Tuesday, February 13, 2007

You know yer a nerd when you think about pro baseball as a game played by general managers rather than players

I don't think the Cubs or the White Sox are going to get anywhere near post-season play this year, but I do think it's going to be a season that's fun to watch. For me, the interesting contest will be between Cubs GM Jim "Never Saw a Buffet He Didn't Like" Williams and Sox GM Ken "I Brought You a World Champsionship, Isn't It Time to Stop Calling Me Kenny?" Williams, and their divergent spending philosophies.

To sum it up very briefly, Williams has gone the cheap route for '07, whereas Hendry has been spending like a neocon at an imperialism party. I would like to come up with a better metaphor than that, but in the meantime, that's what's going in the draft version.

Anyway, I think it's kind of ironic that the Cubs have been so free-spending lately, because perhaps more than any other team in Major League Baseball, they can count on putting 3 million asses in seats (or their fully paid no-show ghosts, at least -- since attendance is measured these days by ticket sales, and not, you know, attendance) regardless of which clump of bums they put out on the field. I mean, I'd be willing to play second base for them this year, for the league minimum of $327,000 (hell, I'd even give them an under-the-table cut rate deal for, say, $100 grand), and I do not think it would affect their bottom line one bit. And I'm a really bad second baseman. I mean, I'm pushing 40, and way past my peak ... which was, I think, when I was 8. And I wasn't very good then, even though I was close to leading the little league at drawing walks from 3rd grade pitching.

But I digress.

The specific reason for today's "nobody cares" baseball post is that I have to believe that Ken Williams is laughing his fine ass off right now. The sports sections in Chicago's daily papers (OK, their websites) today were plastered with the news that Cubs ace starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano has decided he wants him some of that moolah the Trib Co. has been showering on the likes of Alfonso Soriano like ... uh ... a urolagnia specialist at a FloMax convention ($126 million over 7 years). The Tribune quoted Zambo as saying he wants a contract extension inked before opening day, and he wants a big one:

"I'm ready to sign, and I would do my job anyway with the Cubs this year," Zambrano said. "Whatever happens, I don't want to know [anything] about a contract during the season. I want to sign with the Cubs before the season starts. If they don't sign me, sorry, but I must go. That's what Carlos Zambrano thinks."


"[Cubs general manager] Jim [Hendry] spent a lot of money. I hope he has more for 'Big Z.'"

Gotta love the self-referential third-person usage there.

This is exactly the type of thing Ken Williams said he wanted to avoid when he traded Freddy Garcia for a few prospects. A few days in advance of that trade, here's what Williams said about current major league salary levels:

"I'm worried about the industry, and the industry affects everything that the White Sox will be able to do," said Williams in a recent interview. "You simply, if you are practicing any fiscal sanity whatsoever ... I'm just disgusted."

So whose approach is going to work out better, Hendry's or Williams's? Or will they both fail? And how will we know? The Cubs are likely to draw a ton of fans no matter what, but it remains to be seen whether the Sox can continue the box office success they enjoyed last year in the aftermath of the '05 championship season.

Anyway, I'm not an economist, Captain, just a humble baseball fan, so it beats the hell outta me. The White Sox might do better than the Cubs in terms of wins and losses this year, or they might be getting themselves on track for another World Series run by '10.

And the Cubs -- hey, with this bold strategy, they could win it all. Who knows? New field manager Lou Piniella sez it's time.

HAH!!!! I crack myself up sometimes.

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