I recently asked our resident Cleveland Indians fan commenter and general gadabout Chief Wahoo to write a guest post for Walkoff Walk in which he remarked on the unique pitching matchup in tomorrow night's game. Here's what he begrudgingly emailed me today:
When I was asked to comment on the impending World Series game one matching up CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee my initial reaction was simple: eat a bowl of fuck. I just couldn't handle it. The distinct likelihood of such a scenario had been quietly bothering me for a while. I did what any good Cleveland fan would do: pretended it wasn't happening and avoid thinking about it. Like any other possible tragedy involving a Cleveland sports team it came to pass. Of course it did.
Realizing I had to deal with the situation I sat down and wrote a lengthy "fan's resignation" letter to Bud Selig. No matter how eloquently I stated my case for divorcing the sport and leaving it behind I could not submit it for publication. I knew I was lying; no way I can avoid watching game one, or the rest of the series, or next season and the one after that for that matter. It's like dating a really hot stripper. No matter how many times she steals your money, does all your drugs and bangs one of your friends you're going to answer the phone when she calls. Besides, it read entirely too much like the "fan's resignation" letter I wrote to Paul Tagliabue when the Browns left town and look where that got me.
So I come back to my original take on the matter, slightly revised: eat a bowl of fuck you fucking motherfuckers. Yeah, yeah, life ain't fair. I get it. Right now I get it a little too much. Yes, sports gods, I understand. Can't you go smite some other fans for a while? Enough of Cleveland being the Job of sporting cities. You push people too far and really, really bad things happen. This kind of protracted punishment is the reason otherwise normal men wind up going out and setting hobos on fire. They just snap. Let's discuss the logical way to prevent such a tragedy from occurring.
The playing field needs to be leveled, people. Baseball has a sickness that is going to kill it if it's not addressed and that disease is the decided competitive advantage high-revenue teams have over all the rest. I know it's been discussed here before but there is still somehow mixed opinion on the matter. This baffles me. Can anyone with even a bit of common sense deny that several teams have a clear edge at succeeding? People like to throw up the Rays as proof that a small market club can succeed. Sure they can. My very own Tribe was one game away from going to the World Series a mere two seasons ago. Matter of fact they had a pretty damned good rotation that year even as a lower revenue franchise. The issue is not the ability to win every once in a while. As things stand it is impossible for the lower revenue teams to capitalize on their success for any amount of time.
The very best the smaller teams can hope for is a good run for a year or two. Any very good player they develop is going to leave as soon as they are an unrestricted free agent. Without some sort of regulation they will leave for a bigger market and larger paycheck. I can't fault the players for making that choice; I once did the very same thing myself. The only option a small market GM has is to try to lock up promising players before they are eligible for free agency. Unfortunately this leaves you open to injury or other misfortune. For every Grady Sizemore there's a Travis Hafner.
Teams like the Yankees can afford to write off 40 million for four years to Carl Pavano and sign someone else to replace him, my team cannot. The result is that the Tribe can develop talent to the best of their ability and if they get everything exactly right they can make a run at it every six or seven years. Make a mistake or two and you don't even get that. A guy like Cashman, however, can spend like a drunken sailor knowing he's going to contend every year. This doesn't even begin to speak to the advantages the bigger clubs have in scouting and developing young talent, paying bigger signing bonuses, etc. Something's broke and it needs fixing.
I don't necessarily have the answer but I know the current system isn't it. It's not good for the sport to have such a vast gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The situation is not the fault of the Yankees; they are simply benefiting from their own success. Were it a matter of different companies selling widgets I would begrudge them nothing. Baseball is more than that, though, and needs to be treated as the unique business that it is. I attended my first Indians game at the old Municipal Stadium in 1973. This is the first year since then that I didn't catch at least one home game in Cleveland. Mind you, I've lived in New York City since 1986. A lot of time, effort and money have gone into my rooting for the team. I've got a thousand dollars worth of Tribe throwbacks hanging in my closet but right now I couldn't imagine spending a dime on anything baseball related.
You risk losing us, baseball, unless action is taken. Perhaps something akin to the NBA system will work, if not in specifics at least in intent. I know LeBron is leaving town after this season, but at least the club has a fair chance at retaining his services. It's only fair that the Indians have a fair chance at retaining Grady's services before he decides to leave after the 2011 season. Throw us a bone, Bud.