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Tuesday, November 06, 2001

President of the Liars’ Club

Baseball considers a plan which will erode the owners’ credibility.

Somebody Stop Bud Selig Before He Destroys The Game He Says He Loves

Hi, it?s been awhile. There are a lot of stories behind my   silence over the past two months, but most of them are similar to the news you?ve   been living with during most of that period. Suffice it to say that it?s been   a difficult period in many ways, one that I (like many of you) look to find   ways to transcend.

But I can?t do that just yet,   because Budzilla is loose again. You know, that guy from Milwaukee, the one   who canceled the World Series in 1994, who lied to Congress about teams going   bankrupt without a salary cap.

He?s at it again.

Evidently Budzilla doesn?t   like being called a liar, because his new plan?contraction?would remove the   lie in a lawyerly ex-post facto flanking maneuver. ?See?? he?ll croak.   ?I TOLD you teams would go bankrupt!?

When you?re in charge of an   organization as steeped in illusion as baseball (only Washington and Hollywood   have it outgunned in that department?), you get to the point where you think   that everything you say is real.

And so, in yet another example   of the Peter Principle, Budzilla will make an attempt to implement the most   hair-brained scheme baseball has concocted in a long history of hair-brained   schemes.

As Keith Law of the Baseball   Prospectus, writing at the site, noted: contraction doesn?t really   solve anything. (There it is, guys?the sign that the apocalypse is here: I have   officially agreed with someone at Baseball Prospectus. Please stifle   your yawns and keep on reading.)

Actually, Keith didn?t go   far enough. Contraction will make things worse. As I noted in this space some   six months ago, removing two franchises from the game sends a loud signal that   will echo for decades.

That signal: we are not a   good risk. We are unstable, capricious, and unwilling to address the real issues   involved within our own ranks.

This is, in effect, baseball?s   Rubicon. Once you contract, the likelihood that you will ever be in a position   to expand again?and all evidence points to the fact that additional markets   exist to be tapped?is seriously compromised.

And all because you cut off   one of your fingers just to make a lie look like it was the truth.

This is not reason at work,   this is (threatened) self-mutilation taking control of your TV set. This is   the Outer Limits, except instead of aliens we?ve got a bunch of suits   running around like headless chickens crying wolf.

I?m not going to deny that economic problems exist in the   game. But as Keith noted, lopping off two heads in a universe with dozens of   other available options simply isn?t addressing those problems.

What Budzilla and his babbling   brethren won?t talk about is the fact that they are playing a childish game   with the fans and the players, based mostly on the fact that certain small-market   teams have ?sandbagged? their way through the time frame covered by the current   CBA, basically taking the (revenue-shared) money and running.

Let me tell you, the best   thing that could happen to baseball at this very moment would be if ten owners   just stood up and said, ?If you implement contraction, we?re out of here.?

And went out and started a   new league with their teams.

(Of course, in such a classically   reactionary institution such as baseball, the chances of ten owners volunteering   to take such a huge step are virtually nil. Most of these guys probably think   that contraction is a good idea, so long as it?s not them.)

That would be a helluva lot   more interesting than the stupid, insulting pack of lies being peddled by MLB,   or the stupid, insulting ?rotisserie?-based ?dispersion draft? drivel that Peter   Gammons has served up to us in recent days.

Peter, the LAST thing we need is to have a draft where the Yankees get Vlad   Guerrero.

One more thing while we?re   at it, Peter. You claim that the last two expansions (in 1993 and 1998) have   been ill-advised. How can this be the case, though, when three of the four expansion   teams have made the playoffs, and two have played in the World Series?

If Gammons? sources are to be believed, most of this contraction stuff revolves   around three problems:

  1. Sandbagging in Montreal;
  3. Stadium woes in Miami and Minneapolis;
  5. Disgruntlement in Disneyland.

The hilarious part of this is that Budzilla is apparently going to reward his   pal Jeff Loria for overseeing the ongoing murder of the Expos by handing him   a ?new? franchise (the Marlins, moved to Northern Virginia). John Henry, the   Marlins? owner, will get bought off by getting the Anaheim franchise from the   complaining corpse of Walt Disney.

