News From the ‘Bad Guys’

I’m a contrarian by nature, so naturally that means I would pick the date that the Twins begin official Spring Training workouts for position players to write about what’s going on with other teams.

It’s not that there isn’t anything to write about the Twins. There’s no shortage of daily media updates, so whether it’s Joe Mauer’s knee (or his shampoo commercial), or Justin Morneau’s long awaited return to the diamond, or Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s first appearance in Twins gear (or perhaps his ‘fight song’ is of greater interest to you), there are finally a number of Twins-related news items to read and ponder. I have already and if you haven’t yet, you should.

But not here.

Here, I’m going to offer some commentary about a few items coming out of the enemy camps this week. Specifically, from our primary divisional rival White Sox, our “made up inter-league rival” Brewers and everyone’s least favorite team, the F’ing Yankees.

White Sox

Our friends on the South Side appear to be the preseason consensus pick to win the AL Central Division. In addition to re-signing Paul Konerko to a big-money deal, they bulked up their lineup by giving slugger Adam Dunn a contract guaranteeing him $56 million over the next four years.

Kenny Williams (Photo: Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

So, it was interesting to read Sox GM Kenny Williams’ comments about the state of baseball. He essentially made three points:

  1. Anyone who pays $30 million a year for a ballplayer is “insane”.
  2. The MLB financial model sucks and needs to be replaced by something that gives the fans of every team some kind of hope that their team will eventually at least compete for a championship AND if it takes the “game being shut down” to accomplish that reform, Kenny’s fine with that.
  3. The White Sox could lose money this year.

It’s not so much that I disagree with his points (in fact, I find it a bit disconcerting to be in so much agreement with anything Kenny Williams says… to the point where I have to consider whether I might be wrong in my views). I happen to agree that no player, not even Albert Pujols, is worth $30 million a year and particularly not for a contract term that would pay him that amount well beyond any period for which one could reasonably expect him to be among the top players in the game.

I also think the MLB financial model sucks. Of course, I have no idea if the White Sox are actually in danger of losing money, but I wouldn’t find that surprisng.

What’s odd is that this rant is coming from the GM of a major market team that will start the season with something approximating a $125 million payroll. What takes it from odd to amusing is that Williams is essentially complaining about having to overspend to the point of flirting with losing money in order to have a shot at overcoming the Minnesota Twins! How cool is that?

Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall anyone with the White Sox complaining about MLB’s financial model when the Twins were spending about $50 million a year less than the Sox. But now that the Twins… who had been kicking their collective Bitchy Sox almost every season even when being outspent for talent… are able to afford to spend every bit as much as the Sox do, suddenly their GM doesn’t like how MLB is being run.

I have to admit, however, that this does bring up an issue I’ve been struggling with a bit. Now that the Twins are one of the “haves” in terms of revenue streams, how am I supposed to feel about the whole “revenue sharing” subject? More about this later when we get to the subject of the Evil Empire.

Brewers

Over at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, columnist Michael Hunt wrote a piece on the Brewers’ new “ace” starting pitcher Zack Greinke. I found the column interesting perhaps because I’m still playing “what if”, given that Greinke topped my offseason wish list for the Twins.

Zack Greinke (AP Photo)

In any event, while it’s not the first or the most in-depth article about Greinke’s social anxiety disorder, Hunt does what I think is a balanced job of shedding some light on the relative pros and cons of having Greinke topping the Brewers’ rotation. Whether you choose to believe it’s a justifiable by-product of his ability to deal with his disorder or that it’s just another overpaid pitcher who doesn’t want to have to deal with media and fans, Greinke’s approach is to avoid having to talk whenever he can, but when he does talk, he’s going to tell you exactly what he feels. It seems to be a coping mechanism for him and I’m fine with that, personally, and I hope he has a great season for the Brewers.

That said, I couldn’t help but wonder how his statements would be going over with Twins fans and other Twins players right now, had he been opening up Spring Training in Ft. Myers instead of Phoenix. Throwing him in to the mix along with Nishioka certainly would have given everyone more to chew on this year, that’s for certain.

(And, yes, typing the Milwaukee columnist’s name did cause me to have a “Porky’s” flashback.)

Yankees

The Steinbrenners are back in the news, again. Hank gave an interview which touched on a couple of subjects.

The comment that most of the NY media latched on to most fiercely was when Steinbrenner implied that the reason the Yankees didn’t repeat as WS champions last year was that some players got complacent following the 2009 championship. Specifically, he said, “Some of the players are too busy building mansions and doing other things, not concentrating on winning. I have no problem saying that.”

Apparently Derek Jeter was the only Yankee anyone could identify as having built a new “mansion” during the 2009-10 offseason, so naturally the media assumed this was aimed at Jeter. Steinbrenner denies that his comment was directed at The Great One. To his credit, Jeter responded appropriately. He laughed at his idiot owner.

Bud: "Tell Hank to shut up" (Photo: Cataffo/NY Daily News)

As entertaining as that little exchange was, the Steinbrenner comment that I found spinechilling was with regard to a much broader topic… the MLB financial model (see, I told you we’d get back to this subject). It seems that, like Kenny Williams and me, Hank Steinbrenner thinks the MLB financial model is broken. He sees the problem a bit differently than Kenny and I do, however. Here were his comments about the revenue sharing system that resulted in the Yankees shelling out about $130 million to other teams last year:

“We’ve got to do a little something about that and I know Bud (Selig) wants to correct it in some way,” Steinbrenner said. “There’s a way. Obviously we’re very much allied with the Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers and Cubs in that area. At some point if you don’t want to worry about teams in minor markets, don’t put teams in minor markets or don’t leave teams in minor markets. Socialism, communism – whatever you want to call it – is never the answer.”

I found this comment both refreshing and deeply disturbing.

Refreshing because just when I was growing concerned about agreeing with Kenny Williams about an issue, a Steinbrenner spoke up and argued the opposing side and, thus, reassured me that I’m still on the right side of this debate.

On the other hand, just a hint (regardless of whether there’s even a kernel of truth to it), that the future direction of Major League Baseball and specifically the issue of competitive/financial balance might actually be decided behind closed doors by Bud Selig and the Steinbrenners is just about the worst kind of nightmare possible for fans in virtually every other market.

While Selig apparently was not amused by the comment, he hasn’t exactly jumped at the opportunity to deny anything, either. I do admit, however, that I found it kinda funny that Bud didn’t call Hank and tell him to shut up. He called Hank’s brother, Hal, and told HIM to tell Hank to shut up! Hilarious.

OK, I think I’ve killed enough time not talking about the Twins today… let’s all go check in on Mauer’s knee lubricant, shall we?

- JC

4 thoughts on “News From the ‘Bad Guys’

  1. That’s kind of what Williams was alluding to, I think, James. While, thanks to Target Field, the Twins have another year of virtually certain sell-outs and can count on that revenue stream to offset their increased expenses, the Sox know their attendance will be determined by whether they are still competitive in September. On paper, there’s no reason they shouldn’t still be packing fans in seats, but every team is just an injury or two away from mediocrity and if that happens to Chicago, Williams says they will lose money.

    Of course, I’ll somehow manage to keep from shedding too many tears if that happens to them. :)

  2. So Hank wants to get rid of his AAAA teams? :| Under that arrangement, there’d only be five teams in the MLB and when the hell are San Francisco or Saint Louis “minor league” markets? (He *does* know the Dodgers moved, right?)

    Great, now I can’t think of any snark for the Brewers.

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