We here at Mike's Baseball Rants love Fridays, and especially this Friday, because we got to stand at the precipice and grin in the face of bugbear called a baseball strike-we also get to mix metaphors with ease.
But usually Friday is just plain ol' Joe Morgan Chat Day. And why is that special you ask? Why not ask yourself why the sky is blue? Or why birds suddenly appear every time you are near? Go ahead-ask yourself. I'll wait...Are you done? Did you find out that these are unanswerable questions? Well, they are (except that we do know that the sky is blue because of the refraction of light through the stratosphere, but you get my point).
Joe Morgan is baseball's answer to the Gordian knot. He is without solution. He can be brilliant one moment and ludicrous the next. Sometimes he achieves perfection and is both brilliant and ludicrous at once. Those are the moments we most savor. He is truly a knot that even Alexander the Great (no relation to Manny or Pete) could solve. But we try to slice through to his core.
I have to admit that this week is a poor JMCD, as we say in the biz. Basically, it happened right before the strike was averted. It is rank with pessimism, something that seemed to fade pretty quickly after the agreement (prediction: the Angel fans will stop throwing baseballs onto the field and will get back to enjoying their disregard for the team by Labor Day). So what we have is a snapshot in time of the ultimate pessimism of baseball fans, like a tiny little time capsule of hate. But Joe, to his credit, is pretty right on (in a groovy kind of way) with almost all of the questions. So this week I will have to supplement with some dumb questions from the Rob Neyer chat session.
Yes, apparently Neyer deigned to grace us with his presence for a full 20 minutes today. Praise be to him and to even his lowly minions who perform the holy task of transcribing his mellifluous tones into an electronic version the world can enjoy. Amen.
Also, I will check out the post-strike-averted Rob Dibble chat. Dibble is basically Morgan without the brilliant side. I hope this does not profane the spirit of JMCD. So in that spirit we now proceed. Oh, one last note, I'm sure next week Joe will be back to getting questions related to on-field activities. And then we'll back in business.
Chad (KC): Joe, I have reading your chat and article for the last couple of days, and I think you miss something. Yes, baseball players, doctors and the like have special skills. Can you honestly say AROD deserves $25 million a year? NO! The fact is we love baseball, but we don't need it. WE need teachers and doctors and those with special skills that help us. WE DO NOT NEED BASEBALL. Do the players and owners understand that? And do they realize without fans, they don't have jobs?
Joe Morgan: You missed the point, not me.
[Mike: You tell him, Joe. Chad, my sympathies if that is your real name, get out of here with that weak s&^*. There's a sale at the Gap. Why don't you run along, Chad.]
Gator in FL: How can people always comment that the big-market teams are dominating baseball and the teams with lower salary levels can't compete? You only have to look at Oakland and Minnesota to know that it's not necessarily true. Granted, there is an advantage to having a bloated payroll, but there is a lot to say about good scouting, crafty trades and good business sense. Wow, I didn't think I would put those last three words in a sentence regarding baseball.
Joe Morgan: I have never bought into the big market, small market theory. It's either good or bad management, and that's what it amounts to. Management is the reason that teams win and lose. It's not just the amount of money they have to spend. Having money is not the only way to win.
[Mike: Right, besides the concept of large and small market is skewed when Cleveland and Seattle are large market and the Phillies are small.]
Jim (Chicago) : Well Joe...thanks for all your great work on ESPN....It has been said that there has been no "magic" in baseball this year...No Sosa McGwire race...No Bonds chasing 73....My question is...with the last second deadline basically come and gone...do you think that all the future "magic" for the season has gone now too....and do you think that even though there has been no "Official strike" yet that there has been just as much damage with this "down to the wire" negotiations?
Joe Morgan: There has been a lot of damage done. It shouldn't have come down to this. I disagree that there isn't any magic. Schilling is having a great season. Lowe and Pedro have been a great 1-2 punch. A-Rod, Bonds, Sosa, Berkman -- they are all having great seasons. It's been exciting to this point. There doesn't need to be one monumental achievement to make it a magical season.
