta.  The newly arrived team was now the Brewers.    This round of expansion brought with it another change to baseball, the eight team AL and NL were now 12 teams strong.  The Commissioner created two six teams divisions and a layer to the post season, the Championship Series.  The final expansion of the field two era was the addition of teams in Seattle and the Blue Jays in Toronto.

Other Changes;

Two additional changes took place shortly after the creation of the Championship Series, one was the introduction of World Series baseball under the lights which occurred in 1971 and the second was the separation of the rules as they applied to the AL and the NL.  This was the designated hitter rule.  

Baseball began play on this second field with 16 teams in 1947, during the 16 year expanse from 1961 to 1977 ten teams were added, baseball as it was played in the 50s’ went from 154 games to 162.  A second layer of postseason play was created as well as playing the postseason under the lights.  Finally half of baseball played with a DH and half didn’t.   Despite all the changes this was my Golden Era of baseball.  It ended at an undetermined time in the 1980’s when an undetermined player injected himself with a performance enhancing drug.

The closing of playing field two initiated the opening of field three, The Steroid Era.  The prominent names involved were among those on the baseball ‘heroes’ list of that time until the question which first was asked at the Congressional hearings surrounding the Watergate break-in was answered in the aftermath of the Congressional Baseball Hearings and the Mitchell Report

“what did you know and when did you know it”.   Prior to the Commissioner requesting George Mitchell to investigate PED use in baseball the Congressional Hearings into use of performance enhancing drugs convened in March of 2005.  Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmiero and Sammy Sosa were all questioned regarding their use of PEDs.  Canseco readily admitted using steroids, as he done on “60 Minutes” and in his book “Juiced”, Palmiero denied the use of PEDs although he knew at that time he had already failed a test which would become public knowledge within months.  McGwire and Sosa stonewalled the committee. 

Evidence collected from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-op (BALCO) added the names of Gary Sheffield and Barry Bonds to the growing list.  Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte have since admitted to use of PEDs, Roger Clemens who denies any involvement has been indicted and will go to trial next spring.  The number of players who used, and possibly still continue to use performance enhancing drugs will never be known.  There are 25 players who have hit 500 home runs including Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt in 1984 and 1987.  I personally using Schmidt as a threshold (he was number 14 on the list) of those whose 500 home runs are clean.  The remaining 11 played a significant portion of their career in the ‘steroid era’ and as the result of those who did cheat the game there will always be a shadow on Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Thome, and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.  There has never been a single reference or rumor linking any of these players to PEDs.  They just played at a time when their peers did violate the trust.  It is probably naive to call the PED era over, but we now have another change in baseball. 

I don’t know when playing field four began, I know it is still with us and may be the field of the future for a long time.  The role of the African-American player has fallen in baseball.  This year the NY Mets did not have a single African-American player on its 40 man roster.  When the Mets won the World Series in 1969 Donn Clendenon, Ed Charles, Cleon Jones, and Tommy Agee all played significant roles.  In 1986 the arm of ‘Doc’ Gooden, the bat of Darryl Strawberry and the legs of Mookie Wilson took the Mets to the Commissioners Trophy.  A look around the majors reveals a trend of fewer black players in the game today.  The Phillies have Ryan Howard and Jimmie Rollins.  Prince Fielder is with the Brewers, also count potential Rookies’ of the Year Austin Jackson and Jason Heyward.  The Pirates have Andrew McCutchen, and the Yankees have Curtis Granderson and possibly will add Carl Crawford.   I’m sure there are more African-American players, but these are the few that come to mind.

There is no question that there are fewer black players electing to play baseball today, the options that were not as available 30-40 and 50 years ago are today.  Besides the obvious expansion of the NFL and the NBA, Educational experiences have introduced black student athletes to opportunities in careers that have drawn them away from playing ball of any nature.  The expansion of scouting in the Caribbean, Central America and the Far East has increased competition for roster spots and fewer draft selections.  Most will look at the opportunities afforded to black athletes today and see progress and social change and they are right, but some part of me wants to return to the past when Mays and Aaron played, when Maury Wills and Rickey Henderson terrorized pitchers, when Bob Gibson put the fear of God in any batter foolish enough to dig in on him.

All of these changes and periods that the game has gone through is why I came to accept that the home run hit by Babe Ruth has nothing in common with one off the bat of Roger Maris or Aaron.  And is certainly unrelated to Barry Bonds residing on field three…..contaminated field three. 

