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State of Major League Baseball - 2008 - Page 4 PDF Print E-mail
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Articles & Opinion
Written by Various Authors   
Sunday, 15 June 2008 23:04
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State of Major League Baseball - 2008
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Todd RadomTodd Radom
Todd Radom Design (logos for Washington Nationals, current iteration Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, World Baseball Classic, Super Bowl XXXVII, Brooklyn Cyclones, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, all Business of Sports Network marks)
(Read The Biz of Baseball interview with Todd Radom)

Major League Baseball seems to be rolling along, generating previously unimaginable gobs of revenue while enjoying a sustained era of labor peace that seemed equally unimaginable not too long ago. Aggressive international marketing of the American professional game is paying off too, the inaugural World Baseball Classic was embraced by fans in 2006, and the second edition next March is a much anticipated "jewel event" on the MLB calendar.

The overall quality of play, the emergence of a new generation of stars, and the unprecedented access that the average fan has to games, and to information, are all positives.

In Tampa Bay the Rays have emerged as an exciting and competitive club, but competitive balance remains an issue for historically great dormant franchises in places like Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. Loyal fans in these long-suffering places deserve a winner every once in a while.

Since my end of the game deals with aesthetics, I'll go out on a limb and say that MLB (literally) looks great in 2008. Yes, there's plenty of visual clutter that accompanies the MLB experience, but this is a mirrored reflection of our frenetically-paced consumer society. MLB still reveres its past, and is consistently able to tap into traditional franchise loyalties and fan nostalgia far better than any of its pro sports brethren. This sentiment applies to the visual culture of Major League Baseball in a big way.

The fan in me loves the game of 2008, loves the Wild Card, loves the fact that we've seen a wide range of franchises appearing in (and winning the World Series) in recent years. That said, any objective look at the sport turns up issues such as PEDs and the exponentially mushrooming costs of attending a Major League game.

MLB's continuing efforts to speed up the pace of the game are admirable, but we need a determined and deliberate plan of action that bears fruit sooner rather than later. I am far from the first observer to point out the fact that he grinding length of many games is leaving the youth of America behind. As a Red Sox fan, I'm a guy who is used to sitting through three and a half hour games replete with upwards of 400 pitches, but it's the next generation, my kids, that I fear will lose interest if we continue to plod along at this pace.

When contrasted with the uncertain and confusing state of the world in 2008, baseball still provides me with joy and comfort. In my world there is still no better day on the calendar than Opening Day. Baseball is the background of my spring, summer, and fall, and I still feel a bit diminished after the final out of the World Series, regardless of what team emerges victorious.


Ken Rosentha;Ken Rosenthal
Senior baseball writer, television analyst, FOX Sports; book author
(Read The Biz of Baseball interview with Ken Rosenthal)

Hate to sound like a personal envoy for Bud Selig, but the bottom line is undeniable: Baseball revenues have never been higher, and more people are watching the sport in more ways than ever before. There is no question that the game is in a robust state - so robust that business actually increased during the scandal over performance-enhancing drugs.

I remain concerned that fewer young people are drawn to the sport in the past, but I've got no actual evidence of that - merely anecdotal evidence from my three teenagers and their circle of friends (of course, we live in Baltimore, where the quality of the team is one reason for the disinterest). Kids today do enjoy the sport through video games and fantasy baseball - things that were not available when I was younger - but I wonder if the overall level of fan interest will still be as strong 20 years from now.

Baseball also needs to do a better job engaging the African-American community. Yes, there are fewer African-American players in the past - dangerously few, in fact - but some of the game's biggest stars are African-American, and many of them are good role models and eloquent spokesmen for the sport. I've written before that players such as Derrek Lee are willing to do more to promote baseball to the African-American community. Why not use them?

In the big picture, though, my concerns probably are minimal. Baseball deserves more praise than it has received for the development of MLBAM - the sport, for once, was on the cutting edge of technology. Selig, likewise, deserves more praise than he has received for overseeing the sport''s stunning financial growth. Innovations such as revenue sharing and the expanded post-season worked out pretty well, didn't they?

