OpinionMarch 25, 2008

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Cleat Marks #3

By Madison Jones

To quote Degeneration-X’s famous line: “Are you ready?” There are only a couple of days left until the season officially kicks off. Make sure your rosters are all set and ready because Tuesday is the day! Looking through the free agent pools of several leagues, and keeping an eye on the news going on, I have a few final notes and comments before the first pitch is thrown. Let’s hop right to it.

9th inning fame and glory!

It appears there’s some confusion in the fantasy world concerning the closer situation for the Texas Rangers. Luckily for me, that’s pretty close to my back yard. I live about a mile and a half from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, so here’s the scoop on the closer spot. C.J. Wilson is the closer. He’s got the ball and it’s his job to lose. If C.J. is sitting in the free agent pool of your league, I’m sure you’ve got some dead weight you can cut to pick him up. Should Wilson falter at the job or wind up with an injury, second in line for the spot is a bit up in the air, but I’ll try to clear it up some. Eddie Guardado’s contract has $4 million dollars in bonuses attached to it. $2.5 million of that $4 million is for “games finished.” Now we all know most agents out there are not stupid, so you can rest assured that Guardado has been told he will have opportunity to close should Wilson fall flat. Without such assurance, I seriously doubt he’d have signed a contract with that much money based on closing games. However, “Everyday Eddie” has had injury issues this spring, and isn’t 100% healthy right now. He’s also fighting the flu at this very moment, but that will pass of course. There has also been a nice surprise on the mound for the Rangers this spring. His name is Kazuo Fukumori and his spring line consists of 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 walk, 0 earned runs, and 7 strikeouts. Not bad huh? He’s also plunked 2 batters and given up 2 unearned runs, so the whole thing isn’t perfect, but with what he’s shown so far, he could wind up with a shot at closing games this season as well. Not a bad idea to grab him and stash him on your bench if you’ve got the space or are desperate, and most likely he’s sitting in your free agent pool because he went undrafted in the large majority of fantasy leagues. So Wilson is the closer, with second in line being Guardado or Fukumori. Sorry I can’t get more accurate than that, but when I hear or see Joaquin Benoit’s name being tossed around or mentioned when it comes to the closer situation in Texas, I’ve just got to speak up and say something because at best, he’s fourth in line for the job.

152 million double-cheeseburgers!

The Detroit Tigers didn’t take too long to nail down their offensive cornerstone for the long term, did they? Miguel Cabrera has signed a new contract worth $152 million over the next 8 years. The contract is actually an extension though; his salary for this season is still $11.3 million, so the “new” part is the additional 7 years at an average of $20.1 million per season. Looks like a good and fair deal to me. Reasonable price for someone of Miggy’s caliber and that’s solid money for him as well. Some think he sold himself short and could have made more as a free agent, others think the deal is about right. Guess we’ll just have to see how he responds to know for sure. If he slacks off like some players do after getting a large contract, then this will be a hot topic for most of the season. If he comes out and puts up solid numbers as he always has, then I doubt there’s much talk about his contract unless he puts up MVP type of numbers (which is very possible). Time will tell the tale.

Paying the above $152 million…

I recently read an article about the new Nationals Stadium and something really caught my eye. I know it varies from area to area, but are you as annoyed by concession stand prices as I am? A Coke and two hot dogs will run someone $13.50 at the new stadium in Washington (and right around that in most ballparks – I’m not saying the Nats are overcharging, all teams overcharge). I understand teams wanting to make money, but it just never ceases to amaze me as to just how overpriced some things get. Parking is in the $10+ dollar range as well, with the exact figure just depending on which ballpark we’re talking about. So just for kicks, here’s a breakdown for one average adult male to go to a game. Let’s say $25 for their ticket, not a cheap one, but not front row either. $10 for parking. $4.50 for a coke upon arrival. As the game progresses, let’s say a bottle of beer ($6.50) and three hot dogs ($4.50 each) as the meal. A second bottle of beer to wash it down and finish the game with (another $6.50). So without going crazy, getting drunk, eating way too much, having prime seating, or anything like that, our average fan in this example spent a total of $66. Not too bad as a one-time thing I guess, but with the season being 162 games, and 81 of those games at home, being a baseball fan can be quite costly. I noticed last season that it didn’t seem many families were at the games, it was mostly single people, a group of friends, high school and college students, and company parties. Now that I’ve tossed a few numbers around, I can see why. Baseball has basically priced families out of the market. Our average fan above spent $66, so it’s not unrealistic at all to see how it would easily cost a typical family of four over $100 just to go to attend a ball game. When thinking about it like that, it saddens me that some families simply cannot afford to enjoy a game at the ballpark. At the same time, teams are in a no-win situation because if they don’t bring in stars (and their contracts) to win games, then no one will go to a game. The only way to pay for those contracts is to overcharge for everything. Really a tough situation all the way around and I wish I had a way to solve that problem with our sport. Anyone have ideas?

That’s going to wrap up this edition of Cleat Marks. I hope everyone has their alarm clocks set for Tuesday morning, or will just stay up all night to take in the first game. Ok, ok, most will just sleep as usual and check the box score at some point in the day, but for the truly die-hard baseball fans out there, cheers to you and may it be a great game!

Madison Jones is always lurking in the shadows of the Cafe. When he does venture into the forums, you can find him posting as Madison.
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