[Mike: Yeah, and how about that AL West race? And what about Scarecrow's brain? Jim, just because baseball has been horrific this year in Chicago, doesn't mean there isn't some great ball being played out there.]
Rick (Vienna, VA): You said earlier that the players have actually given up a lot during these negotiations...maybe you could help all your readers understand what these things are? However, I think that regardless of whatever real or perceived things they have given up, they are losing the battle of public perception and it may be hard to recover.
Joe Morgan: The players always lose the battle of public perception because they are visible and the owners aren't. So you take your animosity out on the players. Ever since there has been a union, it has said there would never be a salary cap. That has been the union's battle cry. A luxury tax is a modified salary cap, so they have given in on that. And on revenue sharing.
[Mike: Yeah, Joe. Take it to the limit one more time. Also, why do you think we know those players' salaries? Who discloses them? Who owns the newspapers, TV and radio stations on which these things are proffered? It ain't Wendell Wilkie, that's for sure. Do we find out how much the owners make?]
John (Seattle): Hey Joe, you had mentioned in an article about the salaries being inline with the revenues, and how people don't complain when Tom Hanks makes $50 million. but i'm concerned you may miss the point...the reason salaries are so high and there's so much revenue is because the fans are paying such high prices to watch baseball. it's tough for the average middle-to-lower income family to afford a game. how do you feel about that?
Joe Morgan: When I used to go to the movies, it would cost 25 cents. Now it's $10. The ticket prices do not pay the players' salaries. The TV revenue does. It costs you just as much to see the Devil Rays as it does to see the Giants, and they are not the same team. A team with a $40 million payroll has the same ticket prices as a team with a $100 million payroll. So it's not about the fans paying their salaries. It's the same in every sport.
[Mike: Oh, at first I thought you were going to burst into Hendrix, John. Right, salaries do not directly affect ticket prices. This has been shown.]
Mike(Alenntown): Joe, would you agree that if the current negotiations do not produce a long term (4 to 5 years) agreement then the financial damage to Major League Baseball from reduced television contracts and sponsership will be so great that a number of teams will really fold?
Joe Morgan: I don't think the teams will fold. And I heard it would be a four-year contract, which I don't think is long enough. We will have the same problem four years from now. They should have a longer agreement. No teams will fold.
[Mike: Well, I know you're living there in Allentown. And they're closing all the factories down, Mike. But it's not the case here. By the way, ESPN's contract for next year is supposed to be a huge increase.]
Jacob (Chicago): SSSSAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYY SSSSSSSSAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYY
Joe Morgan: I agree.
[Mike: Joe's so smooth he could talk a jumper off of a building. "I agree." I love it. I was a big Sammy Davis fan myself, so I understand the excitability.]
Zack (New York): Do you think it makes any sense that the proposed contract does not include a minimum salary? There is no guarantee that small-market teams will use the proceeds from revenue-sharing to improve their teams, which defeats the point of a pseudo salary-cap.
Joe Morgan: That's Steinbrenner's complaint. He has given a lot of money in revenue sharing, and the owners have pocketed the money and not reinvested in their teams. The union doesn't want a mininum because when you set a mininum you then have to set a maximum, and the union doesn't want that either.
[Mike: Why a max? Who says there has to be a max if there's a min?]
Mike, Raleigh: First of all Joe, you do a great job. I agree with you 100% taht baseball has done a poor job marketing the sport. But how do you market a player like Bonds who only talks to the media when he breaks a record but shuns them all other times?
Joe Morgan: Well, there are 749 other players. There are a lot of great players in the game today. Ivan Rodriguez, Jim Thome, Jose Vidro ... go to every position and there is a big star. You don't have to dwell on one guy.
What about Sosa? He is always pleasant with the fans and interacts with them. He plays to the fans. He would be perfect to market.