To make all these dominoes   fall, however, there has to be another team picked for sacrifice. Gammons intimates   that MLB will pay off Carl Pohlad and extinguish the Twins, which would mean   that for the first time in more than a hundred years, a team with a winning   record would be broken up while the league it was in continued on.

That team, by the way, was   the Baltimore Orioles, one of the more brilliant organizations in the 1890s   National League. The Twins have no similar pedigree, but there are plenty of   teams who haven?t been to a World Series over a longer span of time.

The historical argument, of   course, is one that Budzilla will attempt to lean on?and lean on in as heavy-handed   a way as possible. The NL contraction in 1900 will be cited as an example of   baseball ?getting its house in order.?

Except that Budzilla, who   is about as good a student of history as John Goodman is a ballroom dancer,   will manage to overlook the fact that the 1900-03 time frame was, in fact, the   period of baseball?s biggest-ever expansion, when the number of major league   franchises doubled in size.

No such similar expansion   looms on the horizon for baseball in the twenty-first century, of course. But   adding two more teams in 2003, along with a reasonably deployed economic plan   and CBA, would make a lot more sense that what the bozos at MLB are talking   up now.

Since we?re all hatching semi-lurid   schemes, let?s put one of our own in motion, with expansion as the driving force   in the equation.

First, break up the key problem   in the economic wars.

Put new franchises into New   York and Los Angeles.

The primary inequity in the   game is local television revenue. Break up the monopolies in these two super-population   areas.

Second, if there are franchises   that are in truly dire straits, move them to other locations.

Are the Lords of baseball   telling us that there aren?t at least two other American markets that would   like to have baseball teams? We?ve been hearing about ?northern Virginia? forever   as a panacea for dying franchises. For God?s sake, bring on Northern Virginia!   Quit using it as a bargaining chip already.

There?s also market for a   team in North Carolina, where a complex of metropolitan areas could do just   fine with a franchise.

And if you move out of Minnesota,   Montreal or Miami, there?s no rational reason why those cities couldn?t eventually   have teams again someday. Budzilla seems to forget that his own beloved Milwaukee   was a city that went through just such an interregnum, and is thus an example   of how a metro area can go quickly from hot to non-existent to back in business   within a short span of time.

To sum up: even in this new   age of terror, the future is a lot brighter than we think?or than we?re being   led to believe. Budzilla and his not-so-merry band are selling out the game   for short-term gain, just as many leaders in Washington have hopped on the ?super-patriot?   bandwagon as a way to stage-manage the effects and aftermath of the New York   tragedy.

The real threat to baseball,   I fear, is sitting in the Commissioner?s office. Behind the befuddled double-talk   is an extortionist manqu?, a lunatic put in charge of an increasingly aberrant   asylum. He is so consistently and mind-bogglingly wrong-headed that one nearly   fainted some weeks back when he actually made a correct decision (playing out   the full season in the aftermath of WTC.)

But he is simply following   in the wake of equally flawed and capricious men who have occupied his chair.   If he follows through with this most catastrophic idea, however, we may well   need to hold a wake for baseball. If ever there was a wrong man at the wrong   time for all the wrong reasons, it?s Budzilla.

Someone?anyone?please stop   him before it?s too late.


