Tuesday, February 17, 2004

One of the highlights of our upcoming Spring Training trip to Arizona was going to be seeing ARod (The Rangers share Spring Training facilities with the Royals). That was nixed this weekend when the Yankees completed their trade of Soriano for ARod. At first glance, you would think the Yankees are taking on a huge payroll burden with this deal, but they are losing Soriano's salary (around 5.5M), and will likely get out of Aaron Boone's contract since he nullified it by injuring himself in a game of pickup basketball. The Rangers were also willing to help with some of the money owed ARod just to get out from under his contract.

This presents an interesting scenario. On the one hand, we see a team paying the price for vastly overpaying for a player. I think it is safe to say that we will no longer see any 10 year contracts signed in baseball. Because of the money going to ARod, the Rangers were unable to build up the rest of their team (their pitching has been awful), and subsequently they have ended the last 3 seasons in last place. Proving once again that baseball is the ultimate team sport. Having the best player in the game could not help them compete.

On the other hand, we have a team in the Yankees who are willing and able to spend as much as it takes to get the players they want. The Yankees' payroll is now around $190 Million. Add in the revenue sharing money and the luxury tax and they Yankees will spend well over $200M this year. The Royals, as a point of reference, will spend about $45M on payroll this year.

So the question is: Is this good for baseball? As a fan of a small market team, my first reaction is to say no - this is a perfect example of all that is wrong with baseball. My team has absolutely NO CHANCE of signing a player like ARod. However, when I look at the Royals this year and compare them to the Yankees, I think I'd rather have the Royals. The Royals are a collection of young, talented players who are thirsty to play and win on the Major League level. We saw that last year - the Royals started the season 9-0 and was contended into August. The team should not have done that well. With basically the same team, the Royals lost 100 games the year before. But last year showed how energy, enthusiasm, and a love of the game can propel a team. This year the team returns with some obvious gaps from a year ago plugged. Will they do better than last year? Who knows. I have a feeling they will equal or even better last year's 83 wins. Even if they don't, they will be fun to watch.

In New York, they've assembled a group of older, more grissled veterans - all of which are making a huge salary. What is their motivation? How hard will they work? Will they become baseball's rendition of this year's Oakland Raiders? Only time will tell, but this season will have lots of interesting twists and story lines to follow. The Boston/New York rivalry will be more intense than ever. It will be a fun year.

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