By Jeffrey Newholm
For it’s ONE, TWO, THREE strikes you’re out at the old ballllgame! You don’t have to be a math major to understand baseball’s rules. However, it seems you need to be a CPA to understand who wins and why. The Brewers play in the major’s smallest market and are stuck with the fifth smallest TV contract (although the team cleans up quite well on parking). But analytic genius David Stearns flipped stars for prospects who became stars. Former utilityman Craig Counsell, the ultimate bullpen wizard, led the Brewers to a record 96 wins and was one struggling reliever (and win) from the World Series. With the Red Sox pummeling the Dodgers, it’s time to ask: who’s to be taken to account for the best ball-teams?
The Giants surprisingly place second in 2018 payroll with $205 million, but the team is expensively mediocre. The hated “damn” Yankees, the foil to the old Milwaukee Braves, spent sixth most at $180 million. But Aaron Boone was outmanaged in the ALDS and had to endure months of agonizing over the wild card game. And how could the Yankees be stuck in the smelly wild card? They have only themselves to blame. After blowing a 3-0 series lead over the Red Sox, the Yankees officially lifted the curse of the Bambino. Now Boston swings for its fourth title in fifteen years. They already swept the Cinderella Rockies in 2007 and now battle L.A. in a big market glee. Fox and baseball writers are having a great time (well, except for a pace-of-play bored Joe Buck). But what does this cynic think?
With a $107 million payroll, the Brewers were 22nd in MLB. That’s $1,115,000 a win. The Red Sox, meanwhile, with a whopping $228 Mil, purchased each W with $2,111,000. The Brewers are downright prudent! Well, sort of. The A’s spent a third least $80 M and is stuck in ALDS purgatory. But the Brewers are championship contenders! Indeed, so were the Royals for a time. Your 2015 World Series Champion Royals are now your 2018 104 game loser. Even this year many top Brewers are due for a raise, and maybe somewhere else. Walk-off hero Mike Moustakas can opt out and fourteen others are arbitration eligible. And beyond subjective measures, what does the play on the field indicate?
Through two games, the Red Sox clearly are baseball’s sharpest team. The team is fearless with two outs or strikes and every play appears professional and purposeful. So what’s the issue? There’s no charm. No one criticizes the Warriors play as boring. But fans openly acknowledge money’s NBA dominance. After three playoff games, few have illusions of making the finals. But in baseball, isn’t the unspoken assumption in spring “we’re all in the race”? But fewer fans felt a part of it, with attendance at its lowest mark since 2003. Also, too many teams are trying to be the next Cubs or Astros and lose to win. (Two teams already passed again). Unfortunately, the Brewers must work even harder in 2019 to overcome a team with ONE TWO 222 MILLION ways to win the old ballgame, which for weaker teams is always a shame.