My perspective is a product of my life experience, my age, and my circumstance when growing up.  Your opinion on my view on baseball may differ a little or a lot.  That’s OK, tell me why and thank you.


Posted on: September 22, 2010 1:41 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 1:08 pm

Turn out the Lights

If you are 30 years old, it is likely that you have no memory of ever have seeing a World Series game played during the day.  If you are 50 yrs. old or younger, you son or daughter has probably not ever seen a World Series day game.  It has been that long since the last one, game 7 of the 1987 World Series.  The 50 year old fans were probably among the 10’s of thousands of us who had a transistor radio confiscated at school and sent home with a note for Mom and Dad.  It was worth it to surreptitiously try and catch the score while the teacher was distracted by taking someone else’s radio away.

The decades of potential fans whose baseball interest was diminished and stunted have the tri-headed monster of greed to blame.  Bud Selig, the alphabet soup of networks (ABC-CBS-NBC-ESPN-FOX-TBS-MLB) and the 30 team owners that picked over the carcass of “America’s Pastime”.  Relegating it to secondary status behind the NFL.

Selig, in his desire to serve his pimps sold the product for the highest price available, viewing in Prime Time with the intent of higher rating and greater revenues for the pimps.

Baseball has been losing a generation of kids and other fans who are in bed during the game's biggest moments. Last year's rain-delayed Game 3 between the page/PHI">Phillies">Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays began at 10:06 p.m. ET — and didn't finish until 1:47 a.m. The series' late starts and finishes in chilly, rainy weather contributed to record-low TV ratings for the 2008 World Series.                                                                                                                                    

The Phillies and Rays players who wore ski masks and ear flaps to ward off frigid temperatures in last year's series would support the idea, says former Cy Young Award winner Rick Sutcliffe, now an ESPN analyst. Some players complained they couldn't feel their fingers or toes, he said. With this year's World Series possibly starting at the latest date ever, nobody wants to see freezing, even snowy weather help determine winners from losers. - By Michael McCarthy, USA TODAY 8/2009


It is apparently time to pay the piper; four of the last five World Series have posted lowest television ratings in the past 25 years. As the television contracts expire with MLB, renewed contracts will likely reflect the reality of the falling ratings.  Revenues will fall and a generation of what might have been stronger fans will not be there to shore up the falling rating.  The golden goose died.

 Former page/NYM">Mets">New York Mets pitcher Ron Darling, now with SNY and TBS, said MLB and Fox may be "underestimating" the audiences and ad dollars an old-time day game could command.

"It would be such an anomaly that everyone would get on board. If the corporate partners are forward thinking, they'd want to be part of a historic event," Darling said. "At some point, you have to generate new viewership, new fans. These kids have so many things to watch these days that it's a step in the right direction to have kids and their dads and moms sit and watch a game together. I think it would be unbelievable."- By Michael McCarthy, USA TODAY 8/2009

Ironically, the second highest rated game of the last twenty five years was the 1987 day game between the Twins and Cardinals.  It finished behind the 1986 game 7 between the NY Mets and the Boston Red Sox.  Despite being played on a Monday night opposite the Redskin and Giants game, the World Series drew the highest single game rating of all time.  One year later, the lights went on and have not gone out since.

There are four teams from the northern tier states contending for the World Series; Yankees, Twins, Reds and Phillies.  This raises the probability that cold November weather will be an element for the fans and players to deal with.  Two western teams, the Giants and Rangers suggest later game starts and games in the EST zone finishing tomorrow. 


These are my perceptions of the folly of having relegated the World Series to the interests of the Networks and the owners instead of the nurturers of the game, the fans.  My perceptions may not be your reality.  If you agree let me know, more importantly if you don’t agree, let me know.  


Posted on: March 10, 2010 4:02 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 1:10 pm

A Short List

The New York Daily News has recently begun a baseball promotion called “Modern Yankee Heroes”.   I am not a Yankee fan, but I don’t diminish the accomplishments of the players cited,  but I thought about the use of the word ‘Heroes’ and felt it wasn’t appropriate to call multimillion dollar ballplayers heroes because they have huge contracts, hit .300 or drive in 100 runs.  The phrase ‘Hero’ should be reserved for those who truly stand out in their field and distinguish themselves in the face of aggression.

