Free Agency To Be Death of MLB

That’s quite a proclamation to make when Major League Baseball brings in gobs of money every year. Here’s another interesting tidbit. While the NFL is swimming like a fish through a sea of money, the MLB is dog-paddling right now. Simply put, it’s losing fans. Of the four major team sports in North America, baseball is the only one without a clock. Yes, the MLB implemented those outfield clocks to monitor and minimize mound visits and how long a pitcher takes to deliver the ball across the plate.  However, we all know that was done to speed up the game and retain fans.  Combine that with America’s undeniable love for football, an impatient society that wants instant action and a baseball season that contains far too many games and you’ve got a recipe for losing market share.

Those aren’t the only reasons that Major League Baseball will die a slow, lumbering death.  Free agency is going to be the ultimate nail in the coffin unless the players discard their arrogance and owners stop enabling them.  After the close of the 2018 MLB Playoffs, free agency commenced.  Prior to that, the Washington Nationals offered perennial all-star Bryce Harper somewhere in the realm of $30 million a year.  Harper turned it down.  There are a great many things I’d like to say in regard to Harper’s decision, most of which I can’t say without censoring a lot of the words, so I’ll just limit it to “Who exactly do you think you are?”

Harper is one hell of a ballplayer.  He’s not worth $30 million a year, nor is free agent shortstop Manny Machado, both of whom were the subject of a recent article authored by sportswriter Jim Bowden.  The piece, titled ‘Lack of Interest in Harper, Machado a ‘Disgrace’, speaks to the shock and amazement that more teams aren’t reaching for the services of the two baseball standouts.  Really?  You’re surprised?  You can’t see the writing on the wall that’s so close it’s about to poke both eyes out?  For most of the MLB teams, signing either one of these guys means not being able to afford much else.

Seattle learned its lesson after shelling out a $24 mil-per-year deal to second baseman Robinson Cano five years ago.  Despite landing the reliable bat, the Mariners were relatively quiet each season he was there.  That is a high cost for a team’s record that screams mediocrity.  Last month, Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer went on social media to say the Indians should keep him for 2019, but they won’t be able to afford him come 2020.  Wow, thanks for the heads-up, Trevor.  I’m glad to hear you won’t be starving anymore once you leave Cleveland, but hey, get that pay “you deserve.”  Personally, I don’t see the odds favoring a team willing to spend all their resources in one place.

Apparently, Jim Bowden does.

Bowden writes, “This is a rare opportunity.  They (Machado and Harper) are both there for the taking. It’s time for some owner, some president, some GM, some front office to step up, shock the baseball world and sign them.”  I find Bowden’s comments extremely easy to say when it’s someone else’s money being spent.  In regard to both players still not being signed, he goes on to say, “What a joke.  What a disgrace.”  No, Jim.  Turning down $30 million a year because you want more is a disgrace.

When fewer people are watching the game, whether in person or on TV, you cannot keep increasing salaries when the income is decreasing, slow as that decrease may be.  I was never one to excel in math, though I do have down the basic concept that if one’s business is losing customers, that business probably shouldn’t give its employees raises.

An added downside (and significant flaw) to all of this is how there is no hard salary cap in Major League Baseball.  The result is great players making an exodus from small market teams to the L.A.’s, Boston’s and New York’s of the league. When many teams struggle to compete, that compounds the problem of a lacking interest which means fewer TV viewers and fewer turnstile rotations at the stadium. It’s just an ugly situation no matter how you look at it.  Unless of course, you’re looking at it with the magical, rose-colored glasses Jim Bowden wears.

As with any professional sports league, money is the name of the game for the MLB, but if those finances are allowed to expand without control or without care, then it looks like baseball will get a clock, after all, a debt clock that is.  The bottom line is a very simple one.  You cannot provide a product to the masses when that product prices itself right out of the market.

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