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(L-R top row) Tim Marchman, Peter Abraham, Todd Radom, Dayn Perry, Tyler Bleszinski, Andrew Zimbalist
(second row) Ken Davidoff, Kevin Kaduk, Tim Lemke, Maury Brown, Ken Rosenthal, Jeff Erickson
(third row) Kurt Bandenhausen, John Brattain, Craig Calcaterra, David Pinto, King Kaufman, Jordan Kobritz
(fourth row) Joe Siegler, David Chalk, Jeff Passan, Jonah Keri, Alex Belth, Fred Claire
(bottom row) Michael Neuman, Charlie Wiegert, Jerry Crasnick, Rich Lederer, Kurt Hunzeker, Chuck Armstrong
(not pictured) Brent Gambill
What you are about to read is a mosaic – a multi-faceted, exceptionally broad view of Major League Baseball in 2008. As in 2006, we approached those that follow the sport at a professional level; be it bloggers from a fan’s perspective, sports economists, writers for large, mainstream outlets such as ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, and FOX Sports; analyst heavies from the likes of Baseball Prospectus, The Hardball Times, or Baseball Analysts; baseball writers for newspapers such as Newsday and the New York Sun; to executives that work in the sponsorship arena, or fantasy sports, or those at the highest levels of the front office in MLB franchises, we worked hard to run the gambit and get divergent perspectives.
Plainly put, we threw the net wide.
The criteria we gave was simple: Give us a few paragraphs on how you see the state of MLB in 2008. You, as a reader, have a different idea of how the game is doing. It's just that the interpretation is different. With that, we got the wide-ranging commentary you see here.
We wish to thank every one of those that provided material for this compilation. Every one of them has extremely busy schedules and responsibilities.
Entries are shown in alphabetical order, with a listing of those that contributed directly below. We hope you enjoy.
– Maury Brown, Founder and President, Business of Sports Network, Bizball LLC
- Peter Abraham - Yankees beat writer, The Journal News and LoHud Yankees Blog
- Chuck Armstrong – President, Seattle Mariners
- Kurt Badenhausen – Senior Editor, Forbes
- Alex Belth - Founder of Bronx Banter and editor of "The Best Sports Writing of Pat Jordan"
- Tyler Bleszinski (Blez) - Founder and author, Athletics Nation
- John Brattain – Columnist, The Hardball Times, MSN Canada, Baseball Digest Daily
- Maury Brown – Founder and President, Business of Sports Network
- Craig Calcaterra – Author, Shysterball
- David Chalk - Author, Bugs and Cranks. Contributor to Yahoo!'s Big League Stew and East Windup Chronicle
- Fred Claire - Former Exec. VP, and GM, Los Angeles Dodgers. Book author. MLB.com
- Jerry Crasnick - Baseball Writer, ESPN.com. Author, "Licence to Deal"
- Ken Davidoff – Baseball writer, Newsday
- Jeff Erickson - Senior Editor, RotoWire
- Brent Gambill - Senior Producer, MLB Home Plate, XM Satellite Radio
- Kurt Hunzeker - Director of Business Development for Active Marketing Group; Founder of Sparts Marketing; regular contributor Business of Sports Network
- Kevin Kaduk ('Duk) - Editor, Big League Stew, Yahoo! Sports
- Jonah Keri - Writer for ESPN.com, a contributor to YESNetwork.com and the New York Sun
- Jordan Kobritz - Regular contributor, Business of Sports Network; Professor sports management; former minor league team owner
- Rich Lederer – Founder and lead writer, Baseball Analysts
- Tim Lemke - Sports business reporter, Washington Times
- Tim Marchman - Baseball writer, New York Sun
- Michael A. Neuman – Founder and President, Amplify Sports and Entertainment, LLC
- Jeff Passan - National baseball writer, Yahoo! Sports
- Dayn Perry - Regular contributor to FOXSports.com; regular contributor, Baseball Prospectus
- David Pinto - Owner and author, Baseball Musings; author, The Sporting News
- Todd Radom - Todd Radom Design, (Logos - Washington Nationals, current Angels design, Super Bowl XXXVIII, World Series 100th Anniversary, more)
- Ken Rosenthal - Senior baseball writer, television analyst, FOX Sports; book author
- Joe Siegler - Author, Ranger Fans
- Charlie Wiegert - Vice-President, CDM Fantasy Sports Corp. (Fanball.com)
- Andrew Zimbalist – Sports economist, author
Select Read More to see this rountable article
Yankees beat writer, The Journal News and the LoHud Yankees Blog
Our game is in terrific shape. Most teams either have new stadiums or are building them. Exciting new players are coming from countries near and far and the issue of performance enhancing drugs is finally being addressed in a real way. You can follow the game on a variety of media platforms and a group of dedicated bloggers are bringing a unique perspective to how the game is chronicled.