In the arena of major league baseball only two names come to mind whom I would call a ‘Hero’ 

Ted (Teddy Ballgame) (The Kid) (Splendid Splinter) Williams played 21 years with a career BA of .344 and hit 521 HRs.  His BA is the highest for any hitter with 500 home runs and he is also the last (1941) to hit .400. Williams also homered in his last at bat in September 1960.   Williams also won two MVPs, two Triple Crowns, and six batting titles.  What makes him a hero in my mind is his service to his country in two wars as an aviator in the Navy and Marine Corp.  His military service covered over five years of his baseball career.  He was the wingman of future astronaut John Glenn and was honored by General Douglas MacArthur.  "To Ted Williams - not only America's greatest baseball player, but a great American who served his country. Your friend, Douglas MacArthur. General U.S. Army."

Although he only played ten years and the record books are not full of his name, Jackie Robinson is the other ‘Baseball hero’. Jackie Robinson made his debut April of 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodger and was the first black man to play in the Major Leagues.   Robinson left UCLA just short of graduation in 1941 and was drafted into the Army in 1942 after the outbreak of WWII where he was commissioned as an officer.

Jackie Robinson was selected by Branch Rickey as the man to ‘break the color barrier’ because he felt that Robinson could passively stand up to the expected racism.  Robinson more than passed that test, he opened the door for African-Americans to compete in the greatest of all games.  He did that while also winning Rookie of the Year, an MVP, playing in six All-Star games and being elected into the Hall of Fame.

Both of these men were in a way connected, while Robinson was the first African-American in the Major Leagues, the last team to integrate was Ted Williams’ Boston Red Sox.  Pumpsie Green was the first black man to wear the Red Sox uniform and was openly welcomed by Ted Williams when he joined the team.  Ted Williams was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966.  His induction speech on that day included a wish that Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and the other great players of the Negro Leagues who never had the opportunity to play Major League Baseball would someday be welcome at Cooperstown.  That day began five years later with the induction of Satchel Paige.

When I wrote the blog entry ‘A Short List’ I focused on two ballplayers that legitimately could be called heroes Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson.  A fellow poster (jbellows) on the Mets board commented that Roberto Clemente should be on that list.  He was right, I was remiss, and now my omission is corrected. 

Although all three members of the short list are in Hall Of Fame it wasn’t their baseball prowess that qualified them as candidates for my list, it was the peripheral qualities that were the attraction.

Roberto Clemente died on Dec. 31 1972.  He died in a humanitarian effort to help the people of Nicaragua who had suffered an earthquake one week earlier.  The aid packages that Clemente had sent in three previous flights had been confiscated by the corrupt Nicaraguan government.  Roberto Clemente accompanied this relief flight in hope that his presence would ensure that that the relief aid would reach the people affected by the earthquake.  His plane crashed shortly after takeoff and his body was never recovered.  Roberto Clemente was born in Puerto Rico and died trying to assist those in Nicaragua.  I believe that he didn’t allow National boundaries to prevent him from reaching out a hand.

In 1973 Roberto Clemente became the first Latino to be elected to the Hall Of Fame.  He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the first Presidential Citizens Medal.  In 2002 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  In 1973 the Pirates retired # 21 and erected a statue out side Three Rivers Stadium.  That statue is now outside PNC Park. 

Few in any walk of life can match Roberto Clemente’s love for his fellow man.


Anytime you have an opportunity to make things better and you don't, then you are wasting your time on this Earth" --Roberto Clemente




There have been players who have played despite extreme physical handicap such as Pete Gray, Bert Shepard and Jim Abbott.  They certainly are heroes to overcome their limitation, but Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente are the top of my very short list.

Posted on: March 3, 2010 12:57 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 1:11 pm

The Worst of Times

A number of years have passed since I watched my first ballgame, it was on a black and white screen, it was 1954 and the team was the NY Giants.  I wasn’t a Giant fan, but my father, an Irish immigrant, who never had played or rooted prior to 1954, decided the Giants were his team.   I had been a Dodger fan for perhaps, maybe, possibly, a whole year. 

Much has changed since those days of eight teams in the American League and eight in the NL.  The majority of games are now under the lights, including unfortunately the post season.  In the ‘50s’ the World Series ended roughly 10 days after the season ended.   One team from the AL and one from the NL finished the season on top of a field of eight, unless it was 1951 when baseball needed a three game playoff.  It sometimes happened.  There was not a divisional round (best of 5) or a Championship round (best of 7) to decide the contestants for the ‘Series’.  The 154 games stretching from April to the end of September were intended to do that. 

