It’s springtime. Hope springs eternal time. Opening day featuring the largest contract (effectively single year, but I’m not complaining) in Twins history involving a truly sought after, rather than past his prime free agent. Sure, there are pitching concerns, but no need to burden us all with pessimism, in light of so much hope. It’s all sweetness and light, really. Maybe a little rain/snow mix, but mostly sweetness and light.
Which means that in order to stay honest with my inner pessimism, I’ve simply got to look elsewhere. I mean, sure, there’s a lot to worry about outside of baseball, but I’m not talking about all of that on a baseball website. Fortunately, I’m able to find sadness and despair even in the MLB world. I’m talking about the Oakland Athletics.
Normally, I don’t really care that much about the Oakland A’s. But since I’ve always viewed myself as a “we’re all in this together” kind of guy (usually as the ship is sinking), it seems like it’s time to address the giant elephant in the room. Or, in this case, the stadium.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell readers of Twinkie Town, avid baseballers that you all are, that the A’s payroll this season is in the low 30 million dollar range (or about the same as Carlos Correa will make this year). Why do I care? Well, I don’t care that much honestly. Frankly, I’m far more interested in our Twins than what’s going on in Oakland, but still, I worry.
If I were a philosopher, I wouldn’t identify with “I think, therefore I am” as much as I would identify with “I worry, therefore I am.” So, here’s the thing: pervasive lawlessness, no rules, anarchy, chaos…it doesn’t work. I’m boldly coming out against it.
Why are the Oakland A’s basically giving up before the season starts? Are they proving their point about how long it’s taking to get their new stadium? Are they owned by vindictive owners seeking only to make more money, without a hint of concern about their fans? Possibly, probably, but more to the point, they are spending about what they spent back in 1991, for one reason and one reason, only: because they can. Because nobody has the power to stop them. Because, apparently, nobody cares enough to do anything about it. Would a salary cap help? It couldn’t hurt, but in the face of this particular outrage, MLB desperately needs at least a salary floor.
I’m not the first to suggest that MLB could be improved by a salary cap as is used by the NFL. It’s not like it cures all ills, I mean, the NFL still has teams that seldom win, and surely Vikings fans know as well as anyone, that a tradition of “sort of excellence” has meant more wins than losses, but few real sniffs of a championship. But one thing Vikings fans have going for them, is that they must at least console themselves with the belief that “at least they’re trying.” At least they’re spending basically as much as championship teams. They may not be spending their money wisely, or maybe it’s coaching, or execution, or any number of variables…but at least, and this is critically important, at least it would appear that they are trying.
A’s fans this year, Orioles fans this year (or decade) must surely think “we’re not even trying here.” Salary cap, salary floor, anything. Set a wide range, but have some guidelines. What MLB is doing is playing a sport without boundaries. Imagine having no out of bounds in football or basketball or foul lines in baseball, it would be chaos, anarchy...actually, it could be fascinating, but that’s for another time. My focus here is on lawlessness and disorder.
As in our larger society, lawlessness and a lack of rules and regulations doesn’t work when we have too many people quite comfortable with skirting the law, engaging in corruption, at the highest and lowest levels, and just basically doing whatever they want that they perceive to be in their own self interests. If people were decent and trustworthy, we’d all be fine. We wouldn’t need home security, we wouldn’t need to lock our car doors, we wouldn’t need full scale investigations of nearly every powerful person in every powerful position throughout society. But, alas, it would seem that we need all of that and now we seem to need it all the time.
I get that the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, et al., are uninterested in diminishing their large market competitive advantages. I’m aware that the “luxury tax” ostensibly is intended to discourage complete unfettered buying of championships, but enough about those teams and those problems.
The real problem is less a salary cap, than the lack of a salary floor. If we trust owners to do the right thing, we get the 2022 Oakland A’s. Which is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. As a Twins fan, it’s all fun and games until it happens here; there’s no reason to believe it couldn’t. We need rules, people. We need discipline. We need regulating. Because, with all due respect (and of course that will be followed with no due respect), I don’t trust people outside of my immediate family, and I see zero reason to trust MLB ownership with doing the right thing. In these times, “doing the right thing” doesn’t mean guaranteeing your fan base a championship or ignoring obvious financial constraints, but come on people, it does mean that ownership should at least try.
As we enter the new season filled with unbridled (and possibly unfounded) optimism, I stand with fans of the Oakland A’s (the dozens of them) as they find their ownership driving them away and insisting that they offer their support and their money even though ownership clearly doesn’t care about winning. It’s early April, we all care, we are all invested in our beloved teams, but I can’t help feeling a little sadness for those fans of teams that clearly aren’t interested in winning. Honestly, as a life-long, devoted and most importantly in this context, old, Twins fan, believe me A’s fans I have “been there, done that.” I don’t remember you necessarily having my back during our lean times, but I want to have yours. We’re all in this together, and maintaining at least a semblance of an honest competitive balance wouldn’t hurt the game.
But enough about them…. “Win Twins!”