And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

67 Comments

Padres 3, Dodgers 1: The coolest thing about baseball is that all of us yakkers can spend two months talking about teams’ strengths and weaknesses and How It Will All Go, and then the games start and none of it matters one damn bit. Like the back end of the Dodgers’ bullpen, for example. Brian Wilson came in to protect a 1-0 lead, gave up a tying home run to pinch hitter Seth Smith and then a bunch of clownshoes play by Wilson and the other Dodgers allowed two more in and that was the game.

Yes, I do believe that over the course of 162 games the Dodgers bullpen — particularly Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen — will be a team strength. So this isn’t me reading too much into one game at the expense of those 162 and thus tossing out previous predictions and analysis. But we don’t consume baseball over 162 games. We consume them one game at a time, and in those individual games, anything can happen. Like Brian Wilson getting lit up for three runs in the eighth. We can never predict that, even if we can predict what may happen in six months worth of his appearances. When all you can really know with even a moderate degree of certainty is how things will play out over long periods of time, the short periods of time become that much more exciting. Unless you were a Dodgers fan last night of course.

Tough luck for Hyun-Jin Ryu, who hardly broke a sweat in keeping the padres scoreless on three hits thought seven innings, while tossing only 88 pitches. If it’s later in the season he probably comes out for the eighth here. But dude, Wilson and Jansen! That’s how it was all planned out!

Well, Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht. As do the makers of the 162-game schedule.

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $100,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Opening Day’s games (March 31). It’s $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Starts at 1:05pm ET on Opening Day. Here’s the FanDuel link.

 

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts continues to cry poor

Tom Ricketts
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
10 Comments

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?