Many of the changes in the game happened before 1992, most in my opinion were not in the interest of the fans.  But what did happen in 1992, was the owners of the Major League teams installed Allan Huber Selig (Bud) as the interim Commissioner of Baseball.  Selig fit the profile of the Commissioner the owners needed, an owner himself and an avid opponent of existing Commissioner Fay Vincent.  After an 18-9 vote of ‘no confidence’ Vincent resigned and ‘Bud’ Selig was the Commissioner of Baseball.  The Baseball Barons had in the ninth Commissioner of Baseball one of their own. 

The change in the balance of power between the players and ownership led to the strike that cancelled the 1994 World Series and has had a great influence on the animosity between the parties that still exists today.  

One of the changes instituted under Selig was the restructuring of the leagues to accommodate expansion; the new division (Central) created a new component to the playoffs …the wildcard.   This is in my estimation a Selig win.

The largest failure of ‘Bud’ Selig was his failure to respond to the proliferation of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) that will always be the defining event of the Selig era as the commissioner of baseball (no caps intended).   Selig’s performance at the 2005 House Committee Hearings was an embarrassment to baseball, after 10 years of turning a blind eye to the proliferation of PEDs in the game, Selig stuttered and sweated his way to finger pointing at Donald Fehr and Gene Orza.  He absolved himself of responsibility by relating the minor league testing program instituted under his watch.   Was Selig right, yes, the MLBPA would have opposed any effort by the commissioner to initiate steroid testing.  Not even trying was the failure.  ‘Bud Selig’ is reaching the end of his time as the Baseball Commissioner, in my mind he has been without a doubt an owner’s toadie and the worst commissioner in the history of the game.  The division between Baseball and MLBPA is largely a result of his allegiance to the owners who own him.  During his last two years in office he has the opportunity to make restitution for his past 18 years, but what ever positive that he does accomplish will never balance the books on the damage done.

Posted on: January 13, 2010 1:20 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 1:12 pm

A Crying Shame

The recent admission of Mark McGwire that he did, as suspected, use performance enhancing drugs while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Oakland A’s was hardly startling.  The BBWAA, who vote on Hall of Fame membership have over the past four years sent a message, by a 3 to 1 margin, that steroid cheaters need not apply.

McGwire’s tearful admission to Bob Costas, that he regrets his action, raises the question, will enough writers be swayed by McGwire’s contrition and give him a sympathy vote in future Hall elections?  I personally hope that does not happen.  Did I cheer Mark McGwire’s heroics, I did.  I watched as he picked up his son after he hit the ‘62<sup>nd</sup> HR and as he received the congratulations of the Maris family.  I was moved by the whole event, I was also woefully naïve.  I didn’t recognize the PED influence that had turned a game I loved into an arcade game.

Some of the writers who have voted for Mark McGwire’s election into the HOF have given the use of any product that enhances performance on the field as legitimizing steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) usage.   Among those examples are Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Billy Martin and I’m sure thousands of other ball players over the past one hundred years who took aspirin to lessen the effects of a hangover from the previous nights celebration.

They also cite the use of ubiquitous uppers (Amphetamines). As reported by a player “greenies gave me the ability to function, 13 games in 4 cities with one day off is brutal.  Without them standing in the box was a death wish, Performance enhancing… at the end of a long road trip walking was a big deal”.  I start my day with two healthy belts of caffeine … PED?  There is such a thing as taking coffee and two aspirin to an absurd level to justify cheating.   Fortunately those writers are in the minority, and in this writer’s opinion hopes that it stays that way

The ‘steroids era’ has taken from fans that relationship of Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs and Roger Maris’ 61.  It took  the 755 that Hank Aaron hit to eclipse the 715 of Ruth.  It has made us look at every accomplishment with a jaundice eye.  Was Nolan Ryan or Randy Johnson playing ‘fair’, how did Cal Ripken Jr. manage to get out there for 2,131 consecutive games?  We would never have questioned Lou Gehrig’s streak or the home runs of Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays.


McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sosa, Palmerieo, Giambi, A-Rod have all had a part in destroying a part of baseball that almost let us look at today’s accomplishments in  yesterdays light.   Of course it never was a level playing field, Major League Baseball needed 40 years before Jackie Robinson put on a Brooklyn Dodger uniform and it took another twelve years until the Red Sox completed integration by signing Pumpsie Green.  But there was a continuity that is along with 61 and 755 homeruns forever gone.

