For the Love of Money

Like any man with rocks in his head, I can take a punch. The side effect is that it sometimes takes a while for things to sink in.  Ever so slowly but surely, like the erosion of educational opportunities across the land, the term for big numbers has become billion rather than  million  when economists and other dealers in shock therapy and junk science speak and write. As these words are being written, trillion is making its way into the parlance of the day.  When million was the big deal, none of this mattered  at the beer thirty hour when we kicked off our shoes and had ourselves a cold one as we tossed the ghastly news of the front pages aside and got down to what we really cared about, that being the sports pages.

Now sports, particularly professional sports, are being sucked into that same black hole of pain and despair. It was all good and cheery when athletes broke out of  the chains of the “reserve clause” and other  shackles and won free agency and organized themselves . They, not the owners, are the ones that people identified with and were willing to spend their hard earned bucks  to see perform. Something has been lost over the last three decades, though. The average player in major league baseball gets paid four million plus dollars a season now. Considering the fact that they actually do something to earn it, I don’t resent that. While some of the players might be accused of greed, however, it is nothing when compared to the nameless faceless ownership groups that have been filling their secret coffers with receipts from television contracts, sales of “gear” and whatever else can be monetized from that simple game so many of us love.  Meanwhile, ticket sales have dropped. Revenue, the sacred cow of all things, is endangered. They are even plotting to take away minor league baseball. I don’t know about you, but I truly wish that there was a minor league team close enough that I could go and watch. One that had on its roster young players getting ready for the big time and perhaps others who may never make it but love to play and some old timers or injured players trying to work their way back. Big league tickets have priced a lot of us out of the game, especially when you add in transportation, parking, meals and the rest. The sad truth is that fewer and fewer people are playing the game and, as well, fewer people are able to witness it in person after they can’t play any longer. Like too many other things,  sports has become just another television show, competing with Trump’s wrestling circuses.

Here at Baseball Anarchy, we like to investigate things. A quick call to the commissioner’s office on our hotline yielded an assistant who agreed to speak with us on condition of anonymity since his Check Engine light was on. We politely asked, what can be done?   His answer was puzzling. “We here at MLB are always at work to further the interests of our devoted fans, which is why the rule changes we expect to advance in the coming months  are aimed at speeding up the games without affecting concessions.” Okay.

We then thought it would be more interesting to talk with one of the owners from back in the days before free agency in order to get his perspective.  We were able to reach Charles O. Finley, the former Kansas City and Oakland  boss.  We caught up with him at his exclusive suite in Purgatory, where he was binge watching the World Series of 1972 through 1974. The cell reception wasn’t top notch. “Mr. Finley—can I call you Chuck?—what do you think about the evolution of the game over the last several decades?” we asked. The answer wasn’t clear enough over the shaky connection but there seemed to be a consistent flow of profanity along with names like Bowie Kuhn, Sal Bando and Catfish Hunter. Perhaps Reggie Jackson was included, but I can’t be certain. At any rate, Mr. Finley did not sound happy.

So what is next? Only time will tell, and pitchers and catchers report in thirty days. I just hope we can start reading and hearing more about wins and losses and  batting and pitching and running and catching and throwing and less about contracts and no trade clauses and all that financial page crap. Agreed?

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