New baseball season, same problems

As the 2010 Major League Baseball season approaches, many teams are spending their spring in Florida, preparing for the upcoming grind of 162 regular season games. Baseball is a sport of exactness and refined skill. Only the greatest combination of talent and practice can produce a winning baseball team. That, and cash.

The Yankees welcomed the Houston Astros on a brisk evening at George M. Stienbrennar field. White lattice mimicking the Bronx home of the bombers

Pirate outfielder Andrew McCutchen times his swing in a spring game. Photo by Evan Duncan

Pirate outfielder Andrew McCutchen times his swing in a spring game. Photo by Evan Duncan

girdles the iron grandstand that seats 16,000 spectators in Tampa. On a practice field, Yankee pitchers Andy Petite and Joba Chamberlain threw batting practice to several youngsters. A security guard commented that anyone could schedule a party and play with some Yankees. Last week, a bar mitzvah was held for the mere price of $90,000. But what else could be expected from a team whose 3rd baseman, Alex Rodriguez, will make $31 million this year alone.

Just an hour away, in Bradenton, Fla., The Pittsburgh Pirates are getting ready for their morning game with the Detroit Tigers. These Pirates will be paying their major league players about $36 million this year. That’s $4 million more than just one Yankee. With such a huge gap between payrolls, is it any surprise that the Pirates’ field, McKechnie, only holds about 6,000. Or that the Yankees are coming off of a World Series championship and the Pirates are coming off a sporting record of 17 consecutive losing seasons.

This doesn’t mean that the Pirates are hopeless. Outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Garret Jones are coming off sensational rookie seasons, and third base prospect Pedro Alvarez is projected to crack the major league lineup soon, but the Pirates roster doesn’t invoke the kind of fear that the all star filled Yankees scorecard does. It doesn’t even compare to Pirates lineups of days past, when Clemente and Stargell were household names.

Money doesn’t always equal success. The Mets have been terrible despite their huge salaries. The Tampa Bay Rays won the World Series with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, but no one can argue that money helps.

In the NFL, NHA and NBA all teams are subject to a salary cap. In baseball, teams pay what they want. The Pirates claim to be waiting till their young players develop enough to compete and then will spend to add complementing players. Pirates owner Bob Nutting told me that team really seems to be coming together, and I agree. Baseball may be getting exciting in Pittsburgh again, but it has taken a complete purge in talent in the recent years to acquire prospects. This is the correct approach for them. It’s the only choice they have. They can’t afford to buy a winning team.

Author: Evan Duncan

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