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Mudville: June 17, 2024 4:25 am PDT

Hot Stove 2.0

Baseball is back.

99 days of wasted time that ended up taking a total of a couple of days to resolve.

Had the owners and MLB seriously negotiated in January everything would have started on time as usual and the Spring Training trips, the Hot Stove Season and the excitement of a new season would have been in full bloom.

But that’s all water under the bridge and what it gave us was Hot Stove 2.0. I’ve gotta tell you that I kind of like the flourish of free agency.  It was similar to the NFL and NBA where there are the days right before the official start of Free Agency where “legal tampering” can occur.  MLB teams filled in roster needs and the remaining big names began to fall into place. The trade market saw much player movement and while we expect there will still be a few more moves before Opening Day, teams are in camp playing games with an eye on the season.

It seemed like things were back to normal. The Dodgers grab the giant prize in Freddie Freeman.  Steve Cohen spends a bit more and also adds Chris Bassitt in a trade, the Braves replace Freeman with Matt Olson and give him a mega deal, and the Red Sox squeeze Trevor Story into their lineup.  Three moves by teams willing to spend to win and allowing the GM to blow past the Luxury Tax to get it done. All is back to normal. Well, not quite.

New Twin Carlos Correa

If you are a fan of BallNine there’s a strong chance you remember when The Yankees seemingly ignored the tax and made any and every move necessary to win.  A team would make an offer to a free agent, The Yankees offered more. A team wanted a prized prospect for their All-Star player, The Yankees gave them two.  Prospects were commodities and money was no object it seemed.  These aren’t George’s Yankees anymore.

Oh, they are still linked to every big-name free agent.  This seems more like an agent ploy to drive up the price or it could just be that the thousands of Twitter Baseball insiders turn a wish list into a reality.  The misinformation train gets running down the track and the fans start penciling in Correa at Short, Freeman at First and Gausman in the rotation.  After all, there was a time when that could have and would have happened.  Sign Reggie. Sign Catfish. Trade whatever it takes for Nettles and Chambliss. Sign Mussina, Matsui, El Duque, Giambi, and Damon.  Give Winfield a fortune.  Trade whatever for Paul O’Neill. The list goes on and on like the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now the list seems like it’s written on a matchbook cover.

We aren’t naïve enough to think, nor should we be angry, that owners want to make a profit.  It’s also true that teams lost a lot of money due to Covid just like many other industries.  To forget about that just isn’t fair to the owners. Reports float around that the Yankees lost hundreds of millions the past two years. Forbes Magazine reported they lost $175 million in ticket sales in 2020.  How true those numbers and reports are have minimal basis because the owners hug their books like Brian Cashman hugs prospects. That’s no small amount of money but the team is still valued at $5.2 billion.  We fans see that number and say to hell with the rest.  We know how much tickets, merchandise and chicken buckets cost and those prices will no doubt increase for 2022.  The fans will still show up and pay and expect the team to spend in much the same way.

Freddie Freeman of the LA Dodgers.

Yankee fans, for their part, put the team in a no-win situation.  They make no moves and everyone screams for Hal to sell the team right after he fires Cashman. They make moves and the same screams are even louder. Big name players sign elsewhere and the torches and pitchforks come out. It almost feels like Mudville and The Bronx might be one in the same. No joy, No hope, why bother. As a Yankee fan, I’m just as angry as everyone else that they don’t make many splash signings because it’s fun to be attached to the Evil Empire.  I’m just as confused in trying to figure out the next gain in the trade with the Twins. I’m not thrilled that the fallback plan for the outfield has been Brett Gardner for the last hundred years. I get it. I also get that other teams try to make moves to improve as well. Those teams not only stole our prized possession, but made Hal look like a fool who doesn’t know baseball.

In the not too distant past the list of teams over the Tax Threshold started with the Yankees. This year the Dodgers, Mets, Red Sox and Phillies are already over and the Padres are very close.  No mention of the Yankees in that list. The phrase “27 Rings” has become a punch line and not a source of pride. The fans want a World Series in the worst way and expect the team to put its best foot forward.  The foot used to wear a silver slipper. These days it seems to be wearing a steel-toed boot that kicks the fans in the teeth. We can’t have that. We need those teeth to eat our $20 chicken buckets.

It’s the right of the fans to feel any way they want.  It’s ok to voice displeasure and expect more.  It’s good to hold the team accountable to the fans. Unfortunately there are very few things the fans can do that will get the owners attention.  In fact, there’s only one.  It’s not getting a petition going, bringing a sign to the game, buying a ticket and chanting sell the team while you’re there for the entire game. The only real thing that will get Hal’s attention is don’t go.  Don’t spend a dime on tickets, merchandise or concessions. The only thing that seems to get his attention is money so don’t give him yours.  In fact, spend $20 on a Sell the Team Hal T shirt right here at BallNine.

Until next time, the lack of joy in Mudville has spread to The Bronx. Enjoy the shirt!

Mike Nelson is a Director of Sales by day but at night is a boomer baseball ranter who assumes the persona of Joe Blow from Mudville. His biggest baseball claim to fame was hitting for a double cycle in a sandlot game. Dick Allen was mean to him when he was 12 years old

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