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Selling the Drama: Red Sox, Collusion, and Barry Bonds PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 20 March 2008 07:19

Maury BrownIf you need any further proof that we’re nearly at Opening Day, all you had to do was read the news yesterday surrounding Major League Baseball.

If it wasn’t real news (Red Sox threatening to boycott their trip to Japan), it was stretching news into something more than it may be (collusion and Barry Bonds).

Let’s start with the Red Sox…

The story has a happy ending, sort of. For those that may not have heard, a verbal agreement made in the off-season by which coaches and support staff would receive stipend for making the trip to Japan, where the A’s and Red Sox will play their Opening Day before sold out crowds.

The problem appears to be one of communication: how much money would paid, and from where.

In the past, the stipend monies came from out of the players’ compensation pool. Each player on the trip (both Red Sox, and A’s) is pulling in $40,000.

The players believed that MLB was picking up the tab, and when they found out that the coaching staff wasn’t being compensated properly, the Red Sox players voted to boycott the last game of Spring Training, and not board the plane to Japan – an embarrassing matter for MLB given the games in Japan are sold out.

As technical matter, it should be noted that while any international play has to be approved by the MLBPA, the coaches and staff for a given team are not represented by the union. They are, for all intents and purposes, employees of their respective clubs.

The matter was resolved in just under two hours when MLB agreed to go dutch with the Red Sox: MLB covering $20,000 and the Red Sox picking up the difference per individual.

If this seems like a happy ending, one has to ask, how in the world a $6.075 billion industry continues to handle details so poorly on occasion? Why isn’t the stipend for coaches, managers, and staff not detailed in writing? Many of the players have said that the coaches and staff are under paid and under appreciated. With Commissioner Selig touting the massive growth in terms of money (the aforementioned $6.075 billion in gross revenues) and continued records in attendance, one would think that they could handle taking care of the details on a trip they see as important to international growth. If the message wasn’t received after yesterday’s actions, let’s hope today they’re hearing this: detail exactly how much, and by whom the managers, coaches, and staff are getting paid for these international games. No other major corporation would handle matters in such a shoddy manner.

The other news yesterday was that MLB clubs are colluding to keep that evil Barry Bonds guy out of the game, and that the MLBPA is leading a crusade on behalf of Mr. Homerun King.

If that sounds over the top, well… blame headline writers.

Here’s the facts: the MLBPA gauges the free agent market every season. They’re always looking to see if there may be impropriety by way of collusion with the clubs. So, in other words, this is as much about Kenny Lofton, and Mike Piazza, as it is about Barry Lamar Bonds.

And, let’s be honest, there are two sides to Bonds’ situation. Would he add pop to any lineup? Most certainly. We can argue whether he would be a liability in the field, but in terms of his offensive presence, he could certainly add value to most any team.

The big question is, how much is Bonds asking? And, is it worth it for the amount of baggage that comes with? Those two issues, alone, are worth casting a cautious eye on him, and saying, “We’ll pass.” Hey, if Barry is looking for the reported $10 million for a season (he made $16.4 million last season), is he really worth it? He may simply be pricing himself out of the market.

By the way, if one is saying that taking a pass on Bonds is because he’ll be wrapped up in court fighting his perjury charges, that excuse doesn’t fly. Bonds will, at the earliest, be in court this Fall after the season is over.

So, please, please, please, get me to Opening Day. Every year, there’s drama to sell. A player wanting a contract. It’s the money, money, money. Granted, baseball is a business, but at least once the season has started, these stories go into the rearview mirror… until next season.


Maury Brown

Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer.

Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.



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