Monday, August 30, 2010

Buy Me Some Peanuts and ...Bush Leaguers

A report last week from Deadspin showed that teams like the Royals, Marlins and Pirates make money despite fielding lousy teams which can't draw flies.   Because they keep costs down?  Yes, but also because of revenue sharing.

Since the mid-1990's, baseball has had a system where "big market" (think New York, LA, Chicago) teams share revenue with "small market" (think Kansas City, Tampa, Cleveland) teams.  The idea was to level the playing field, redistribute wealth, so other teams could compete.

This year, for example, the New York Yankees (baseball's Microsoft) have a payroll of $206 million, while the Pittsburgh Pirates have a payroll of $35 million.  In fact, the Yanks Alex Rodriguez ($34 million) makes as much as the entire Pirates roster.  I picture *A-Rod walking up to the Pirates batting cage and saying "I can buy you guys."  Would he want them? 

Revenue sharing hasn't worked.  Come October, big spenders dominate while little spenders make tee times.  "Moneyball" theories aside, money rules.

There are exceptions.  The Florida Marlins have won two championships and the Tampa Bay Rays won a pennant a couple of years ago.   Cleveland came within a game of the World Series a few years ago. 

Rooting for a small market team means rooting for exceptions.  Baseball does not have a salary cap like other sports or shared TV revenue like the NFL.  Baseball has the strongest players union, by far, of any professional sport and owners who often are their own worst enemies. 

(As an aside, check out "Lords Of The Realm" by John Helyar for more on the "real" history of baseball.) 

And there is revenue sharing (this year's pool is about $450 million), but now comes word that a number of owners pocket the dough for themselves.  While the idea was that teams would spend away on new players, there aren't strict guidelines on what to do with the money. 

Reminds me of the episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" where Robert goes to his brother for money due to some hard times and promptly spends it on a weekend in Vegas. 

When baseball's labor agreement is up next year and owners cry about player salaries, they won't have much leverage will they?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Beam Me Up Kiddos

Timely article in the Tribune (link below) about technology and kids.

Over the weekend I took my twins, who are entering 7th grade, to get cell phones. We agreed that they would use part of their allowance to pay for them and see how it goes.

Growing up I remember:

- Listening for my mother's ringing a cow bell when it was time to get home

- Standing in line for the pay phone in my college dorm 

- Racing home (or not leaving the house) before answering machines to wait for a phone call.  

Progress, I guess, and a teachable moment.

My kids and I have always had regular dialogue about money and the choices involved.  They had bank accounts at age 6 and an allowance tied to chores. When we go out to eat they have a choice of either getting a soda or a dollar.
I’ve always enjoyed observing personalities as they relate to money.  For example, if I gave my daughter $100 she would figure out a way to save every dime. My son? He would leverage it and try to spend $110.  My daughter’s reaction when I asked for the first month’s cell phone fee – “Dad, can I get back to you on that?”

But I have also watched them try to pool their resources for a Christmas gift. Or get out a sharp pencil to figure out how long they need to save for a game or clothing.  I have watched them burn through money, regret it, and learn from it .  Choices. Hopefully that’s the key takeaway as they grow older.

What lessons have you tried to impart about money? I would love to hear from you.,0,6396201.story

Monday, August 9, 2010

Let Them Eat Walleye

With folks in a huff over Michelle Obama’s Spanish jaunt (a New York Daily News column compared her to Marie Antoinette), I thought I'd provide a side by side comparison of the First Lady’s trip to the Gaul family’s annual trek to the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
This is strictly for comparison purposes, though if the President decided to join us next year it would create the biggest stir since pasteurization. 

Methods of Transportation:           

Obama:  Air Force Two, limousine           

Gaul:   Minivan, fishing boat


Obama:  70 Service Agents                  

Gaul:  Old English Sheepdog


Obama:  60 rooms at Costa Del Sol      

Gaul:  Two Bedroom cabin

Greeted upon Arrival by:                

Obama:  King Juan Carlos                 

Gaul:  Several hundred mosquitoes


Obama:  Sea bass tartare, lobster with seaweed risotto         

Gaul:  Burgers a la Weber


Obama:  Flamenco performance by Juan Andres Maya      

Gaul:   Bonfire guitar performance by Guillermo Gaul

Leisure activities:                           

Obama:  Swimming at a closed beach     

Gaul: Diving off the pier

Top Sightseeing attraction:            

Obama:  Alhambra Palace,  a16th century cathedral                    

Gaul:  World’s largest penny in Woodruff

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wringing Out the Clouds....

And Other Random thoughts.

Having lived in Chicago all my life, I can't recall a stretch more humid than last month. Hotter? '95 was awful. But not as humid. And not just the morning when my "el" car felt like a Russian steam bath.

I remember a David Letterman skit many years ago when he went on the street to find “Mr. Humidity,” the New Yorker who resembled a walking radiator. They say “It’s not the heat that gets you but the humidity.” Amen.

*A Rod

"A" as in asterisk. Alex Rodriguez is in elite company, the 7th player in baseball history with 600 home runs. In recent years it’s become a rather dubious group with new members Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and *A Rod each linked to steroids.

It remains to be seen where *A Rod ends up history and public perception wise. Fans seem to embrace him at arm’s length, but at age 35 he has a lot of years left.

I’m certain, however, of one thing: History will be kind to Ken Griffey Jr., who retired this year with 630 career homers and without the stain of performance enhancing drugs. Griffey was blessed with every tool except durability; otherwise he would have left Bonds, Aaron, Ruth et al. in his wake years ago.

Alternate Reality

The other night I was flipping channels and came across one of those ubiquitous reality shows. In a riveting piece of drama, a dishevled woman looks up from the couch and discovers she has overslept for whatever ridiculous, contrived activity was on tap. I looked at my wife and said, “Why didn’t the cameraman wake her?” and learned that there are actually RULES for these shows, and that the camera crews can’t get involved. Who knew? Wish I was around when the suits came up with them. I’m sure it was like the Geneva Conventions.


Time to trade the custom made suits for a D.O.C. monogram. Next up: Republican kingpin Bill Cellini. The circus is leaving town but plenty of good theater remains.

Simple Beauty

My daughter turns 3 this week. We have had a good deal of bonding time lately, much of it at the pool, as Mom cares for the new baby.

Monday night was like many this summer. Looks like rain all day, rains a bit (“The clouds are raining” she likes to say) then clears after dinner.

Off to the pool. It’s cloudy, a bit chilly, with just a handful of people. She discovers two small water bottles and brings them to me in the shallow end. Beauty salon time as she rinses my hair, then a series of turns as she fills one bottle with water from the other. Then she lies down, asking me to lie in the water, the end of her corkscrew curls dipped in water. She laughs, running the bottles under the surface.

After a while I look up. We are the only ones left. Our moment. Our summer.