Monday, April 12, 2010

The New Yorker on the New Baseball Season

Ben McGrath has a great preview of the baseball season in this week's New Yorker. Somehow the New Yorker's baseball coverage always seems to pinpoint the big themes of the season but frames them in a romantic, rose colored way. I highly recommend this article. There were many things I could quote but the passage below struck me as interesting because MLB is one of the few businesses that doesn't rush their best products to the consumer. Instead, the system's rules make it advantageous to make players like Stephen Strasburg, and the Giant's Bust Posey who is hitting .600 in the Minors, sit until just before mid-year. Funny system that baseball, but it's great to have it back just the same.

"The rules governing when a baseball player is first eligible to file for salary arbitration and free agency, and thereby earn what he deserves, are dependent upon his years of major-league service (six, in the case of free agency), so the decision about when a team should start the clock ticking is crucial, and complicated. Those early years in a future star’s career are often his most valuable, even if he has not yet reached his prime. If he’s good and he’s green, chances are he’s a relative bargain, and in delaying his arrival on the big stage by a few months a team can postpone for a year the inevitable attempts at poaching by, say, the Yankees. Shrewd miserliness is one of those things that sports fans can appreciate in the abstract (hey, it’s in our long-term interest, too, to hoard the talent), but it rankles all the same. We’ve bought our tickets, and we want to see the best players on the field"