Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Predictable World of Baseball

I am not watching the World Series. There is not a shred of interest. Oh? Did the Yankees make it? Now, who woulda thunk it? Big surprise. The Phillies? Knock me over with a feather.

It's hard enough being a sports fan in a country where most of the parks are built on the backs of taxpayers, where millionaires could have built them without being welfare queens. But baseball is a special kind of suck.

It's hard to miss how not competitive Major League Baseball is. Every year, the Red Sox and Yankees are going to compete in the American League. Every Year, the Cardinals, Dodgers, Mets, Braves and Phillies are going to compete in the National League. Mainly, these are the teams willing to spend money on talent.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have had 17 straight losing seasons. The Kansas City Royals routinely see their best players get to the end of their contracts, and leave via free agency.

Don't get me wrong- I don't bemoan the players their ability to sign for the highest bidder. The players are the product, after all.

What I don't care for is the fact that most teams will make a profit without even trying to compete for the top-level talent reserved for teams in Boston, New York, or Philadelphia. Why is that? Socialism.

No kidding. If you want to see how the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor in a socialistic microcosm, look at Major League Baseball, which has a revenue sharing program. Michael Lewis, assistant professor of marketing at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, said this in a University article:
"Even though revenue sharing was intended to create incentives for ball clubs to build their teams and build their fan base, it's ended up having the opposite effect," Lewis said. "For small markets, like Kansas City or Tampa Bay, the club fares better in terms of how much revenue it collects, when their team doesn't win and the stadium isn't full."

"The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have been notorious for under-investing in their team," Lewis said. "In 2006, they collected $33 million in revenue-share payments and they only filled about 37 percent of the seats in ballpark. Clearly this is a team that has decided to grow the bottom line through revenue-sharing payments rather than grow the fan base.

True, the Rays reached the World Series in 2008, losing to the Phillies, but that was an anomoly. This year? They finished just 6 games over .500. They'll tread similar waters for the next 20 years.

So, there isn't any tension this year. It's maddening besides. I'm a Cleveland Indians fan who gets to see CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, both Cy Young winners for the Tribe in the past two seasons, now start in Game One of the World Series, for the Yanks and Phils respectively. The Indians just aren't willing to compete at the highest level. They dumped this phenomenal pitching talent for prospects, who they will in turn dump when they become stars themselves.

Why would anyone get emotionally involved with the Cleveland Indians? Or, any other team not in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, St. Louis, or Los Angeles?

I suppose if I were a Yankees or Phillies fan, this would be a lot of fun to watch. I'm not, so I won't. I get to look at enough crony socialism in the world of politics such that I hardly need it in my entertainment.