But who will be sitting in the stands in 20 years?
Like World War II veterans, baseball fans are dying every day and nobody is replacing them. Late-night starts for playoff games virtually exclude children from participating in any meaningful fashion. Ticket prices are growing at a rate that make it almost prohibitive for families to attend. Black players are now an anomaly, leaving young black kids with no heroes to emulate. Baseball's RBI program and urban academy programs need to be strengthened.
Baseball has not marketed its star players properly. Think NBA and you think Kobe and LeBron. No last names needed. You can't turn on a television during football season without seeing Peyton Manning. The face of baseball is who exactly? A-Rod? He's the guy who opted out of his contract during the World Series. How to promote the game, Alex. Players and owners need to work together and put aside short-term gain for long-term viability.
Baseball has fixed a lot of what was wrong. But unless the sport is made more accessible to a new generation of fans, what's the point?
President, Seattle Mariners
(Read The Biz of Baseball interview with Chuck Armstrong)
Currently, Major League Baseball is enjoying its greatest financial success in history. In 2007, only two of the 30 Major League teams had negative cash flow; in 1992 when Commissioner Selig first took over on an interim basis, only two clubs had positive cash flow. Moreover, there is a chance that this year the total gross revenue of Major League Baseball may surpass the total gross revenue of the National Football League. What a dramatic turnaround. And the financial success has been shared/enjoyed by all segments of the game; ownership, players, business partners, and the communities in which the 30 MLB teams reside. The fans seem to enjoy this greater competitiveness as well with new attendance records being set each season.
On the playing field, success has been equally apparent. Over the past seven seasons there has been a World Series Champion from each of the six divisions; with only the Boston Red Sox repeating in 2007. This is a far cry from the so-called halcyon days from 1948-1964 when the New York Yankees won the American League pennant 14 out of those 16 years, and over in the National League, either the Dodgers or the Giants won more often than not.
There are, however, two problems currently existing which appear to only be getting worse and we should take steps immediately to address and redress them. Let’s discuss.
1) Broken Bats. As we have all noticed, over the past several years, not a game goes by without bats virtually exploding and sending shards of shrapnel cascading sometimes over 100 feet from home plate. The fact that no one has yet been seriously injured is amazing. Just wait until a catcher or an umpire takes a wood sliver in the eye or the throat. Why is this happening? Back in the 1920’s & 1930’s, players might go an entire season and not need any more than 10-15 bats. Recently, the favorite bat of Shoeless Joe Jackson, Black Betsy, which he reportedly used for more than a year, was put on the auction block for a large monetary sum. I have three primary reasons why there are more broken bats today. They are:
a. The wood is now second and third growth wood, not as strong and hearty as the wood originally used for baseball bats, which had endured many tough, but tree hardening, winters in the northern climes of the United States .
b.The biggest reason is that the modern-day player keeps wanting thinner and thinner handles, and bigger circumference barrels. With the force of the pitched ball coupled with the torque of the swing, these thin-handled bats just naturally break more. When I first started playing baseball at about 9 years of age, I used to save up my allowance to buy the Jackie Robinson model because it had the thickest handle and was therefore the toughest to break. Today’s kids grow up with metal bats, all with extremely thin handles and huge barrels. When they make the switch to wood bats, it is the thin handle that feels most comfortable. On my last visit several years ago to Hillerich & Bradsby in my home town of Louisville , Kentucky , I witnessed the ever fascinating process of baseball bat making. I was struck by how many bats are broken in the lathe solely because the players are specifying such thin-handled bats.
c.The third reason is not much discussed, but is also a major cause for so many broken bats: Today’s players do not know to keep the labels up. Amazing, isn’t it? When I mention this to our players, they just shake their heads like I’m crazy; and when I mention this to our managers and coaches, they also shake their heads and lament they are unable to get the players to believe this. I am truly baffled by this. Also, some of today’s bats are so heavily lacquered that the hitter can’t find the grain so as to hold the bat the proper way even if he wanted to. Some years ago I asked Bill Nye the Science Guy (an engineering graduate from Cornell, by the way) to come to our Spring Training and demonstrate why it was important to hold the label up and have the points of the grain in the wood absorb the shock of the pitched ball. Bill prepared an elaborate model of a bat in cardboard and went through an easily understood demonstration. The result was that perhaps a few of our players finally bought in; but not many.
