I am very happy that my nephew, Steve Lunetta, let me take his column over this week. He and his lovely bride are in the middle of a home renovation project so he does not have much time.
I, on the other hand, have loads of time to tell you what I think.
After the Los Angeles Dodgers nearly won the World Series last year (and would have done so had their new high-priced rental pitcher not been giving away his pitches), baseball has been much on my mind but not for the reason you might think.
There are a large number of high quality free agents that remain unsigned by any major league baseball teams. Big names like Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, JD Martinez, and Eric Hosmer (to name a few) remain unemployed at the brink of spring training.
Ordinarily, any of these players would sign for $20 million or more but not this year. Why is that? Many in the baseball world are crying “collusion” amongst the 30 owners of the major league franchises.
This is typical socialist thinking. Whenever a market becomes slow or depressed, socialists claim there is some form of collusion happening which explains why a mediocre pitcher cannot sign for $25 mil a year. Poor baby.
For ordinary Americans (read: everyone else not living in San Francisco or New York), this is a fight between millionaires (the players) and billionaires (the owners). How they settle their differences really does not impact the little folks like us very much.
Except when they start throwing around their Marxist garbage, which seems to resonate with so many liberals these days. Understanding of a “free market” seems to be lacking these days.
Many players, albeit “educated” by their greedy agents, are planting thoughts of work stoppages and strikes in the heads of their extremely talented but not so economically literate clients. Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers recently expressed the opinion that a strike might not be a bad thing.
Au contraire, mon ami.
Here is a small education for the 1,200 major league baseball players. There is no collusion happening. Sure, owners may talk but collusion is not in their best interest. Why? Because any one of those owners would not pass up the chance to stick it to one of their competitors.
Are you telling me that the Red Sox would not steal Aaron Judge from the Yankees? Or, the Giants would not take Kershaw from the Dodgers? Or, the Astros would resist pinching Mike Trout from the Angels?
Of course not.
Also, a rough market is the perfect opportunity for a small market team to make headway against a large market team. The Milwaukee Brewers have made some good progress this off-season and may still land Darvish. The bottom line: deals are out there but players are unwilling to take less money than they think they are worth.
Look at the big market teams. The Dodgers and Yankees are loaded right now and are fighting desperately to get under the Luxury Tax cap. The Cubs are solid as are the Red Sox. Frankly, there aren’t many teams out there with cash to burn.
Also, think about the long term. Baseball is not very popular with the younger generations. It is not as fast as football or basketball. It is a game from a different age that may not be translating well to today.
All of this spells decreasing attendance, lower media viewing, fewer merchandise sales, and a dimmer outlook. The game of baseball may well be on a downward slide.
Look at what the commissioner is doing with “speed of play” rules changes. Players are resisting a pitch clock to speed up the game but don’t seem to be willing to understand the changing world is forcing this.
So, they think about a labor action.
The economics of baseball is very simple. Teams must take in more money than they spend. And, since teams are made up of a group of players, the team must think of paying 25 people and not just one.
Roger Maris would never have hit 61 homers if Mickey Mantle was not hitting behind him. Giancarlo Stanton will hit 60 homers again because Judge will be the next guy up.
If Stanton was making $29 million and all the rest of the Yankees were low-paid hacks, the opposing teams would simply pitch around Stanton and neutralize him.
Many teams are now finding that having several moderately talented and well-paid players is far better than 1 or 2 superstars and nothing else.
Stop thinking like a socialist, baseball player, and start thinking like a capitalist. Some years you may take your lumps in a free market. But, in other years, the market will reward you.
Uncle Earl is Steve’s uncle and a resident of Santa Clarita. He can be reached at Steve’s email, firstname.lastname@example.org.