Fortunately, it’s December so nothing bad will happen immediately except the hot stove league grinds to a halt.
The wheeling and dealing has been fun with the lowly Texas Rangers (60-102 in 2021) going hog-wild and spending \$500 million dollars on a new double play combination of Corey Seager of the Dodgers and Marcus Semien of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Dallas-Fort Worth TV market is the fifth biggest in the country according to Nielsen, and the Rangers have a new stadium to show off, so it makes sense for them to try hard to win more.
The players’ union wants to ease restrictions owners have placed on themselves to keep each other from competing too hard. So the owners have locked out the players (rather than the players go on strike).
Rob Manfred: "This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive."
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) December 2, 2021
Success in baseball has been pretty dispersed to big cities and small cities, although the performance of the huge market Los Angeles Dodgers over the last five years is potentially a worrisome harbinger that teams that are rich and smart could eventually come to dominate. Still, the Dodgers won only one World Series in those five years and are likely to emerge somewhat diminished from free agent defections this offseason like shortstop Corey Seager to the Rangers and rented hurler Max Scherzer to the Mets.
Would it be really all that bad if teams with more potential fans, like the Texas Rangers, NY Mets, and LA Angels, do better on average than teams with inevitably fewer fans, like the Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays?
From a utilitarian greatest-good-for-the-greatest-number basis, big market teams winning more often is better.
If a team with 10 million fans wins 100 games in a season, that’s a billion utils of happiness produced. If a team with 4 million fans wins 100 games in a season, that’s only 400 million utils.
You could argue that if everybody else in the country roots for a small market team and they beat a big market team in the World Series, like, say, the Kansas City Royals over the New York Mets in 2015, that makes up for the regular season. But does a brief bout of national attention for a week in late October make up for the 162 game regular season? Perhaps, but I doubt if the math works out.
I mean, Tampa Bay can’t draw fans even when they have a terrific team, like lately. (Florida teams have the problem that because their state is the main home of spring training, many Florida baseball fans have favorite teams from the North. E.g., Grandpa started rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers when he lived in Vero Beach, so now you root for the L.A. Dodgers rather than Tampa Bay or Miami.)
Here’t the fantastic view from the top deck in Pittsburgh during the Andrew McCutcheon Era.
In other baseball scraps left over, I read David Halberstam’s 1989 bestseller The Summer of ’49 about the 1949 pennant race between Joe DiMaggio’s New York Yankees and Ted Williams’ Boston Red Sox.
Halberstam was a famous journalist (The Best and the Brightest) and managed to arrange interesting interviews with every surviving participant, except DiMaggio. But Joe was always most interesting viewed through other people’s eyes, so he emerges as the most memorable figure in the book.
Joe’s little brother Dom DiMaggio, a brilliant man who went on to have a second career as an industrial tycoon, might be the most insightful interviewee. A small man to begin with, he still lost about 15 pounds over the course of the season, and that apparently was pretty normal.
Ballplayers at this time had some curious tough guy customs. For example, even if you felt like you needed a candy bar for some extra energy in the late innings, you never ate during a game, or the other players would deride you as weak. Even stranger, although you played in heavy woolen uniforms (baseball uniforms needed to be thick to withstand sliding) through the dog days of summer, you never ever drank water during a game.