A conversation about MLB, on the field, off the field.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

From the basement October 20


Yes, sports fans, baseball fans included, are full of it.

The Colorado Rockies are one of the great baseball stories of my era - and I'm not young, I'm 45 - but relative to their accomplishments they are practically ignored by the fans and the press this October. This despite them being the quintessential Cinderella team. Nobody outside of Denver knew who they were until about 3 weeks ago - in fact, nobody in Denver knew either - and next week they will be playing in the World Series. They're everything that fans claim to love in a team; a small market underdog - built without expensive free agents - , a young humble star at SS, an unsung MVP candidate in LF, a loyal vet at 1B who stayed through the tough times and is now being rewarded with a World Series trip and an unprecedented 21 / 22 hot streak that includes wins in a 1 game playoff - come from behind in the 13th no less - and 7 straight post season wins. Scrappy, gritty, no quit, unheralded, ignored, nobody believed in us,
lunch bucket, yada, yada. But who cares?

Fans lie. Contrary to what fans tell one another, the Rockies is not the kind of story they love, nobody's watching, TV ratings are awful ( what that means is a different rant ). They're even a secondary story on the baseball sites. Know what the fans are interested in? Fans love to hate the New York Yankees.

The Yankees were eliminated almost 2 weeks ago but remain the dominant story this post season. Fan interest this October is much greater in the Yankees' day to day soap opera of Torre, A Rod, Steinbrenner, than in the Rockies historic performance and inspirational Rudy ( which I've not seen ) subtext. Everybody is interested in the Yankees because baseball is entertainment and entertainment is about stars. The Yankees are superstars; the franchise, the owner, the players ( past and present ), the stadium, the logo, the lore. They are North American sports greatest villians - they represent wealth, power and greed - in the simple but fun morality play of good teams vs. bad teams.

Nobody in sports valued the importance of stars more than George Steinbrenner. Love him or hate him ( I miss him ) Mr. Steinbrenner understood that the Yankees were showbiz; Reggie, Billy Martin, Jeter, A Rod, Clemens, Steinbrenner himself for that matter. Gooden and Strawberry were brought to the Bronx long past their peak years because Mr. Steinbrenner understood that they were big stars if not great baseball players any longer. George Steinbrenner transformed the Yankees into THE YANKEES again. Mr. Steinbrenner wasn't satisfied with just winning, he realized the value in winning with swagger.

A Rod & The Yankees

All of that above brings me round to the debate about the lengths the Yanks should go to in their attempts to resign A Rod.

YES. The Yankees & Nets debuted their own RSN, YES, in 02 and according to Chris Isidore it is now worth about $3.5 billion. The Yankees own 36 % of YES. Much has been written about A Rod's value to YES - and by extension to the Yanks -, due to Scott Boras' manipulation of the baseball writers. Boras has even suggested that YES should pay a portion of A Rod's deal should he resign with the Yanks. Most baseball writers ( Gammons was sucked in early but has probably had a change of heart ) doubt Boras' claims re. A Rod's value to YES, but probably more due to their dislike of Boras than anything else. Nonetheless credible sources agree that Boras is overstating A Rod's value to YES but I have to admire his originality. Leave it to Boras to be the first agent to suggest that an RSN should pony up for some of the salary of the superstar of the network's primary attraction. Less attention ( although plenty ) was also given to speculation ( started by Boras if you believe the conjecture in the press ) that A Rod would become part owner of the Cubs if he signed with them. Boras is smart, greedy but smart. He realizes that payroll taxes on big market clubs are a disincentive to sign his client and is looking for creative ways around it.

The New Yankee Stadium opens in 09. Obviously this will boost Yanks revenues substantially. Again there is much speculation about how much additional revenue A Rod can generate in the new stadium and his value to the Yanks given that they will be competing with other local pro sports franchises for the luxury box dollar. In other words if you're a super wealthy corporation headquartered in NYC do you want boxes at the new Yankee Stadium or the Mets new Citifield or the yet unnamed Jets / Giants stadium or the Nets new Barclays arena?

We all know that the Yanks have the resources to pay A Rod more than their competitors, particularly with the new stadium opening in 09. Nonetheless there is opinion that A Rod is worth more to some other teams than the Yanks. For starters, the Yanks have to pay the 40% luxury tax on A Rod's $$$ - a lot of scratch. Perhaps A Rod is worth more in NYC wearing pinstripes than anywhere else but Isidore notes that the bottom feeding Florida Marlins could benefit the most from ponying up for A Rod. "The Marlins are an interesting possibility," said Tim Mahon, principal for Anderson Economic Group, a business valuation service, who has studied team values. "I think it makes much more sense than it does for some of the other choices." Mahon said that for deep-pocketed successful teams like the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Red Sox or Angels, "there's a marginal economic benefit from bringing him in, even as fabulous a player as he is. But look at the upside for the Marlins, not just in ticket revenue but also the structure of a new stadium deal." The Marlins would not be subject to the 40% luxury payroll tax either.

We'll know 10 days from the conclusion of the World Series if Hal Steinbrenner is the master promoter that his father was. But regardless of what the Yankee beancounters tell Hal ( and maybe they'll conclude that A Rod is worth whatever Boras decides ) the Yankees should resign A Rod because they are THE YANKEES and A Rod is THE SUPERSTAR and to not resign A Rod is to diminish the Yankees profile, their entertainment value, their brand ( I hate that word ).

Come on, A Rod in FLA, Texas, Chicago, Anaheim ( Jeff Blair thinks Stoneman stepped aside because Moreno wants to deal directly with Boras ) etc.? How boring.

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