Seems like the end of the season is rolling up faster than usual. Maybe it’s the fact that we might be on the verge of four sweeps in the Division Series. Maybe it’s the housecleaning going on with many of the clubs (read: Marlins, Orioles, Twins, Astros, and the Pirates possibly redefining the word called "housecleaning" these days). Maybe it’s the first possible free agent listing… all this has me looking forward to the off-season and next year.
Since it’s Saturday, and I’m up for something different, I’ve decided to do a little crystal ball gazing and make some predictions for what lies between the end of the upcoming World Series, and the end of the 2008 World Series. I’ll revisit the predictions and see whether I’m the Amazing Kreskin.
Trading Places: Doing the math...
Thin free agent pool + teams wrapping in contracts before players become arb eligble or hit free agency = trades.
This off-season, more than most in the past will be about trades rather than free agent fireworks. Watch... it would not be at all surprising to see at least one trade over shadow anything happening on the free agency front.
Throwing Green at Pitchers: The market for free agents will be much the same as last season – very high. Pitchers will come at incredible premium with contract lengths that will boggle the mind. While it won’t happen this off-season, it’s possible in a year or two we might actually see a contract length of 10 years for pitching. You may all nod your head and say how stupid this GM will be. No matter, there will be stupidity on a lesser scale coming out of one large market franchise right after the World Series.
The Domino-Effect Will Make A-Rod a Possible $300 Million Player: If the rumored deal for the pitcher goes down, it will place a domino-effect on Alex Rodriguez. It seems all but given that he will opt out of the last year of his contract, and given how his current contract is structured, and the fact that Scott Boras is his agent, A-Rod could very easily pull in a staggering $300 million contract.
The Joe Torre Watch: It’s a well-worn story, but the possibilities are high that Joe Torre will be gone if the Indians roll over the Yankees in sweeping fashion on Sunday. Roger Clemens has been selected to take the bump for the Yankees by Torre – a far different gamble than in years past with The Rocket, given his injury-plagued stint back with the Bombers. If Clemens gets tagged early on the way to an Indians win, I look for Torre to finally be let go.
Digital-Watermarking of Broadcasts are Here to Stay: You can’t see it, but a digital-watermark is within all the broadcasts this off-season – an attempt to prevent rebroadcasts on the web, and pirating of DVDs elsewhere. The deal to test the technology is in place to March of 2008, but knowing how MLBAM guards content like it’s their first-born child, I look for the technology to remain in place going forward.
The 2008 Season
Natastic… at Least for 2008: Here’s a no-brainer: the Washington Nationals will actually draw fans for the 2008 season. With the new Nationals Stadium opening (a naming rights deal for the opening remains on the backburner until the Nats land something in the $8-$10 million a year range), the honeymoon effect will be in full bloom along with the cherry trees in DC for 2008. That, and watch for the Kasten/Bowden pairing to get in the free agency game, along with Bowden doing his normal “Trader Jim” activities. I predicted that the Nationals would win 75 games before the 2007 season started; something that had many much smarter baseball colleagues laughing at me. The team finished 73-89… close enough. I’ll see my 75 and raise it 6 games… my prediction is 81 wins next season. Now, whether fans come out in “Year Two” of the new Nationals Stadium will be another question. Short of a showing in the playoffs, the luster may wear off fast.
Gone Fishing… Again: I’ve given up predicting whether the Marlins will land in a new stadium. I said this was the year, and look… they landed in the futility bucket again. Unless someone gets creative it looks like that same old song and dance in South Florida.
Hey, Cisco: Matters seem to be moving too slowly in Fremont for the Athletics to break ground in 2008. 2009 seems a near certain bet, however.
What’s Mine is Mine in TV Land: One of the biggest issues facing MLB owners will be the launch of The Baseball Channel in 2009. Selig and Co. have been asking the owners to justify their current broadcast territory. As John Helyar wrote for ESPN, “If Oakland has no justification for continuing to stake a claim to Oregon, for example, then it's out of Oregon. The territorial map would be redrawn according to current digital-age realities.” The reasons for the redrawing of the territories has to do with MLB’s outdated, unruly, and unfair to consumers blackout policy. Hotlines around the US will be going off the hook if MLB doesn’t get with the picture on the blackout issue when The Baseball Channel goes online in 2009. That means that activity at the owners meetings will be centered in large part on this issue in 2008.
Goldman Sachs Will No Longer Be YES Men: Goldman Sachs has been shopping around, trying to see what kind of price they might get for their share of the YES Network. Watch them do the sale in 2008.
Worst Kept Secret for 2008: We reported here ahead of the curve, due to good sources, in 2008 it will be official: John Canning, Jr. will be the next owner of the Chicago Cubs. Big surprise, huh?
The King is…?: This is morbid, but a possibility… if George Steinbrenner dances off this mortal coil in 2008, Hal Steinbrenner will become the next managing partner of the New York Yankees.
I’ve Got a Jocketty Itch: There were already rumors that Tony LaRussa might dance off the Seattle. Now that Walt Jocketty has left the Cardinals, and the Mariners slip in the standings, it’s possible Bavasi could be out and Jocketty in with the Mariners.
Got-to-Admit-It’s-Getting-Better Dept.: Teams that will have better seasons in 2008… Athletics, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Nationals, Blue Jays, and Giants
Down-In-A-Hole Dept.: Teams that will have worse seasons in 2008… Mariners, Rockies, Cubs, Phillies, and Cardinals.
The-Same-Old-Song-And-Dance Dept.: Even with changes to the front office, these teams will hover right around where they were in 2007… Orioles, Astros. If they keep the status quo in the off-season, the Mets and Braves will hover, as well.
Like I said, this is all for fun. Some topics are more of a given than others, but it’s nearly time for the Division Series games to get back underway. You have some good baseball left before you start thinking too much about 2008… or do you?
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football and The Biz of Basketball (The Biz of Hockey will be launching shortly). He is also a contributor to Baseball Prospectus contributed to the 2007 Pro Football Prospectus and is an available freelance writer.
He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here