Home / Sports / Catching Up On Some News of the Sub-Super
Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011

Catching Up On Some News of the Sub-Super

Google+ Pinterest Print
Maybe it was clear only to grizzled scribes like the Observers, but a single topic seems to have dominated the sports consciousness around here for, oh, a couple of months. In the last few days, though, the Observers have detected a tremendous release of emotional energy that might, just might, allow other sports-related news to penetrate fans' minds.

To hasten that process, here are some observations about things that might have gone unnoticed as the Green and Gold swept over everyone. Up first: a genuine man-bites-dog story.


Frank
: Did you hear this thing about Gil Meche, the pitcher for the Royals?

Artie
: Make that "former pitcher," ain’a?

Frank
: Indeed. Last month he announced his retirement because his shoulder is so messed up that surgery would only give him a slight chance to continue as a reliever. But the big thing is that he's giving up the $12 million he'd be due for the final year of his contract.

Artie
: I'll bet the players' union is none too happy ’bout that.

Frank
: That was my first thought, too. The union never wants anyone leaving money on the table, even by taking less than the highest offer as a free agent.

Artie
: Didn't that kill the A-Rod trade from Texas to Boston before the ’04 season? The deal would have involved him voluntarily taking a pay cut, and the union said, "Oh, no, he won't."

Frank
: So he wound up with my Yankees and the rest is... exactly one World Series title over seven seasons. Big whoop! But I digress...

Artie
: As for Meche, good for him! He said, "I've made enough." And when you compare what he made in the last few years to what he produced, well, it was a pretty good example of overpaying.

Frank
: He signed a five-year, $55 million contract in December of ’06, which means he made $43 million from ’07 through last year.

Artie
: And for their $43 million the Royals got what?

Frank
: In both ’07 and ’08 Meche topped 200 innings with a sub-4 ERA, and in ’08 he won 14 games. But he hurt his shoulder in ’09 and in the last two years he was 6-15 with ERAs over 5. He retires at 84-83 over 10 seasons with Seattle and Kansas City.

Artie
: That contract—all guaranteed money—shows the looniness of the baseball marketplace. Yeah, Meche had a couple of OK years with Seattle, but the Royals had to go through the roof to land him—based on the hope that he'd hold up long enough to make it worth their while.

Frank
: It certainly shows why the baseball union is the most powerful in sports; it's capitalized on free agency and the owners' mania to outspend each other to make many players far richer than their performance would merit. No, a better way to say it would be that a certain level of performance often earns a contract that pays a fortune regardless of whether the performance continues.

Artie
: That doesn't make Meche or anyone else a bad guy. It just makes a lot of contracts really bad investments.

Frank
: One could say that Meche had a nice financial cushion that gave him the option of leaving early. But still, how many people would give up $12 million?

Artie
: I sure know one person who wouldn't!

Frank
: Here's a quote from his retirement announcement: "I didn't want to...be the guy making $12 million doing absolutely nothing to help their team. Yeah, a lot of people might think I'm crazy for not trying to play and making this amount of money."

Artie
: At the very least I'm sure the union—and certainly his agent—would have wanted him to negotiate a buyout.

Frank
: But here's something else he said: "I know you hear a lot of athletes say, ‘It's not for the money, it's not for the money.’ Actually, it wasn't."

Artie
: Geez, who is this guy? He's right: Everyone says it ain't about the money. But just about everyone takes as much as he can.

Frank
: Another Meche quote: "I know I'm financially good. My kids are good. That's comforting for me. I'm not a guy who's going to go and blow money."

Artie
: Yikes, a big-time athlete who doesn't spend himself into bankruptcy? This guy is not of this Earth!

Frank
: If Meche's attitude ever spread, we'd have athletes believing that their compensation should be based on their ability to perform the tasks called for—and to the level the compensation implies.

Artie
: Dream on. The union has nothing to worry about. There's only one Gil Meche!

Sorry, Mate

Frank: Coming up Sunday is something you care about and I don't—the NBA All-Star Game.

Artie
: I really dig the whole All-Star Weekend thing. The dunking, three-point, and skills contests; the rookie-sophomore game; and the big game itself. I love to watch those guys free-wheel it!

Frank
: So how do you feel about Andrew Bogut, averaging a double-double and leading the league in shot-blocking, being left off the Eastern Conference team?

Artie
: It's a disappointment, sure, but you've got to be realistic. The Bucks have played so crappy that he’s not getting the recognition. It's always gonna be tough for a guy on a losing club to make an all-star team that only goes 12-deep.

Frank
: I was thinking, why not emulate baseball and require at least one guy from each team? But that would put each conference at 15, and of course there are plenty of teams with more than one elite player.

Artie
: Yeah, and I don't want to see Kobe or D-Wade playing only 10 minutes because they've gotta use 18 guys.

Gearin' Up Again

Frank: Also Sunday there's the Daytona 500, another event only one of us is into. NASCAR has simplified its scoring system, basically making each spot in the finishing order worth one point more than the next spot, and with a few more points available for winning the race and leading laps. As the Gearhead in our operation, do you like it?

Artie
: I guess, but the only way this means anything is if the racing gets better. The last two or three years, I don't watch it much because it's so boring.

Frank
: Because of all the crackups and yellow flags and restarts?

Artie
: That's part of it, but all that stuff is happening without there being a lot of passing on the track. Maybe the last 20 or 25 laps you get some real racing, but mostly it's endurance. The cars are so generic that there's no excitement.

Frank
: I've heard some talk about how races should be shorter. Like maybe the Daytona 325?

Artie
: Shorter would be good, except that shorter would mean less time to drink beer.

Frank
: Well, it sure seems like the races go on forever. Didn't they shift some rules last year to try to make things more exciting?

Artie
: They tinkered a bit, but it didn't do much.

Must-See? UT?

Frank: The University of Texas and ESPN just made a deal to produce an "all-UT, all the time" network. It’s worth $300 million over 20 years.

Artie
: Texas has a lot of people and I suppose they'll want to see all that burnt orange. But I can't see anyone outside of Texas having much interest in this.

Frank
: But it sure is interesting. Sports Illustrated had a piece saying, "Don't think this will start a big trend because there aren't many universities like Texas," but how about USC wanting to do it? How about Ohio State, although that might not jibe with the Big Ten Network. How about Alabama or Florida wanting to do it?

Artie
: Now you're really talking must-miss TV.

Frank
: It's just more evidence that these athletic departments are corporations that happen to be affiliated with universities, and they exist to make money—not for the schools, but to perpetuate themselves. They have a product to sell, and they do it for the highest price they can get.

Artie
: So just drop the facade and start paying the players. Officially, that is.