“Get rid of Braun?” Yeah, sure, OK

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The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s editorial about the Ryan Braun stuff is hilarious. And not just for this part, which suggests that Ryan Braun’s PED use has been so pervasive that it has given him the ability to fly:

Braun is paying a pittance to leave one of the worst teams in the majors for a few months to work out in the comfort of California’s azure skies.

I picture him doing ab crunches on a cloud.

No, the really silly part of it is the editorial’s main argument: Brewers owner Mark Attanasio should simply make Ryan Braun go away:

Ryan Braun has to go.

Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has an opportunity to make the most powerful statement any owner has ever made about what the game of baseball should be and what it should not be. Attanasio can make a statement that would reverberate across the many other venues of professional sports infected by the plague of doping … Attanasio has a chance to make the Milwaukee Brewers franchise an example for the rest of professional sports: He can do that by getting rid of Ryan Braun.

Nowhere do the J-S’s editors say how Attanasio should “get rid” of Braun. If they had bothered to consult the many able members of their sports department they would have realized that the only way to do that is to release him. In which case they would still owe him all of the money remaining on his contract and that Braun would be able to sign on as a free agent with any team in baseball for the major league minimum salary.

You don’t think the Cubs or Cardinals or Reds would pay a few hundred grand to Braun next year? Indeed, I can’t think of a single team in the major leagues that wouldn’t at that price, PED taint or no. It would be quite the scene, though, if he joined an NL Central team and hit against a punchless Brewers team for the next five or six years.

But of course this is the logical conclusion of a culture in which treating drug offenders in baseball as something worse than mere drug offenders is the order of the day. Acting as if this is some grand opera instead of a sport with a disciplinary system that is working pretty well, actually, and which takes players from their teams and allows them to return after they’ve paid their price. Major League Baseball is not tough enough to police itself, these people implicitly believe, so the league requires their superior moral insight to tell them what they should really do.

Except most of the people doing this don’t understand the sport at all and have lost all perspective with respect to the issue.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts continues to cry poor

Tom Ricketts
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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MLB owners and the MLB Players Association continue to hash out details, some in public, about a 2020 baseball season. The owners have been suggesting a shorter season, claiming that they lose money on every game played without fans in attendance. The union wants a longer season, since players are — as per the March agreement — being paid a prorated salary. Players thus make more money over the 114 games the MLBPA suggested than the 50 or so the owners want.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has been among the more vocal owners in recent weeks, claiming that the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing shutdown of MLB has greatly hurt MLB owners’ business. Speaking to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Ricketts claimed, “The scale of losses across the league is biblical.”

Ricketts said, “Here’s something I hope baseball fans understand. Most baseball owners don’t take money out of their team. They raise all the revenue they can from tickets and media rights, and they take out their expenses, and they give all the money left to their GM to spend.” Ricketts continued, “The league itself does not make a lot of cash. I think there is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out and it’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, it isn’t. Because no one anticipated a pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole.”

Pertaining to Ricketts’ claim that “the league itself does not make a lot of cash,” Forbes reported in December that, for the 17th consecutive season, MLB set a new revenue record, this time at $10.7 billion. In accounting, revenues are calculated before factoring in expenses, but unless the league has $10 billion in expenses, I cannot think of a way in which Ricketts’ statement can be true.

MLB owners notably don’t open their accounting books to the public. Because the owners were crying poor during negotiations, the MLBPA asked them to provide proof of financial distress. The owners haven’t provided those documents. Thus, unless Ricketts opens his books, his claim can be proven neither true nor false, and should be taken with the largest of salt grains. If owners really are hurting as badly as they say they are, they should be more than willing to prove it. That they don’t readily provide that proof suggests they are being misleading.

It’s worth noting that the Ricketts family has a history of not being forthcoming about their money. Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts got into hot water last year after it was found he had used inaccurate information when paying property taxes. In 2007, he bought two properties and demolished both, building a new, state-of-the-art house. For years, Ricketts used information pertaining to the older, demolished property rather than the current property, which drastically lowered his property taxes. Based on the adjustment, Ricketts’ property taxes increased from $828,000 to $1.96 million for 2019, according to The Chicago Tribune. Ricketts also had to pay back taxes for the previous three years.

At any rate, the owners want to pass off the financial risk of doing business onto their labor force. As we have noted here countless times, there is inherent risk in doing business. Owning a Major League Baseball team has, for decades, been nearly risk-free, which has benefited both the owners and, to a lesser extent, its workforce. The pandemic has thrown a wrench into everybody’s plans, but the financial losses these last three months are part of the risk. Furthermore, when teams have done much better business than expected, the owners haven’t benevolently spread that wealth out to their players, so why should the players forfeit even more of their pay than they already are when times are tough?