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

Saturday, November 24, 2007

From the basement November 24



My initial reaction to the indictment - along with everybody - was that it ended his career. I'm having 2nd thoughts......

For starters, after reading this very informative piece by federal criminal defense attorney Keith Scherer, I'm convinced that if Bonds does go to jail it won't be until after the 08 season is completed. Says Mr. Scherer, "Unless Bonds takes a deal, his case won’t go to trial before the end of the 2008 season. It can take several months—often more than a year—to bring a relatively simple case to trial in federal criminal court. Even when both parties expect that the case will eventually end in a plea, it can take that long to get to it."

Also we assume that Bonds won't want to play. He won't want the hassle. He broke Aaron's record ( ok, he doesn't have 3,000 ). He should be rich ( what's he made? $180 million? How much has he kept?...). So, he'll walk away. But Bonds has put up with the scorn and the media circus for many years, perhaps it would just be more of the same for him. The baseball writers have portrayed him for his entire career as being oblivious to all that goes on around him. Wouldn't it be like Bonds to play one more season if for no other reason than to say "fuck you" to everybody in the game?

Maybe more importantly, as I and many others have speculated, nobody will employ him. I wonder if Billy Beane is the exception? ( Obviously he needs Lewis Wolff's approval ). The Hot Stove League, pre indictment, had Bonds moving across the bay for 08. Still plausible? Yes. Bonds remains a GREAT offensive player. Plus Beane knows now that he can get him really, really cheap because nobody will bid against the A's. ( Again, this assumes Bonds wants to play ) And Beane might be the one GM who wouldn't be dissuaded by the media circus. Beane loves the limelight and fancies himself unconventional. ( Well, from what I can glean from reading about him ) Beane may be the only man in MLB with an ego comparable to Bonds'.


The popular wisdom is that Bonds is not going to jail. The supporting arguments are typically:

Indictments are easily obtainable ( the ham sandwich argument ).

The case against Bonds is weak, that's why it took 4 years for an indictment.

The indictment is a face saving move by the prosecutors.

Even without a conviction Bonds is further discredited.

Mr. Scherer thinks contrary. "The U.S. Attorney’s office isn’t perfect, and federal prosecutors lose on occasion, but they never bring a weak case to trial. This is especially true in a celebrity case like this one, one that is being overseen by the highest levels of authority. A loss in the Bonds case would be a career killer, and the prosecution wouldn’t risk taking this case to trial if it was as weak his Michael Rains says." ( Rains is one of Bonds' lawyers. )


Mr. Scherer doesn't share the conspiracy theorists ( I'm in that camp ) opinion that Bonds was the ultimate target in the BALCO investigation. "The U.S. Attorney’s office doesn’t offer immunity to the target of an investigation." I am in no way qualified to disagree with a US federal criminal defense attorney on this point but what the hell, this is the 2.0 age of amateurism & narcissism. I agree with Diesel . "The crime Bonds is being pilloried for today is lying to a grand jury, when the opportunity for "immunity" was presented should he offer any testimony that would be self-incriminating. But, considering that what he said that day was going to become public knowledge, he was really faced with a witch's "water test": If he confessed to a crime everyone had already assumed him guilty of, then he would be finished. If he maintained his innocence — honestly or not — then he would face the punishment nonetheless."

Recent recommended reading for Bonds conspiracy theorists: This NY Times piece on the IRS special agent who has gathered key evidence against Bonds - amongst other steroid offenders - isn't a conspiracy rant but it does raise questions about the investiagators' ethics and motives. Jemele Hill , is lockstep with me on all things Bonds including conspiracy theory and race.


There has been plenty of speculation that the Yankees had no serious competition in the free agent market for A Rod and consequently they could have signed him for much less than the $275 - $300 million that they've agreed to. As well, Rivera @ $45 million for 3 years and Posada @ $52 million for 4 years, has raised eyebrows particulary in light of the advanced age of the players ( 38 & 36 respectively ).

There is plenty of opinion that the Yanks have grossly overpaid for all 3 players. Why? The easy answer is that they generate so much more revenue than anybody else. There are other opinions however and the best place to look is always the Sports Economist.

