Sanity May Be Creeping Into Baseball

Brett Tomko and Luis Gonzalez have found work for 2008. But each former Dodger had to swallow hard and accept salaries at less than half of what they were paid in Chavez Ravine a year ago. Tomko took his act to Kansas City and was glad to find work. Gonzo at first disdained the Marlins one year cut rate offer but bit his tongue when he found it was his only offer and accepted a $2 million deal.

Ditto Randy Wolf, who got a cut rate incentive laden contract in San Diego, which is all injury prone players ought to get anywhere. Backup catcher Mike Lieberthal chose "to retire" when the line to hire him at $1.5 million to catch a handful of games was nonexistent.

The same pattern is being found all over baseball.

While some are finding work at cut rate prices, there are many dozens of others as yet unemployed at any price - including famous names like Bobby Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza.

Many teams are not willing - this year - to overpay for marginal players, even ones with great years in the past.

The Dodgers already with the highest league payroll resisted the impulse to overspend or take on big, big multiyear contracts.

One labor oriented guy said this smacks of collusion. We call it sanity.

The Dodgers have the biggest payroll in the National League. But it has not bought them success. They still are stuck with salaries that nobody else will touch - Juan Pierre's and Esteban Loiza's stand out.

The Dodgers aren't the only team who have paid inflated prices for players both in the past and now.

Perhaps the teams are getting smart - or perhaps they are worried about fan fallout over the offseason doping scandals in the Mitchell Report. There does seem to be some connection with player without work and those previously suspected of steroid abuse.

The owners did give their commissioner a longer contract as if their profits were the only thing that mattered but their caution on players seems, on balance, more sensible.

It's interesting one of the union chiefs said they would accept testing as if he had any choice. Do it willingly or do it because you were ordered to.

Even as this economic counterbalancing act is being played out, the fact is that the players collectively are taking in more now than they ever have in history - at a time, it must be pointed out, that the nation is NOT undergoing any kind of boom.

What this says is that it is time for baseball, and all sports, to keep their fan base.

It now takes a father the equivalent of a monthly car payment or even two weeks groceries to take his son to a Red Sox game.

That, my friends, is too much. Too much to see Sammy Sosa get paid $7 million to swing and miss at a breaking ball. Or to put it another way in today's lingo - to invest in subprime mortgages on borrowers who got no business being in the business.  

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