Last night, on ESPN Radio’s Brian Kenny Show, Brian Kenny posed the following question to Jayson Stark: “Is Albert Pujols hitting the market good for baseball?” Stark, being the baseball purist that he is, was a bit befuddled by the question until ultimately saying yes. I tried to wrap my mind around all of the possible answers to this. The answer I finally found was…yes. Yes, it is a great thing for baseball if Albert Pujols lands on the open market.
If your answer to this question is no than you are probably over the age of 40 and grew up watching guys like George Brett, Brooks Robinson, and Tony Gwynn play for the same team for their entire careers. When looking back at the game, you more than likely reminisce about “the old days”. I have no problems with this – we progressive thinkers need folks like you to keep us grounded every once in a while. Not because being nostalgic is of any benefit, but because you are still a fan of baseball and we all must appreciate one another as fans of the game.
But on to why Albert Pujols as a free agent is a good thing. First off, it gives me a chance to hope and pray to whatever god that people may believe in today, that my beloved Houston Astros are purchased by somebody with the deep pockets required to make a run at Mr. Pujols. I don’t care if giving him 10-years at $30 million is a bad deal. I want to be living like it’s 2005 again. I know, this is an outrageous dream, but c’mon, let me have one great dream for my team this season. We all know how much it sucks to be an Astros fan right now.
In all seriousness though, Pujols going on the open market will create a national buzz for the game of baseball. With the surge in popularity that the NFL has seen over the last half-decade or so, it can only be good for baseball. The MLB has a strong following, don’t get me wrong. But this following is only strong regionally (unless you are the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox). When baseball had the great chase for 62 in the summer of ’98, the story was plastered all over the front page of the sports section in every newspaper in America. Now imagine how much speculation will be going on until Pujols finds a home. Baseball needs a booster shot, and Albert Pujols’ impending free agency is the perfect serum.
“But what does it mean for baseball when you have a star leaving a great home for more money?” Please. How many of you have ever left a job that you have spent significant time at to join another organization solely because they want to pay you butt-loads of money? “But Griffin, professional athletes should be happy with just getting paid to play a game. What is the difference between making $200 million and $300 million?” Again, this is one of the more exhausted arguments out there. For starters, the difference is $100 million. Secondly, and more importantly, it is about the principle of the matter. As a man who possesses a uniquely rare talent, it is only fair for him to command a price for his services. Maybe we can call this something like…economics.
Baseball is a game, and always will be. However, when people are willing to pay money to watch that game, things change. The players who perform are entitled to earn some of the money that they are directly responsible for bringing in. This is extremely simple economics, my friend. Whether you like it or not, baseball is a business; a billion dollar industry. If baseball players were to play for free, I would liken that to slave labor. (I do not mean to desensitize slavery, I am only trying to make a point.)
It might be because I have dreams of watching King Albert drop bombs at Minute Maid the way he did in the 2005 NLCS. Maybe it is because I am 26-years-young and have no reason to let nostalgia influence my thinking. Maybe it’s because I have strong beliefs about people earning what they deserve based on the quality and uniqueness of the services they provide. Maybe it’s because I write about baseball and it will give me a story all throughout the summer. Whatever the reason(s), Albert Pujols becoming a free agent would be a good, no, a great thing for baseball.