Last week ended the radio run of Mike Francessa in NYC. He and Chris Russo were “Mike and the Mad Dog” on WFAN in NYC from about 1990 until that team dissolved about 10 years ago. Francessa continued to do the afternoon slot on WFAN until last week. There were “sports radio” programs in various cities before Mike and the Mad Dog but the popularity of that show topped any of its predecessors and basically led to the “experiment” in the early 90s of “All-Sports Stations” around the country. Russo continues his career on satellite radio and with a short program on MLB Network TV; Francessa has not revealed what he might do next. In any event, last week was the end of an era.
In a way, Mike Francessa is a latter-day Howard Cosell. If you did a poll and asked people in NYC who their favorite sports broadcaster is and in the same poll asked them who their least favorite sports broadcaster is, Francessa might top both lists. Howard Cosell did that once back in the 1970s. This situation may help you to understand how and why Mike Francessa has been part of a highly rated radio program for more than 25 years.
Bonne chance, Mike Francessa.
Last week, on Saturday to be specific, there was another “media milestone”. I saw the first “Bracketology” column on CBSSports.com. No, I did not click on it and read it; bracketology columns in mid-December are about as interesting as football’s “Mock Draft” columns are in July. I am a staunch defender of the First Amendment, but I might make an exception if someone passed a law to prevent those types of “journalism” to exist more than 2 weeks before the decisions involving tournament selection or drafting happen.
When Jeffrey Loria sold the Marlins’ franchise to an ownership group fronted by Derek Jeter, the narrative was that baseball fans in Miami would finally get an organization run by “baseball people” who would put a solid product on the field for fans to get behind. The latent love of baseball inherent in all those South Floridians would erupt and the Marlins would be relevant on a consistent basis. Let’s just say that nothing akin to that environment has emerged.
It appears that the new ownership group may not have pockets deep enough to maintain relevancy – at least for the moment. The new guys – not the hated Jeffrey Loria – are orchestrating a deconstruction that resembles the act of taking a wrecking ball to the major league roster. It is a prototypical salary dump situation. The suggestion is that the team will get the payroll down below $90M and use shared revenues to pay down ownership debt for several years and then – maybe – become relevant players in MLB. That is not what fans were led to believe would happen; the fans are not happy.
Here is how Greg Cote summarized the ongoing situation in the Miami Herald:
“Remember 10 weeks ago when we all loved Jeter?: Ah, the good old days! It was the month before last. Derek Jeter arrived as a knight on a white steed to save the Marlins and be everything for South Florida that Jeffrey Loria was not. Then he traded Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna in a flurry — a murder-us row. Loria 2.0.”
I think there is an interesting/ironic element to the Stanton trade with the Yankees that has not received a lot of attention. The only player with MLB experience the Marlins got back from the Yankees in the exchange is named “Castro” – as in Starlin Castro. Given the large Cuban-American community in Miami, that name is not going to be one to put on the marquee.
I think this unfolding story in Miami should get some folks in the mahogany suites in MLB to think about strategic direction. It would appear that the new owners in Miami are overly leveraged or without sufficient asset-backing to run the club as if they are wearing big-boy pants. Nonetheless, this ownership group was “vetted” and “approved” by MLB only months ago. Might MLB need to be a bit more stringent in whatever it does in terms of “vetting”?
In an even larger sense, perhaps MLB needs to start thinking about what Bernie Sanders rails about – income inequality. There will always be teams with owners richer than the owners of other teams; there will always be teams that generate higher revenues than competing teams; those things are unavoidable. However, MLB might want to take the extreme highs and the extreme lows on the scale and bring them a bit closer together.
If the Marlins continue their trajectory for a couple of years, the Marlins can join the A’s and the Rays as Quadruple-A teams who further develop young players for other MLB franchises. If the Marlins’ real objective is get their payroll under $90M for next year, they would join only 4 other teams who “enjoyed” that economic stature in 2017. Those teams were:
- Oakland A’s: $81.7M
- San Diego Padres: $71.6M
- Tampa Bay Rays: $69.9M
- Milwaukee Brewers: $63.1M
The A’s and the Rays are almost always in the bottom quartile of MLB in terms of salary; the Marlins have joined them in that status on frequent occasions. Given that the top teams put lineups on the field that cost more than $200M every year since 2008, there seems to be a caste system built into MLB that need not be there. I doubt this sort of thing gets much attention in the MLB Front Office – – but it should.
Finally, I try to keep political commentary out of these rants as best I can. However, consider this observation from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot from last week:
“Political football: It’s being reported that when all the write-in votes in the controversial Alabama Senate race are accounted for that Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban will finish third. Is there something in Saban’s contract that provides a bonus for that?”
By the way folks, would you be shocked to learn that “Bear” Bryant finished fourth?
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………