However, none of these reasons is the cause for the exploding bats. The exploding bats are all maple, not the traditional northern white ash. I have been told that Joe Carter when he was with the Toronto Blue Jays was the first major league hitter to use a maple bat. The maple bat craze really picked up steam when Barry Bonds began using them and declared that maple bats were harder and helped him hit the ball farther and with greater velocity than a white ash bat. Now, I’ll bet over half the players are using maple bats. My view is that maple bats should be banned for use in Professional Baseball. Not only do the maple bats explode, but I have been told by knowledgeable major league hitting coaches that they can be broken on the inside and the hitter is unable to detect it. Perhaps that’s why the explosions are so violent when they occur; because the bat was already broken.
So for this problem, my recommendations are:
- i) Get/Use thicker handled bats;
- ii) Teach players from the lowest levels of wood bat use to hold the labels up; and
- iii) Ban maple bats.
2) The second problem that I would like to discuss is what I perceive to be the biggest problem facing our game today: The decline of youth baseball in North America. While we all certainly applaud the increased worldwide interest in Baseball and that Major League Baseball now sports players from countries literally spanning the globe, one of the reasons why this is occurring is because fewer players are coming out of North America . When I was a child first starting to play baseball over 55 years ago during summer vacation from school, my mother would make a sack lunch and I would leave in the morning to go to the nearest baseball diamond and literally play all day with my friends, knowing that I had to be home by 5pm for my family chores and dinner. We would often have as few as three players per side. (That’s why we all were primarily pull hitters because hitting to the opposite field was an out; not to mention that the star hitters of the day, Ted Williams and Stan Musial, were dead pull hitters.) As late as 25-30 years ago, when I would fly into cities I would look out the window of the plane and observe kids playing ball. Not any more. Now when I look out the window of the plane, either the ball fields are completely empty (usually the case), or the kids are uniformed and organized and playing structured games with adult coaches, umpires and some cheering parents. I have been told that after Little League age (12 years old), more than half the kids quit playing baseball. In addition, the growth of the so-called “select” teams starting as early as age 9-10 means that many boys who want to play are not chosen and left behind. Those that are chosen only play a lot if they happen to be the best players on that team. This causes even more boys to stop playing baseball. Make no mistake, baseball is a hard game to get really good at, and there are many late developing kids who quit before they have gotten proficient enough to play for these select teams. Compounding all this is that many coaches of select teams perceive themselves as baseball geniuses and are in it just to win and prove their self-perception as being correct. In order to achieve their selfish win-at-all-costs objectives they therefore overuse their players, especially the pitchers who often ruin their arms before they reach 17-18. Also, there has been a proliferation of other sporting alternatives that are not as hard, particularly – soccer and lately lacrosse, where if you work hard and hustle, you can be a decent player and a good teammate. And then there is basketball, which you can do alone. I think that Baseball can be the best team sport going, but unless we start working at the earliest ages and the lowest levels, the continuing decline of Major League players from North America will only be accelerated. Make no mistake, this will soon be followed by a decline in our fan base and interest in Baseball in general.
Senior editor, Forbes
(Read The Biz of Baseball interview with Kurt Bedenhausen)
Financially, MLB has never been healthier. Last year saw record attendance, revenue and profits. Five years ago Forbes estimated that 16 teams lost money. Last year we figured that only three teams (Blue Jays, Red Sox and Yankees) were in the red. Of course all three of those teams have media properties connected to the clubs that offset any losses at the team level.
Despite some dubious free agent contracts doled out the past few years, owners have gotten spending under control. During the past five years, player costs (salaries, benefits and bonuses) have fallen to 56% of revenue from 66%. The big market teams are prospering thanks to record attendance, soaring ticket prices and media properties tied to the teams. The low-revenue teams are doing well thanks to revenue sharing checks that can top $30 million. It is showing up on the field as well with high-revenue and low-revenue teams putting teams in the playoffs.
