[Update: as expected, the Dodgers have indeed now also signed the largest pitching contract in the history of the game as well. Yoshinobu Yamamoto has inked a 12-year contract for $325 million, and Los Angeles will be paying another $50 million plus in posting fee to his team in Japan. Does this change anyone’s mind, to agree that baseball is broken? Or do I need to insert the “This is fine” GIF?]
My love of the game, at least at the major-league level, has been on thin ice over the past few years. It began to decline in 2020, when the pandemic showed me I could live without it. Subsequent events, which I won't get into, damaged the game further, and the fact the D-backs sucked didn't help. By the end of 2021, and through 2022, I only watched the games I was obliged to, for recap purposes, and stopped going to Chase Field entirely. There were simply better, more enjoyable ways to spend the time.
However, this year checked the downward trend. It began with the World Baseball Classic, where the UK vs. Colombia game was the most fun I'd had at the ballpark in decades. The rule changes made for a far brighter, faster paced game: I was no longer spending four hours a night watching millionaires adjusting their batting gloves. And the D-backs - at least for the first half - were involved in a competitive NL West race. They may have 'backed into the postseason' (TM), but they then went on a storybook run to the World Series. All seemed at least somewhat alright with the game again.
But events this week have reversed all that progress. It's no exaggeration to say, I'm now back to the point where I'm wondering, why the hell I should care about the great bulk of the season. For the Shohei Ohtani deal has destroyed any illusion of competitive balance in MLB. The team with near-infinite resources, which won the division by sixteen games this year, just added the best player in the American League for the next decade, and over that time will be paying him IN TOTAL less that the Diamondbacks paid Madison Bumgarner for 16.2 innings this season.
Can anyone explain exactly why I should even bother watching the first 162 games next year? Because it seems an utterly pointless endeavor. Might as well skip the entire regular season, and tune in for the playoffs. Hopefully, to cheer on the wild-card Diamondbacks - but if not, to support whatever team is playing the yet again NL West champion Dodgers. Oh, I'm sure the deal with Ohtani, in which 97.1% of his salary is deferred, and they will be paying $68 million to the 49-year-old in 2044, is "legal". But it makes a complete mockery of the system supposedly in place to ensure competitive balance.
Rather than fair market value, Los Angeles will instead be paying Ohtani less than half of what Arizona will pay Miguel Castro next year. This will allow the richest team in the league to vacuum up whatever other superstars they want, most likely including pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto. And, yes, it IS about the Dodgers. If the deal had gone to a team which needed such utterly unprecedented financial jiggery-pokery, and had narrowed the gap between baseball's haves and have-nots, I'd have been somewhat okay with it. I'd have raised an eyebrow, but there would not be the same sense of the game's balance being damaged for years to come.
It's not just me either who feels this way. Here's a selection of quotes from a single Reddit thread on the topic:
- This absolutely should not fly, if it does, this is going to be horrible for the sport
- I won’t lie, this feels so illegal.
- So this is how baseball dies…to thunderous applause.
- I'm rather quickly losing interest in MLB. like how is this ok? We're just moving towards a future like that of Premier League where there's like 3 rich clubs who actually compete and then the rest of the league is fodder. What's the point?
- I don't even see a point in watching baseball at this point. It's just a competition for which owners have the deepest pockets.
Yet, somehow, supposedly "professional" journalists - reputation already in tatters by the pre-announcement shitshow - are still writing Shohei Ohtani is where he belongs with Dodgers and baseball is better for it articles. This includes sentences like "LA is where Ohtani belongs. Just glad he knew that, too," which I would be physically embarrassed to write. RIP baseball reporting, December 2023. See also:
- Shohei Ohtani’s Dodgers contract is huge win for baseball
- Why Shohei Ohtani and the Dodgers are an ideal match
- Shohei Ohtani’s $700M deal shows that baseball is far from broken
No, Ken. This is why journalism, not just in baseball, is dying. Too many writers trying to tell the audience what they must think, rather than reflecting and addressing their concerns. When Mad Dog Russo is the voice of reason, baseball IS broken. It's fixable, but that is likely a topic for another day (James has already discussed some options). Right now, though, blatant gaming of the system is lauded by the fourth estate. Perhaps the worst example is the gaslighting from Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors who wrote Why Shohei Ohtani’s Contract Structure Is Not A Luxury Tax Dodge. Let's see. Contract value: $700m. Luxury tax value: $460m. I know math is hard, but that's the very definition of a tax dodge. Dierkes also has the temerity to finish with this:
The combination of Friday’s shaky reporting suggesting Ohtani was heading to the Blue Jays, plus an unprecedented contract structure, seems to be leading some fans to villainize him. I think that’s a shame, because he has been squeaky-clean off the field and remains a generational and thrilling player.
Oh, look: another out of touch reporter. Know who was also "a generational and thrilling player"? Barry Bonds. Didn't stop him from being a cheater, almost universally despised. Ohtani has blown it, having apparently never heard the saying, "With great power comes great responsibility." After an apparent sham process, since there was little doubt he was always going to LA, Ohtani chose to use his unique position - earning $40 million a year from endorsements, so his playing salary is almost irrelevant - to chase rings and undermine the competitive structure of the major leagues. Shohei has become Evil Spiderman. He's dead to me.
We’ll see how next season plays out, of course. But should anyone want to bet against the Dodgers winning the division, you know where to find me. Last year, the Dodgers’ post-season odds at no point declined below 87%. 2024 figures to be even more of a procession, and that’s just not interesting to me. If things unfold as I expect, it’s very likely that by the end of April, I’m going to be right back to watching only the games I’m contractually obliged to, for recap purposes. Otherwise, wake me when the playoffs start,