Monday, February 11, 2013


Sticking one's nose into the past, particularly the back pages of BBBA (short for Big Bad Baseball Annual, in case our blog name did not shout this out loudly enough for yez...) is often hilarious, sometimes sobering--and occasionally both at the same time.

One of our two "art" essays for BBBA 1997 (bearing no relation to the mensch-like work of Art Martone, the Red Sox correspondent who gracefully braved our pages during those tumultuous years) was all about a dystopian future for baseball. Which one, you say? Well, it was one that didn't quite arrive (at least not yet)...not that we really expected it to, of course. It was an exercise in extremity, an experiment in spoofery, a joyful jeremiad of left-wing faux-paranoia (something that was right to be in the air in 1997, however; for little did we know how soon we'd be plunged into those eight years of government-as-terrorist-against-its-own-country that would follow).

It was also kinda stupid, but by now you're used to that, too. Looking back on it, with all of the overwrought internationalism that this spoof--entitled "Baseball's Org Chart 2010"--brought to bear on the little world of baseball, these so-called "horrifying" results wouldn't actually be worse than anything ol' BS has laid on us in real life since that time. The cynical use of the steroids issue is a good bit more reprehensible, given how it continues to poison history.

According to the spoof essay, in 2010 we were supposed to have had something called "the Global League" stuffed down our throats once outsider corporatists had breached baseball's time-honored monopoly. There was an overwrought, overdetermined schedule (natch) which went on and on and on, with playoffs that would make even the NBA blush.

Reading all this (in the Angels' team essay--for some reason, we really enjoyed not writing about the Halos in anything remotely resembling an analytic vein in those days), we can't help but think that if Al Gore had been awarded his rightful place in the White House in 2000, then Shrubski would have wound up as Commissioner of Baseball and just about everything we outlined in the spoof would have come to pass. Better in baseball, one shrugs ruefully, than in the Middle East.

Of course, the part of all this that makes the most sense is the "post-globalist" phase, the years where the structure begins to metastasize, and the dearth of regulation that would have been part of a Shrubskite policy would have made the game over into a mirror-world of oligopoly (quoting--at last!--from said spoofery):

What happens to the players in all this? Well, the natural tendency in a true corporate structure is verticality. The effective result will be that certain teams begin to dominate their leagues due to unfair revenues (remember, revenue sharing will go out the window under this scheme: baseball is far less attached this scheme than football). After a ten-year period in which haves and have-nots will become more clearly defined, baseball's corporate czar (probably someone who is a cross between Edgar Bronfman of Seagram's* and Peter Ueberroth: let's call him Petgar Bronfmanroth for the sake of tongue twisting) will force a realignment of leagues into "competitive zones," creating one elite league and two lower leagues for the smaller markets.

(S)whirling images from upper left : Bronfman displaces his "finger to
the world"; (Mani) Petgar's rueful self-portrait; and another Petgar seals
the deal by revealing that it's all just another variant of rug merchantry...
After corporate globalization, we will have regionalization; but, as Bronfmanroth will note, it will be regionalism of the best sort, as it will pit the little guys against the big guys. Baseball has always thrilled to the underdog (Petgar looking wistful at this point) and now there are twenty-four little guys who can focus on beating the big boys. It's a perfect, stratified world, and salaries are controlled by making one league capable of absorbing all of the really good, high-priced talent, while the rest of the schlubs make much less hoping for the call to the "real" big leagues.

[*NOTE: Bronfman has been with as many companies since this was written as he's had women "with child," which just shows to go you that there's no better defense than a good offense.]

We were lucky--or were we?--that virtually none of this came to pass in the thirteen years between the time it was spoof-prophesied and the year it was "supposed to happen." Instead, we had a huge offensive explosion, a backlash against it that was almost as large, and a few telling changes to baseball's rules that would make it a lot easier to take the game down the road outlined in aforesaid spoof.

Steve Treder blows a series of sour notes in the general direction
of the Yankees...
Or did it happen and we were lucky not to know that it did? Some of our colleagues, like Steve Treder, who get a good bit more testy than we are even extrapolated to be by those who twist those dials between "A" and "B," really have it in for the idea that there could be a team with uber-bucks that would get a permanent seat at the stock exchange, so to speak. (Steve was referring to the Yankees, of course, but now we have the Dodgers trying it, too; who's to say that this trend won't develop over the next decade while most of us are hoping that American politics will stabilize in a way that will keep the Supreme Court from becoming the greatest threat to democracy...)

There, at last, the digression that aptly comes back to the central point: it could be so much worse.

There actually could be a guy named Petgar Bronfmanroth!