I'm old enough to know that things, and by things I mean life or a given set of circumstances surrounding something you care enough to bother thinking about, are rarely as bad or as good as they seem. Most of the time, these days anyway, I can keep that notion in my mind almost instinctively. If you've watched me get in arguments here over the years you probably don't believe that. I guess I don't blame you, but I'm still convinced it's true. (I just like to fight sometimes, and that I'm quite sure you all believe that.)
Some of that is because of life experience, some of that is professional experience. I've worked for a long time in a field where there are (metaphorical) bullets flying and things can change rapidly. You know I'm a lawyer, I've been foolishly open with that, so here's what I mean: I've had witnesses I've called stand up during their testimony, announce "this is bullshit" in front of a jury and try to leave the stand. I've had cases where my witnesses had so clearly lied that I apologized to the jurors for calling them and told them not to believe them in my closing argument. I've had witnesses open sealed paper evidence bags in front of juries not knowing precisely what they'd find therein, but knowing that if it wasn't quite what was described by the witness, a case I very much believed in and very much wanted to win was lost.
I've been threatened, stared down, watched when I didn't know it, and had bodily fluids and less identifiable substances (which turned out to be harmless) mailed to my office. All of which has more or less taught me that panicking is a choice. Generally speaking, it's a choice I very rarely make. (Getting angry or annoyed on the other hand...)
But I'm more than a little concerned. In a single trade, the Dodgers took on more salary commitments than the purchase price of the Milwaukee Brewers when Attanasio bought the team. And it's not that close (and by that I mean, the difference is in the tens of millions). I don't know whether it's a good trade for the Dodgers or not. I'm old enough to think that whether it's a good trade depends on whether the Dodgers win the series in the next few years. (Because, in my opinion anyway, it's titles on that matter, not who can get the most wins for the least amount of money.)
What's got me worried is that difference between the value of the contracts that the Dodgers took on and the Brewer's purchase price, whether it's 20 million or 40 million. 20 million isn't peanuts to the Brewers. It's more than the difference between their player payroll that quite plainly took them from slightly profitable to slightly in the red over the past couple of years. 20 million wasn't enough to land Fielder for a year, or Greinke for that matter, but it was as much as the Brewers could afford, probably more. 20 million is the difference between a Brewers team that might compete for a wildcard and a Brewers team you expect to win the division.
I get that rich teams still have to make good decisions. I also get that if they don't, it's not the crippling blow it is for teams like the Brewers. No one on the coasts is going to spend more than a minute or two thinking about this, and they damn sure won't care much. I heard a sports talk show host say over the weekend that "Other teams will hate the Dodgers now because they don't want to spend the money. The just don't want to." Maybe they don't. But there's also the fact that many of them just don't have it to spend. I suspect the guy who said those words knew that, but just didn't regard the teams that don't have 250 million laying around as worth much thought.
Even more annoying to me was Mattingly's comment that if people don't like it "change the rules". Yeah, thanks Don. I don't know if you noticed, but they tried to change them. That's why there wasn't a World Series back in 1994 when you were still playing for a Yankees team that could outspend any other franchise and, shockingly, were one of the best teams in the game. But you know that don't you Don? You remember Don Fehr, don't you? You remember the Yankees front office, and you're part of the Dodgers organization, and in spite of your glib "change the rules" you're part of two distinct groups of people who have everything to gain by the rules staying the same, and every reason and intent to make sure the rules can't be changed. And what's more, Don, you're smart enough to know it. So kindly take what you hope sounds like pithy wisdom and shove it right up your hypocritical ass.
We all know the Brewers can't compete with the local media contracts of any team in either league. I haven't forgotten that the last few years, and I haven't swallowed everything that Bud Selig had tried to get me to swallow when he talks about how every team has a chance and how balanced the game is. I'll give him that it's certainly fairer now than it was in the late 80's and 90's.
I'm just not sure it's going to stay that way for much longer, and I think the fact that the Dodgers' local TV deal would, assuming the commissioner allow them to do so, enable them to go out and purchase the Brewers about 4-5 times over, or the Brewers, the Royals, the A's and the Twins and run them as farm clubs makes it just a little less likely that the recently achieved status of something approaching competitive balance has a snowball's chance in hell of remaining in place. If all of this doesn't cause you concern for competitive balance in the MLB, then competitive balance isn't important to you.
It's important to me. It's more than important: it's a deal-breaker. Maybe I'm spoiled, but I'm not up for a redux of the 80's and 90's. I'll keep watching and pulling for my Brewers if they suck for 20 years. I've done that before, and while it's not fun, I'm up for it if that's what comes. I'm stubborn that way. What I'm not up for is 10-20 years of the Brewers sucking because they have little to no chance to compete financially. I hung in during the 80's and 90's because I knew that Selig (and a few others) were actually trying to fix it. I'm more than a little alarmed that those same people think the problem is solved when it's clearly not, and by the fact that there's no one else ready to take their place who seems willing to admit the truth.
I get that it's harder for the MLB to get its financial house in order than it is for just about any other sport because the local media revenues are so massive in relation to the national deals. Guess what? I don't care. If the MLB devolves, again, into a 12 team league and expects me to go watch baseball's version of the Washington Generals play in Milwaukee for 6 months a year, I'm saying right now: I'm not doing it.
I'll always be a baseball fan, and I love the MLB. But I won't go through hopelessness again. I'll walk away from the MLB altogether if the Dodger's financial ascendance, and the contract race that's sure to follow on both coasts, means that there's a caste system developing in the game again. I won't be taken for a fool. Not again. I'll just go catch the TRats 30 times a year instead of the 10 I'm doing now so I can still swing the occasional trip to Miller, and I'll still love baseball, even without the MLB.
It may not sound like it, but I'm trying not to panic. I'm trying to remember that things are rarely as bad as they seem. I just hope this isn't one of those rare times, one of those moments where keeping an even keel doesn't matter, because things are as bad as they seem, because that's the road to Bethlehem you can see in the distance, and that thing you see slouching along that road is exactly that you fear it might be.