How to fix Major League Baseball
Seeing the season long struggles of the Boston Red Sox play out nationally like the rest of the world outside of Boston should care about a bunch of overpaid underachieving prima donnas, has actually turned out to been rather entertaining. Let’s face it, in today’s game of unchecked big spenders over the last decade resulting in the Red Sox being able to just buy their way out of a supposed 85 year curse, and then become year in year out one of the top spending teams in the MLB and not coincidentally also one of its best teams too, who outside of Boston and its “nation” of fans doesn’t take delight in their suffering what’s simply seen as business as usual in Cleveland and other mid to small markets where their team and a losing season is viewed as just another summer? With all the frustrated antics happening in Beantown from the start of the season on through to today, and all of which being pointed at their manager Bobby Valentine as the sole reason why the “Sawks” are failing to meet expectations, it has me thinking. What if there lies a cure for the whole of baseball within this issue?
It’s becoming common knowledge among most sports fans, whether the MLB wants to admit it or not, that the game is being chased into a state of irrelevance only slightly better than the current state of boxing. Sure, watching the high priced All-Star squads parade through smaller market towns on tour each year like a baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters can be fun, sell a bunch of tickets and make for the occasional television spectacle, but once you realize those teams can never ever actually be your team unless you move to “the big city” or end up with an owner willing to lose tens of millions dollars each year just to be competitive, it’s not the bucket of confetti you’re getting thrown in your face as part of the show but rather the one with ice water in it.
Fact, the average payroll of baseball on opening day in 2012 was at the 100 million dollar mark. Fact, only 9 teams of the 30 in baseball to start the year had a payroll at or above that average mark. And fact, since this disparity started to take shape in 2001 of there being but a third of the league spending so much more than the all the rest, only one team not in that top 10 of payroll by the end of the year since then has won the World Series, the 2003 Marlins. The one exception of the 2003 Marlins that can now a decade after the fact also be called, the lone example that’s too often cited as proof it’s possible to not have a top payroll club and still win it all.
Of course an obvious fix to this problem everyone first thinks of would be to pattern the MLB after the other major sports in this country and cap salary spending and spread the wealth around with equal revenue sharing. But baseball, its owners, its union and players react to this idea as if reversing the earth’s rotation would be less insane and more easily achieved. And since collusion or allowing steroids to help even the playing field again is something the United States Congress will no longer allow, what truly can be done? Well, hiring Bobby Valentine in Boston seemed to help that team come down to earth, so why not push others in this direction? Why not make it a penalty for a team to spend so much, not in the form of a luxury tax punishment or other methods the MLB regular scoffs at, but instead by making these teams take on the burden of a bungling manager.
Just think, it’s already proven most these heavy spending teams can win or lose in their markets without much financial risk if any at all, and, that a team with a star studded roster performing like a train barreling off the rails still draws nationwide fan interest as the media and players threaten to burn the whole city down within its crash,1 so what’s there to lose? All the richest of the rich from the owners on down can stay the course they very much wish to maintain of continuing to get richer. The players can still choose to go play wherever they want just as long as they don’t mind getting a foolish manager who stares at them cross-eyed every day. Also, the media seems to prefer to write stories of epic failure more than they do that of epic success, so there’s no loss there either. And all the while the best part is you can finally have parity back in the game of baseball once again but this time via parody, and not criminal activity seemingly more suited for Tony Soprano rather than Bud Selig. It’s perfect really.
We’ve got the example of Bobby V in Boston already in place. Keep it that way. Now imagine some other locations where you can apply this notion, such as how great it would be to see the 2013 New York Yankees forced to walk out Carl “Stump” Merrill as their manager once again. The idea of pinstripe fans worldwide going insane on old Stumpy as he looks to repeat his early 90’s performance as their skipper when the Yanks lost 95 games and bottomed out in the AL East? Yeah, the stuff dreams are made of for everybody else in the world who loathes the unfair advantage this franchise has seemingly held over everyone since the invention of the game.
Or how about Texas forced to welcome back their former 6 time Gold Glove, 4 time All-Star and Ranger Hall of Fame third base great Buddy Bell who somehow in his lengthy career never once saw the playoffs as a player or manage?2 If this took place just imagine the daily fun of headlines each game would represent as a new record when he continued again his currently stalled streak of 3,648 games as player and manager without having ever been to the playoffs? Why his getting called out in the press daily by an angered Nolan Ryan looking to give someone a noogie would be worth it alone.
In the Dodgerville of la-la-land with all the high expectations of new ownership sparking renewed fan interest and better play, the league could assign them Willie Randolph to helm the ship. How much fun would it be to watch the Dodger Dogs keep getting better at first just like the Mets did under Willie’s guidance, only to fall one game short of getting to the Series and then fall historically apart in the season after that? Remember how exciting it was when this was happening to those Mets teams for everyone who’s not a fan of Laguardia and everything around it? Well that won’t even begin to compare to how great it will be to see on ESPN shot after shot of a pensive Magic Johnson frowning everyday as he sits in Chavez Ravine watching his team spiral down while his Dwight Howard led Lakers are across town winning title after title.
Of course the AL Central will have to be addressed too, so Chicago White Sox, say hello to your new career sub .400 winning percentage manager Dave Trembley. Hey, if you’re lucky you’ll get the kind of game out of him the 2007 Orioles did when after he was given the the gig with a little over half a season left and carried the team just far enough to keep them out of the cellar. Granted he never repeated this success of not ending up last in the division, but who knows, you might get lucky!3 And Detroit, oh you Tigers. You loved him as your long time shortstop and one time World Series winning MVP, and loved him yet again when he was first named manager and was the only thing to like following your 2002 season. But boy did that love quickly start to fade when in the next season he lost an all time AL record setting worst 119 games. Well why stop there, let’s see if he can top it! Alan Trammell, dust off that well worn ol’ Tiger gear of yours, buddy, and grab your lineup card, you’re getting the call-up one more time to the Motor City! Godspeed!
Seems kind of perfect, no? Who wouldn’t love this? Of course the whole idea might also seem crazy, unfair and simply impractical, but hey, it’s baseball, neither of those things have stopped them before.
- See the 2012 Boston Red Sox and any year the Yankees don’t go to the World Series [↩]
- Yes, Tribe fan, he started his career playing in Cleveland, but in a trend that coincidentally lends itself well to this concept (or just typical Cleveland luck as their fans would say), his best years were not played in Cuyahoga County. [↩]
- My first choice here for the ChiSox was Roy Hartsfield. In the late 70’s his Blue Jays lost more than a 100 games each of his three years there, but seeing he passed away last year the idea of a vengeful ghost as a manager like a bad episode of Scooby-Doo, though cool, I felt might have been too much of a stretch. Well, that, and also maybe a little insensitive. [↩]
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