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