[Mike: Why not market Bonds? I find him charismatic. He speaks his mind and often has insightful things to say. He's sort of MLB's version of Sir Charles Barkley, who certainly was marketed well in his niche. Look at Dennis Rodman, he got more than his fair share of publicity. The aptly named Latrell Sprewell (get it "spree" and "well") attacked his coach in Golden State but has been the Knicks' biggest star since Ewing left. So Bonds doesn't like reporters? Big deal. Did he ever spit on a fan? David Stern has developed a league where even that kind of player is marketable. The Bud boys have not.]
Roy (Ireland): Who do you think will win the AL West if there isnt a strike? Or rather make the playoffs in the AL?
Joe Morgan: I would think Oakland and either Anaheim or Seattle as a wild card. I don't think Boston will make it. We'll have to see. It's hard to tell.
[Mike: Finally the decisive Joe Morgan we love shows up. By the way, what is a guy named Roy doing in Ireland?]
Tim (Boston): A strike right now, with 9-11 right around the corner, would be disrespectful by putting a game that grown men play for millions of dollars center stage instead of remembering last years tragedy and those brave people who lost their lives. Your thoughts?
Joe Morgan: I don't equate baseball with that. At one point you want to say it's a game, and then you want to say it's part of the tragedy. Last year we didn't play after 9/11 out of respect for what happened. We don't equate football with Pearl Harbor. It was a tragedy that we should observe as Americans and not get confused with sports being involved with that tragedy. You can't equate the two. In fact, I don't think there should be baseball on 9/11. There should be a day of mourning for the country. That would show that what happened last year was bigger than any sporting event.
[Mike: How about: it's a business. And businesses have work stoppages. Enron was run out of business by the poor (and financially remunerative, at least personally) decisions of its leadership. Are we appalled that the executives of Enron are not personally supporting their laid-off employees during the September 11 anniversary (Well, maybe we are)].
Matt (Dubuque) : Mr. Neyer, what are your feelings about Joe Morgan's comment that players are justified in being paid whwat they're being paid? How is it ok for A-Rod to earn $115,000 per GAME while my boss works 80 hr weeks and earns 30,000 per year? I'm sorry but Joe isn't selling the sympathy card to me very well
Rob Neyer: I don't have any "sympathy" for the players, but I also don't understand the impulse to compare players to people who work for a living. Do you frequent chat rooms and express outrage about all six "Friends" making a cool million bucks per episode? I've never understood exactly why we hold baseball players to higher standards than other entertainers.
[Mike: Your boss works 80 hours a week and makes $30K a year? That's about $7.50 an hour, and he's your boss. What do you make? How can you afford to access the Web to join a chat session? Man, am I glad I don't live in Dubuque.]
Jim (San Diego): One on your cohorts said if there was a strike you'd be walking around in your bathrobe, unshaven, with Alice in Chains playing in the background. So what would really be playing?
Rob Neyer: The new Aimee Mann disc, probably. And not to get literal or anything, but I don't own a bathrobe.
[Mike: Jim, thank you for that image.]
Bob (Washington DC): As far as I'm concerned, they went on strike when the players shipped things home, delayed charters, etc. Baseball has lost me.
Rob Neyer: Well, I have no idea how your brain works. But I do hope you spend your new-found leisure time on something worthwhile, rather than football.
[Mike: Uh, Bob, I don't think that legally qualifies as a strike. Otherwise, I was on strike every time that I moved. A strike is the thing with picket lines and signs bearing anti-management slogans and people chanting, "Heck no, we won't go," and Woody Guthrie singing.]
John (Kansas City): A lot of KC sports radio guys were almost rooting for a strike because they believed that a compromise such as the one that was reached would not help the Royals become competitive, but that a strike might have led to a more hard line approach by owners that could have resulted in a hard cap and reasonable revenue sharing that would level the playing field. What is your opinion of such a notion?
Rob Neyer: Well, it's just my opinion and I could be wrong, but I think that anybody who thinks a strike would have been good for teams like the Royals is a lunatic. A strike of any length would have killed fan interest in Kansas City, and a few other cities, too.
[Mike: John, was the radio guy trying to be controversial, funny, or stupid. As David St. Hubbins once said, "There such a fine line between clever and stupid."
