December 24, 2021 [LINK / comment]

LOCKOUT: MLB owners play hardball

For the first time in 27 years, Major League Baseball activities have been interrupted by a labor dispute. Unlike the horrible strike in August 1994, this time there are no real consequences other than the players' faces cannot be shown on MLB team web pages. The average person is probably not even aware of the situation. The upshot is that the owners followed through with their threat to bargaom hard, resisting the players's demands for .

In the players' favor is a report that the total payroll for all 30 MLB franchises ($4.05 billion) fell by four percent in 2021 compared to a year earlier, and was the lowest since 2015 -- not counting 2020, obviously. The coronavirus has distorted all such indicators of the teams' financial health, possibly making it harder for the two sides to reach an agreement.

In today's Washington Post, Chelsea Janes argued out that the owners and players alike are treating the "middle class" in quite different ways. The fundamental problem highlighted by this negotiating impasse is the incentive to out-bid each other for top talent, while scrimping on salaries for younger players. Those in the latter group invariably perform at a far high efficiency on a dollar-for-dollar basis, while solid mid-career players often have a hard time finding jobs because contractual rigidities due in part to the MLB Players' Association.

In sum, it is not so much a dispute between players and owners so much as it is between elites and working class folks -- a situation that is aggravated, in my opinion, by huge public subsidies (via new stadiums) that become harder and harder to justify as time marches on. Fans need to protest to Commissioner Rob Manfred and to the MLB MLB Players' Association chief, Tony Clark. Our tax money should not be used to help millionaires become billionaires!

Bowl season is upon us

This year there are approximately sixty three (63) college football bowl games, pairing up teams from across the fruited plain that have at least finished with an even win-loss season. It gets more and more ridiculous every year. The University of Virginia Cavaliers will play in the inaugural Fenway Bowl (in Boston's historic Fenway Park, of course), while Virginia Tech plays in Yankee Stadium's "Pinstripe Bowl." The NCAA national championship semi-finals will take place a week from today, on New Year's Eve, rather than on New Year's Day, when all the biggest college bowls used to be scheduled. The final will be held on Monday, January 10. The football use page may (or may not) be updated to incorporate these changes, but for the time being at least it will not provide information about stadium name changes or subsequent stadiums for NFL teams that relocated, etc.

Another example of absurdity in contemporary sports is how the NFL is stretching out its regular season to 17 games, extending into the second weekend in January. I know, it's a "business" and it's all about the money, honey, but they are making short-term profits at the expense of the long-term fan enthusiasm. Eventually there's just not going to be a big enough market to keep all those pro sports operating under the terms they have been accustomed to. If I were in charge, all NFL regular season games would be completed by the end of December, all NBA regular season games would be completed by the end of April, all NHL regular season games would be completed by early April, and all MLB regular season games would be completed by the end of September. (At present they usually do.)


Kingdome update tweak

Thanks to a tip from Angel Amezquita, the Kingdome diagrams have been revised, ever-so-slightly. He provided an image suggesting that the directional compass in my diagrams were pointed the wrong way. For stadiums with opaque non-retractable domes, it can be very hard to tell from photographs alone which way is which. I had this same problem with the Superdome, and I finally solved it last May. The solution to the compass orientation puzzle revolved mainly around the gates through which fans enter the stadium. Likewise for the Kingdome, combining a knowledge of the gate locations with visual clues from the exterior of the stadium enabled me to confirm that center field pointed slightly to the right of due north, rather than east-northeast as I had previous inferred. So, those diagrams now include the letters identifying each of the seven gates, and I intend to do likewise with additional diagrams in the days and weeks to come. The Kingdome diagrams now also indicate that the home team used the dugout on the third base side, another recent innovation that I began with Wrigley Field at the beginning of this month. (For the record, I have made some tiny tweaks to the Wrigley Field diagrams since then.)

In the course of revising the Kingdome diagrams, I learned that CenturyLink Field, the home of the Seattle "Seahawks" (there is no such bird by that name, by the way) has been renamed "Lumen Field." Oh, brother. But that's not all! Stay tuned, sports fans...


I just noticed that in my November 4 blog post, I indicated that the Milwaukee Brewers' previous league pennant was in 1986, but that of course was when the Mets beat the Red Sox. The Brewers actually won their last (and thus far only) league championship in 1982, when they were in the American League and lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.