Baseball and the Economy

Do you remember when Jack Ruby paid Teamsters to remove debris from Building 7 and use it to build the soundstage used to fake the moon landing? Sure, we all do. It's a key part of American history. It helped shape my cynical view of everything, and it's why I can SEE THROUGH THE LIES. I'll let the SHEEPLE follow the official story, man.

As such, I'm starting to get a little suspicious about Major League Baseball and the 2008 free agent market. Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell were not offered arbitration, even though they're likely to get multi-year deals. The Yankees did not offer arbitration to Bobby Abreu, even though an overpriced one-year deal would seem like a pretty good fit for he Yankees in a worst-case scenario. Even the Yankees, though, are expecting to cut back.

Everyone seems to be terrified -- terrified! -- of a player making too much money on a one-year contract, and they're willing to forego potential draft-pick compensation because of their terror. What is the reason for this suddenly cautious fiscal approach? Let's go to our panel:

"The poor economy has affected some things." -- Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes

"Some teams must factor in potentially serious declines in revenues." -- Jim Duquette

"(Muffled whispers of a discouraging nature, spoken to MLB executives behind closed doors)." -- Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker

"I feel things are a little different. We need to review our priorities a little bit." -- Frank McCourt, board member of COBRA, the Foot Clan, and V.E.N.O.M., and owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers

Oh. I see. The economy. If people have less money to spend, baseball gets less of that money. It makes intuitive sense, and...wait...you, in the back. The gentleman with the diamond-encrusted man-servant and the golden hovercraft. You had something to add?

"Since (MLB had) record revenues, every team, whether it be clubs receiving revenue sharing, or clubs with extraordinary seasons at the gate, trickle-down effects of a recession have historically not dramatically affected baseball." -- Scott Boras

That's kind of a word salad there, Scotty. Your dependent clause didn't really have a resolution, but I think I get the point. The important part is at the end: Recessions and baseball aren't as intertwined as recessions and small-business loans, just to give one example. I hate to agree with Scott Boras, but I'm wondering if the economic hullabaloo hasn't given the owners an excuse to say, gee, we just can't spend right now. The economy, and all that. Would you like to buy this apple?

I don't have much more than a hunch. I don't even have a graph other than this one. There isn't any evidence for my hunch, and until free agents actually start, you know, signing contracts, there won't be any. This all just feels like the 2002 offseason, when teams were terrified -- terrified! -- that their young, arbitration-eligible players would start making oodles and oodles of cash, so they just let the players walk. No arbitration, no trades. Just go into the wild, young players, and seek your fortune elsewhere. The Player's Union claimed collusion, and MLB eventually coughed up a few million with no admission of guilt.

Economics aren't really my bag, so this post has all of the polish of a forwarded e-mail chain. Consider this an Open Bud Selig is a Man Worthy of Suspicion Thread. I'd love to read arguments either way.

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