Thursday, June 7, 2007

Giambi's Gettin' Yanked by the Monopoly Man

Maybe its na├»ve, but I actually have a lot of respect for Jason Giambi. I have been a quiet supporter of his ever since his decision to stop blaming his declining performance on a host of mysterious ailments, like intestinal parasites, and admit (well sort’ve) that performance enhancing drugs had contributed to his success at the plate. He’s not offering to give back his American League MVP award or anything, but I do believe the man really has acknowledged that what he did was wrong. Many will argue, however, that his apology is moot, because he has never specifically admitted to using any controlled substances, only apologized “for doing that stuff,” allowing us to use our imagination as to what “stuff” is. Now, thanks to Bud Selig, and with a little help from the New York Yankees and Congress, a man who has chosen to step out of the shadows (a literary reference), faces contract termination and suspension for things he may have done before steroid use was ever even punishable in Major League Baseball (remember it was not until 2003 that players could be suspended for steroids use, and that was only if there was a criminal conviction).

Please don’t misunderstand my sympathy however, I am not calling Jason Giambi a saint, but I do believe that the competitive fabric of the sport is not the issue here. The Yankees are bad this year, and they’ve probably realized by now that the last season in the house that Ruth built will probably be enough to draw the crowds this summer. Hell, I’m going to New York this weekend for that very reason. Anyway, if you’re the Yankees, there is no need to have Giambi’s $20.4 million salary (making him only the third highest paid Yankee) weighing you down in a rebuilding year. But the Yankees are the ones who said they would pay him that money, and much to the dismay of the Oakland A’s fan base, Giambi agreed to take it from them. Well apparently the Yankees are now aghast at the fact that their slugger may have taken steroids while he was hitting all of those homeruns, and have decided that they don’t want to pay him anymore. Suddenly, the commissioner, has ordered Giambi to speak with former Senator George Mitchell, the man Bud Selig appointed to lead Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid use.

For me, this is the biggest rub. There are those players out there who have benefited from the use of performance enhancing drugs (if we were being honest with ourselves, probably a lot of them) who have not publicly apologized and therefore will never be fined or suspended. The truth is, you have to fail a test to get suspended, and I can’t imagine how even that would void your contract. But a voided contract is exactly what the New York Yankees want, which is why they are compelling Giambi to fully cooperate with Mitchell’s investigation.

Now you may be thinking, even though this may be an interesting moral discussion, what does this really have to do with free market sports? The real dollars and cents lies in the motivation for this entire witch hunt. The Yankees are merely taking advantage of a relatively unique situation, and acting in their own best financial interests. But why is the league so concerned with Giambi’s past discretions, which they will never be able to prove. The facts show that they are very concerned. ESPN news estimates that the Mitchell investigation is costing the league $2 million a month, and that individual teams are spending between $70 and $100 thousand a month on legal representation for themselves and their players. Keep in mind that after all of this money has been spent, George Mitchell has yet to interview a single player in 15 months. To make matters worse, the league’s public perception isn’t exactly improved by the humiliation of one of its stars.

So why go through all of this trouble? The answer is simple; the American electorate is very concerned with steroid use in Major League Baseball. So concerned, that we hold hearings in the Senate. Hearings that have no judicial basis, just hearings that give baseball’s superstars the opportunity to ruin their hall of fame hopes, or perjure themselves under oath. The truth is, Major League Baseball has to look like they are doing something, or something very valuable can be taken away from them. Remember, that the only two entities in the United States are granted monopoly rights that go beyond simple patent protection, Major League Baseball and the United States Postal Service. In the minds of our elected officials, that justifies their interest in the competitive fabric of the league, and they may have a point. It should be no surprise to anyone reading this blog that monopoly protection in any situation, even the Post Office, is not in the interests of free markets. We really don’t know what would be in the best economic interests of the league, because when we legally protect an enterprise with monopoly status, we are taking economics out of the equation. Unfortunately for Jason Giambi, his foot injury came at the wrong time, and the likely verdict will be paying the cost of landing on boardwalk after Bud Selig and the Yankees have already built a hotel there.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Will the NHL ever learn a lesson?

In case anyone wasn't sure if the NHL was still a part of the "Big 4" of pro sports in America, we have some stone-cold proof that is no longer in that group.

Neilsen Media Research is reporting that Saturday night's Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals on NBC equaled the lowest rated prime-time program in network history. It tied a July 2005 repeat of The West Wing.

