Basketball

Maybe comparing MLB and the NBA is not the best idea

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Shawn Marion of the Dallas Mavericks made some comments about how the NBA should get rid of its salary cap. His justification was that baseball does it and it’s just fine, so why not the NBA?

I don’t know nearly enough about the NBA to say whether it actually could survive without a cap. Team construction and television money and a whole host of other things in basketball are mostly foreign concepts to me, so even if I am philosophically predisposed to hate salary caps, I can’t offer any insight as to how that would work — or if it should even be considered — in the NBA.

But I do know that Yahoo!’s Kelly Dwyer’s rebuttal to Marion is off base:

Dearest Shawn, “baseball does it” should never be a reason for just about anything sports-related. I love the game, but MLB has undergone decades’ worth of labor strife, strikes, salary disparities, drug woes, collusion, and out and out free market chaos. Bad ownership and front office machinations are part of the reason why, but the (decreasing, but still significant) gulf between the haves and have-nots in baseball is one of the reasons why you haven’t seen some certain teams in their ever-expanding playoff bracket for years.

Hurm. That seems odd to me. Let me grab a reference book here and see what we can see:

  • LABOR: The NBA had three lockouts and/or strikes since baseball’s last work-stoppage: 2011 (161 days); 1998-99 (204 days); and 1995 (79 days);
  • DRUGS: The NBA’s drug-testing system has been described as  “inadequate,” “pathetic” and “a joke,” by federal lawmakers. There is no blood testing as exists in Major League Baseball and the NBA’s program is less transparent than most other leagues’ programs. It is widely assumed that marijuana use among NBA players is an everyday occurrence.
  • SALARY DISPARITY: Baseball’s highest-paid player is Clayton Kershaw, who will make $30,714,286 in 2014. The NBA’s highest-paid player is Kobe Bryant, who will make $30,453,805. Baseball’s minimum salary is $500,000. The NBA’s minimum salary is $490,180. Clearly the salary disparity is chasm-like in baseball compared to the NBA.
  • COLLUSION: Baseball’s history here is shameful, but collusion on a large scale ended nearly 25 years ago and resulted in a massive settlement paid by owners to players as punishment. NBA Collusion may be more piecemeal, but it is reportedly pervasive. And no one really cares.
  • BAD FRONT OFFICES/OWNERSHIP: I tried to call my NBA-fan friends in Seattle for their insight, but they all committed suicide. My other NBA fan friends were too busy discussing the merits of tanking for draft picks to return my calls.
  • GULF BETWEEN HAVES/HAVE-NOTS: Nine NBA franchises have won titles in the past 34 years. Obviously basketball is a different sport than baseball and it’s much harder to create parity when a comparitively small number of players can determine an outcome, but Jesus tapdancin’ Christ, NINE TEAMS IN 34 YEARS.

Baseball is obviously not perfect. It has a load of problems, the sorts of which we talk about here everyday. And as I said, getting rid of the salary cap may be bad news for the NBA. Multiple teams were close to freakin’ folding before the cap was instituted with the 1983 labor agreement and the nature of the sport, its business model and competitive landscape is so thoroughly informed by salary cap concerns that scrapping it could disrupt everything in ways Shawn Marion hasn’t considered.

But I do know that putting the NBA and Major League Baseball together for purposes of an apples-to-apples comparison doesn’t tell us much. And, to be honest, doesn’t exactly put the NBA in the best light. So here’s an idea: let’s assess the respective leagues and sports on their own terms rather than engage in such unintentionally illuminating exercises as the one being attempted here, OK?

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.

White Sox sign Mat Latos

Mat Latos
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Jerry Crasnick reports that the Chicago White Sox have signed Mat Latos.

Latos was pretty spiffy between 2010-2014, posting sub-3.50 ERAs each year.  Then the injuries came and he fell apart. He pitched for three teams in 2015 — the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins — with a combined 4.95 ERA in 113 innings. And he didn’t make friends on those clubs either, with reports of clubhouse strife left in his wake.

In Chicago he gets a fresh start. It doesn’t come in a park that will do him any favors — Latos and U.S. Cellular Field don’t seem like a great match — but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.

 

Jason Castro loses arbitration hearing against Astros

Jason Castro
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Veteran catcher Jason Castro and the Astros went through with an arbitration hearing over a difference of $250,000 and the three-person panel ruled in favor of the team.

That means Castro will make $5 million this season rather than his requested amount of $5.25 million. This is his final year of arbitration eligibility, so the 29-year-old catcher will be a free agent after the season.

Castro showed a lot of promise early on, including making the All-Star team at age 26 in 2013, but since then he’s hit just .217 with a .650 OPS in 230 games. His power and pitch-framing skills are a valuable combination even within sub par overall production, so 2016 will be a key year for the former first-round draft pick.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Eminent Domain and the history of the Rangers Ballpark

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump addresses supporters at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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Eminent Domain — the right of a government to take/buy private property for public use — and its implications has always been a controversial topic. It became far more controversial in the 1990s and early 2000s, however,  as the practice, which is intended for public projects like roads and stuff, was increasingly used in ways to help developers and businesses.

The controversy came to a head in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court held that general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth — not just direct public works — qualified as a “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The upshot: if someone had a good argument that a shopping mall would benefit the community, Mr. Developer and the government can force you to sell them their house.

This led to a HUGE backlash, with property rights people freaking out about what seemed like a pretty clear abuse of governmental power serving the interests of developers. Some 44 states have since passed laws outlawing the use of Eminent Domain for purely economic development. Some of that backlash has gone too far in the other direction, with some laws getting passed which not only required compensation to landowners if land was taken, but merely if land was diminished in value.  Like, if the government passes an environmental regulation which makes your private, for-profit toxic waste dump less lucrative than it was, the government has to pay you. It’s crazy stuff, really. And all of those laws notwithstanding, the topic continues to be a controversial one, with battles over what, exactly, is “public” what is a “public good” and all of that raging on. It’s rather fascinating. At least for boring nerfherders like me.

In the recent GOP presidential debate Donald Trump and Jeb Bush got into it on the topic, with Trump — a real estate developer, or course — defending the use of Eminent Domain to take land for economic development and Bush — a really desperate dude who at this point will take ANY position he can if it’ll give him traction — opposing it. In the days since they’ve continued to fight about it, with Trump charging Bush with hypocrisy since his brother, George W., was an owner of the Texas Rangers when they built their new ballpark with the help of Eminent Domain.

Ahh, yes. We finally get to baseball.

Today Nathaniel Rakich of Baseballot digs into that project and looks at how it all played out against the Eminent Domain debate. It touches on stuff we talk about a lot around here: are ballparks engines of economic development or merely for the enrichment of ballclubs? If they are built by a municipality, are they public goods? Wait, how can they be public goods if you can’t just walk into them for free? And the arguments go on.

It’s fascinating stuff showing, once again, that the real world and baseball intersect all the dang time and it’s handy to have a handle on just how, exactly, it does so.