Baseball Economy

This is going to sound like blasphemy, but I admire Scott Boras. Really, the guy goes out and gets as much money as he can for his clients. Of course, The Beatles will tell you that money can't buy you love, the Dodgers, Mets, and A-Rod can tell you that money can't buy you a championship. However, Mr. Boras may have lost touch with reality. How else can you explain why Greg Maddux is still unemployed?

The days of the A-Rod and Manny Ramirez type deals are going the way of the dinosaur, and if Mr. Boras doesn't realize this, perhaps he will go right along with them.

Now this may sound like sour grapes from a Padres' fan that wanted Maddux in the starting rotation. I will admit, I thought Maddux was a good fit for the team. However, a multi-year deal with an average salary of over ten million per year is unthinkable. He probably would want a no-trade clause as well. Not that he would need it because in today's baseball economy, teams do not covet overpaid 37 year old pitchers, even if they have won 4 Cy Young awards. A team like the Padres need as much financial flexibility as they can, and if Greg Maddux does not realize this then he is not as smart as people give him credit for. So, Mr. Maddux, I hope you enjoy your new crib in Dana Point; you may end up spending more time there than you originally planned. However, whining is not allowed if you get lost on the Street of the (insert color) Lantern. You only have your agent, yourself, your REALTOR®, and the un-original city planners of Dana Point to blame. So buy a Thomas Guide®, and shut up.

Bravo to Kevin Towers for walking away. Is David Wells my first choice? No, but a 1 year deal heavily loaded with incentives is the kind of deal that fans love. The fans long for pay for performance. A deal where a pitcher of Wells caliber gets paid less than 2 million in base salary is a steal. I know that is still a lot of money to the average working fan, but you have to love it. With the potential to make another 5+ million in incentives I would expect Wells to be highly motivated to succeed. Besides, it is not lost on me that the Padres have to give up their 2nd round draft choice because they acquired Wells, thus saving the signing bonus that would have been allotted to that high of a pick, this is especially important because the Padres have the 1st overall pick and will have to pay a higher than usual signing bonus for that privilege.

There are only 2 teams where the baseball economy has not changed, where they laugh in the face of a "luxury tax" and the words "debt equity" have no meaning. That is the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Somebody should tell Larry Lucchino not to throw around the phrase, "Evil Empire". Seriously, the way the Red Sox are going the only thing that keeps them from being "Evil Empire II" (and Yankees fans are quick to point this out) is the fact they have not won a championship since 1918.

How has the economy changed? Teams trade salaries first, then players. Jason Kendall is not a Padre because the Pirates and Padres could not agree on how much of Kendall's salary the Pirates would pay. That could change now that salary will move the other way in the form of Jeff Cirillo (more on that in a minute).

KT tried to send Terrence Long and Kevin Jarvis to the Mets for Roger "I get booed when I step out of the dugout" Cedeno. The deal reportedly fell apart over a difference in salaries of 2.5 million dollars. Take the recent acquisition of Jeff Cirillo. Kevin Towers was able to spin overpaid and underachieving players in Jarvis, Wiki Gonzalez and Dave Hansen plus an underachieving 1st round draft pick in Vince Faison for a former All Star in Jeff Cirillo and a marginal pitcher in Brian Sweeney, without adding payroll; that is brilliant. Sure, Cirillo has not produced in two seasons with the Mariners. However, I would take my chances that a former All Star can turn it around rather than hope that fringe major leaguers will suddenly improve. Bill Bavasi must have been beyond desperate to move Cirillo to take on that lot.

If you listen to sports radio or read message boards, the Padres have taken a lot of heat for the moves they have made, or rather the seeming lack of moves. The criticism of the franchise that I constantly hear is that the team said when the ballpark opened that the salary would increase to 70 million per year. I'll be honest; I remember when that figure was bandied about.

However, the last time I heard the Padres organization put that out there was back in 1999 or 2000 in response to losing a number of players to free agency or trading away higher priced talent.

All of this occurred before the latest collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was signed. Sure you are familiar with the so-called luxury tax. Many of you will scoff and say that the Padres are nowhere near exceeding the luxury tax. This is true. However, what also came out of those talks was the revival of the 60/40 rule, which basically says that a team cannot have debt greater than 40 percent of its asset value. In 2002, the Padres were one of 12 teams to be in violation of the 60/40 rule. According to Forbes in March of 2002, the franchise valuation was 176 million and the debt ratio was 108 percent. Bud Selig intends to enforce the rule beginning in 2005. Most fans do not trust Major League Baseball to be honest about its economics, and with good reason.

After the David Wells signing is the first time I have read any member of the Padres organization refer to the debt equity rule. In Nick Canepa's article in the San Diego Union Tribune on January 1st, he quotes John Moores as writing to him via e-mail, ""Kevin has done a good job of maximizing personnel within the allowable budget that the MLB Debt Service rule allows. David Wells' record speaks for itself."

Is this an excuse? No, however, John Moores, Kevin Towers, Bruce Bochy, coaches, and players need to be held accountable for the performance of the team. I do not expect them to get into bidding wars with the Yankees, I ask them to be competitive. We are all tired of excuses, and we all want results. However, unlike those that are angry because the team has not spent 70 million or has not signed a big name like Bartolo Colon, I will reserve judgment until after the 2004 season. Of course, if Bruce Bochy names his son the pitching coach I am going to go ballistic. Oh, wait, that was the other San Diego sports team, my mistake.

Kim Lewis can be reached at

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