About the eighth grade, I think.
For some it might even be prior to that, which is a shame.
I’ve read a lot from ESPN.com, Sports Illustrated, BaseballAmerica, and even random blogs which all conclude this: Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee have better than average chances at ending up in the Bronx next season giving no chance at all to their current teams at retaining their services beyond right now.
Now I read today in the Denver Post somebody already, already, sizing Troy Tulowitzki up for his pinstripes when he’s available to leave the Rockies.
It’s four years from now!
Granted, the Rockie scenario involved Colorado trading him rather than losing him because they can’t afford him when he’s a free agent, but the point is still this: it is a financial decision to trade him, nothing else. Tulo will be 30 and in his prime.
Which begs the question: when does it stop being about the game?
And I say again, probably around the eighth grade.
As a prep star in high school I too fell victim and it began to be less about the game than it should have been. Fellow teammates also started playing for something other than the game–one of which still (at age 25) posts pictures (and stats) from his senior year of high school baseball with taglines like, “hit .443, 12 homers and still wasn’t all state” on his facebook page.
Never mind that now, with a clear dose of reality and self humility, I can say that none of us, especially the aforementioned teammate, were really all that good. We played in a small town in a small league with very little in the way of competition.
Which means we should have been the last place to find kids playing for anything but the love of the game.
My junior year, the year most often cited as the most important year for college recruiting, I was a mess. Every at-bat I was trying to drive the ball into the next area code, every ground ball I was trying to turn into a highlight reel play, every strike called against me I was taking issue with.
And I hit under .300 for the season and had an all-around lousy year.
Because I was trying to earn a scholarship.
A novel goal one might say, but the point is I was looking to make money–college is expensive and if somebody wanted to pay me to play via a free education you can bet I was going to jump at it.
At age seventeen I began playing the game to better benefit myself, not just to play the game.
I have many college friends who were also athletes while they were pursuing the undergraduate studies and many of them used to post witty paragraphs which displayed why they played the game: because they love it.
Forgetting that they were being paid and thats why they were playing, it was a nice sentiment that almost always ended with: “Because all of us will go pro, just not in sports.”
Cute, and a great use of public relations by the NCAA to reinstill confidence in the educational system as something more than the minor leagues for the NFL (which for the most part, I believe, it is or we wouldn’t have games being scheduled around TV time slots).
But it misses the point: College athletes, with the exception of the four year walk-on who doesn’t receive scholarship money, are being paid–WITH THEIR EDUCATION.
In the movie The Program there is a scene where a defensive lineman is though to be using steroids (which is ultimately is) and the coaching staff is discussing what to do about it and the ultimate decision is to do nothing because of the possibility of jeopardizing the athlete’s draft status if a steroid allegation were to leak.
Would the same be true if that athlete is accused by the Police for possession of a controlled substance, which is exactly what the coaching staff would have been doing?
If it were truly about the game, in any sport, dialogue like that would have no bearing and would be un-relatable to us, but point it fact we could relate and still do.
Baseball, probably unlike most other sports, has a system in place that all but encourages greed amongst its players. I’m not a big fan of Donald Fehr, or the baseball union in general, but what they created, the most powerful union outside (and maybe not even outside) of the UAW, could have been avoided all together if the owners tried something that hardly any big corporation ever tried: fair labor practices.
We’ve all heard the Black Sox scandal, maybe even seen the movie, but that could have been avoided if Comiskey had paid his players a livable wage.
But remember, the term “livable wage” is fluid and doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Until the mid seventies almost all players had second or third jobs outside of baseball. Baseball was their profession and there is no reason why those men couldn’t have been provided with a wage to live off of.
Because the owners chose to act like the way they did, treating players (workers) like cattle, controlling rights, withholding benefits and keeping wages down, the MLBPA was born and became a force to be reckoned with.
What they’ve been able to do is absolutely amazing and an example of what is wrong with unions to begin with: they start out because something needs to be done and end up becoming an animal nobody knows how to control.
The fact that we are already hearing rumors and whispering about the fate of a Colorado franchise that has two of the most dynamic position players in the league some four years before the scenario is even born is a clear example of that.
I’ve heard numbers like 100 million as a starting point for the Cliff Lee discussions. Something similar to Carl Crawford.
I’ve also heard bleeding heart arguments and wishful thinking that one, or both, will say, “Its okay, I don’t need 15 million per year for five years to play in the Bronx, I’ll take 9 million per year for five to stay in Tampa and enjoy success with a great group of talented ball players and win for the next five seasons.”
Won’t happen. I’d love to see it happen, but it won’t and not because the player is selfish, though he may be, but because the union won’t allow it.
Cliff Lee could very well stick his nose up to the Yankees and make CC Sabbathia look like a greedy, money hungry, jerk and pitch for Texas for the next five years for half of what Sabbathia got from the Yankees if he wanted to, but the Union would never let it happen.
Because yes, Cliff Lee has the power to do that: pick his contract and dictate his own terms. So does Carl Crawford. Next year so will Adrian Gonzales and Albert Pujols. But the other couple thousand guys the union represents can’t.
Freddy Garcia, Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Cameron, Jermaine Dye, Adam Everett, Dontrelle Willis don’t have the power to do that, and ultimately that’s who the union is (or should) be looking out for.
Lee, Crawford, Jason Werth, will all get theirs (and more) because they are top-tier players they don’t need anybody looking out for them.
Its everybody else that needs to be looked out for.
Alex Rodriguez was ne
arly the short stop for the Boston Red Sox earlier this decade but the deal was killed by the Union because it required a reconstruction of his contract. A-Rod wanted out of Texas and away from losing and wanted to win with the Red Sox, a decision as much for A-Rod as for the game itself, but if A-Rod was willing to take less money from his deal to win (what the game is about anyway), why would he union have issue with him doing it? It is his choice afterall.
Because it would set a precedent that would affect others down the road.
A decision which the union made that would leave no doubt that it stopped being about the game a long time ago.