On November 15 one of the sports economists wrote about the "Yankee premium", i.e. why do they overpay? The conversation that followed the blog posting is very interesting, some ( I've edited ) of it is below. ( note my intellectually lame contribution ).

I understand the Yankee premium. What I don't understand is why the Yankees continue to pay it. So many times it seems from the outside that they are outbidding themselves. I don't see why they insist on a $200 mil payroll when $150 would get them the same results and add $50 mil to the bottom line. A-Rod is just the latest example. Since A-Rod is quickly signing the $30 mil per year deal, my guess is that no one was willing to match the $25 mil he was currently getting (for 10 years).

James Roane 11.16.07 - 4:38 pm #

Hi Brian. Thanks for the post.

I've always wondered if this isn't the intersection between MRP theory and superstar effects (also as I am able to read it, part of MRP).

MRP = MP x MR. The arguments about similar players stats are all about MP. But for superstars it is the MR that matters.

And if Yankee fans fit the "superstar" idea, then we will not find an explanation in analysis of MP.

So... if Yankee fans simply want to see "the best" (superstars) and the technology is there to give it to them at the gate and on TV (and it is), then marginal talent differences can generate very large pay differences.

Perhaps we can get at this question using empirical models developed around superstar theory.

Rodney Fort Homepage 11.19.07 - 9:57 am #

Pardon my ignorance but what are MP & MR? I suspect M denotes marginal?

Peter Toms Homepage 11.19.07 - 11:57 am #

Sorry Peter.
MRP = marginal revenue product.

MP = marginal product (typically, contribution to winning or some such).

MR = marginal revenue earned from that marginal contribution.

Rodney Fort Homepage 11.19.07 - 5:14 pm #

Hi Rod

I agree that this is largely about the MR rather than the MP. The MR in question here relates to two things: the MR of a win, and the MR of everything else, e.g. star quality, personality etc. Mostly we focus on the the MR of a win, and we think the Yankees will pay a lot more for a win than anyone else, since the revenue potential is large, but fans in the Big Apple have plenty of other entertainment opportunities if the Yankees start losing.

stef szymanski 11.20.07 - 6:36 am #

So, if I "get it" and I'm never certain that I "get" what the economists think, the Yankees overpay because their superstars / celebrities are more valuable in the NYC market than elsewhere. ( Rivera & Posada for example are not better baseball players in a different market but they are bigger superstars / celebrities in NYC than in any other market. )

Is this the same point that SBJ made in a recent feature on "team brands"? "You can be the Spurs and own San Antonio. Or you can be the Yankees and share New York....Walk the streets of New York, stopping fans along the way, and you will find you share of Yankees fans. But you'll also find Mets fans who despise them. You'll find Giants fans, but also Jets fans who decry them. The Yankees ranked first in New York, but the Mets were a close second. The Giants were third and the Jets were an eyelash behind them in fourth. Then came.....You get to play to vast audiences in the nation's four biggest markets. But you also have to play over lots of noise."

George Steinbrenner understood this, that baseball is show biz, superstars are essential, baseball is just baseball. He bought the Yankees for $8.7 million in 1973 and remade them into THE YANKEES, paying big dollars for the likes of Hunter and Reggie and on and on and on. Worked out ok for him didn't it?


One more time, does it matter that the 07 World Series was the 2nd lowest rated EVER?

Maury Brown asks the same question. "The postseason is no longer the event that captivates a nation. Note that this year’s World Series was watched by an average of 17,123,000 for the four games. Compare that to the ’78 World Series between the Dodgers and the Yankees which pulled on an average of 44,278,950 for six games)." If I get my bong out and the music is right maybe I can ponder baseball's place in America ( from a Canadian basement ). As for how baseball's relatively puny World Series ratings effect the bottom line, a quote from Bill Shaikin. "Revenues from traditional tickets and local broadcast rights have more than tripled since 1994. And, with the value of sports programming rising to national advertisers struggling to reach mass audiences amid the proliferation of cable and satellite channels, national broadcast rights have soared from $52 million to $935 million." I'll add to Mr. Shaikin's comments that sports are TIVO proof, we still watch ads.