I really don't have much to say about hockey as I join the rest of America in not giving half a crap about it. I am from Southeast Texas...we don't do hockey. It can't be too much longer before hockey realizes its American impact is going down the tubes and it assumes the role of a regionally popular sport that stays up north and in Canada. The NHL as a league has overextended itself, assuming that fans across the U.S. would support it. The best advice I have heard for any owner who isn't earning the dividends they want, is to move it to Canada, where it belongs in the first place.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's misguided attempts to push hockey further in America than tap into the bundles of fans in Canada is killing the league, and some owners really should consider moving franchises out of bad U.S. hockey markets. Bettman is pushing the potential owner of the Nashville Predators to stay in a moribund NHL market. And the prospective owner has said he'll agree to it, which would likely have the Predators in Nashville for seven years more. Nashville. Some people need an injection of common sense. Move it back to the great white north or continue to bleed money. It's very simple.

But hey, at least I could care less about hockey and it's ultimate fate as a second-tier sport. And not so surprisingly, I have a lot of buddies that are members of that club also.

Reasonably yours,

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LeBron brings 'em back

Where once there was indifference, enthusiasm thrives.

What was formerly a forgone conclusion has turned into something else entirely.

With the Cleveland Cavaliers making their first NBA Finals appearance, and super-duper star LeBron James comprising about 80 percent of the team, people who stopped watching in the second round are back. My friend was talking to me yesterday about a phone call from his mom, who doesn't really follow sports. She was flipping around and landed on LeBron's virtuoso importance in Game 5, and tuned in for Game 6 because it was so impressive. I find this indicative, and the NBA couldn't be happier about this turn of events.

They, like most everyone else, were ready for another tried-and-true matchup of Spurs vs. Pistons. Many could have cared less, and thus the Finals would probably have seen some truly horrid viewership. Now, with the culture that has forever been installed by the individual dominance of Michael Jordan, many sports fans will be tuning in to see if they can get a glimpse of history.

Never mind the fact that the Spurs are going to roll the Cavaliers quickly. My prediction? The Cavs win game 3 in Cleveland, and that's it. But then again, I picked Detroit to roll Cleveland too. Maybe LeBron has made the permenant jump. If so, the Spurs really are going to have their hands full. To be successful, the Cavs formula has to have LeBron excelling in some aspect of the game, whether it be scoring or hitting the open man, and at least one other Cavalier has to step up their game. In Game 3, it was a combo of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Sasha Pavlovic. In Game 4 it was a combo of Daniel Gibson and Drew Gooden. In Game 5 it was LeBron, LeBron, and another LeBron. I don't actually remember any other Cleveland players in the floor at all. Game 6, Gibson stepped up big time. So, he just needs at least one other player to step up and play well. That really isn't that far fetched. Then again, the Spurs are a much more collected, consistent version of the same style of play as the Pistons. If the Spurs can deal with LeBron on full-on attack mode, they'll succeed like I expect them to.

One of the other more interesting subplots will be how much leniency Bruce Bowen gets. The national villianization of the Spurs' showstopper reached epic levels in the last few weeks, and his constant blanketing of LeBron will probably fuel more. Likely, the biggest difference maker will be whether or not Bowen is allowed to poke, prod and bump LeBron as much as he is used to doing. If the officials let him do what he normally does, the Spurs should lock up their fourth championship handily. If the officials start giving concessions to the superstar (and this is a distinct possibility), the Cavs might have a fighting chance.

Personally, I am happy for the NBA as a league. I like to see it succeed, and I like to see people paying attention.

Here's hoping it's a close series either way. The subplots begin Thursday at 8 p.m.

Reasonably yours,

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

Billy Donovan has no personal responsibility

Well, nix that. Various sources are reporting that Billy Donovan wants out of the contract he just signed with the Magic. Come now. Really?

Evidently he really toiled with the decision in the first place, and ultimately, he should have toiled a bit longer.

And, just to name who got screwed the most, it was the Magic. Not only have they set the bar on how much they are willing to pay a coach and tipped their hand a bit, but they have also sold over 200 season tickets over the last few days to fans who wanted to see what Donovan could do with the young Magic players. If I work in the Magic front office, I am so angry right now I can't even see straight.

So, once the Magic release Donovan from the contract (and they will), he will likely be duly compensated by Florida with a hefty new contract. He might not get quite as much, but it will likely be close.

When someone signs a contract with you for a set amount of money for a set amount of years, that person is supposed to honor that contract. It's brutally simple. Learn some personal responsibility and learn to accept the decisions you make, or don't make them in the first place.

So, now the Magic have until tomorrow to decide whether or not they will release him. Boy, how weird would that be if they took a hardline stance and told him to live with his decision? Donovan accepts the decision but fails horribly in the first season because his heart isn't in it. Plus, his players would never really trust him because he was fully prepared to leave them in his dust on his was back to the swamp.

Any respect I had for Billy Donovan is now gone. I'm sure he'll be heartbroken that I disapprove of his actions.

Reasonably yours,

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