During a recent CNBC interview conducted with baseball super-agent Scott Boras, responsible for representing high-profile free agents such as Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez, Boras deemed the baseball industry “recession-proof,” a remark becoming of someone who shuffles around $80 million deals with the frugality of a pre-teen at a penny arcade. Because baseball’s vending and television contracts are fixed for five- or six-year periods, baseball teams have a relatively steady cash flow, even during times of economic recession. Moreover, the fan base of Major League Baseball has proven relatively steady during earlier periods of economic recession. However, Boras has found himself in a morass; this situation is stickier than it seems.

The tentacles of the economic downturn are grabbing areas outside of television and vending contracts. Ozzie Guillen, manager of the Chicago White Sox, recognized that the financial crisis will affect the composition of teams and the nature of competition. According to Guillen, more emphasis will be placed on pitching and defense rather than on costly sluggers.

In addition to the crisis’ effect on the competitive outlook of many teams, the crisis has caused many teams to reevaluate free agency. As low-budget teams such as the Padres, Royals, Nationals and Brewers lose money and a steady fan base, their capacity to keep free agents has diminished. Such a phenomenon is a vicious cycle: As the recession diverts money from middle-tier teams, such teams can’t afford free agents. Likewise, fewer free agents for the middle-tier teams lowers the quality of the baseball those teams play, and bad baseball attracts neither fans nor money. This phenomenon, however, is not a universal one; some teams are doing just fine.

The New York Yankees are a prime example. Nothing underscores the lack of equality in the MLB that the current financial crisis has brought more than the Herculean strength of the Yankees’ financial machine. While the San Diego Padres struggle to keep Trevor Hoffman and Jake Peavy, the Yankees have managed to suck in CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira for a mere $423.5 million. The spending policy of the Bronx Bombers will not change until hell freezes over.

“We know that we’ve got some weaknesses, and we’re going to fix the problems as best we can. If that means spending money, obviously that means spending money. The philosophy has not changed.” Who said that? The Democratic Party, you say? Not quite. Yankees part-owner Hank Steinbrenner uttered those words in an interview with MLB.com, which reflect the culture of irresponsibility rampant in the Yankees’ organization. Even the Boston Red Sox had the dignity to stop bidding for Teixeira at $170 million. That extra $10 million sealed the deal, and the Yankees, instead of building talent within their organization, are again trying to buy a few postseason games.

This brings us to the prospective boon the financial crisis may bring to Major League Baseball. Though the economic downturn has limited many financial options for major league teams, it has forced teams to look within their organizations to solve problems. Instead of buying talent, as the Yankees have done, major league teams will have to look both to farm teams and within their own organizations to build a talent base. How noble that finally baseball clubs will value developing more static, cohesive teams that will require more work on the field and fewer negotiations with the likes of Scott Boras and other such money-grubbers.

Undoubtedly, those premium, pocket-picking prima donnas MLB has so delicately termed “free agents” will certainly feel the effects of the recession, if making $10 million a year instead of $15 million can be judged as “feeling it.” While top-tier free agents like Teixeira and Sabathia aren’t touched by the recession, middle-tier free agents such as Randy Johnson and Trevor Hoffman might feel insulted by their salaries next year. Perhaps the relative suffering of these free agents will put money on the back burner in terms of players’ values.

To wait on Major League Baseball to wean itself from money, however, is folly. With rising stadium costs and ever-increasing salaries, the future looks grim for baseball. Before the presence of money destroys the traditional values associated with the national pastime, perhaps the financial crisis will reduce the importance of greenbacks in the short run, so that baseball players will remember times when money was tight as they are swinging Levitra Louisville Sluggers and eating ExxonMobil apple pie a few years down the line.

Will Tamplin is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at tamplinthehoya.com. Ramblin’ Tamplin appears every other Friday in HOYA SPORTS.

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