Kovacevic: Want to whine, baseball? Go big
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, 10:00 p.m.
It's been five days since the Baseball Hall of Fame's Class of 2014 was announced, and as you might recall, our Earth was thrust off its axis and all manner of war, famine, pestilence, hellfire and very special episodes of “Dance Moms” came raining down from the blood-red skies.
For sure, you grasped the full scope of this nightmare if you caught a harried Tim Kurkjian on ESPN that day, decrying the Hall's voting process thusly: “We need a nationwide discussion about what the heck we're gonna do!”
Cue head exploding.
His, not mine.
I'll be totally blunt here: I couldn't care less. My analysis of the Baseball Writers of America's vote began and ended with knowing Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine would get in, that Frank Thomas probably would get in and that Craig Biggio might get in. Once Maddux, Glavine and Thomas got in, I tuned out.
Apparently, I was alone.
Maddux wasn't unanimous!
One guy turned in an empty ballot!
Someone in Miami sold his ballot to a website!
I'll repeat: Who cares?
It's a vote. When you put something up for a vote among hundreds of people — surprise! — all the votes won't match. And, yeah, some will be stupid. Heck, in real life, people write in votes for Barney the dinosaur to be president. No one calls for them to give up their votes. They just roll their eyes and focus on the results. It isn't until we've got a purple, prehistoric president that there's a real problem.
So why all the fuss?
Because the bulk of the BBWAA — of which I'm a member, by the way, albeit not yet eligible for a hall vote — is so full of sanctimony that it thinks this peripheral stuff matters. There are enough articles on it and enough readers who eat it up and enough get-a-lifers — media, bloggers and fans alike — who engage in social-media witch hunts for those peripheral perpetrators.
You know, because there's nothing else to discuss that actually might benefit Major League Baseball.
Want a meaningful topic?
Try economic disparity.
The gap between haves and have-nots has been a joke for two decades, and it's outright laughable now that MLB is the only one of North America's major leagues without a salary cap.
Defenders of the current way — almost invariably based in population centers of 5 million-plus — will point to a broad variety of teams having participated in recent World Series. They'll especially leap at the chance to stress when a low-revenue team like the Marlins or Brewers or, yes, the Pirates occasionally will pop their heads above water. What goes unmentioned is that those teams seldom sustain that success — the Rays are a blessed exception — compared to teams spending three or four times more. If the Yankees and Red Sox mess up, they just pony up for a replacement. If the Pirates mess up, they're sacrificing 20 percent of payroll for Matt Morris to go yachting.
The same game gets played by different rules. That's as intrinsically unfair as anything imaginable in any competition.
And just wait. The recent monster local TV deals signed by the Dodgers, Rangers, Astros, Mariners, Angels, Padres, Phillies and others will make the current imbalance look like spare change. The Dodgers will average more than $250 million annually, all those other teams between $80 million and $200 million … and the Pirates will be stuck below $30 million.
Stop and read that again.
Pretty much all you'll see on this topic in the national baseball media is how Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins' owner, brazenly misuses his revenue-sharing money and how, in turn, the big boys shouldn't be paying “welfare.”
Well, it's true. Loria is the worst owner in sports. So fine: Push for a salary floor , if not a cap that would — gasp — hurt the Yankees or Red Sox. Advocate something that addresses it fairly for all.
And I do mean for all.
Check this out: In the NFL, NHL and NBA, owners and players split revenues through a simple 50/50 breakdown. (The NFL's pact technically guarantees players 47 percent, but experts expect other factors to raise that to 50.) Baseball players' cut currently is 45-47 percent, and it's been shrinking for 20 years.
The difference, of course, is the cap.
By not having a cap and a similarly mandated splitting of the pot, baseball players are passing up on roughly $225 million.
And more significant by far, fans of half of all teams are being ripped off by having their teams play by different rules.
Seems like a slightly bigger deal than a couple of nutcase hall voters, but I might speak too soon: I'll be joining them next year.
Better brush up on those angst-ridden adjectives.
Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.
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