In addition to huge increases in broadcast rights, clubs are investing in RSNs which soon become more valuable than the clubs themselves. YES - Yankees - is valued at $3 - $3.5 BILLION and the O's have never been worth more - although their attendance is declining - thanks to their ownership in MASN. Ted Turner was a broadcast visionary ( as well as a nut job and an anti semite ). He was the first to realize the value of baseball to broadcasters - it provided a lot of relatively cheap content - way, way back in the early 70's.


Are the Jays, along with a number of other other mid / small revenue teams, increasing their spending in the amateur Rule IV draft? The Jays doled out the 7th largest amount of bonus money in the 07 draft. This appears to be a change in strategy from previous years. Jim Callis from Baseball America told me in an email last offseason that in the 06 draft the Jays, "...came in at 26th among the 30 teams despite giving out more late six-figure bonuses than most clubs. In the past, they haven't spent exorbitantly on anyone, and my guess is they'd rank below average on an annual basis." The baseball amateur draft is not like the drafts in the other "ball & stick" leagues where the teams with the earliest picks usually acquire the best available amateur talent. "Signability", is the key in the Rule IV draft which makes the Jays change in approach significant. See more of my blather here on the Rule IV draft.

Travis Snider is the best Jays hitting prospect since...? Delgado? He's getting rave reviews in Baseball America ( Midwest & AFL). Jays fans who are anti Ricciardi / Moneyball can point to Snider as an example of the failings of the Moneyball approach under Ricciardi. Snider was chosen in the 1st round in 06 out of high school. From 02 - 05 Ricciardi had practiced the Moneyball orthodoxy, selecting college players in the 1st round - Adams, Hill, Jackson, Purcey & Romero. So far only Hill - a tremendous player - has performed up to the standards of a 1st rounder. You can also argue that the change in approach is a result of the success of Moneyball in Oakland being copied by their competitors which negates any advantages it once had. Or you can argue that Ricciardi's draft performance pretty much blows.

I still have high hopes for one of Ricciardi's 1st round college picks. SP David Purcey - selected in 04 - also performed very well in the AFL. Purcey, along with fellow starter and 05 1st rounder Ricky Romero, are often cited as Moneyball busts by Ricciardi's critics. Both have struggled since being drafted but Purcey's strong showing in the AFL could be an indicator that he is on the rise. Purcey certainly has a high ceiling, I've seen him pitch for Syracuse and although he was hit hard I was impressed. LH's who throw in the 90's ( I saw the guns ) are very rare.


As I wrote here, signing free agents is bad. The baseball geekdom immediately and unanimously express their disdain for GM's short sighted enough to "block prospects with overpaid veterans who also cost valuable draft picks" and all that. Last offseason the Cubs were the object of such ridicule for blowing $300 million in the free agent market but it was key to them making the playoffs. Yes the Cubs had some young talent step up - Hill, Marmol, Theriot, Marshall - but free agents Soriano, Lilly, Marquis, DeRosa and Floyd made them a playoff team . ( Playing in the NL Central where 85 wins makes you champ - 83 in 06 - certainly helps as well )

Sunday, November 18, 2007

From the basement November 18


I'm happy it's ending this way. The indictment and subsequent end of his career. Bonds the villian, the monster with the enormous head, the arrogant, disdainful, egotistical, spoiled, cheating, lying Bonds. His legacy is now written as most fans want. They now have his head on a stick, the monster has been killed, the national pastime saved. If the fans are fortunate he'll be led off to jail while they all gleefully wag their sanctimonious fingers. Smug asses. I hope he remains a condescending prick until the end.

None of his prospective 30 employers wants anything to do with him. That's not a conspiracy. Really, who wants the pain in the ass at this point? It's not about his productivity, OPS a staggering 1.045 last season, in a pitchers' park, in the pitchers' league, in a woeful lineup. It's not even about the possibility of incarceration, I doubt you have to pay him or reserve a spot on the 40 man for him while he's in jail. It's about the problem he is. If you're a GM, do you want to justify signing Bonds to your owner, to the commissioner, to the press, to your fans, to your manager & coaching staff, to your veteran players, to the folks who tend to the clubhouse, to your media relations people?....NONE of them wants anything to do with the greatest baseball player of their generation.

