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If there is one sport that didn’t need to be kicked while it’s down its baseball. Across MLB, numbers are down ranging from butts in the seats to viewership at home. Boston is a perfect microcosm for the nationwide epidemic. Not even five years removed from their last World Series championship and, seemingly, no one in gives a crap. If you read the papers or listen to any semblance of sports radio you know attendance is down at Fenway plus NESN’s rating are in a tailspin. The pink hats got bored with the actual game and went home. Why?
Well, the laundry lists of reasons why baseball is waning is another conversation. And it’s a lengthy one. Hell, there was an article in the Globe last week about a scalper that’s complaining that he used to make six figures selling Sox tickets now he’s struggling to make $20,000. I almost threw up when I read that article. But really, the scalping system has gotten so bloated in Boston, it’s strangling the life out of the city’s once vibrant baseball fan base (and that vivid effervescence had nothing to do with the pink hats). Now this guy has the audacity to complain? Please. He’s a victim of his own doing.
In my opinion all this controversy about the recently leaked financial documents brings to light three issues. Number one, this is proof positive that the system is broken. Obviously. Don’t get me wrong: I like no salary cap. It’s quintessential American. If you’ve got the money, spend it. You work your ass off, put out a quality product that people like to see, manage your business and make a boatload. Go for it, spend that dough. I even like revenue sharing. If done right it does even the playing field. But, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that there should be benchmarks set in terms of how much of the revenue sharing money teams need to sink back into the organization. How can that not be obvious? This leads me to my next point.
Number two. Bud Selig needs to go. If he doesn’t, he may drive the last nail in the coffin of baseball as we know it. His unwillingness to address the steroid problem over the past 12+ years is grounds for dismissal alone. But, he personifies what MLB is today: A stale, old and brittle entity resting on its laurels and showing no interest in progressing. And I’d hardly call awarding the winner of the All-Star game home field advantage in the World Series, laurels. You’d have to have a hole in your head to think that’s a good idea. To be fair, however, I’m a fan of the Wild Card structure. In my opinion, in any sport, more teams in the playoffs is a good thing.
Lastly, the third and over-arching issue that comes to light here is that baseball is dead. It’s far from the national pastime, football is and has been for awhile. Selig and the corporate sponsors have made baseball so inaccessible to kids over the past 15 years the next generation doesn’t care about it. If your team is good (and lucky) enough to make it to the postseason (let alone the World Series), good luck watching a game if you’re a 10-year-old kid. And forget about actually going to one of those games.
So, is the release of those financial documents surprising? Not to me it’s not. Just another road sign on baseball’s road to irrelevance. However, if I lived in Pittsburgh or Miami, I’d be pissed. I hope those fans make their voices heard in the form of not going to games, not watching games or buying merchandise. Because at the end of the day, that’s the only way you can accurately articulate your outrage. How can you get into a team that you care about more than the actual owner? Thank God football is only a few weeks away.