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.