Thursday, May 29, 2008

Baseball > Football

A subtle reminder of yet another way in which baseball beats the hell out of football. Say what you want about the merits of guaranteed contracts, but I would have a very hard time rooting for any organization that expects to assume zero risk with respect to its contract obligations and reserves the unilateral ability to renegotiate in midstream.

That's every organization in the NFL, by the way, and I simply can't watch a pro football game anymore without being conscious of the fact that every one of the players on the field is a single injury or incident away from losing their livelihood.


Ken Dynamo said...

yeah that kinda sucks for the players but why all the good players demand garunteed money (ie signing bonus). its not as ruthless as youre making it sound, and its not like the MLB owners wouldnt set it up the same wy if the union wasnt so powerful.

also, im as big as a baseball fan as any, but dude, look at this video at bavaro crushing people.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Awesome video to be sure, but -- and this is a personal, subjective thing here so only take it as such -- I can't watch it without remembering that his career was cut short by horiffic knee problems. Though he sounds happier and better-adjusted than many former football players, today he can't walk up a flight of stairs without it hurting according to this interview:

A quick search also reveals that he had very low six-figure salaries and very low six-figure signing bonuses, and now works as a stock trader with Phil McConkney. I realize not everybody has my lack of work ethic, and maybe Bavaro simply wants to work a white collar job, but it strikes me that someone who gave their heart, soul, and health for two Super Bowl titles and a untold millions for his employer should have come out better on the other side.

I realize I'm a bit out on the fringe with this and my feelings about the NFL are no doubt colored by my own insecurities, but the labor arrangment, business environment, and post-career health of football players impacts my ability to truly enjoy the sport.

melodyjbf said...

I've always felt the same way, Craig... it's one of the reasons why I do love baseball. Certainly, it's largely due to the strength of the union, which I applaud. But there are other factors. For example, baseball is by nature a long-term investment. You sign a player for the minor leagues, you know it will likely be several years before he's ready to contribute at all. Baseball players also have longer careers, and much longer seasons. So it's in the club's interest to keep an eye on players' health and make sure they're in shape for the long haul.

The football season is only 16 games, and there's much more pressure to play through injury. Players' careers are short, and teams have no incentive at all to do anything but maximize the player's current contributions. If this leads to injury problems, they can cut him and incur no further costs. But listen to the team and even the media scream when a football player complains about his pay... sure, he signed the deal. But the system is inherently unfair to the players. Anyone who thinks the teams will provide anything they're not legally required to provide has been watching too many ABC specials.

Daniel said...

I can't say the contract thing always particularly bothered me, although it has recently since a lot of stuff about the lack of pension/health plans for retired players has become an issue.

My personal affinity for baseball over football has to do with the team aspect. In baseball, whether you hit 2nd or 8th, your job is the same. On any given day, the backup third baseman can be a hero by performing well. In football, you've got several players who garner all the attention (QB, RB, WR, DB). Those players' jobs are harder, but what if the right tackle has an amazing game? Is he ever the hero?

I realize this is an over-simplification, but I just dislike the vast discrepancy in credit given to different types of football players, and the egos resulting from the attention paid to the "star" positions. I like the daily struggle aspect of baseball and the opportunity for each player to be the star.

Sony said...

I think the contractual issue is a false premise. Every meaningful contract in football has a guaranteed amount, usually a bonus prorated over certain number of years. When a player signs a $60m contract for 5 years, he might have a $20m bonus prorated over 3 years. He gets that regardless of injury or being cut. There are exceptions, of course, but professional baseball easily has more guys on 1-year or month-to-month contracts than football.

Also, the baseball game itself is primitive in comparison to basketball and especially football. Football requires on nearly every play that 11 players all work together, in timing, direction, and effort, to bring about the desired result. One breakdown in teamwork and the whole enterprise collapses. A WR fails to sell his route and the safeties and corners blow up the running back, a NT fails to slant his way and the Right Guard blows up the linebacker, etc. Baseball has very little teamwork, which is part of its charm, the players are obviously accountable; the hero and goat are easily discerned. But, for an absorbed fan, football game-time offers more things to pay attention to and ruminate on than baseball. Whether that’s to your taste will determine which sport you claim is “better”, but I like ‘em all for their peculiar demands and various idiosyncrasies.

themarksmith said...

One thing also to remember. Football gives big contracts to rookies after they've been drafted. In baseball, you get 3 years to name you price and three years to go to an arbiter (severely cutting what the player would make on an open market). Pro football teams have to be more careful because: 1) they don't know what to expect from rookies and 2) once that contract from the draft is over, the player usually is signing his last contract. With that last contract, teams have to be more careful about how much money they give because the player is already old in football years (or in his prime for the first and second, then old for the remaining). I don't like the "guaranteed money", but I think it's okay if they fix the pension plans for players.

Pete Ridges said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the difference between MLB and NFL contracts isn't because of differences between their CBAs, but because of differences in preferences.

There's nothing to stop an MLB free agent from saying: "either you guarantee me $50m over 5 years, or you give me a $X signing bonus, and then the club has 5 consecutive options at $10m per year". And there's nothing to stop an NFL free agent from saying the same thing.

It just happens that the MLB team will always take the guaranteed contract (because it's cheaper, and they trust players to give their best). But the NFL team will take the club options (because any player with a brain would otherwise spend 5 years avoiding contact).

The financial aspects of both leagues seem fair, for free agents at least. But yeah, watching football is basically watching young men destroy each others' bodies. And that's always held me back from giving it my full affection.

Peter said...

I agree, Craig...I won't go so far as to say that I can't watch the NFL because of it, but it's unbelievable to me that NFL fans bury their heads in the sand about this stuff.

There are a million reasons why fans aren't outside of NFL offices with pitchforks demanding a better deal for players (they play a game for a living, they make "enough" already, etc), but for me the counterargument comes down to this:

The NFL is not going to give revenues back to fans, so why shouldn't players receive their fair share?

You can't convince me that MLB owners are able to make great profits under their system, but NFL owners would not be able to do the same without the freedom to cut anyone loose at any time.