Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Cautiously Excited

Hooray for the Cardinals! They started the season with a bang last night. St. Louis 7, Houston 3.

It looks like it will be another fun year to be a Cardinals fan. We are spoiled in St. Louis. We have an organization that is committed to winning, and smart about doing so. There aren't many cities that have teams with ownership and management as consistently correct with their on-field, and off-field, activities.

The part about being a Cardinals fan that's disappointing is not what our team does, but the circumstances and conditions with which they have to deal. The rest of the professional baseball structure and climate is totally chaotic, absurd and laughable. Put aside all the steroid stuff. The economic system of baseball is as screwed up as it can be.

Imagine being a fan in Tampa, Kansas City, or a number of other smaller markets. How could you possibly be excited at the start of the season knowing that the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Cubs and a few other teams are maybe 100 times more likely to be in the post-season than yours. It's just the economic reality of the situation. The big market, big spending teams have the clout, the players and the big money. And your matter how smart the management may be...has somewhere around 1/10th of the resources to try to get to the World Series.

In St. Louis, because of the loyal and fanatical following, our team has a chance to field a good, to great, club consistently. So we tend to overlook the odds. But in the small markets that only occasionally taste success, the fans are smacked in the face with the desperation of their team's situation constantly. Winning anything is a secondary, and distant, part of being a baseball fan. Just seeing a game, having a hot dog and a beer, and trying to be content with that, becomes their hum-drum way of life.

The owners in the smaller markets are only mildly motivated to buck the system because they make money. The overall value of their investment continues to climb. And, they are a part of something that's....(referring to the bottom line) economically healthy...but competitively a train wreck. They can be content with making a couple of million here and there...while their franchise sales tag continues to climb by double digits every season. Why challenge the commissioner to level the competitive landscape when things are "not so bad"?

As one guy who is sick of the constant bombardment of Yankees and Red Sox stuff, I say bring on the salary cap in baseball too. Maybe the Oaklands, Minnesotas and Pittsburghs will have a chance to win something in a couple of years. Meanwhile, Go Cards!

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