Archive for the ‘MLB’ Category

By this time next week, all Major League Baseball players will have begun working out with their respective teams.  This year, the beginning of spring training has been overshadowed in the news by the contract status of Albert Pujols.

Puljols is arguably the best player in the game today, and is in the process of making his case for being considered one of the greatest players to ever play in the big leagues.  Like most other professional athletes, Pujols wants to be paid what he thinks he is worth.

At the age of 31, Pujols is looking for a 10-year deal in the neighborhood of $300 million.  Maybe he’ll get close to that much, maybe he won’t.  It doesn’t really matter much, because he will be heavily compensated either way.

Ultimately, the rising cost of player salaries gets passed through to the fans in the form of higher prices for tickets, parking and concessions at Major League stadiums.

Baseball used to be considered “America’s Pastime” largely because it touched the lives of almost every American in some way.  It was more than a game.  It was something that Americans bonded over.

When I was a kid, I would play baseball for hours on end because I loved the game.  My brother and I would make up different scenarios as we played, but one stood out above all others…

“It’s the bottom of the ninth…game seven of the World Series…two outs…three-and-two count…bases loaded…”

Most kids back then dreamed of making it to the big leagues for the chance to actually turn a lifetime of fantasy scenarios into reality.  Not once did we ever fantasize about the money that we would be making if our dream ever came true.  In all honesty, we would have gladly done it for free.

No one expects today’s players to play for free.  In fact, we fully expect that Major League Baseball players will earn millions of dollars to play the game that we all love.  Though we may not fully understand why they make so much money, it has never stopped us from rooting for our favorite teams with the same passion that we did before players earned small fortunes.

In 1990, Robin Yount was the highest paid player in baseball.  He earned $3.2 million.  By way of comparison, Alex Rodriguez earned $33 million in 2010 as the highest paid player in baseball.  Even the average player salaries are significantly higher.  In 1990, the average player earned just under $600,000.  In 2010, that number increased to $3.27 million.

The cost of attending professional sporting events has sky-rocketed along with players’ salaries.  Is enough ever going to be enough?  Is there a breaking point where fans will no longer be able to afford to attend baseball games and miss out on the opportunity to create lasting memories with family and friends?

Pujols deserves to be in the same salary range as Alex Rodriguez.  However, if his enormous demands are met, MLB salaries will continue their ascension into rarefied air.  And if this current pace continues, Major League baseball stadiums are going to be filled with more corporate attendees than dedicated fans.

Major League baseball caters to corporations and people with a lot of discretionary income.  While the average fan probably finds a way to make it to a game or two each year, even the most die-hard fan very likely ends up watching most games on television.

Thankfully, those of us who want to share the baseball experience with family and friends (without having to take out a loan to do so) have the option of attending Independent and Minor League baseball games.

Independent and Minor League Baseball both cater to all baseball fans, not just the wealthy ones.  In fact, it is probably just as cost-effective for a family to attend an Independent or Minor League Baseball game as it is for them to go to see a movie in the theater, and the experience is infinitely more memorable.

There are other advantages that Independent and Minor League Baseball have to offer as well:

  • The quality of play on the field is excellent because the players play with passion.  They are either working towards making it to the big leagues or playing for the love of the game when their Major League career has come to an end.
  • It’s not about the money.  You’ll never hear about contentious contract negotiations or demands for trades.
  • Intimate stadiums create a sense of community amongst fans who get to know each other because they see the same faces on a regular basis.
  • Because the stadiums are much smaller, every seat offers an outstanding vantage point, and the chance of catching a foul ball is much more likely than it is at a Major League stadium.
  • Between innings there are contests and games to keep kids engaged.
  • Team mascots roam the stadium to interact with kids, pose for pictures and sign autographs.
  • Concession-stand prices are much more reasonable than they are at Major League stadiums and often times even less expensive than movie theater prices.
  • Parking fees are minimal, and some teams even offer free parking.
  • Traffic usually flows very smoothly in and out of Independent and Minor League Baseball stadiums because there are far fewer cars to contend with.

Independent and Minor League Baseball both give fans of all ages and income brackets the chance to share bonding experiences that will last a lifetime.  Baseball purists, and nostalgic fans who long for days gone by, will be hard-pressed to find a better way to create lasting memories and bonding experiences with family and friends than attending Independent and Minor League Baseball games.

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Free agency has its drawbacks, but it does keep things exciting.  It gives hope to fans for their team to quickly improve.  It also allows players to find their true market value.  But there always seems to be a move or two that leaves everyone scratching their heads.  This year is no exception.

Yesterday, Jayson Werth agreed to a 7-year, $126million deal with the Washington Nationals – a team who has owned the real estate at the bottom of the NL East standings since their arrival in D.C. in 2005.

