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Yankees Land Jeff Weaver

July 6, 2002

"Little shiver shaking me everyday
But I could get this same thing anywhere
So if she goes away
Well it's alright and I'm okay..."
-Counting Crows "American Girls"

I feel torn as a sports fan this early morning. On one hand, I'm ecstatic. The Yankees traded late last night to acquire pitcher Jeff Weaver from the Detroit Tigers in a three-team deal. I literally jumped for joy when I found out. As a Yankees fan, I'm thrilled about this major acquisition. Weaver was one of my favorite non-Yankee players in the American League, a dominating right-hander with some serious height (he's 6'5") and a nice fastball. He joins a staff that's now arguably the best in baseball (with a nod to the Red Sox, Diamondbacks, A's and Braves). He's a young player (25 years old) who should fit in well with older pitchers like Roger Clemens and David Wells.

Yet, at the same time the move disgusts me as a sports fan. Not at the Yankees for doing it, but rather that MLB is to the point where things like this happen on a regular basis. Jeff Weaver should've been the cornerstone of the Detroit Tigers for the next ten years. Jason Giambi should've played his entire career in Oakland and eventually had his number retired there. Now they're both Yankees, which is nice for NY fans since they're both excellent players. But MLB is running under an inequitable system where there's not a level playing field, so to speak.

There's a reason MLB was talking contraction last year. Not because of over-expansion -- that clearly was a mistake, no question. But because financially many teams are hurting. Big time. Ask the brilliant Jeff Smulyan (of Emmis Communications) about his stint as owner of the Seattle Mariners, and he'd likely point you to the line that reads "learn from your mistakes" in the Emmis handbook. Baseball is not running a financially solvent operation.

Oh, some teams are doing quite well. Successful, large market teams are reaping some mega paydays. But the medium and small market teams are getting crushed. Sorry Kansas City. And Milwaukee. And, yes, Tampa Bay. Montreal is perhaps the most glaring example (they don't even have an owner!!?!), though they're putting up a damn good fight for a team that is likely going to be killed off after the season. A real-life version of Major League, if you will.

It seems to me that baseball desperately needs a profit-sharing system similar to the NFL. Could you imagine if Green Bay had to trade Brett Favre to the Giants because they couldn't afford to keep him? But it will be very tough to convince George Steinbrenner to share TV money. And, ultimately, that's what it would take.

Baseball has a strike looming next month. If you thought 1994 was bad (and it was horrible for baseball fans), just wait till October 2002 if there's no World Series. Players don't want a salary cap, but that's something that really needs to happen for the game to not further degenerate into a tilted competition between powerhouses with almost unlimited pockets and glorified AAA teams.

Orlando tonight, then back to Tampa for what should be an interesting Monday morning...

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