Why were we all surprised when the indictment was announced? First, it wasn't leaked beforehand. Out of the blue it hit the wires early Thursday evening. Also Balco had become an old story that we were bored with. Barry Bonds is being investigated by a grand jury? So, what else is new? It's only been going on for 4 years, no Bonds indictment, no new athletes implicated, Anderson remains silent....yawn.

Most obviously, we ( baseball fans & media - I count myself in the former group only ) were unable to read the legal & political tea leaves. I read this piece in January about the outgoing Balco federal prosecutor - Kevin Ryan - and persuaded myself that the grand jury investigation into Bonds was a personal witch hunt of his and that it would die out subsequent to his departure. I was left with the impression of Ryan as a failed Bay Area jock with a chip on his moralistic shoulder and a Field of Dreams ( honest, he makes reference to it in the piece ) notion of baseball's importance. He didn't like cheating or cheaters and he was gonna clean up this mess.

Evidently the opposite was true. Ryan's departure was key to indicting Bonds according to Lester Munson . ( thanks to Sports Business News ) From Mr. Munson. "Last winter, President Bush obtained Ryan's resignation along with those of other U.S. Attorneys, which led to a partisan political battle. Although neither Bush nor Ryan ever discussed the Bonds investigation as a reason for Ryan's departure, numerous observers expected a Bonds indictment under the new leadership in the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco."

I went through a phase this winter - maybe a result of seasonal affective disorder combined with too much pot - when I was all Oliver Stone about Bonds and the US government. You know, steroids in the state of the union address, grand jury, Grimsley, oil, Katrina.....( think Syriana meets Eight Men Out ) and then spring came, I left the basement, got some ultraviolet exposure and forgot about it. But now I wonder again...Munson reminded me that the Balco investigation was initially announced in DC by then Attorney General John Ashcroft. Was Ashcroft or his superior(s) trophy hunting? Shouldn't there be more pressing matters for the Attorney General than Victor Conte and Patrick Arnold? Wasn't Bonds the ultimate target? Anderson, why do they care? He's nothing more than a common gym rat / steroid peddler. Marion Jones? Collateral damage. The almost immediate response from the White House Thursday evening also smells funny, in fact they were aware of the indictment before Bonds. According to the AP, Bonds' lawyer ( one of his lawyers ) John Burris was unaware of the indictment when they contacted him....is that normal protocol...Oliver? Mr. Stone?


The end of Bonds' career sets the stage perfectly for George Mitchell. As Jeff Blair put it, the fans have their "pound of flesh". Now we can move forward. We're sick of reading and hearing about steroids, we're ready for healing and forgiveness. We want to like baseball, to believe that it is fair and good.

Mitchell will present overwhelming evidence that the game was dirty. Fans know that, no surprise to any of us. Mitchell will provide a platform, that MLB controls, from which MLB can manage the message. Mitchell is a company man don't forget, Blue Ribbon panel member, Red Sox Director and long rumored commissioner ( too old now ). Initially MLB will express surprise at the extent of PED usage detailed by Mitchell, followed by constant apologies from MLB for their negligence and "betrayal of the fans", followed by solemn, ironclad guarantees that this era is over, that testing is working & will be strengthened, it's all under control. And the fans will eat it up big time, because they're ready to, because cheating ( at least chemically ) isn't fun anymore, because they'll enjoy the contrived public self-flagellation, because it's what they want to hear, because they never really cared in the first place ( not enough to stay away ) because Bonds has been punished and that is right and is simple and makes sense.

Will MLB punish any of the players implicated by Mitchell? Unlikely. The owners don't desire a protracted legal battle with the PA which would keep this issue in the baseball press. Also, MLB gains nothing by publicly embarrassing the players. The players are the product. Instead MLB will tell us that they are responsible for allowing a climate which rewarded cheating and punished clean players. MLB needs the fans to like the players. We'll be told it wasn't their fault, they're good guys, their behavior was a natural reaction to the era in which they played.


What is the future of PEDs in MLB? I believe there was less juice in the game this season as evidenced by the notable decline in HRs. This probably has little to do with MLB's testing and everything to do with the Federal Government. The Grimsley, Radomski, Balco, Signature investigations have been much more effective in unearthing dirty players than anything MLB has done. I.E. This quote from an MLB.com piece from February 22. "Last season, no player on the 25-man roster of the 30 teams tested positive." Everybody was clean in 06? Stunning. Then why are the feds turning up scads of evidence of baseball players illegally purchasing PEDs?

