Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The State of the Game | The opening of spring training impels "Middie Back!" to lob a hand grenade at Major League Baseball and what he sees as poor leadership, ruinous financial disparity, and a damaging drug scandal. "I think baseball is on life support," he writes," and the country is discussing pulling the plug."

Likewise, in the wake of the Alex Rodriguez trade, the Daily News's Bill Conlin can do little more than shake his head and lament the increasing influence of evil-agent poster boy Scott Boras, whose fingerprints were all over the deal and who, Conlin says, "now runs the Yankees":

When Boras svengalied Tom Hicks, the cable TV mogul who owns the Rangers, into the $252 million contract that took major league baseball right to the penthouse of the funny farm, I wrote this:

"It is a fraud franchise that couldn't empty a boot filled with hot Dr Pepper if the instructions were written on the heel. And don't think the Rangers haven't collected some pretty good ballplayers while never winning a pennant in their miserable existence: Nolan Ryan, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Kevin Brown and Will Clark, to name a few.''

From the reaction that column stirred, you'd have thought I scrawled graffiti on the Alamo or impugned Dubya's National Guard record. Well, can I hear you now? . . .

What I do hear are gasps of disbelief provoked by this mind-boggling contradiction where the rich get richer and poorer at the same time.

And if you have a feeling of witnessing something more rare than a total eclipse of the sun or A.I. showing up early for 10 straight practices, you are responding to the tug of history.

Both Conlin and Shawn make good points, but I'm more inclined to share the view of the Inquirer's Phil Sheridan, whose column today reminds everyone that the Yankees have guaranteed themselves nothing by dealing for Rodriguez:

[T]he Mariners went from a 91-win season with Rodriguez to a 116-win season the year after he left.

The Rangers finished last in their division in each of the three years since they "bought a championship" by signing the "best player in baseball." If anything, their troubles and ultimate decision to unload Rodriguez should prove that splashy contracts don't translate into wins. . . .

The point is, you don't begin to know how these things are going to play out. The last few years, there has been much hand-wringing and hair-pulling because the Washington Redskins outspent the Eagles each off-season and would surely take control of the NFC East. Hasn't happened.

In hockey, the Flyers are among the deep-pocketed teams, able to acquire almost any player they need to fill a hole. They haven't won a Stanley Cup since Gerald Ford was president.

And everyone who had the Marlins winning it all back in spring training of 2003, please raise your hands. All except you, Steve Bartman. Keep your hands in your pockets, please.

The Yankees haven't won a World Series since 2000, which isn't exactly forever ago. But the team that went on the late-'90s run of dominance was balanced and had the right chemistry, as likely to get a big hit from Scott Brosius as from Derek Jeter.

Adding A-Rod makes the Yankees more expensive and more talented, but it doesn't necessarily make them champions. Ask the Marlins.

Meanwhile, Shallow Center's deputy South Jersey correspondent, known colloquially as Mom, brings it old-school in response to yesterday's post on the Phillies' need to improve in certain areas:

One funny -- I thought that you were taught how to bunt in little league. I also thought that you were taught how to run the bases. At least I remember you learning how to do these things during your little league years.

Two funny -- but why does anyone who is making millions to play a game that most of the males in my family would have paid to be able to play need "external motivation"?

Mom's right, of course. Just don't get her started on earrings on ballplayers.


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