One problem that needs to be addressed is the lack of interest in baseball's two biggest events: the All-Star game and World Series. TV ratings are in the toilet for both events. MLB is making a big international push, but interest on a national level seems to have waned. Fans support their local teams passionately more than ever before as witnessed by huge ratings on regional sports networks and record attendance (NYC's two teams drew 8 million fans last year and LA's two franchises drew 7.5 million). But fans aren't showing any interest in games if their teams aren't involved. Baseball needs to improve its marketing efforts to draw in the casual fans to its biggest events.
Problem number two is related. Who are baseball's marketing stars? The game has a plethora of young stars on the field, but they are not stars on a national level where companies want to align with them. Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning and LeBron James are all part of multiple national ad campaigns. Why aren't companies interested in baseball's best? Dice-K, Ichiro and Hideki Matsui all pull in big endorsement money in Japan, but Forbes research shows Derek Jeter to be the only American born baseball player that earns more than $3 million a year from endorsements.
Founder of Bronx Banter and editor of "The Best Sports Writing of Pat Jordan"
In 1999, a close friend of mine was dying of cancer. I'd go to the hospice and visit with her and we'd watch the Yankees on a small TV. I was preoccupied with worry that labor trouble was on the horizon for MLB and that was going to spell bad news, something I was particularly aware of during those great years in the Bronx. My friend assured me that baseball would survive, no matter what. I felt foolish to be so concerned with baseball when I was really thinking about her dying. But she sounded so convincing, so confident that what she was saying was true and not just wishful thinking.
I didn't doubt her and she was right, of course. The steroid scandal has rocked the sport over the past few seasons, but here we are again, with another interesting season unfolding before our eyes between the white lines. Old stars getting cut, retiring, and future stars announcing their presence with authority. Run-scoring down. Tough pitching. Attendance is still strong and for many of us, the advancements in Internet technology has made this nothing short of a Golden Age to be a fan. (How did life ever exist before Baseball-Reference.com?)
I'm especially wrapped-up in this being the last year of the two New York ballparks. Hearing people's stories, their favorite memories. But the early season success of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Florida Marlins, the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals has been compelling as well. How about the Cubs fielding a team that knows how to get on base and score some runs? As a New Yorker, it's hard not to get behind them with Sweet Lou running the show. And what about the sustained excellence of the Angels and Red Sox? And those star players. Griffey with his milestone. Manny, Pujols, Chipper and the great Mariano Rivera.
I'm not saying that there hasn't been a stain on the game. I'm just saying the game doesn't stop. And I still like coming back to watch.
Tyler Bleszinski (aka Blez)
Founder and author, Athletics Nation
Ah, the State of Baseball in 2008. Baseball seems healthier than ever. The steroids scandal seems to be heading into our rear view mirrors (although remember that objects in a mirror are often closer than they appear), attendance has been rising to record levels and judging from teams like the 2008 editions of the Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins then competitive balance is alive and well. Baseball is just as resilient as that scotch-guarded rug that the sports' all-time home run leader and Rocket man have been swept under.
But all is not well in Bud Selig's version of Xanadu. For one thing, the archaic blackout rules of MLB have made it so that I can now watch a lot more Oakland Athletics games now that I'm living in Southern California rather than in Sacramento. Think about that for a moment. Sacramento isn't that close to the Coliseum. It takes about an hour and fifteen minutes, without traffic which is rare on the I-80, to get to the A's stadium. Yet Sacramentans didn't get KICU-TV which carries a LOT of A's games. And I was willing to shell out that extra money to get the Extra Innings package over Directv to get my A's games. That was until I learned that I could see pretty much every other team in baseball BUT my A's. I wasn't alone either. The fan is getting shut out because baseball still deems Sacramento part of A's territory when talking about their blackout policies. I tried to get to many A's games during the week and sometimes it would take me two and a half to three hours to drive to the Coliseum. I was one of those fashionably late fans, even though I wanted to be early to see batting practice. This should be a huge priority for baseball.
