Is There Too Much Money in Baseball?

Patrick, years ago, Joe Posnanski wrote a column proposing a ban on any mention of money on the sports page. It wasn't serious, of course. But the point was valid. The dollar amounts in pro sports are so outlandishly large it can be hard to relate to the game as merely a game.

Beyond the Marlins' appalling billion-dollar swindle of taxpayers, we all know about MLB's flawed revenue sharing and the grinding lack of parity it creates. We've all talked about TV contracts and arbitration hearings, just as we've pondered the intricacies of the NBA's salary cap and NFL's franchise tag.

The beauty of baseball for me is that none of that stuff matters one whit. It's the game where everything outside the lines can—and should be—most easily ignored. Not only money worries, but anything ancillary to the game itself. Like, say, drug scandals. Or the expanded postseason.

Granted, being a Royals' fan has a lot to do with it. Loving a downtrodden club makes being emotionally distant a necessity. Too many great players have come to KC and gone—usually to the Yankees. Too many seasons have died young. Who wants to fall in love each April only to have your heart broken every May? Thinking about the expanded playoffs, for instance, just reminds a Royals' fan that we still probably won't be good enough to make the field.

But who cares? Make fun of my Kinsella-esque rhapsodizing all you want. To the American mind, baseball is only half a sport. The other half is a pastoral fantasy—a living daydream about fresh air and green fields where we can retreat from the ugly realities of the world into the carefree timelessness of summer youth.

Like Andy in Shawshank Redemption said of the Pacific Ocean and as Ani DiFranco sang about goldfish, baseball has no memory. Unlike any other sport, the game reveals itself without any backstory. The long, loping angles and sporadic rhythms are enough to lull us and sustain us. Everything else—like the long-term inability of my favorite franchise to retain top talent—should fade away. "Moneyball," for me, essentially is an oxymoron. Ultimately, for every true fan there must be a point where the whoosh and snap of a perfect curve-ball hitting leather becomes more important than how much the pitcher got paid to throw it.

So, sure. Watching Hosmer bust into stardom should be a blast. The All-Star Game, back in KC for the first time since 1973, at our gorgeous, semi-solar powered Kauffman Stadium , will be a huge highlight this year. What excites me most about the 2012 season, though, has nothing to do with anything so specific. It isn't any particular player or team. For me, just like every other cheese-ball, pseudo-intellectual fan, the deeper thrill of the new season comes from all that cloying, mystical, sentimental stuff. What excites me most, really, is the simple, goofy, priceless springtime joy of knowing that I'll soon be at the ballpark watching a game.


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Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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