But how long will the Feds remain interested in the problem of illegal steroid distribution? ( The pro athletes implicated in these investigations are not the primary targets, save for Bonds / Balco ) Will a change in administration be the end of it? If yes, does that mean MLB's testing will be the only deterrent to the use of PEDs?

Even if the will exists to remove PEDs completely from the game, ( and it doesn't ) is that a realistic objective? Are the chemists up to the challenge? For decades, in elite sports around the globe, amateur and professional, the cheaters have remained far ahead of the regulators. For all the efforts of WADA ( my Canada does not include Dick Pound ), governing bodies, pro leagues, cheating is as widespread - maybe more widespread - than ever. Is this because the rewards are greater for the cheaters? Does Patrick Arnold stand to benefit more working for Victor Conte than he does Bud Selig? There isn't even a test for HGH, so how do you prevent it's use? ( Some think that the benefits of HGH are overstated anyway ). More evidence of the ineffectiveness of testing in MLB was revealed in the 03 "survey" testing which concluded that 5 - 7 % of players were dirty. Laughable, ludicrous. Does anybody, fan, writer, player, owner, trainer, clubhouse gopher, coach, GM believe that in a typical 03 MLB game there were only 3 to 4 dirty players? And this test was conducted under conditions - anonymous, no punishment - which discouraged players from avoiding detection. Under different conditions, punitive measures for positive tests, would the results have been even lower? If the testing is that ineffective, is it fair? If we want fairness, let's turn back the clock and allow all the players to take whatever the hell they please.

Do we, the fans, honestly want a clean game? Do we want the players in the training room more frequently and on the field less? More importantly, do we want players who are smaller, weaker, slower? The evolution of the athlete, in every sport on every continent, is a fundamental element of the appeal. And for the past 30 years, steroids, blood doping, HGH etc. have been essential to that evolution. Fans think they want a clean game but if faced with it we wouldn't like it as much.

Does the industry, management and labor, want a clean game? Business is booming. who wants to change a winning formula? Certainly not owners. And the PA? If this were a John Sayles movie, Donald Fehr would be Chris Cooper, and he would be on a crusade to remove steroids & amphetamines from the game because they are destroying the lives of players and their families and lining the pockets of evil captialists. But this isn't a John Sayles movie and the agents' only concern is how large their 5% cut is, not if their client dies an early death from liver damage.

The last word to the smartest sports fans on the Web - The Sports Economists . From Professor Phil Miller's January 25 posting. "The reason why steroids are tolerated in sports while gambling is fought tenaciously is because steroids help the bottom line of team owners while gambling hurts it." That isn't about to change.

Monday, November 12, 2007

From the basement November 12

November, ugh. I recently took the space heater out of storage and have been firing it up most nights to stay warm here in the basement. The offseason ( 1 of the 4 seasons, regular, post & spring training are the others ) is well underway and like always, it is very entertaining ( actually it's more entertaining than either postseason or spring training ).

There's the nuts & bolts of the offseason to monitor; trades, rehabs, roster moves, non tenders, AFL & Winter League tidbits, 6 yr minor league FA's, major league FA filings, farm system assessments, Elias' soon to be released top secret Free Agent Compensation Rankings ( VERY important )....there's always something. I WON'T be paying much attention to awards season, through osmosis I'll know the results but I'm not interested in the chatter that results from it. It's "Hot Stove" season as well, scads of redundant analysis of each teams' strengths and weaknesses ( Nate Silver does a find job ), trade analysis ( I like BA's ), plus endless rumor and conjecture ( and conjecture about the conjecture ) concerning pending free agent signings and trades. However there are some matters unique to this particular offseason that are of interest.


Once you get beyond the best baseball player in the world, the most reviled baseball player in the world, a handful of top shelf CF's plus Lowell & Cordero, the free agent market is weak. Many have made the same point and it has led to the widespread conclusion that there will be more trades this offseason as a result. I agree.

