Contemplating a Time Out from Baseball

I’m close to walking away from baseball. I’ve done it before and came away none the worse for wear. During the various work stoppages twenty years ago, the 1985 cocaine scandal and the more recent steroid ugliness, I turned my back on baseball completely. I didn’t miss it much. If I’m given the choice between spending three hours watching my hometown Pittsburgh Pirates play the Houston Astros or rereading The Glory of Their Times, I’ll take the book ten times out of ten.

Not that I would completely abandon baseball. Since it deals a lot with Pirates’ history, I’d keep my summer job as a PNC Park tour guide. And I’d continue to take in the local high school game, a surprisingly satisfying substitute for major league baseball. Then, there’s also the College World Series that I always watch where the players actually know how to successfully put down a bunt and throw to the cutoff man. Maybe I’ll coach my neighborhood Little League team.

What’s pushed me to the brink is ESPN’s March 14th Monday night game featuring the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees. Judging from the three weekly games that ESPN broadcast last year, I’ve concluded that the network is unaware that 28 other teams, including the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, play baseball, too.

Announcers Bobby Valentine, Sean McDonough, Buster Olney and Orel Hershiser talked almost exclusively about players’ multimillion dollar contracts and how many millions, this one, that one and the other one earn.

How many tens of millions, the broadcasters wondered, will it take to sign Adrian Gonzales to a long term deal? Will the $142 million the Red Sox paid to Carl Crawford put Boston on top of the American League? By how many more millions will Albert Pujols’ new contract exceed the quarter of a billion dollar deal Alex Rodriguez has in his pocket? When Felix Hernandez becomes a free agent, how many hundreds of millions will the Yankees have to shell out to convince him to leave Seattle? Can Derek Jeter find happiness is his 30,000 square foot Florida mansion?

If I were an ESPN producer I’d advise Valentine, et al to cool it with that line of chatter. Not to bum you out but America has 20 million unemployed workers and 50 million without health insurance. I’m sure the baseball fans among them don’t find a rehashing of players’ inflated salaries entertaining.

The story ESPN should tell is how much money the owners squander on totally unproductive players and how their poor judgment drives up your cost to see a game. Why should you or I subsidize the owners’ failures and stupidity by buying tickets?

Cases in point: the New York Mets and its washed up duo, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. The Mets will pay Castillo $6 million to buy out the final year of his bloated $24 million deal. And Perez, also released, will set the Mets back $12 million for his final year—$36 million in total since they signed him in 2009 in exchange for the three games he won. Castillo and Perez represent $60 million down the drain. Think about it—$60 million to which a match might as well have been set.

When I go to a major league game, at significant personal expense, I’m sanctioning the owners’ madness and at the same time encouraging more of it. For zero dollars, I can check out The Glory of Their Times from the library, take it with me to the high school game and save the aggravation of watching overpaid, under-skilled, ungrateful players one of whom spent his off-season in a Super Bowl luxury box being hand fed popcorn by bleach-blond Hollywood starlet.

To think—once ballplayers worked in the offseason just like you and me.

0 thoughts on “Contemplating a Time Out from Baseball”

  1. The main way to send a message is to withdraw your support. Don’t pay to encourage the maddness. Let the networks know you won’t be watching so their ratings and sales numbers will reflect that fans have had it.
    If you do walk away, consider shifting your emphasis to the history of the game rather than the day to day happenings on the field or in the board rooms.
    While it may not feel like anything more than a statement, the sum of the parts acting will send a message that will be felt and responded to by baseball, and is a far better way to make positive change than say by casting your ballot in a political election.

  2. While I can’t stand the major networks only carrying two teams every week as well, I have to disagree with you on your main point about inflated salaries.
    The owners will continue to charge the highest possible price that the market will bear–as long as people continue coming to the stadium and purchase $5 hot dogs and $8 beers, it doesn’t matter what the players are paid. The owners make massive profits each season and the players salaries rise because they have a strong union that has put them in a position to actually receive a piece of the pie.

    Do you really want to go back to the days when the players were essentially indentured servants?

