If you've read through some earlier articles then you know that I'm a fan of the "new" Washington home team: the Washington Nationals (Major League Baseball, former Montreal Expos).
As a fan of that team, I have to say that the news in the past 24 hours -- specifically the news about one Alfonso Soriano reportedly signing a long term with the Chicago Cubs -- is especially disheartening to me.
Soriano is a special kind of player, or at least he performed like one last season when he literally smacked the crap outta the ball in pitcher friend RFK stadium and in the other stadiums throughout the league where he acquired his 50+ homeruns.
I liked Soriano a lot (after he got over the whole issue of playing in left field, instead of his older second base position). Once he started playing LF, he quietly went about his job and did a decent job at his new position. He didn't whine and complain, he just performed.
I wish that the Nationals had signed him to a long term deal, and I'd have been supportive of them even if they went to the fairly astronomical figure of say 6 years at $15 - $16 million per. I know it would have strained their finances but it would also leave them with a highly marketable player that helps to put fans into the seats. Without him the team will look like a bunch of minor leaguers (for the most part) over the coming season.
I could even have seen the Nationals pushing the envelope a little and going up to something that worked out to around $17 million per year (average), but the amount that the Chicago Cubs are going to give him, and the length of the contract -- 8 years -- is just too much to compete against and just continues to show me that the economics of Major League Baseball are still badly broken.
The Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and a host of also ran teams are being asked to compete against the likes of the Cubs, the Dodgers, the Angels, the Redsox, the Mets, the Yankees and such. Big market clubs that beat you over the head with their spending and leave you unable to field a competitive team.
The Soriano deal will reportedly make him among the top 5 players salary wise. He's a good player, but top 5?! For a club that wasn't even close to getting into the playoffs last year? Are you kidding me?!
Baseball needs to really rexamine things again and really look into a much tougher luxury tax and/or salary cap. I know it won't happen soon as Bud Selig and union chief Donald Fehr just extended their labor agreement for several more seasons. While the players might go for a minimum salary, they definitely don't want a salary cap and they aren't big on the idea of a tougher luxury tax either, even if it would help smaller market clubs if it was tied to guaranteed minimum spending by teams that receive payouts from the luxury taxes that are collected.
I was getting pumped for the idea of getting a partial season ticket package for the Nationals next year but now I'm not so sure. They're still my team, and I'm still a fan, but paying lots of money to see a team devoid of stars?! Why should I?