Where did all the free agents go? An inordinate number of potential free agents were signed during the season, Zambrano, Buerhle, Dye etc. As Maury Brown explains, "...clubs are wrapping up contracts more often now – signing players to extensions, which in turn lowers the number of players in the free agency pool....What has happened over the years is a case of viewing free agency as an inefficient avenue in which to build contenders." This isn't to say that this offseason free agents won't cash in big, in fact Maury correctly points out that the diminished number of quality free agents will have an inflationary impact on their value. ( Record industry revenues of $6 billion doesn't hurt either ). In other words, Carlos Silva will soon sign a contract for $50 million. Marvin Miller got it right decades ago when he said the owners - for their own benefit - should make all the players free agents every offseason because limiting their availability inflates their value. ( Or somethin like that ).

I also wonder if the diminished number of free agents is attributable in some way to the record salaries being paid. In other words, has the money finally gotten so stupidly big that agents & players can't be bothered / or are too embarrassed to enter the free agent market? Would Vernon Wells have commanded more than $126 million as a free agent? Yeah, why not? But at that point does it matter to him?

Anyway, Maury's right, the new breed of Ivy League geek management has concluded that free agency is not a preferred option in constructing a team. Young talent - especially pitching - is considered more valuable than ever. This increased emphasis on player development was evident in the most recent Rule IV draft. From Jim Callis @ BA: "The Yankees aggressively signed players in last year's draft, and did so again, spending $7,432,500 in the first 10 rounds. But the Orioles ($7,672,500) and Nationals ($7,619,300) outspent them there, and the Tigers ($7,305,000), Devil Rays ($7,172,000) and Giants ($7,027,000) came close." This all makes sense, competing with the Yanks for amateur talent makes more sense than competing with them for top level free agents. But what's the end game with this strategy? If everybody "allocates more resources" to the draft because it's more "efficient", won't it artificially inflate the value of the amateur players? There won't be more and better players in the draft, there'll just be more money spread around amongst them.

I question if player development has become as efficient as the new breed thinks. Has amateur scouting, drafting, player development - whatever you wanna call it - improved that much since Sandy Alderson concluded it was pretty much shit? Isn't it still a crapshoot? Don't a lot of high picks still stiff? Doesn't the valuation of 16 - 21 year old baseball players remain a very inexact science? Put another way, I'm the only guy who thinks that paying Matt Morris $8 million a year is a viable alternative to ploughing it into the likes of Burnett, Bullington, VanBenschoten & Lincoln.


Well, you can't have everything. You can increase your revenues from $3.7 billion in 03 to $6 billion in 07 but you still can't have everything. MLB is losing their legal battle with CDM Fantasy Sports over rights to player statistics ( or the publicity rights associated with the stats depending on your viewpoint ). Essentially the courts have ruled that you don't have to pay MLB - who in turn where paying the PA - for their stats and the player names associated with them. If the battle has been lost - it's not over but so far it's not going well - it's a big blow to the "ball & stick " leagues who all filed briefs on behalf of MLB. Estimates are 15 - 18 million people ( men ) participate in baseball and football fantasy leagues to the tune of $1 billion + per year. I'm on MLB's side in this case - and I don't play fantasy baseball - but they've got so much friggin money I can't feel sorry for them.


I don't like it in the NFL, too slow, although I'm in favor of it's use in postseason. I don't want it in baseball either. Oddly, I am increasingly in favor of using Ques Tec - or some other technology - for calling balls & strikes. MLB must have the data, ( Ques Tec is in about a dozen parks? ) and I suspect it would reveal that there are a lot of biases amongst the umps. MLB is a small community and it is naive to believe that a lot of hitters and pitchers - and some teams - don't get screwed by umps who(m) they are unpopular with. It's also time for Derek Jeter to hit with the same strike zone as Yuniesky Betancourt. Also, post Donaghy, shouldn't leagues go further to protect the integrity of their product?


As expected, the Marlins and A's continue their efforts to construct new stadiums. The most unexpected news this offseason is that the Rays are negotiating with governments in FLA for a new stadium as well ( long term "The Trop" is far & away the Rays biggest problem ). I read no rumors or speculation about this anywhere. Not in SBJ, or Biz of Baseball or Field of Schemes. I thought in this era of the Web that nothing remained quiet. Not so.

