Maybe comparing MLB and the NBA is not the best idea

58 Comments

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?

Kolten Wong lashes out after losing his starting role with the Cardinals

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kolten Wong is no longer the only second baseman being considered for a starting role on the Cardinals’ roster, and he’s not happy about it. On Saturday, GM John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny hinted that Wong could lose playing time to Jedd Gyorko or Greg Garcia in 2017 — in other words, an infielder who brings a little more pop at the plate. Prior to the Cardinals’ game against the Marlins on Sunday, Wong gave his heated response to the media. Via Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

I don’t think you give somebody a contract for no reason,” Wong said. “When you are given a contract, you are expected to get a chance to work through some things and figure yourself out. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, all these guys never figured their stuff out until later on down the road. It’s the big leagues. It’s tough, man. For me, the biggest thing is I just need people to have my back. When that comes, it will be good. But, I think right now, it’s just staying with my play, understanding I’m working toward getting myself more consistent, understanding what kind of player I can be. If that’s going to be with another team, so be it.

When pressed, Wong said that he would rather be traded away from St. Louis than step into a limited role with the team. “I don’t want to be here wasting my time,” he told the press. “I know what kind of player I am. If I don’t have the belief here, then I’ll go somewhere else.” The 26-year-old was inked to a five-year, $25.5 million extension prior to the 2016 season, complete with a $12.5 million option and $1 million buyout.

Part of Wong’s frustration stems from the Cardinals’ backtracking on their stated commitment to him as their starting second baseman last winter. Mozeliak admitted that while Wong had the defensive tools necessary to hold down the position, he failed to impress at the plate. It’s an argument that Wong hasn’t been able to rebut this spring, going 8-for-44 with two extra bases and 10 strikeouts in camp. He hasn’t looked much better in the regular season, sustaining a career .248/.309/.370 batting line with a .678 OPS and 5.1 fWAR over four years with the organization.

Still, the second baseman feels that he should have been given some heads up that he was playing to keep his starting role this spring, admitting that he entered camp with the mentality of someone who had a guaranteed spot on the Cardinals’ roster and not someone whose job security was dependent on his day-to-day results. “I need the time to consistently figure out how to be me and succeed at this level,” said Wong. “Everybody goes through it. Not everybody is Mike Trout.”

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

Getty Images
1 Comment

Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.