One of the advantages to residing in the cellar of Major League Baseball is the opportunity to improve by picking at the top of the draft.  Most years, the draft comes and goes without much fanfare.  Unlike the NFL draft, where even the most casual fan knows the top players being drafted, the MLB draft features guys who will most likely not be seen on a Major League field for years to come.

The Washington Nationals happened to catch lightning in a bottle two years in a row.  In the 2009 draft, they selected Stephen Strasburg.  The rocket-armed pitcher was arguably the most hyped draft pick in the history of Major League Baseball.  When he debuted in the Majors this past season, it was easy to see why.  In the 2010 draft, the Nationals selected Bryce Harper, a power hitter that has the potential to redefine the word (he hit a ball 570 feet at the age of 15).

Clearly, there is a lot to be excited about for the perennial cellar-dwelling Washington Nationals.  It stands to reason that they are looking to build around their two young stars.  Jayson Werth, a battle-tested veteran who knows what it takes to win, is a perfectly logical addition to the Nationals roster.  However, it is hard to find anyone outside of Jayson Werth, his family, his agent (Scott Boras) and the Washington Nationals who think this contract makes sense.

As is often the case in Major League Baseball, this Scott Boras negotiated contract will have a cascading effect on the rest of the league and their negotiations with other free agents.  Suffice it to say that every unsigned free agent feels a sense of gratitude today towards Jayson Werth, Scott Boras and the Washington Nationals.

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Three years…$45million guaranteed…what an insult!

Even the most casual baseball fan can figure out who I am referring to without mentioning any names because these numbers have been bandied about in the news ad nauseam recently.  For those who have managed to somehow avoid this story, the reference is to Derek Jeter and the contract that the 36-year old iconic Yankee is being offered to remain with the team that is synonymous with his name.

The Yankees, who usually show the same fiscal restraint as janitor who just hit the lottery, have finally decided to stop having bidding wars against themselves.  Fans who have grown accustomed to seeing the Yankees spend with reckless abandon are likely to question their newfound fiscal responsibility, especially when it comes to the most popular Yankee of the modern era.

Why draw a line in the sand now?  Why not just pay Jeter what he wants, even if it means spending top dollar for a player that may not even be starting by the end of his contract?  Who cares if Jeter is clearly on the downside of his illustrious career?  Shouldn’t he be rewarded for everything that he has done for the Yankees in the past?

In my opinion, the Steinbrenners are doing exactly what needs to be done!

I don’t hate Derek Jeter.  Quite the contrary!  I have a great deal of respect for what he has done throughout his career.  In a baseball era tainted by the prevalence of steroids, Jeter is a shining example that great success is not limited to those who break the rules.  However, playing by the rules is not a reason to pay someone well above market value, even if he is the face of the franchise.

Derek Jeter has already been handsomely rewarded for his efforts.  He is being offered more money than he is likely to be offered from any other team because of who he is, and not because of what he is likely to produce going forward.  How many of us could cut an outrageous compensation deal based more on past performance than future results?  Very few, I would imagine!

Certainly, even in these tough economic times, the Steinbrenners can afford to overpay.  But they shouldn’t, and I for one, am very happy that they don’t plan to do so.  This stance is long overdue in the world of sports.

The players in all professional sports have benefitted greatly from free agency, but it has come at a cost.  Two actually…

First of all, free agency has reduced even the most diehard fan to nothing more than a loyal follower of a particular uniform.  Nowadays, the player that a fan loves to hate may very well end up wearing the uniform that the fan is rooting for.  A sign of the times, I suppose; one that has forever changed the landscape for sports fans.

More importantly, there is the economic cost of free agency.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not sympathizing with the plight of owners of professional sports teams.  There’s no reason to, because we (the fans) are the ones who ultimately pay for irresponsible spending.  It shows up in ticket prices, concession stand prices and even parking prices.  Things have spun so far out of control that a day at the ballpark (for an average sized family) can easily cost several hundred dollars.  For most families in these dire economic times, that money isn’t as easy to come up with as it once was.

Continuing down this slippery slope of rising costs being passed along to the fans will ultimately come back to haunt both the owners and the overpaid players.  If fans can no longer afford to attend the games, all of these teams with brand new stadiums will have to rely on corporate sponsors to fill the seats.  Families will always choose food on the table and basic necessities over a day at the ballpark, even if it is something that they truly enjoy.

We are in the midst of one of the worst economic crises in recent memory.  People feel lucky to have any job in these times; much less one that still gives raises to keep up with the cost of living.  Somehow, I think that Jeter will manage to “scrape by” even if he is forced to sign the insulting three-year, $45million dollar, guaranteed contract that is being offered by the Yankees.

In the real world, salaries are determined by the supply of jobs and the amount of workers available to fill those jobs.  Companies are not in the habit of overpaying their workers.  I see no reason (other than ego) why professional athletes expect to defy the basic laws of economics.

Hopefully, owners of professional sports teams will finally start showing the same restraint that other industries do, and professional athletes will join the rest of us in the real world!

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