Don Malcolm Posted: November 06, 2001 at 05:00 AM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. tangotiger Posted: November 07, 2001 at 12:12 AM (#604183)
I'm tired of you Montreal bashers. Let's compare the Expos to the Mets. From 1977 to 1984, the Expos, in every single year, outdrew the Mets. We all remember the Seaver-less Mets of those days, and their year-after-year 98 loss years. And of course, we all remember Hawk, Rock, and the Kid and the year-after-year 90 win seasons for the Expos. From 1984 to 1991, those Gooden-filled Mets outdrew the Expos in every year, and their 90-win seasons. The Expos in the meantime were slowly losing Carter, Dawson, Raines, Wallach. From 1992 to 1997, the Expos were going through transitions of getting and losing Alou, Walker, Pedro, Grissom, Wetteland et al. They drew 9 million fans in all, virtually the same as the Mets for that time period. Montreal had the better teams in 4 of those 6 years. After that, Montreal started with their 90-loss seasons, and the Mets with their 90-win seasons, and we know the attendance figures there. In the case of both teams, their "poor" attendance years are half of the good attendance years. And the good attendance years coincide with a winning team. The only difference is that Montreal MANAGEMENT abandoned the team with their fire sales. The Montreal fans, like the Mets fans, want a winning team, and the come to the stadium in droves when the team wins (Montreal was spoiled with the Canadiens). In 94, Montreal fans were coming at a 30,000-40,000 clip per game in those last 2 months when we saw the magic happen. How would you like to lose your 4 best players after that? And then hear all the bad news about the team possibly moving every year? Montreal FANS deserve the team. It's the management that messes it up. And I'm sure I can go back into the history of virtually any team and find a similar pattern of fans abandoning their team like the Expos and Mets (Indians? Braves?) because management refused to invest quality.
   2. Ken Adams Posted: November 07, 2001 at 12:12 AM (#604190)
Mr. Caballero,

Ah, so it is just a ploy to get the players to accept a salary cap. Back to the Future with more collusion, eh. Brilliant strategy after playing one of the most watched (and exciting) game seven of the World Series. You are going to throw it away for a owner lockout or player strike? Why in the hell is up to the players to fix the game out of their paychecks? I go to baseball games to watch the players, not the owners. So why shouldn't the players get the rewards? And if anyone is messing up the game it is the OWNERS. If there is one thing the game of baseball would never miss, it is the owners and their blackmailing ways. For example: Build me a new ballpark or I'm moving the team to Northern Virginia (or fill in the next 'hot' market area). Another example: Play ball our way or we'll cancel the season and the World Series. This ploy has nothing to do with creating an even footing for the teams it has to do with lining the pockets of the owners at the players, fans and municipalities expense.

BTW what exactly do you mean by Triple A pitchers in the majors? What golden years are you using for comparison?

Ken Adams
   3. Fadeaway: The Baseball History Podcast Posted: November 07, 2001 at 12:13 AM (#604194)
Major league owners have always been liars. Want proof?

"The greater per cent of the major league teams of this country today are being operated at a loss. It is impossible to operate them in any other way. The very maximum of salaries are now being paid which good business judgment will permit."
--Garry Herrmann, Cincinnati Reds owner, September 1914

   4. tangotiger Posted: November 07, 2001 at 12:13 AM (#604195)
First, the comparison with the Mets in 1979-1984 is irrelevant now.
*** It is relevant because it shows that even in New York, fans abandon their team if management doesn't get a winner there. And the Mets history repeated itself as I said in the early 90s.

Plus, there was collusion in the 80's that allowed small markets to compete.
*** There was no collusion until AFTER 1984. Montreal competed because they drafted smart, and had a core of young players.

Second, Montreal (and Canada) of the late 70's through the early 90's was a very different city (and country) than it is today. I read on this website that many English speaking people have left the city as Quebec nationalism has increased. Many major companies have moved to Ottawa or Toronto. Also, the Canadian $ is much weaker today than it was twenty years ago.
*** All that is true. But who cares? The Montreal Alouettes, a football team in the CFL, draws 20,000 per game in a small college stadium. That's right, they don't play in the Big 0, but at McGill Stadium (they were forced there for one game becuase of a U2 concert, and since then the fans have gone nuts at this downtown stadium, not worrying about paying 10-40$ / ticket. Montreal would support the Expos, if management would support them.

