Wednesday, August 8, 2007


News organizations that are supposed to report the news before editorializing - not saying that opinions are not to be shared - have made a mockery of not only the record-breaking home run from Barry Bonds, but of the front page. Historically, media begs for the buck, and it is hard to not try to sensationalize to sell a few papers or push for ratings. However, to point to this singular achievement as the greatest crime in sports is a bit much. How about barring non-whites to play for decades as a good start or game-fixing or better yet, public funding of stadiums that are underutilized? Maybe, just maybe Barry Bonds' record-breaking moment isn't the 9/11 of sports.

Bonds was not the first to be linked to performance-enhancers and most certainly won't be the last. However, what has only been mumbled by some and amplified by few is that owners and executives looked away from players who had been using. While saying that taking these enhancers is cheating is debateable - because it's easy for those of us who couldn't get beyond our own neighborhood little leagues to question those few who made these games a livelihood - one absolute truth is that the economic state of the game allowed for these 'travesties'.

This is a sport - God love the game, bury the business - that built itself upn the reserve clause that bounded a player's services to a team essentially for the duration of their careers unless a trade was agreed upon between owners. This is a sport that needed Branch Rickey to point out the economic windfall of integration and that in itself took twelve years to be fully accepted. This is a sport that didn't have a real playoff system until a strike knocked out the World Series and disillusioned many fans until the 1998 home run chase from Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. This is a sport that has managed to survive for decades with at least half of the teams out of contention for any form of the postseason by the end of April. Worst of all, this is a sport that believes that there is a problem with teams such as the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Angels and Dodgers opening their wallets to any player available while the Pirates, A's, Twins, Devil Rays, Marlins and until recently, the Brewers continue to cry about being unable to compete and unwilling to spend a little to make greater dividends in the long run - and feeding off of the revenue-sharing (read: welfare) of the spending teams while they're at it.

What does the economic structure of baseball have to do with a few syringes? Everything.

Owners, especially those who operated teams that had little to no chances to play in October, needed a reason to bring fans to the seats other than grooming their own players in the farm or making wise trades and free agent signings. Is there any way to explain how several teams had gone over a decade without playing meaningful games in August and September? Is there a way to explain how a team can win two championships and have firesales shortly after bringing home titles (Florida)? And has anyone decided to tell Billy Beane that Moneyball has lost its steam? You rarely hear of contending teams having players who have this controversy because winning has brought fans to the seats. Winning = more $, right? There is a cicrus-like admiration for the home run and since the days of one Babe Ruth all the way to today, it has been the game's most used marketing tool. Commercials aren't adorned with Edgar Renteria, Kevin Youklis and Russell Martin, but with Ryan Howard, David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. The next time someone nominates Todd Helton for MVP will be the first.

If the business of the game can somehow be corrected - ideally, this would include new ownership in many locales - then the dependence on the longball can be mitigated, hence the dependence on bulging arms will be cut down significantly. Then again, how many of us actually use our complete physical and mental being to make a living? There will be some degree of use by players, but to believe that this is the biggest problem facing the sport is very short-sighted. Use of enhancers is the symptom to a larger problem that has continued to be ignored because there are still a few cheapskates willing to pull down the sport as a whole.

By the way, there's some pretty good baseball going on if you care to look around. Believe me, you'll like it.

Say What?!?!: It is August, which means that football season is around the bend from The Big House to the New Big Sombrero. If you need a primer on why this season is going to be one of the all-time best, take a look at the offseason movement after the Colts won Super Bowl XLI.

From the Locker Room to the Board Room: This is a new tidbit I hope to add to every post. The business student/future ad man in me finds what goes on within league offices and team operations fascinating and hopefully, you will in some way as well. Here is your first dose.

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