I do not understand the growing sentiment among baseball fans regarding voiding contracts of any Major League Baseball player who will be suspended for using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). The refrain I keep hearing over and over is, “the owners were cheated.” Look, many folks are cheated by PED users. But I promise you that one group that has never been cheated by any player trying to seek “a competitive edge” over his competition are baseball team owners. In fact, they profit even more than the cheaters themselves.
Let’s look at the ones being cheated by PED users one by one. The first group is baseball players not taking PEDs. Most players that test positive on a drug test are fringe players (with 2 notable exceptions.) The reason these fringe players turn to PEDs is because they believe they would not be on a major league roster otherwise. The difference between being in the minor leagues, and “The Show” is huge. The salary bump from being in the minors to making the major league minimum is a quantum leap. The bottom line is that the clean player languishing in AAA is the biggest victim in this mess.
When middle class folks complain about the seven and eight digit salary contract of professional athletes, they often fail to realize that a bulk of that money is provided by the sponsors and advertisers of the game. Not to mention the various television (national, regional, and local) and radio networks as well. Let us look at a hypothetical alleged PED user as an example. I call this fictitious person “Mr. X(-Rod). When Mr. X-Rod hits home runs, fans flock to the stadium to see him play. Then these fans go buy season tickets. (It’s a good thing MLB is going all-out to clean itself before owners decided to follow the NFL’s model and start charging PSLs for their season tickets.) Networks go into bidding wars for the broadcast rights. Sponsors pay to have their ads on the outfield walls where X-Rod hit his home runs over. Advertisers pay to have their ads broadcast during the games. And in some cases, during the game. So when X-Rod hits one out, the announcer would call, “This X Bomb from X-Rod was brought to you by Microsoft’s Xbox 360.”
Baseball revenues are at an all-time high, even if attendance at the ballparks themselves have decreased. Much of these new profits are from newer media such as satellite TV and internet streaming. And much, much more has come from teams starting their own television networks. When you add this to the league’s own revenue sharing, and the fact that, unlike the NHL, there is no such thing as a SALARY FLOOR, (how could the Players’ Union agree to something akin to a salary cap with no provision for teams to spend a minimum on payroll as a counterbalance?), and owners can swim in their own pool of money as if they were Scrooge McDuck or Richie Rich. The payrolls of the 2013 Houston Astros or Miami Marlins are relative chump change for their respective owners.
Ultimately, it is the fans who pay for all of this. They pay for the tickets. They pay for the cable TV. They pay for the internet access. They pay for the advertised and sponsored products (consciously or subconsciously). They pay for the merchandise such as jerseys, caps, bobble-heads, and other souvenirs. If Commissioner Bud Selig decides to void thew contracts of Ryan Braun, and other PED users tied to the Biogenesis of America clinic scandal, and is upheld by an arbitrator, then that voided money should not go back to the owners’ deep coffers. The money should go to the season ticket holders. (I know, I know, many season ticket holders are large companies and/or corporations that use the tickets mainly as a tax write-off.) There are thousands of middle class fans that are also season ticket holders, and they deserve a break more than a small group of BILLIONAIRES that had initially turned a blind eye to steroids back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, who happened to allow themselves to get bullied by a couple of union lawyers.
- The Joke That is PED’s and Ryan Braun (exquisitesportstalk.wordpress.com)
- A-Rod, MLB trying to reach fair deal on lengthy suspension (cbssports.com)