Smash And Grab…

I wonder if a voodoo hex has somehow been visited upon ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.  Consider recent events:

  1. Analyst, Jessica Mendoza, was involved in a “serious auto accident” on a California freeway.  The reports say her car was “rear-ended at full speed”; she missed one of the telecasts but reportedly escaped serious injury.
  2. Analyst, Alex Rodriguez, was having dinner with some of the crew members after the telecast of the game Jessica Mendoza missed.  While in the restaurant, his rental car was broken into and the NY Daily News reported that about $500K worth of jewelry and electronics were stolen.

Play-by-play announcer, Matt Vasgersian, is probably spending a lot of time glancing back over his shoulder…

In reporting the robbery story, no one should be surprised that the NY Post took the nickname “A-Rod” and morphed it into “A-Rob”.  What is extremely surprising to me is that anyone would be waltzing around town with $500K worth of “stuff” in a car that they would then park on the street across from a restaurant.

Speaking obliquely about baseball, there are two “controversies” ongoing well under the surface of the games and the pennant races and the like.  The first one has to do with extending safety nets for the fans all the way down the foul lines.  I can understand some of the arguments on both sides of this one e.g.:

  • Fan safety must be a critical consideration.  Incidents of fan injury are rare.
  • Nets obstruct fans’ view slightly.  Fans can and will get used to it.
  • Nets will reduce incidents of fan interference.  Fans will get fewer souvenir baseballs.

This controversy could go on for a while.  What I hope is that it never becomes part of any negotiation for a new CBA between MLB and the MLBPA.  The current agreement runs through the 2021 baseball season; let us hope this one is put to bed before those negotiations commence.

The other controversy has to do with pay for minor league baseball players.  Some minor league players are suing MLB seeking to be recognized as hourly employees which would set a minimum wage for them and would also then apply various provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act – – such as payment for overtime and things like Spring Training.  According to reports, the lawsuit alleges that some minor league players earn only $5,500 for an entire season.

Let me do the math for you here.  At a minimum wage of $7.50 an hour, a figurative “burger-flipper” would earn $5,500 in just over 18 weeks.  There is ample debate today about raising that minimum wage level; I am not going to get into those muddy waters here but please note that raising that if I raise the minimum wager here, that will reduce the number of weeks of work that the “burger-flipper” needs to put in to match the salary of some minor league baseball players.

On one hand, MLB teams are not motivated to shell out more money for the full range of their minor league players.  After all, the vast majority of those players will never see the field in a major league game and therefore will never make even a minuscule contribution to the revenues of the major league team.  At the same time, one might wish that major league teams would not make such a narrowly focused economic decision here given that MLB teams are generally profitable enterprises.

Back in May, the NY Times published a piece on this issue and the minor-leaguers’ lawsuit and some Congressional involvement with lobbying efforts.  It will catch you up quickly on some of the highlights of this controversy; I recommend it to you.  Here is a link to that article.

Moving on …  I read recently that TV ratings for NASCAR events rose in 2019 as compared to last year.  The reason that caught my eye is that TV ratings for NASCAR had been in serious decline for the last few years so I read deeper into the report than I normally would to see if anyone had an explanation.  Generally, folks attribute this to a much more focused and energetic promotional endeavor on the part of NASCAR.  And, a significant component of that increased promotion for events is the role that the drivers play “off the track”.  NASCAR has a rule this year that every finisher in the top ten of a race must talk to the press after a race and NASCAR “encourages” all drivers to give interviews around the time of their qualification laps.

The increased interactions here presumably lead to more reports that keep NASCAR events in the news thereby increasing interest in the weekend racing.  The ratings are up a little more than 2% this year and NASCAR events average over 4 million viewers.  Those might seem like minimal increases but there have been significant increases in the “core markets” for NASCAR racing where the increased promotions have shown a 7% increase in viewership.

Finally, consider this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald from a couple of weeks ago:

“The World Korfball Championships begin this week in South Africa. Korfball is two teams of eight (four men, four women) trying to throw a ball into a netless basket. In other words, its coed basketball, but with a ridiculous name.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………