Friday, March 10, 2006

Time to Retire?


If Bonds' right knee is still causing him significant discomfort, if he "can't even run that much anymore," as he told USA Today, then he isn't going to be of much use to the Giants this season if he doesn’t hit the ball into the bay with every at bat. Bonds has become a liability on the bases - so why not walk him with every at bat and let him clog up the bases.
And if Bonds is truly fed up with the media and all their silly questions about substances that he used and the federal government alleges to be steroids, then the solution is very simple… he should do himself, Major League Baseball and fans a favor and hang up those cleats one last time – just retire.
Then there are the reasons NOT to retire…Six homers short of tying Babe Ruth and 47 short of tying Hank Aaron. Of course the money comes into play, if Bonds retired, he couldn't collect the $18 million he is guaranteed in the final year of his contract or do his proposed ESPN reality show. Bonds' retirement also would probably ruin the Giants' chances of contending in the National League West.
Bonds said, "I've never cared about records, anyway," which is a joke, considering what he said about passing Ruth at the 2003 All-Star break: “ . . . the only number I care about is Babe Ruth's. Because as a left-handed hitter, I wiped him out. That's it. And in the baseball world, Babe Ruth is everything, right? I got his slugging percentage and I'll take his home runs and that's it. Don't talk about him no more."
Slugging percentage? Good thing Barry got that, not that he's keeping track or anything.
If Bonds didn't care about records, perhaps he wouldn't have reacted to the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home-run duel in 1998 by bulking up — legally or illegally— and attempting to wipe them out.
Bonds can protest, "I'm clean, I've always been clean," knowing there is no proof that he used performance-enhancing drugs. The presumption of innocence has taken a hit during the steroid furor, but fans will believe what they want to believe — and many are tired of players who insult their intelligence.
Of course, Bonds' latest concern is not with performance enhancers, but with the pain pills and sleeping pills he needs because of the discomfort in his knee. He told USA Today he has no choice but to take the pills. It can't be a pleasant existence.
Then again, if this season is Bonds' last, Aaron's mark almost certainly will be out of reach, saving MLB the embarrassment of celebrating a tainted slugger passing one of the game's most dignified greats.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Millionaires Behaving Badly

The current situation in the NFL makes me absolutely sick. By failing to come up with a method for splitting up billions of dollars in annual league revenue among the 32 owners and the players, the NFL now looks as if it will unravel the very fabric of what has made it the premier professional sports organization in the country. The loss of the salary cap for 2007 (and, if you believe NFLPA President Gene Upshaw, as I do, forever) will destroy the competitive balance that allows the NFL such widespread popularity. This popularity, of course, is a big factor in driving those massive revenues into pro football's coffers. The Players Association and the owners are biting the hand that feeds them all, and it's just about the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

I can't see the owners' side of this at all, quite frankly. People who buy professional sports franchises needs to look at the situation the way Mark Cuban did when he purchased the Dallas Mavericks. It's not about making money, although that's possible to do if you run it the right way. The goal should simply be having fun with all of that money that otherwise they'd never be able to spend in a hundred lifetimes. That's why it really bothers me when the richer owners in the league don't feel the need to sacrifice a little bit of their revenues for the common good of the sport. The smaller market owners aren't much better, either. They gripe that they sometimes need to spend 70% of their revenue on player contracts, but that still leaves them with 30%. It doesn't take a mathematician to note that 30% of over $100 million is still a pretty significant chunk of change. At some point, and I would have hoped it could have been this week, common sense should have prevailed, as everyone involved needs to realize that uncertainty in the league's system would lead to corresponding uncertainty in how much money flows into their pockets.

I have a little more sympathy for the players in this, but they're still looking at this the wrong way. Sure, the absence of a salary cap would allow insane rogues such as Daniel Snyder and Jerry Jones to overpay for the services of the league's stars, but what about the rank-and-file of the union's membership? No salary cap also means no minimum on the amount teams can spend, and given how much wringing of hands there is from the small market owners about personnel costs as a percentage of revenue, you have to believe that there are teams that would take advantage of that situation. It also means no individual player minimums and no guarantee of any type of benefits package. If any profession needs to have mandated employee benefits, it's a profession where getting and delivering savage hits are job requirements. The Players Association was already complaining about insufficient pensions, so how could they allow the possibility of losing minimum salaries and benefits for current players, too?

What's my solution? I can't say I have a perfect one, but it seems to me that it's in everyone's best interests, owners and players alike, to meet in the middle. Find some halfway point in both the revenue sharing and player percentage of revenue issues, and go with it. Otherwise, everyone loses.