July 17, 2002
Same old song and dance

Astros owner Drayton McLane makes his annual statement of poverty to the ever-credulous Chron. He claims he's lost $105 million since he bought the team in 1993, and that he projects a cash loss of $5 million this year.

In a word: bull. Like I said, Drayton has made these claims every stinking year. The people of Houston, myself included, voted to pay for a new stadium with all the bells and whistles so that McLane could make ends meet. If he can't make a buck with Enron Astros Minute Maid Field, then I have to wonder how he ever made his fortune in the first place.

McLane's comments are the latest salvo fired by management in recent days. Last week, commissioner Bud Selig said two teams have such severe financial problems that they were in danger of not finishing the season. One team, he said, might not even make its next payroll.

That team, the Detroit Tigers, did pay its players Monday, but Selig insisted the problems he described were real.

Since allowing owners to speak publicly on labor matters, they've come forward to detail their losses and the need for significant changes in the labor agreement.

That's all this is, a salvo in the labor wars. The owners know that a strike is exceedingly unpopular, and they want to force the players' hand. The fact that not a single thing that Beelzebud and his cronies has said about their finances ("two teams can't make payroll! okay, maybe not") has been true doesn't stop them from acting as if they have credibility.

Kevin also takes his shots at McLane.

Meanwhile, the new Cleveland owner is blaming George Steinbrenner for his problems. Look, I'll stipulate that the Yankees have more money than God, and that most other teams can't compete with the Yankees' checkbook. So don't. Don't give big contracts to "proven veterans". Develop young talent and keep them for as long as they're affordable. However unfair the system may be, does it make sense to compete where you can't fight? Again, I'm struck with how often the complaints of the owners boil down to statements about their own lack of business acumen.

I guess the reason why I don't understand people who get angry with the players for their salaries and willingness to strike is that the alternate choice is to side with a bunch of even richer guys who are fundamentally dishonest. The owners have never told the truth about their finances, their every move is calculated at shifting their costs to players and fans, they threaten to relocate if they public doesn't buy them new stadia - this is who I'm supposed to root for?

I know what it means to be a fan of major league baseball. I put up with the crap because I love the game. The game is bigger than any owner or player or labor dispute. I go to Rice games when I can, I sometimes travel with my dad and uncles to see minor league games, and someday I'll coach Little League for my kids, because it reminds me that the game is more than just what you see on ESPN. It's possible that arrogance and stupidity may someday kill Major League Baseball as we know it, but the game and the love it engenders will live forever.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 17, 2002 to Baseball