The commissioner often says that he could not have imagined such attendance 20 or 30 years ago. He's right. I don't think we'll be hearing about contraction again anytime soon.


David PintoDavid Pinto
Owner and Author, Baseball Musings; Author, The Sporting News

On the surface, the state of MLB looks as strong as ever. Revenue and attendance are strong. As shown by the constant changes on the drug policy, the union and players found a way to cooperate rather than fight. Franchises like Tampa Bay, Florida and the Chicago White Sox are providing pleasant surprises to their fans. New stadium construction continues, with two new parks rising in New York, one in Minnesota and two likely in Florida.

Tensions loom on the horizon, however. The share of revenue going into the players’ pockets dropped since 2002. Teams now try to avoid arbitration by signing good players young, putting a brake on rising salaries. I recently appeared on a radio show with former pitcher Terry Bross, who was upset with the young generation for not going through arbitration, not using a system for which the union fought to drive salaries higher. I would not be surprised if the union tries to change some rules in this area.

The biggest problem facing MLB is the draft. As originally conceived, the draft supplied poor teams with good players, preventing any one franchise from becoming the St. Louis Browns. Looking at Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Tampa Bay, the system may be broken. Good players fall through the draft because of signing bonus demands. Teams that are willing to buck slot recommendations end up with better talent than teams with high draft picks. Couple that with the rest of the world providing free agents, and the draft no longer works correctly.

Now is the time to work on the problems that do exist. With money pouring in, they will be much more amicably resolved than if baseball waits for the next downturn.


Joe SeiglerJoe Siegler
Author, Ranger Fans

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:10)

I'll start off with a theft from Will Carroll. It comes from the first Voices entry of this series.

"Saying what's right and wrong with the game is an exercise in hubris and futility."

Will's right. It's hard to have a good, honest list as to what is right and what is wrong that covers everything, which everyone can agree with. Even if you could make the list, would you want to? The flaws are what make the game. Baseball is a confusing game to "figure out". You think you have a handle on how it should be done, and then find out that you don't. But as humans, we tend to complain about things first. Most of the complaints you hear about about baseball are "too expensive" or "steroids".

The bigger complaint is about money, though. There's lawsuits about statistics (who owns the numbers), so much advertising that the head spins, a cost of parking and gas that is more than tickets in some places, and the price of concessions? Ha! Heck, the mlb minimum salary ($390,000) is so far out of whack with the "real" minimum wage ($12,168, assuming 40 hr work week) that it's mind boggling how far removed from reality MLB seems to be when you talk about money. Everything is about the "Baby Ruth Home Run Challenge", or the "DHL Pregame show", or the "Monster.com All Star ballot", to things like whatever the name of the Giants park is this week, and all that. You could take up the space that all 30 of us are using to talk about corporate naming issues. Heck, I saw a McDonald's logo ON THE PITCHER'S MOUND in PNC Park when looking at it in Google Maps. My kid's bobbleheads have half a dozen logos on them, nothing can get out there without being sponsored. I'm surprised there aren't some sort of logo inside the men's urinals in the bathrooms - or on the hot dogs themselves! We have so much money floating around the game that if baseball gave a religious tithe like Jesus commanded, we could probably do away with a lot of poverty in places. Don't even get me started on the extortion of cities that is building new stadiums.

A lot is made of the fact that it's a game meant for kids, but so many ancillary things around the game are things we have to "explain" to kids is a major hassle. As the parent of a three year old, I'm enjoying teaching my kid that a home run is not just when they "run" around the bases - they have to hit the ball over the fence. If I had to get into why Barry Bonds looks like a horse, or why she keeps hearing the words "performance enhancing", I don't know if I'd try to get my kid into baseball. There's so much business around the game, that it almost doesn't feel like it's for "kids" anymore. We're teaching kids to get ahead, get the biggest signing bonus there is, you'll "strike it rich with Scott Boras", etc, etc, etc.. That's why I'm enjoying Josh Hamilton now. A man who has discovered God, and is not afraid to show it. Good for him. Oh, he's not the only one, but he is a local one to me, so I hear about him the most. When you hear so much bad about the sport all the time in the media, it's nice to hear something nice like that.