Peter (Milwaukee): The deal was a mistake. It will solve nothing and result in at least a team or two going under in the next couple of years. That said, do you think the owners will finally hold a hard line and save baseball during the next round of negotiations in 2006?
Rob Neyer: I'm amazed at the degree of pessimism I've seen in some of the questions today. I mean, I know time flies when we're having fun, but 2006?
Baseball doesn't need to be "saved." It was never in danger of dying. It could use some tweaks, but that's always been true. The notion that someday someone's going to wave a magic wand and solve every problem just isn't realistic.
[Mike: Well, thanks for putting in an appearance, Mr. Commissioner. I'm glad to see that you are back at home in Milwaukee again. Even though your offices are in New York, a minor point. I see that you are continuing your good will tour. Excellent.]
Truman (Chicago): You seem to think players salaries are justified. What do you think of this: the public doesn't go to see a Tom Cruise movie 81 times a year at at 25 bucks a pop. That's the difference. The game has become too expensive a product for the average consumer. The cost of a ticket should be reduced while maintaining reasonable profits, and the players and owners should be willing to be part of that process. I think both parties should re-examine what they consider to be reasonable profits. Even Hollywood is restructuring salaries in an effort to increase profitability.
Rob Neyer: No, I didn't say that baseball salaries are "justified." I said they're comparable to salaries in other sorts of mass entertainment. Movies, TV, boxing.
As for baseball being "too expensive," that's a load of horse hockey. The average movie ticket costs eight or ten bucks, and you can get into most ballparks for that price. What's more, baseball on TV is essentially free, and baseball on the radio is free. So please, spare me the irrational outrage. As a season-ticket holder, I'd like to see lower prices, too. But baseball tickets are not out of line with other mass entertainments.
[Mike: Hey, yo, Truman, I saw your movie. Remember the part where you were on TV, but you didn't know you were on TV...That was awesome!
By the way, A) If I said it once I must have said it at least two times: salaries do not affect ticket prices. And B) maybe if Tom Cruise could put out 81 movies a year it would be analogous. Barbra Streisand has an annual farewell tour and charges $2500 per seat. Average consume that! The Who have some sort of tontine that requires them to tour until all but one member is dead. To him goes the explanation of what Tommy is really frigging about. Oprah is a brand unto herself for chrissake. Baseball players make a good deal of money if they're lucky and make it to the majors, but they make it on average for under 10 years.]
Rob Dibble: A strike has been averted... no harm, no foul? Not necessarily. Did this whole thing consider the fans? Unfortunately I don't think so. I'm still upset that high ticket prices was not addressed. Now let's get to your questions...
[Mike: Leave it to Dibble to tick me off before even getting a question. When were ticket prices on the table? In what bargaining agreement ever were they even discussed? He says that he was a former player rep-he should know this. The players have no control over how much the owners want to charge the fans, nor should they.]
Rob Dibble: Al, no matter what, baseball is still the best game around. The owners and players can do their best to tarnish the game but once the players are on the field, almost everything is forgiven. I'm definitely with the fans on this one. In the past, most of the arguments were about salaries and benefits and now the union has to stick up for the large-market owners. As a former player rep, I think that's something the owners should work out on their own. But now the players have it so good that they don't even realize that the only thing they're fighting for was for George Steinbrenner to help teams possibly come back and beat him. It's all almost senseless to me. If anything, the players should have been fighting to lower ticket prices so that more fans could come watch them play.
[Mike: Geez, it makes me appreciate Morgan. Dibble put down the bottle. You've barely started.]
Johnny (SF): Hey Dibs, do you think Bonds would be a legitimate Triple Crown threat if the giants could actually get people on base ahead of him? When half your RBIs consist of you driving yourself in, it's pretty pathetic. And how good would Kent be right now, if Bonds was not hitting behind him?