What happens if one of, or a combination of, the A's, Rays & Marlins are unsuccessful in getting their new stadiums constructed? What are the options? Will Las Vegas or Portland do what DC did? Build it, pay for it and turn the keys over to the franchise owners? ( That's why MLB owned the Expos for as long as they did, they were waiting for somebody to pay for a new stadium. It does wonders for franchise values, they sold the Expos for $450 million ) The other option, increasingly speculated about, is to go the NFL G3 route. That has to be a better alternative than the continued subsidization of these clubs by their partners via luxury taxes and revenue sharing.


Is the PA sabre rattling or are they preparing for battle? Fehr made accusations of collusion after the just completed GM meetings in relation to the free agent market and in particular to the free agency of A Rod. This following the PA's concerns this summer over Selig's attempts ( did he succeed? ) to enforce "slot recommendations " in the June Rule IV draft. Public comments such as these by Omar Minaya won't help the owners' case. “We’ve adhered to the commissioner’s slot recommendations,” Minaya said. “We’ve been good citizens. But not all the teams have done that, and the competitive balance is not fair. We have to take that position under review as an organization.”


When it is finally released - expected now this offseason - there will be saturation coverage in the baseball press. An anonymous team official has been quoted as saying that the report will be "salacious". No doubt it will. Between BALCO, Radomski, Grimsley, Signature etc., there is no shortage of names to be named. Buster Olney thinks dozens of players, current and retired, will be implicated.

This will be the latest overreported "athlete conduct" story. Fans have proven - we'll tell you differently if asked - that we don't care about "athlete conduct". I.E. Vick, Pac Man, Browne Saunders / Thomas / Dolan, Bonds / BALCO etc. The NFL has not suffered, Knicks season ticket renewals were very strong, 79 million of us ( well, not me ) walked through turnstiles this season at MLB games and the beat goes on....Only the writers and blog geeks care if this era is "tainted", if there should be asterisks, how it will impact HOF voting, yada. ( Yes I'm a blog geek but if I ever participate in an online argument about asterisks in baseball somebody please come to my basement and shoot me. ) The Mitchell Report will have zero impact on the popularity of MLB.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

From the basement November 03


Maybe I was wrong? I don't know, I'm back to square 1. Eric Fisher from SBJ convinced me that the late start times of World Series games does not have a negative impact on TV ratings - see my previous post. But William Houston @ The Globe & Mail thinks otherwise. See here and scroll to the postings from October 30 for full text.

Despite the spin, Fox Television’s audience figures for the World Series (Boston-Colorado) were not good.

Yes, the ratings were up 5 per cent from last year (St. Louis-Detroit), but given that the 2006 fall classic was the lowest rated ever, that’s nothing to boast about.

The fact is, the 10.6 average rating (percentage of potential households tuned in) this year ranks second lowest ever, despite the participation of the Red Sox, one of the few major league teams to have a national following.

Fox argues that the games’ late starts (8:35 p.m. EDT) and late finishes (midnight) don’t affect ratings, but obviously they do. True, the numbers climb after 11 p.m. EDT, but that’s only because viewership is increasing west of the Eastern Time zone. Viewership would increase even more significantly past 11 p.m. if the games started at 8:05 p.m. sharp or better still 7:30 p.m.

Who's right on this one? MLB / FOX / SBJ or William Houston ( very credible ) and every single sports columnist ( not so credible ) in the east?

I was definitely wrong when I wrote that the TV ratings for this World Series were great - obviously they weren't. I read after Game 1 that the share was up 37% over last year's Game 1 and mistakenly jumped to the conclusion that the presence of the Red Sox was responsible and the strong #'s would continue through to the completion. I missed the fact that the increased ratings for Game 1 were a result of moving it from a Saturday ( TV's lowest rated nite ) to a Wednesday.

So even with the presence of the Red Sox, the just completed World Series is the 2nd lowest rated ever ( albeit only a 4 game series ). Is this an indication that the popularity of baseball in the US is in decline? Absolutely not. The diminished ratings are a result of audience fragmentation. All other metrics ( I just want an excuse to say how much I hate that term ) indicate that MLB is healthier than ever.


