Larry Granillo has an interesting item up over at Baseball Nation today: a look at the broadcast rights fees paid to teams in 1961. Those familiar with Larry’s work know that he’s great at finding old gems in old magazines and stuff, and his finding these rights fees — which he stumbled across in a March 1961 issue of Sponsor magazine — is one of his better finds.
The high end: the Yankees, who got a combined $900K for TV and radio. The low: the Senators, who got $300K. Adjusted for inflation that’s a tad over $7 million for the Yankees and a bit over $2.3 million for Washington. In contrast, the smallest TV rights deal today is probably the Royals who pull in around $20 million or so a year. Go read the article for the whole chart.
Of course, back in 1961 the teams didn’t have to pay their players much money as they were basically indentured servants thanks to the reserve clause, so the owners did just fine, thank you. They just got a lot more money from the turnstiles than they did from the rabbit ears.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