Third, it is wrong to compare attendance figures. The money is in local tv revenue and I am not sure that attendance is a good proxy for tv revenue.
*** My point is that Montreal fans CAN support a team. They've shown this to be true already. That they get no money from TV is not the fans fault. My problem is with people blaming the fans. Management has messed up the Expos.

*** By the way, the NHL has THREE teams in the New York area. Steinbrenner gets HUNDREDS of millions of dollars from TV. If you can't get Steinbrenner to share the TV money, why don't you just put in 2 more baseball teams in NY/NJ? I don't know how many minor league teams NJ has, but it's got to be at least 5 of the top of my head. How can NJ support the Devils, and not its own MLB team? The problem is you have alot of owners who get these territorial rights and TV money all to themselves.

Don't blame Expos fans for all this.

By the way, it'll cost each team at least 10 million$ to buy out the 2 teams. If KC Royals are losing money, how can they afford to pay out 10 million$ so that they can draft and pay Jose Vidro and Tony Arms?
   5. Robert Dudek Posted: November 07, 2001 at 12:13 AM (#604197)
tango... I'm with you all the way.

Loria has poisoned the baseball atmosphere in Montreal.

Correction: Free agency was and is reached after 6 years of service. That has not changed. What has changed is the percentage of total revenues generated by local revenues, especially TV.

The fact that the Expos generate so little TV revenue is the fault of their ownership (Loria and the previous regime). The Expos used to be seen across the entire country (Canada). I remember growing up, in the early 80s, I'd see 25-35 Expos games a year on free-to-air TV (and I lived over 400 miles from Montreal). I believe that TSN (the Canadian equivalent of ESPN) broadcast Expos games country wide until the mid-90s.

There is no reason why the Expos and Blue Jays could not effectively split the entire Canadian TV market (over 30 million people) the way the Yankees and Mets split the NYC and surrounding area market. That has to represent fair-sized revenue potential.

It's true that the Canadian dollar is extremely weak right now, but that does not mean it will be so in 5 or 10 years.

   6. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 07, 2001 at 12:13 AM (#604198)
I agree with most of what Don is saying, except for his comments on the potential viability of NC as a baseball market. I live in NC, and much as I would like to have a MLB team within reasonable driving distance there isn't enough of a market here to support a team on a consistent basis. Charlotte's basketball team is floundering, as is the football team, and Raleigh's hockey team, after a very public and heavily advertised season-ticket campaign, only managed to *meet* its quota by assuming that all of last year's season ticket holders would re-up - the Hurricanes very quietly announced the other day that, well, a goodly portion of last year's group really *didn't* renew.

There are two sports that draw well in NC - NASCAR and college basketball. Minor league baseball does OK in some areas, thanks to incessant promotions, and poorly in others. There isn't a viable place for a major league team to play down here, and no prospects of getting one (certainly not at the expense of the taxpayers, at any rate).

With the single exception of DC/Northern Virginia, there really isn't a viable alternative market for MLB *today*. The markets they are considering abandoning (including Montreal and Florida) HAVE shown that they WILL turn out in decent numbers given a team that has a chance to win and/or an ownership that gives the appearance of trying to make things better. And now MLB proposes not only to take their franchises away from them but to reward the people who ran them into the ground and turned viable markets into tenuous situations?

The only words suitable to describe that attitude are inappropriate for this forum.

-- MWE
   7. tangotiger Posted: November 11, 2001 at 12:13 AM (#604215)
I think we can all agree that an owner of any enterprise in a democracy can do whatever is legally allowed. But what bothers me is the lies that Selig has to spew to convince the fans and the media that this is the "right thing to do". It is right not for the interests of the fans or for the betterment of baseball (otherwise why did they expand to begin with), but the owners believe that it is right for the bottom line. Just be man enough and say it Selig. We're tired of hearing cowards talking half-truths.

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