Another major issue, as I see it, is HGH. Baseball isn't currently testing for it so there's a good chance that some baseball players are still using performance enhancing materials. So while steroids may be a less prevalent issue, HGH should be something that is still a prominent news story. It doesn't seem to be. Maybe because steroids is sexier, or maybe just because HGH isn't something that is easy to detect. To me, this is something that is going to have to be tested if baseball will ever be considered "clean." Then again, maybe the American public just doesn't care anymore. The steroids scandal hasn't hurt baseball attendance so perhaps fans are just enjoying their blissful ignorance.
And the final issue is more of a personal one for me and it's nothing but positive for baseball. I'm really encouraged by what I see around the ever-expanding quality of the baseball blogosphere. From the superb stats-analysis to landmark interviews with baseball executives, baseball blogs are getting the fan closer to the sport than ever before. This fan empowerment is just a beautiful thing to watch as fans go deeper inside teams, team stats and player analysis than previously imagined. Despite what Buzz Bissinger and others might have you think, this movement has meant that fans are living their favorite teams 24/7/365 on places like Bleed Cubbie Blue, Viva El Birdos, Lone Star Ball, McCovey Chronicles and Athletics Nation. There is never an offseason any more and as a baseball fan above all else, it's a beautiful thing.
Columnist, The Hardball Times, MSN Canada and Baseball Digest Daily
The game is rolling in record revenues and it’s all due to Buddy-Ball: publicly financed stadia that cater to the wealthy, keeping salaries down and making sure that any new ownership understand these principles. Right now, the Cubs are on the market and there is talk that Mark Cuban might make a play for it and Buddy-Ball has little room for Mavericks like Cuban who give a higher priority to winning than profits and keeping salaries low.
The Mitchell Report was a godsend to Selig and the ownership cartel in keeping the MLBPA on the defensive plus revealing the union’s deep schisms. As the union’s grey-headed eminence Marvin Miller stated almost 20 years ago that in the type of union-management setup in baseball that when 'one side becomes complacent, the other side grows bolder, and holding your place, marking time is an invitation to be shoved backwards.’ This complacency is helping create record profits since the phenomenal revenue growth has been aided by the union's accepting substantial disincentives to spending in the last two CBA. A few years back Barry Bonds pulled out of the MLBPA’s licensing agreement and struck out on his own. The old “all for one and one for all” attitude engendered by Miller is out the door being replaced by an attitude of “I got mine--screw you.” If the Yankees’ new stadium allows them the revenue to blow previous spending patterns out of the water, chances are good the other 29 owners will push for a salary cap (which would give each team a nice boost in franchise equity) that the MLBPA will fight off with the same success as the NHLPA since their muscle (read: unity and consensus) has atrophied.
What has to be borne in mind is that absent the financial windfalls that come from revenue generating mallparks catering to the economic royals of society (with minimal out-of-pocket expenses to cartel members) the game’s revenues would be nowhere near as high as they are right now. In that sense the economic prosperity of the sport is somewhat illusory. It's a bubble and bubbles eventually burst. In the marketplace, the sport continues to maximize revenues with a short term strategy that could create fallout down the road. Fewer and fewer games appear on free-TV, even over-the-radio games cannot be accessed online without a subscription and MLB and the MLBPA’s continued attempts to corner the fantasy/electronic game baseball market by making the usage of player statistics illegal without a license (and paying a fee) strikes many as excessively greedy. What was once the “people’s game” for the Joe Sixpacks of the world is slowly following the disastrous course traversed by professional boxing where excessive use of pay-per-view has relegated it to a fringe sport being rapidly overtaken by Ultimate fighting/Mixed martial arts.
The short term financial outlook for the sport is obviously rosy but there is a chance that the aforementioned bubble will burst for MLB. The greed of the various sporting cartels are putting communities where they do business deep into the red (see what may be happening soon in St. Louis) which may result in legislation in the near future to reduce the corporate welfare going to the leagues and the abuses of the cartels. The disappearance of the economic middle-class and the sport’s catering to the smaller upper class (as well as charging fees to follow games in any format) could result in a consumer backlash where fans look to minor and independent leagues for their baseball fix or simply find another sport to follow as have many former fans of boxing.
