I remember when free agency first rolled around more than 30 years ago, and my first reaction was that if these guys are now being paid this kind of money, how badly were the guys from earlier generations getting hosed all those years?
That was an understandable conclusion, but significantly flawed, because the likely biggest reason that the dough started to flow so much after 1975 was that there was so much more dough to flow.
In short, the pie got a lot bigger. Our hobby would be a tidy microcosm of what happened in MLB. albeit perhaps an alarming one. The wild expansion of baseball card revenue in the early 1980s helped produce a bloated collector base, which in turn prompted a grotesque overproduction of cards, ultimately yielding a much smaller hobby/industry that was more clearly in line with reality.
It sure seems like that’s the path that Major League Baseball is on these days as the scale of the sport becomes ever-more grandiose and, dare we say, bloated.
And this was the second thing that I feared when I started to see huge contracts be shoved at ballplayers: that the “sport” would allow its structure to become such an expensive undertaking that eventually the very attributes that fostered the game’s popularity would be severely eroded, if not eliminated outright.
Already the voracious appetite for revenue has placed MLB on a course that virtually guarantees that someday a charming little Mrs. Butterworth patch will someday be sewn first on the sleeve and then ultimately dotted around the front and the back of the uniform itself.
Now that’s something to be very afraid of, when Alex Rodriguez’s jersey starts to make him look like a flair-besotted waitress at a TGI Fridays.
(Associate editor Tom Bartsch contributed to this piece by coming up with the word “flair” for me, which does not show up in conventional dictionaries with a noun usage in that fashion. He also helped me with the TGI Fridays thingy.)