What is The state of baseball? The state of "baseball" is fine, despite all the negativity above. The sport is too good to kill, but if you're reading the website this article will appear on, you probably know this already. The most vitriolic complainer will still love sitting out at the park watching the game. Baseball will sometimes go and do something very nice - like the recent Negro League player draft at the recent MLB draft. I enjoyed that moment a lot. So yeah, there's good there, but there's SO MUCH negative it feels that it's hard to find the good (outside the actual game itself).

P.S. I would like the return of scheduled doubleheaders - heck, give me a tripleheader!


Charlie WeigertCharlie Wiegert
VP of CDM Fantasy Sports Corp dba Fanball.com

My world is Fantasy Baseball, so I look at the State of the MLB from a fantasy perspective. It could not be any better! With the United States Supreme Court denying the appeal of our lawsuit with MLBAM/MLBPA, the world of fantasy baseball (and all fantasy sports games) was given a green light to charge full speed ahead. The second most popular to fantasy football, fantasy baseball is responsible for a major portion of  the $2 billion industry. In fact, the average fantasy baseball player will spend more money than the average fantasy football player, in research provided by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. Over the next few years, I expect the revenue from fantasy baseball will grow at a larger percentage increase than fantasy football, or any of the sports.

Baseball has never been more popular with the viewing public. Attendance at games, DirecTV 's Extra Innings package, MLBTV and regular viewing of games on TV are at record paces. Innovations and technology have made the way we watch games more interesting, and have provided the fantasy player with more than enough to feed their addiction. New fantasy games, such as Fanball.com's Pick Em 64 Superstar Baseball, will attract more casual baseball and fantasy baseball fans, and will provide groundwork for these fans to become more avid fantasy players. In the coming years, I see more fantasy baseball games from existing companies and new companies.

Major media will embrace the game more than ever before. They realize fantasy baseball is good for business, something it took the leagues more than a few years understand. The fantasy player is the most loyal of all their customers, and willing to spend their hard earned dollars for the entertainment the game provides. Advertisers have seen great results from their promotions within the fantasy industry, and view the demographics of the fantasy players as one of the best audiences they can find. This all adds to growth. As fantasy baseball, and fantasy sports in general, become even more mainstream, the revenue that this industry generates will continue to rise at a rapid pace.

The biggest enemy baseball has is itself. Baseball fans do not want to be hearing about steroid controversies, or want congress to be holding hearings about how baseball conducts it's business. They don't want to hear about baseball filing lawsuits against little league teams for using "their" names. They don't want to hear about lawsuits over who owns the statistics. They don't want to hear about a possible strike because they can't decide how to share the billions of dollars the industry generates. Americans are very tolerant, and they choose not to think about how outrageous the player salaries have become. They continue to support the game with their hard earned dollars because they enjoy baseball.  They enjoy the challenges the game provides, they enjoy analyzing about what will happen, and they enjoy discussing what did happen. The fascination with baseball is part of the American framework, and if they can find more ways to allow the fans to enjoy it, and give less ways for fans to criticize it, the state of MLB will be blissful!


Andrew ZimbalistAndrew Zimbalist
Sports Economist, Author
(Read The Biz of Baseball interviews with Andrew Zimbalist from 2004 and 2006)

Baseball’s remarkable 13-year growth spurt continues in 2008, U.S. economic problems notwithstanding. To be sure, I expect the growth rate to come below 10 percent for the first time since 1995 – sponsorship, signage and premium seating dollars will not be immune to the country’s economic woes. The prospect of two new NY stadiums is boosting attendance this year in Queens and the Bronx, and open pennant races and the new DC stadium are providing additional fillips. Perhaps the most encouraging sign, however, is the emergence of the Rays as a contender. The new CBA, while far from perfect, improves the incentives for bottom teams to invest in their rosters. The Rays and even the Marlins, and others, are spending money to hold on to their emerging star players. Much remains to be done but MLB is clearly marching in the right direction.


All Authors Retain Copyright. All Rights Reserved ® 2008



 
 
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