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Thursday, March 26, 2009
Look, you're not going to find a guy more happy to read a love letter to Greg Maddux than me -- hell, I've written a number of them -- but it does seem a little cruel for Tim Kurkjian to spend nearly 1500 words slamming Nats' pitcher Daniel Cabrera for not being Greg Maddux:
For the first time since 1985, a major league season will be played without Greg Maddux. It will be strange not getting to watch the sixth or seventh best pitcher ever, the best control pitcher of his era and perhaps the smartest pitcher of any era. It doesn't seem right that as a new season approaches, Maddux isn't in a starting rotation but Daniel Cabrera is . . .
And it just kind of goes on like that. Which is strange, because you would think that one wouldn't need to resort to Daniel Cabrera comparisons in order to praise Greg Maddux, nor would one need resort to Greg Maddux comparisons in order to find fault with Daniel Cabrera. It comes off almost sadistic, which is not something you tend to see from a guy as sunny and enthusiastic as Kurkjian usually is.
Columnist George Will writes a letter to the editor at Forbes, defending Bud Selig against claims that he was asleep at the switch as far as PEDs were concerned and that he has, overall, been a poor commissioner. Money quote:
Steve, serious baseball fans argue about everything--the best hitter, the best World Series, the best left-handed catcher from northeast South Dakota. But they do not argue about who has been the best commissioner. That title goes to the ninth commissioner--Selig.
It's a long letter touching on many topics, so you should click through to read it.
For my part, I think Will is generally right in lauding the fact that MLB's financial house has been put in order under Selig, even if it would be innaccurate to give sole credit to His Budship. It happened on his watch, he did many smart things, and he got the hell out of the way when it was wise to so, and that's better than many executives can say.
Will is off base, however, in claiming that Selig would have put down PED use in baseball if that big bad union hadn't stopped him. The truth of the matter is that both the union and ownership showed a profound lack of desire to tackle PED use in the Major Leagues prior to Jose Canseco's book and the subsequent hoopla. While it is true that Selig put drug testing on the table in the 1994 CBA negotiations, it was, by most accounts, a throwaway proposal designed to give the union something to reject so that Selig could more effectively demand other things. The clear priority of the first decade of Selig's tenure was to break or at the very least weaken the union and to do whatever he could to allow the smaller market teams to gain the financial upper hand over the Steinbrenners of the ownership group. If he had used a quarter of his energy and political capital to attack steroids that he used to achieve his financial goals, there is a good chance that something could have been done about PED much sooner, union opposition or no.
The dynamics described in the previous post (i.e. diminishing franchise value freaking owners the hell out) are on display with this news item as well:
Padres chairman John Moores will spin the front-office carousel yet again Thursday when the club expects to announce that Jeff Moorad will take over as CEO, with Sandy Alderson stepping down from that position. What makes Moorad's arrival different from that of the other four CEOs or presidents hired by Moores since he fired Larry Lucchino in 2001 is that Moorad heads a small group of minority investors and, in time, is expected to succeed Moores as controlling owner. Per complicated negotiations on the club's phase-in sale, worth more than $400 million in present-day value, Moores will remain majority owner for a number of years . . .
Here the crisis precipitating the sale was not the real estate market, but rather, Moores' divorce. Here's what I think happened: With his money tied up in other ventures, there was no way for him to pay the soon-to-be-Mrs. Moores for her share of the Padres, so he needed cash and needed it fast. Enter Moorad, a willing buyer who appeared almost immediately after Moores need to sell and who, amazingly, had the full and immediate support of Selig and the other owners. It's almost as if someone had orchestrated this in order to keep Moores from having to sell the Padres on the open market where, if the Cubs' example is of any value, would be a far more protracted and far less-lucrative experience than anyone expected. Someone who was distressed at the notion of a team selling at fire sale prices.
Thankfully for Moores and the other owners, that's not happening now, as with Moorad's unique rent-to-own scheme, Moores is given the money up front in order to turn over to the missus, and gets to keep control of the team for the time being. Oddsmakers in Vegas have taken "Moores decides to buy out Moorad in a few years when his financial fortunes turn around" off the board.
