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MLB - Where Have You Gone, Joe?

By Will Meadows
Tuesday, August 20th, 2002
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"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its eyes to you."

The lines to the classic song, "Mrs. Robinson," will forever be remembered as part of the soundtrack to the hit '60s movie "The Graduate." More importantly, in sports history, this catchy phrase written by Paul Simon reminded us of days gone by since the great DiMaggio roamed centerfield for the New York Yankees. Those words still ring true today as baseball faces one of its darkest hours, and fans search for reasons to believe in the game they love.

Joe DiMaggio retired in 1951. His grace, style, and 56-game hit streak still haunt today's brand of baseball while its steroid scandals and labor rifts tear the game apart. How did baseball get in such a sorry state of affairs?

The single biggest reason for the changes not only in baseball but all of professional sports can be summed up with one word: greed. Corporate and personal greed have slowly rotted away the sport of baseball which traces back professionally to the late-1800s.

Let's begin by talking about America's contribution to the corruption of baseball. Yes, you read that right -- America, land of the free home of the brave, is partly responsible for baseball's recent demise. Now, don't get me wrong, the United States of America is the greatest country in the free world, but its culture of bigger is better and wanting something for nothing has seeped its way into baseball in a most disturbing way.

American corporations can't wait to get their names plastered all over sports stadiums to hock their insurance, orange juice, or other products not even remotely related to sports.

When Enron Corporation went belly-up in November, Houston Astros fans where up in arms. What's going to happen to Enron Field? Are the Astros going to be out millions of dollars because their sponsor went bankrupt? Please, Americas corporations where lining up at the door faster than John Madden at a buffet table. It turns out Drayton McLain went with the Houston-based Minute Maid Corporation for a whopping sum exceeding $100 million over 28 years.

Holy bank vault, Batman, that's a lot of money! So now Houston is home to Minute Maid field, better known as the Juice Box.

Owners now have an ace in the hole as far as incoming revenue is concerned. As long as the corporations continue to pay multimillions for naming rights, owners will continue to line their pockets with cash while turning their noses up at the people who fill the seats. This allows the millionaire and even billionaire owners to make have an even larger profit margin while gouging Joe Fan for a $6.00 beer and a $5.00 hotdog.

Here is where the plot thickens. Major League Baseball claims 25 of the 30 teams are losing money. It does not take an economist to figure out those kinds of numbers would lead to Major League Baseball going bankrupt. How asinine does Bud Selig and his bunch of greedy, overzealous owners think the fans of their sport are? We might be fanatics, but we are no fools.

The Texas Rangers are paying Alex Rodriguez $250 million over ten years. It doesn't take a genius to figure out if teams are shelling out that kind of cash, then they aren't struggling to pay the bills. Most baseball people will tell you that the Texas Rangers get revenue from the third-largest television contract in the league which makes them one of the wealthier teams in all of baseball.

For the people that believe the conspiracy theory that baseball is going under, I have some land to sell you in Antarctica. Baseball isn't struggling like some would like you to believe. Major League Baseball is just like the people on the street who portray homeless people, only to see them leave later in a new Cadillac.

After the All-Star Break, rumors were circulating that two teams were not going to be able to make their payroll. Commissioner Selig made comments stating that baseball would not loan the teams any money and they were on their own. Well, come to find out the Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Devil Rays were the hobos of the league. For those of you who do not know, Tampa Bay is really a minor league team who portrays a major league team on the field. Needless to say, the Devil Rays are very bad actors.

The rumors were true and both teams were bailed out by banks who loaned money with a guarantee that it would be backed by baseball's central fund. Sources claim that the fund holds $300 million dollars at various times during the year.

During the offseason, Boston Red Sox fans got a breath of fresh air in the form of a new owner. Principal owner John Henry paid $700 million for the team that is known for its Curse of the Bambino. John Henry is the former owner of the Florida Marlins. Guess who John Henry sold his Florida Marlins to before purchasing the Red Sox? Jeffrey Loria is the former owner of the Montreal Expos. Loria did such a bad job running the Expos into the ground that Major League Baseball purchased them. This was because of Loria's former team being threatened with contraction.

If the business of baseball is so bad, why would someone buy another team if there wasn't serious money to be made? Just like Enron and WorldCom, baseball is cooking their books. A $5 million dollar profit can be made into a $3 million dollar loss with some creative accounting.

In my humble opinion, heads are going to roll in the coming months as the United States Senate will likely hold hearings to set the record straight. Commissioner Bud Selig and his merry band of owners are going to face ridicule like this country has never seen before.

Until Bud Selig is booted out of office, baseball will continue to suffer at the hands of a man that lets corruption run amuck, amongst a game that is the purest of all in professional sports.

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