How much impact do manager's have on their clubs' performance? ( I haven't a clue how to measure it but I know the math geeks are looking into it. ) I've always thought that their impact is grossly overrated & over analyzed by baseball writers because it's entertaining, we all like to second guess. But aren't the players overwhelmingly responsible for the #'s of wins and losses? At the MLB level shouldn't the difference between the best and worst manager be negligible? I.E It's not like I'm managing against Tony LaRussa. All this to say that I have been pretty much disinterersted in the very large amount of writing devoted to the hirings of Girardi and Torre.

I initially thought that the Yanks were unprofessional and took a cowardly route in ridding themselves of Torre. They made him an offer - a pay cut - they knew he would refuse, as opposed to telling him straight up that he was done. Hank Steinbrenner changed my mind when he said. "Where was Joe's career in '95 when my dad hired him? My dad was crucified for hiring him. Let's not forget what my dad did in giving him that opportunity - and the great team he was handed." So said Hank ( I even like his name ) after Torre rejected the Yanks offer of $5 million ( plus $3 million in incentives ).

Right on Hank! The NYC baseball writers long ago deified Torre. I attribute this to his winning obviously, but just as much, the writers genuinely like the guy. Torre made their jobs easier. He cooperated with them, always accessible, always affable, was Torre. But I think Hank is right, they owe him nothing, he's not a victim, he had a great run in NYC.


The new CBA is supposed to have fixed this problem:

"Revenue sharing has little impact on the expected marginal revenue and marginal costs of ticket sales, and it especially has little impact on the expected marginal revenue product and marginal factor costs of hiring more talent for the team. As a result, many teams like, say, Tampa Bay, respond to what is essentially a lump-sum transfer by pocketing the extra cash." "So revenue-sharing also reduces the marginal revenue of an expected win, and not just for the big-market teams that are taxed to support the programme; it also reduces the incentive for small market teams, the recipients of revenue-sharing, to win too."

Those quotes from The Sports Economist - see November 03 post - in reaction to a NY Times op ed piece by Michael Lewis - not the Moneyball author, the assistant professor of marketing at the Olin Business School at Washington University - on revenue sharing in baseball.

These allegations of small market teams pocketing their revenue sharing dough have been reportedly widely for sometime. I.E. it's generally accepted that the Pirates have been using their share to pay down team debt instead of signing or developing better players. But I thought this era of unprecedented competitive balance ( 07 the first season in how many with no teams > .600 or <.400? ) was an indication that revenue sharing was having at least some of the impact that it was intended to. Yes? No?


I wrote this offseason that I didn't think MLB's rank & file customers gave a hoot about PED's. I think I was proven right this season when MLB set it's 4th consecutive season attendance record, tallying 79 million. This during the same season when steroids - via the Bonds HR chase - was the subject of saturation media coverage. We watch sports because it's entertaining - has been for centuries. We don't care about the ethical issues involved. Look at the record popularity of MLB, the absence of a backlash from Knicks' supporters post Browne Saunders and nothing that NFL players do off the field ( and they're doin a lot of stuff ) has a negative impact on the bottom line of the NFL. We know pro athletes are not role models, nor do we want them to be. They're entertainers, we understand that, unfortunately a lot of sportswriters don't.


Pro sports, baseball included, is so full of greed and cheating. Aren't you sick of it? I think it's indicative of our overly materialistic western values. Want further evidence? Read the following from James Christie @ The Globe & Mail.

"The human consequences of East German steroid use, long whispered about, were quantified in a recently published two-year study conducted by the Humboldt University in Germany. The study involved 52 Olympic and elite-level former East German athletes, now aged between 40 and 60 and their 69 children. This represents only a fraction of an athlete population that grew up in a state sport system that essentially sacrificed their health for the propaganda value of victory in sport during the 1970s and 1980s.

German researcher Giselher Spitzer told the Play the Game sports conference the incidence of abnormalities is frighteningly higher for those in the study than in the general population. Seven of the athlete offspring have physical deformities. Four are mentally handicapped. More than a quarter of the children have allergies and 23 per cent have asthma.

He said the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth in the female athletes was 32 times higher than in the German population. Thirty-two of the 52 athletes have received therapy for psychiatric issues and a quarter of those studied had suffered some form of cancer."

Jesus Christ.

Here you can find the full text, scroll to the postings from October 31.