By Anthony Pulverenti, Opinion Writer
The most important day of the year is fast approaching. On February 13th baseball players will awaken from hibernation and report to Spring Training to prepare for the 2018 season. But, oddly enough, it appears some teams did not get the memo that there was in fact going to be a baseball season. The top ten free agents of the offseason remain unsigned, and may not have a team to report to on February 13th. Some teams, such as the Marlins and Pirates have traded away their top talent, maybe forgetting that the goal in baseball is to win as many of the 162 games as possible. It appears that team owners care more about their bank accounts and less about putting out a competitive team for their fans.
Let us first take a look at the Miami Marlins. Derek Jeter, the former Yankee shortstop and my favorite player growing up, purchased the team in August. Though the Marlins had a rough season in 2017, they still managed to finish in second place in the National League Eastern Division behind the Washington Nationals. Instead of adding pieces to a talented Miami roster, Derek Jeter and his partners decided to part ways with much of their talent. On December 11th, the team traded the 2017 National League Most Valuable Player, Giancarlo Stanton, to the Yankees for a minimal return. As a Yankees fan I could not be more happy about this move because Giancarlo Stanton and Yankee right fielder Aaron Judge may very well combine to hit a thousand home runs next year, give or take a few. But as a fan of baseball, I found the move to be disastrous for the sport. The reason the Marlins chose to trade Giancarlo Stanton is because they did not want to pay the rest of his hefty contract. The move was made purely for financial reasons. The Marlins decided that the 25 million dollars Giancarlo Stanton makes a year could be better allocated by putting it right into the pockets of the owners.
Sadly, the tear down of the team did not end there. The Marlins traded other great talent including shortstop Dee Gordon, left fielder Marcell Ozuna, and center fielder Christian Yelich. A team once stacked with talent is now going to report to Spring Training knowing full well that they will not produce a competitive team for the 2018 season. Marlins fans are frustrated and understandably so. Why should fans spend their precious dollars on tickets for a team that would have lost to my little league team (my team did win the championship in 2006, no big deal)? The Marlins are not the only team to trade away valuable talent this year. The Pitsburg Pirates traded away their star player in Andrew McCutchen and ace pitcher Gerrit Cole. It would be one thing if these teams made these trades to acquire young talent for the future, but unfortunately these trades were made solely for financial gain.
If that wasn’t bad enough, teams have also become reluctant to spend money on free agents. The top ten free agents remain unsigned, even though the addition of one of these players could greatly improve the team that signs them. Owners do not want to shell out the cash that it would take to sign these players and appear to happily accept that there teams will be nothing short of mediocre during the 2018 season. The Mets, for example, could greatly improve with the addition of a power hitting third baseman. And it just so happens that Mike Moustakas, a third baseman who hit 38 homeruns last season, is looking for a team. But, it appears that the Mets are not interested in bringing him to Queens next season. The Mets are not a team that lacks financial might. They have the means to sign him, but Mets owner Fred Wilpon would prefer if the money it would take to sign Moustakas remained safe and secure in his wallet.
According to an article published by Forbes in 2017, the average Major Leauge Baseball team has an average worth of 1.54 billion dollars. Even the teams that lack the financial strength of the juggernauts like the Yankees and Dodgers have plenty of money to spend. This past September, every team in baseball was paid 50 million dollars by Disney for the purchase of a streaming service called BAMtech. However, instead of investing that money into the team, it appears many MLB owners have decided to hold onto it. Owners are not spending the money to create a winning team, yet they still expect a fan to pay fifty dollars for a nosebleed seat and ten dollars for a hotdog that most certainly was not made with love.
I am lucky enough to be a fan of a team that has decided that putting a good product out for the fans is important. The Yankees, Red Sox, Astros, Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, and Cubs are all teams that have invested in their team and spent a small portion of their worth on fielding a competitive and exciting ballclub. I can already hear the complaints “those teams are trying to buy their championships”. Well here’s a question, what’s wrong with that? Every team has more money than they know what to do with. I personally would rather be a fan of a team that spends money to try to win a championship then a team that holds onto it, never to be seen again. I am looking forward to the start of the 2018 season, but I know that if I was a Marlins or Pirates fan, I may just be indifferent to the start of what will inevitably be another losing season.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 30th print edition.
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