  3. What saddens me most is the cost to the fans. My brothers and I from twelve on could afford to go to games on our own in the summers. We paid our own way. It cost at most $2.75 for general admission. We paid a mere few dollars total for a bus ride and subway to and from. Had some hot-dogs, soda and the best time imaginable getting to the game early to see batting practice, occasionally a few autographs. How do young kids afford this experience today? How does a working Dad afford to take his children today? The same seats we sat in as kids are expensive reserved season seats that I could not touch today. Owners for sure are the greatest sinners in this debacle of taking the game away from children and working families. Certainly they over the players. What ball player is worth $250 million or more dollars, more money than the GDP of some countries, but we never see the salaries, bonuses, or what have of those owners. The owners were always wealthy and like George Weiss on the Yanks used to penny-pinch his star players despite the fact that they were in the series year after year. Mickey Mantle talked about the year after his triple-crown season George Weiss wanted him to take a pay cut and Mantle hit .365 that year! Charles Comisky;s criminal cheapness may have had more to do with the Black Sox scandal occurring than any other element. So owners with just a few exceptions have always been the bane of baseball’s existence. In recent years though it has isolated the middle class in a way that never was before. But you can say this about almost every aspect of society today. I grew up in and around NYC and even as a poor kid, or struggling college student, could afford to do most anything that anyone else in the NYC area could do. I may have sat further back at ballgames and broadway shows, but I could afford to see it all and take a date and not break the bank. It’s sad that those days are gone. I pay more now to see a movie in a mall than I did to see a ballgame or go see a hit Broadway show. We can’t blame the game as much as the times.

  4. I caught a game on the radio once in a while but otherwise I don’t pay much attention to the majors anymore. At my age, I would rather see a high school or college game. There are several amatuer teams in my area and I like to sit in the dugout and do the book. Keeps you young.

  5. Alvy, your nostalgia for the good old days when kids
    could buy a ticket for under $3 and see a major league game is understandable. But that’s just not
    practical these days.

    Let’s say the Yankees or the Tigers or any other ballclub lowered all their ticket prices to what they were in 1972. Most kids would STILL not be able
    to watch games in person because :

    1) They don’t live in the vicinity of a MLB park
    and/or
    2) At those prices the stadiums would usually sell
    out, leaving a lot of people frustrated.

    The fact is, there are far more people who watch baseball on television than at the ballpark. Prioe
    to the late 1950’s, most kids never saw MLB games
    because they didn’t live near a MLB team. Today, however, a lot more kids get to see MLB games because
    they can see them on television.

    You and your brothers were more fortunate than most kids because you lived near a MLB ballpark. That was
    hardly the case for most kids though.

  6. Of course, I would have to ask, rhetorically, why anyone pays attention to major league baseball? What Giuseppe has described is not of recent vintage, and I repeat ad nauseam that, while baseball has always been a business, the nature of that business changes in proportion to the number of zeroes at the end of the check.
    It is what is left out that bothers me the most: the wide use of performance enhancing drugs in the hope of making big bucks, and its impact on the game. I note that the trial of Barry Bonds has begun, and his “explanations” about his nescience in this matter have also.
    At Ebbets field in the 1950s, the bleachers cost sixty cents; general admission: $1.25. Attending a baseball game was available to all. For reasons explained above, those days have gone with the wind – and will not return. My solution is to let the owners – and players – stir in their own juices. My advice: read a book, you’ll be a lot better off.

  7. Strato, You couldn’t be more wrong about how close we were. it took us over an hour and a half to get to Yankee Stadium and a little over two hours to get to Shea. Thousands of kids in many parts of the country were and are as close or closer than we were. In my day, it was not uncommon for children to take in summer games. Buses and subways were just quite cheap as well as tickets and food. It was a long, long day to and from.

    If Baseball owners weren’t so greedy like most CEO’s; prices would have risen more in line with general inflation and allowed children, teens and middle-class parents, the true fans of the game to be able to still afford to go. But like ball games, broadway shows and the neighborhood multiplex and most things we buy in these days, the corporate greed rules and we pay through the nose.

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