What the money shows is the allure baseball still holds with sports fans. No matter that baseball isn’t the national pastime anymore. No matter that its TV ratings don’t come close to what the NFL draws. No matter that the competitive landscape remains tilted toward big-market teams like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. The rich just got $25 million richer, which is the best news this lousy crop of free agents could ask for.
Neither revenue nor profit is a dirty word, and we can hardly begrudge baseball franchises for raking in the kind of dollars that NFL teams are used to adding to their bottom lines.
But what this deeper revenue stream means for baseball and its fans are more overpaid ballplayers. Even before free agency began, agents for Robinson Cano, the best of the free agents on the 2013 market, boasted of their client becoming the first $300 million man.
Three-hundred million? Such a number is sheer lunacy. Is any ballplayer worth a contract of this size?
Perhaps not, but with the pool of elite talent so shallow, the demand so high and dollars so plentiful, Cano might not get his $300 million, but he should sign for a figure that would make Alex Rodriguez envious.
Is Cano worth A-Rod money?
No. But franchises flush with revenue can’t help themselves when it comes to overspending. Both the Detroit Tigers (Prince Fielder) and the Los Angeles Angels (Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton) bought talent at high prices that each franchise would love to return to the old owner.
So Cano will get his Brinks truck of money, as will marginal talents like Ubaldo Jimenez, Mike Napoli and 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, men who will cash in on free agency after one good season.
Fine … take the money. Who can quarrel about earning what the market will bear? I won’t, not when I know whom the money is going to: Of the 10 highest paid ballplayers in the big leagues last season, six of them were either Hispanic or Black.
It ain’t about the money or the color of the players who are getting it, though; it’s about the teams that have the ability to dole out the big dollars — the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Dodgers, the Angels and the rest of the big-moneyed teams. They will continue to outspend the small-market teams, who are falling farther and farther behind in the talent race.
Yet I don’t feel a bit of sorrow for small-market teams like the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Royals or the Tampa Bay Rays. While none of them will be in the bidding for Robinson Cano, they won’t saddle themselves with the inflated, long-term contracts that went to a broken-down Pujols, a wacko Hamilton or an overweight Fielder, athletes whose mega-salaries could keep a small-market franchise from competing for a decade.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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