The routine seems the same as any Fort Myer’s February — annual "how dos" with Minnesota execs — but the whole baseball-loving world knows this trip is different. This trip could make the sick sicker, or provide a much-needed reprieve.
Ron Shapiro is Joe Mauer’s agent.
Certainly, as Shapiro represents the majors' best catcher on the precipice of free agency, he would not be doing his slimy, slithery job if he did not test open waters. It would be easy. Just string Twins fans along for one tiny little season, portray a notoriously cheap team as the bad guy, then cash in with the "haves" next winter. Mauer could get the equivalent of the GNP of Denmark at open market, and 10 percent of that could net Ron-boy an island or two.
While we would all get downright giddy to see Joe set up shop at the Fenway dish next April, it would prove baseball’s long, sick and screwed-up economics are becoming an utter sham.
My friends, the pastime is a mess. It’s a disgrace. In Boston, we enjoy life on the right side of the lunacy, but at some point, it’s going to get tougher to take this seriously. As of right now, a third of the fan bases [those of the Orioles, Jays, Indians, Royals, A’s, Nats, Reds, Astros, Pirates and Padres] know there’s a better chance of seeing flying pigs ski moguls in hell than having a pennant race in their city. Another six or seven know their playing with borrowed time — a clock that’s shrinking, according to Indian’s GM Mark Shapiro.
"The reality is the small-market teams, if run well, can still cycle and have an opportunity to get in the playoffs," Shapiro said at a Business of Baseball panel discussion for Hot Stove Cool Music. "But what’s happening is an increasingly shorter cycle. If you look at Tampa and us and Milwaukee and some of the other small-market teams, that cycle is getting smaller and smaller."
Right in the middle of this unfortunate trend lands Mauer, a good guy who deserves serious bank as much as any other athlete. The local hero allegedly wants to stay local, and if he ends up anywhere else, it will be a travesty. If it’s not Minnesota or Boston, I will throw up a little in my mouth, because if this case doesn’t pan out for the "have nots," then nothing else will. The pastime officially becomes a pony show.
"The more parity, the more fans that have hope, the better," Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said at the very same HSCM gathering. "Exactly how we get there, through revenue sharing, through changes in the CBA, rest assured, there are people far smarter than I am working on it as we speak."
Theo, I don’t think anyone has a clue how to get there. There are too many greedy, rich men benefiting from a diseased system.
For now, all we have is hope. In an agent, no less. I officially just threw up a little.