7.08.2005

Pay To Play



A fan asked me, in a recent E$PN chat, about Adam Dunn. He's an attractive player to lots of teams, with his walks and home runs, and he's still young. But he has a low batting average, he doesn't have many RBIs (only 2nd on the team!), he strikes out a lot, and he's only batting 6th in the Reds' line-up. This is a guy that's going to make $9 million next year in arbitration. Like I told that fan, you can't have a guy that’s going to make almost $10 million batting 6th - he has to bat at the top of the order. Otherwise, you're just wasting money. Teams pay players the big bucks because they want these players to make money for them. It's that old business adage - to make money, you have to spend money. And spending lots of money on a guy that bats low in the batting order, a batting spot that tells fans to go buy more brewdogs or go to the can, is a poor investment of resources.

Which brings me to the All-Star Game. It's a game for the fans most of all, even if the winner gets home field advantage in the World Series. And the fans want to see the marquee high paid players - why do you think the Red Sox and Yankees get so many fans and all these televised games? But the leagues let relative nobodies like Mark Teixeira and Brian Roberts start for the AL, or David Eckstein and Derrek Lee start in the NL? No wonder fans stopped watching. Those aren't the players that put fans in the seats. It's the Pedro Martinezes and the Manny Ramirezes and the Barry Bondseses and the Sammy Sosases that the fans want to see play. There's a reason they make all the money. And with that money comes responsibility.

That's why I think that the All-Star starters should be the highest paid player in that position. Here's what the starting line-ups would look like if that were in place:

AMERICAN LEAGUE:
C Jorge Posada ($11M)
1B Jason Giambi ($13.4M)
2B Bret Boone ($9M)
SS Derek Jeter ($19.6M)
3B Alex Rodriguez ($25.7M)
OF Manny Ramirez ($19.8M)
OF Ichiro Suzuki ($12.5M)
OF Sammy Sosa ($17.8M)
SP Mike Mussina ($19M)

NATIONAL LEAGUE:
C Mike Piazza ($16M)
1B Jeff Bagwell ($18M)
2B Jeff Kent ($7.5M)
SS Rafael Furcal ($6M)
3B Chipper Jones ($16M)
OF Barry Bonds ($22M)
OF Andruw Jones ($13M)
OF Bobby Abreu ($13M)
SP Roger Clemens ($18M)

Tell me that wouldn't be a great game. Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens have a long history of battling from their Orioles / Red Sox days, Derek Jeter gets rightfully restored to the All-Star glory he deserves, Bret Boone gets back into the spotlight (where he belongs!), and exciting players like Ichiro and Furcal get to wreak havoc on the basepaths. I'd take this one step further and stock the line-ups with the highest salaries regardless of position, but then you'd have folks like Darren Dreifort turning double plays, and the last thing anyone wants is to see a pitcher hit. Or field, for that matter. (Actually, the last thing anyone wants to see is Al Leiter throwing 175 pitches in a World Series game we could have won if the manager wasn't a self-serving teeth-polishing egomaniac, but that's under the bridge.)

The best baseball players are the ones who make the most money. It's not about on-base percentage or numbers; it's about cold hard cash, and when you're putting your money where your mouth is, you're telling the world how much your players are worth. And when you're putting together an All-Star team, you need to trust your intuition and look at the payroll. I don't mean to sound like a breakfast cereal commercial, but it would take over 10 David Ecksteins or maybe 20 Felipe Lopezes to equal the value in just 1 Barry Bonds. And maybe you like waste, but having 1 Alex Rodriguez on a squad more than makes up for having the 15 or so Mark Teixeiras it'd take to equal his importance. I could take a knuckle from Mike Mussina, and it'd do as much for the team as the entirety of Kenny Rogers, especially in terms of character. Some of these low-paid guys might be all right players, but dollar signs don't lie.

Now, you'll notice I have injured guys like Jeff Bagwell and Barry Bonds in the starting lineup. That's on purpose. Like I said earlier, with lots of money comes lots of responsibilities, and sometimes the needs of the job overwhelm your own needs. You don't see CEOs begging out of shareholder meetings because they have a bum ankle or a cold. So why should someone making $22 million be given an exception to not show up to an "important shareholder meeting" with the fans because of some minor rotator cuff surgery or some out-patient chemotherapy? That's nonsense. A game for the fans should give the fans what they want, and they want to see stars.

And that means no excuses for not playing, medical or otherwise. No vacations to the Dominican Republic, no movie deals, no rock and roll tours, no charity engagements, and no "dog-ate-my-homework" kidnapped relatives stories. The All-Star Game is first and foremost a fan-friendly experience, and it's important for these multi-millionaires to be humble and realize who pays their salary. In essence, the ticket sales and concession sales are as much a vote as the actual ballots. You, Baseball Superstar, by virtue of your salary, have been elected to represent baseball by the great people of your city, the same way this nation, every four years, unites to elect a steward for this great land we call home. And just as politicians answer to their constituents, so should baseball players. Pedro Martinez is begging out of the All-Star Game, claiming his next start happens too close to the game to make it worth his while to show up. But it's not about his while - it's about the while of the fans. Pedro Martinez is a proud ambassador of the New York Mets, and he ought to represent his franchise, and his profession, on baseball's biggest stage, whether he likes it or not.

Does Pasquale Beerdrinker really care about Billy Wagner, the guy taking Pedro's spot? No, and for good reason. For one, Wagner's probably going to hurt himself packing his suitcase, never mind him throwing maybe one pitch, the way LaRussa's going to manage. Having relievers on the All-Star roster at all is a joke. Does the NBA have 12th men play in their All-Star game? Does the holder for a place kicker get to travel to Honolulu? Has a goon ever played in an NHL All-Star game? (Well, I mean besides regular hockey players - they're all goons, really.) Then why should a one-inning chucker-and-ducker take up a roster spot that belongs to a REAL pitcher? And why should fly-by-night kids playing over their head for 12 weeks or 1 year or even 3 years take the spot of a true warrior whose salary reflects his hard-earned experience? The All-Star Game isn't called the All-No-Name game for a reason. Put the names back in the game, and the fans will come back, too.

Steve Phillips, former General Manager of the 2000 NL Champion New York Mets, is a regular contributor to BBTN.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reds completely Misused Adam Dunn, Batting Kearns, Pena, Randa, Griffey all in the 4th spot.

You don't bat your #1 Home run hitter, #1 OPS and #2 OBP (Freel is #1 and bats leadoff) 6th in your lineup.

Reds are a bunch of idiots. He should be batting #3 or #4 all the time on that team, no questions asked.

12:55 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much does the editor of Yard Work make?

Pedro Martinez is begging out of the All-Star Game, claiming his next start happens too close to the game to make it worth his while to show up.

11:10 AM

 
Anonymous Yard Work said...

Many apologies. That's what we get for letting Gammons proof-read while we're all doing shots and watching World Poker Tour.

2:19 PM

 

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