Baseball appeals to the common man since the average Joe isn’t almost seven feet tall or a 300 lb. quick-as-a-cat physical behemoth--it’s a game all can play and feel that had circumstances being different they may have been the one ’touching ‘em all’ to the roar of the crowd. This is the demographic the game needs to guard jealously and not push away. These are the ones that will stick loyally to the sport come hell or high water and allow the game to continue when hard times come. The game’s wealth is distancing itself from these ones and if the game hopes to continue its prosperity it needs to keep its core of support strong and not try to turn the fan upside down shaking them until every last penny comes tumbling out of their pockets. After all, what happens if teams have to pay for their own stadiums again and corporations start to cut back on entertainment expense due to the Wal-Mart-izing of this part of the world? MLB needs to understand that fans become customers and not the other way around.
Founder and President, Business of Sports Network, Bizball LLC, of which The Biz of Baseball is a member
It’s hard to find too much at fault with Major League Baseball in 2008. Paid attendance was at a record high for the fourth consecutive year last year; another new ballpark went online in Washington, D.C. (albeit with a grotesque level of public funding attached); there was the most unlikely (Rockies) and powerful (Red Sox) teams in the World Series, which shows that when you combine revenue-sharing, a staggering level of revenues (another record, at $6.075 billion) and lightening in a bottle (sorry, Colorado fans, but you’re seeing that that was the case last year), MLB is seeing incredible parity.
In January, MLB will unveil the biggest cable channel launch in history, with the MLB Network arriving in approx. 50 million homes. Toot your horn, and pat your back. This is something the NFL, or anyone else in American professional sports could never pull off.
Yes, things are well. Not Fairy Tale “well” but there does not seem to be a calamity that Bud Selig and the rest of MLB and the MLBPA can’t handle.
A fitting example to the book called MLB is the chapter involving MLB Advanced Media. Yes, they and the MLB Players Association finally realize that the legal system just wasn’t in their corner on the Fantasy Stats case – a case where the First Amendment trumped the argument that using players names associated with their statistics without a license was a breach of the privacy rights of the players, but then they continue to innovate and create new products which will once again make them the darlings of all professional sports when it comes to online and digital platforms. The continued increases in revenues should show that BAM is in great shape.
One of the most interesting stories has been how the development of young talent is trumping the old “we need to stock our roster with expensive veteran free agents” model. The cousin to this new paradigm is wrapping up of contracts for young talent. I’m waiting for a six-year deal with club options for a newly born prospect to occur.
2008 seems to have created issues for MLB, as opposed to MLB creating issues in 2008. The economy – especially the price of gas – has made for a case of people choosing whether they wish to stay at home and watch games, or take out a second mortgage on the house so they can fill the tank and travel to the games. When you get to the point of offering discounts based on the national average price for a gallon of gas, or give away gas cards with a ticket purchase, it seems baseball does not cure all ills. MLB is a business impacted by the downturn in the economy; just possibly not as much as other indusrtries.
The possibility has impacted attendance -- or rather, attendance is flat compared to last year, not yet a downturn -- which in turn could impact revenues. Selig wants to see another record year in attendance and the aforementioned revenues are intertwined. Kudos to Bud and Co. for trying to make lemonade out of lemons.
There is always something to improve, and here’s my list:
- The television blackout policy in MLB is nothing short of abysmal and teetering on the edge of consumer fraud. Get past the “over-the-air” territories you have created and stop making those of us with MLB Extra Innings sit and stare at blank screens each weekend, and depending on the market, much of the channels where a team 6 hours or more in drive time away is deemed “local market”.
- Quit saying that, “If <insert your favorite market looking for a stadium> doesn’t get a new facility, they can’t compete.” That’s selling snake oil. Tampa Bay is showing that they can develop talent, and with the model of using young players as your base, player payroll lowers. Few believe that without a new facility teams can’t compete any longer. Sell it on other grounds; something with less public assistance.
- Marketing players needs tending to. MLB is getting better at promoting the game, but is lagging when it comes to star players.
- Let’s hope the commoners won’t all be relegated to the upper deck and bleachers in the future. While it is a supply and demand world, the lower bowl will soon be nothing more than corporately purchased blocks of seats due to rapidly escalating pricing. And, as we all have seen, nothing is better for television than empty seats behind the plate that don’t get used that day by the suits.
Yes, I skipped the whole performance-enhancing drug issue. It's simply too politically vexing and as I've said before, its a dirge I've grown exceptionally weary of. I'll let others touch on it. Beyond that MLB is healthy and happy, for the most part. Sure, there are going to be problems, but compared to where MLB was at a decade ago, it's pretty much peaches and cream.