Query: how many Jeff Moorads are out there, ready to swoop in and save the day the moment some distressed owner needs them? I can't imagine there are many. If more divorces or other calamities happen, it's only a matter of time before some owner is going to have to sell his team to the highest bidder on a real open market, at which time I suspect some serious losses are in the offing.
UPDATE: and now a third installment about all of this. The third part is the best part, I think, so unless you're utterly sick of this, you'll want to click through.
Rangers owner Tom Hicks is attempting to sell a minority share of up to 49 percent of the ballclub he purchased in 1998, he said on Tuesday at the team's Spring Training complex.
Hicks says that he's going to retain 51-60 percent of the team in order to retain control, but doesn't see a percentage in owning a greater percentage.
And he's probably right about that. One of the things that no one in baseball really wants to talk about is that it is almost inescapable that franchise values are on the decline. How can they not be? So much of the ownership of a team is tied up in real estate, be it from owning or at least profiting from stadiums and parking garages or from holding interests in commercial development around ballparks. More importantly, many baseball owners themselves are real estate guys first -- think Lew Wolff -- and have taken baths in the current economy. These guys either need cash now or, at the very least, see that the cratering of the real estate market and the overall economic downturn is going to contribute to a decline in franchise value. Get out now or get soaked later guys like Hicks seem to be thinking.
This is going to have consequences beyond the bottom line of some wealthy plutocrats. For years the owners cried poor due to arguably flat revenues, yet failed to do anything to reign in salaries because they knew that whatever was happening with revenues, franchise value was increasing, and therein lied the true reason to get in the baseball business. Because of this, salary cap talk was kind of a hobby, the upside of which would really only contribute to some relatively marginal financial gains for team owners. Now, however, when the real value in owning a baseball team is at serious risk -- and how can it not be when owners are issuing press releases that 40% of their team is on the market -- don't be surprised to see a little more seriousness on the part of owners when it comes to cost containment.
UPDATE: A companion post to this item can be found here.
ATTENTION ROB NEYER READERS: Welcome! A third piece in this series can be found here. It's much longer with much greater detail, thanks to a particularly insightful guest poster.
Milton Bradley, commenting on how so many experts are picking the Cubs to win the NL Central:
"They should. I'm here. I'm a winner. When I went to the Dodgers, after they hadn't been to the postseason since '88, they went to the postseason. I went to the A's in 2006. We weren't supposed to do anything, and we went to the ALCS. I was with San Diego. We were one win away from making the postseason, and I got hurt. Everywhere I go, people win. It's not a surprise."
Your mileage may vary, but I love it when guys spout off like this. Maybe it's not as polite as those "take it one game at a time" quotes, but doggone it, it's more interesting.
As you may have seen yesterday, some Catholics in Detroit are upset that the Tigers' home opener will take place on Good Friday:
"It's sort of an insult for Catholics," said Michael Ochab, a 47-year-old Tigers fan. He said he'll miss his first opener in 20 years this year to attend services at St. Florian Catholic Church in Hamtramck. "I'm still hoping the Tigers will change the time" . . .
I'm really disappointed with the Catholics. Used to be that when everyone enjoyed something they didn't care for they'd schedule some big event at the same time in order to co-opt it. You know, like Christmas or Easter or something. Sure, my pagan friends complain about how that cheated them out of their solstice and stuff, but you gotta give the marketing guys down at the church office some credit for moxy and creativity. Now? It's just complain, complain, complain.
How about this: move Good Friday to Monday -- there aren't nearly as many Monday games scheduled -- and go with a baseball theme for an 11 AM Friday Mass. You'll really increase the gate that way. It's called synergy, people!
What? Why are you looking at me like that?
Well, a Hall of Fame:
Rafael Palmeiro, who infamously wagged his finger at Congress four years ago while denying he used steroids only to test positive a few months later, was elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame . . .
Columnist outrage to begin in 5 . . .4 . . .3 . . .2 . . .
Things to read as you stew about how there will soon be less baseball coverage in August than there used to be:
Here's a plan: why not make the NFL season a year-round thing. Yeah, it may stink at first, but eventually every player will get injured, and then maybe the game will just sort of drift away into history. Don't look at me that way. A boy can dream, can't he?