Rob Dibble: No. Because Jeff Kent bats in front of him, and the former MVP doesn't leave much for Bonds. Bonds was the one who gave up the third spot in the order, months ago when Kent was struggling. This unselfish act has still gone pretty much unnoticed. But not by me. If Bonds held on to the three-spot in the order, it would have enhanced his personal numbers but may not have given the Giants a chance at the playoffs. Bonds is still having an amazing year despite frequent walks, injuries and not having much left on the plate after Kent hits.
[Mike: Well those walks really eat up opportunities to drive in runs. Unless the bases are loaded (and it's happened with Bonds), a walk won't get him a ribbie.]
Arthur: Do you think that any kind of balance (like the NFL) is possible in baseball?
Rob Dibble: Good question Arthur. No, I don't think it's possible. The NFL salary cap does not allow teams to stay together for four or five years at a time. If you look at the Baltimore Ravens they've lost the majority of their Super Bowl team from two years ago. With baseball's luxury tax, the large-market teams might not spend as much money but you can still put a pretty good team together with a $117 million payroll. I like the parity in the NFL, but baseball can't set up their schedule to help the weaker teams. In the NFL if you have a good team, you get a tough schedule you're next year. In baseball, you play everyone in your division 19 times regardless if you finish first or last. It sounds great in theory but they are just two different beasts.
[Mike: It's been shown that baseball since free agency has put more teams in the playoffs and World Series than football (well, that would be Super Bowl, but you get what I mean). Did you ever hear of the Cincinnati Bengals? They make the D-Rays look good.]
Philip (Austin): Would you rank the pitching duo of Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller with the likes of Johnson and Schilling, Pedro and Lowe, or MAddux and Glavin?? Oswalt does have a 31-9 career record..
Rob Dibble: I rank pitchers by how they perform in the post season. Until last year, I would not have put Johnson and Schilling in the same category as Glavine and Maddux or Clemens and Pedro. I hate to be vain, but championships give you more credibility. I love Miller and Oswalt but they have to succeed in the post season. For this reason, see: Bert Blyleven. Bert should be in the hall of fame with his 287 wins. But people say, because of his lack of post season stats, the 287 wins aren't that big... In that case I disagree, but overall people want to see pressure situations.
[Mike: Well, Dibbs, I rate pitchers by their performances on full moons. And I have found that Glendon Rousch and Esteben Loaiza are tops. By the way, I think this Clemens guy is overrated. He'll never last.]
Bill (NJ): Dibbs, do the Angels have the horses to get to the post-season, or do you think they'll fade?
Rob Dibble: I love the Angels. Forget about their good offense and defense. The rotation pitches deep into ball games and takes pressure off of their bullpen. I think they'll keep it going into the playoffs... Skipper Mike Scioscia has been to the playoffs before. He knows what to expect. Garrett Anderson and David Eckstein don't get much attention but they've played great all year.
[Mike: Garrett Anderson gets more attention than better players on the team (Tim Salmon and Jarrod Washburn to name two). He's one of the most overrated players in baseball.]
Shaun (Boston, MA): Hey Joe. I have more of a comment then a quesion! If the MLB decides to go on strike, why dont they get replacement players? I would love to play in Fenway Park, man I would do it for free!
Joe Morgan: That's a good statement. Everyone thinks about how much the players make and all that. Every player has played for free longer than he has been paid for it. I played longer for free, and I played in the majors for 20 years. In the majors, you only see the finished product.
[Mike: Joe, I know, you're in the fray. You want to make a point, but you played for free longer than you got paid? You started playing professionally in 1963 at the age of 20. Your career lasted 22 seasons. Unless you started playing for free two years before you were born, I think you kind of exaggerated.]
Mike (Milwaukee): Hey, I was curious as to how you felt about Bud Selig's methods of running the league. Also, do you think we will ever see another commissioner that was once an owner or otherwise affiliated with a certain ball club?
Joe Morgan: I think you might see that happen again because the owners feel like Bud is one of them. And they are making gains in these negotiations. They will view him as someone who has helped them. The biggest mistake I've ever seen anyone make is when Bud said two teams may not make payroll.
[Mike: Woah, Joe, did you have a flashback there in the middle of your point? Selig is well liked by the other owners. OK. Let's leave it as that.]