Mark McGwire’s ‘confession’ like that of Alex Rodriguez , Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte lack one thing, credibility.  McGwire like Pettitte only used PEDs for healing purposes, and in McGwire’s case, a decades worth of use didn’t contribute to his homerun prowess.   Giambi, mumbled a non specific apology for having committed a non specific error in judgment. A-Rod’s press conference and follow up left more questions unanswered than answered.   Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and Gary Sheffield never did anything to confess or apologize for.  Clearly the only consistent amongst the PED generation is denial with one exception.  Jose Canseco has turned his steroid use into a cottage industry with two books and multiple public appearances.

Having read the newspaper accounts over the past few days, it would seem that those writers who do have a Hall of Fame vote were unmoved by Mark McGwire’s coming out with Bob Costas.  I would hope that in 2012 when Bonds, Clemens and Sosa become eligible and for the fifteen years after that the gate keepers to the Hall maintain those same standards.




Posted on: January 9, 2010 12:50 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 1:13 pm

The More Things Change...

One of the things that has not changed much over time is winning is contagious.  The most powerful team of my youth, The New York Yankees, is today the most successful team of the past decade and a half.  Back in the fifties most teams had their share of 'star' players.  The NY Giants had Willie Mays, Ted Williams was a Red Sox, Stan Musial played in St. Louis, and my Dodgers had Duke Snider and Gil Hodges.  There was no free agency, so players were bound to their team at the pleasure of the team.  Contracts were generally one year affairs and a cut in salary was not unheard of, even after posting a 'good' year. 
My best guess to the continued success of the Casey Stengel Yankees would be they scouted and traded better than their competition.  Today there is free agency and success is often measured by the size of the corporate checkbook, and
there is an inequity in baseball that will only solved by a salary cap, of course the players union is opposed to a salary cap for obvious reasons.  Namely a large percentage of their members would no longer have jobs or would have jobs at a lower dollar value than they do now.  Of course for the cap to work an upper and lower limit would have to be established and this is where the owners get involved in opposing a cap.  Some of those teams mentioned would find an upper limit salary cap limiting to the roster they are accustom to fielding and a lower limit cap may very well be above the spending level of others.

One of the "fixes" to the problem has been in place for over 20 years and that is Revenue Sharing.  This requires each team to contribute 31% of its revenues to a pool which is then equally divided among the 30 clubs.  The intent is to level the playing field between the big and smaller market teams.  The following numbers are from the 2002-2007 periods, but I have no reason to believe that much has changed in the past 2 years.  In 2005 the Yankees paid into Revenue Sharing 76 million dollars more than they received back from the pool.  That same year Tampa Bay, Toronto, Florida, and KC each received > 30 million more than their contribution.  This would seem to indicate that the field was indeed being leveled, but not necessarily the playing field. During the 2002-2006 periods the revenue sharing dollars for KC doubled to 32 million dollars in 06, a 100 % increase over 4 years.  Player costs for KC increased by 6%.  The 2006-07 Florida Marlins received a total of 60 million dollars in revenue sharing, and over the same 2 years had a combined player salary of < 46 million dollars.

Another element of field leveling is the luxury tax. In 2008 with the upper limit for Luxury Tax intent was set at a payroll amount of 155 million dollars, that resulted in only the NY Yankees (26.9 M) and the Detroit Tigers (1.3 M) being assessed a” tax penalty".  The Luxury Tax is assessed by MLB at a 22.5 % penalty for the first time exceeding the threshold, 30% for the second trip into the "outer limits" and 40% thereafter.  It is the 40% penalty that the Yankees have become intimate with and are annually invoiced for.  In 2009 the threshold is 162.5 million dollars and the NYY will be the only team over the limit. 2010 the ceiling rises to 170 million.

My view, there will always be large and small markets, the problem is those teams whose owners are in over their heads and cannot keep up with increasing salaries or will not increase spending, some teams the Indians and the Pirates do not have the financial wherewithal to compete. 
Location, location, location is often cited a formula for business success, what do you do with a location that will not support a winning team.  Both Tampa Bay and the Florida Marlins regularly have higher attendance on the road than at home. They are not alone.

The fix might very well be requiring that Revenue Sharing be reflected in the increased budgets of the receiving team’s major league team or its minor league teams.  Any shortfall of spending of those dollars as designated would result in a 2 for 1 penalty in the following year, this would prevent owners from pocketing the revenue sharing funds rather than using them to improve the product.
Secondly, lower the Luxury Tax threshold to capture more of the high spending teams.

The numerical data was gathered from various internet sites, the balance is my own personal view.




The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com