At this point, LeBron better go to the Knicks. Looking in from the outside, I think one thing that separates New York fans from many others is that they assume they are going to get players. They don’t hope for free agents, they expect them. It’s reinforced behavior. They have the money, an attractive city to play in, the largest media market…it’s not a complicated equation. Of all the reasons why people dislike New York fans, I’m not sure where this ranks, but if you haven’t heard a Yankee fan say in the last year or so, “Who cares about these guys, we’re getting Mauer,” or something along those lines then you haven’t spent much time with the pinstripe supporters.
No other fan base would make this assumption about Mauer. Every team would want him, but only a few would have the money, and even then Mauer is deeply rooted in Minnesota. The Yankees fans don’t worry about this, they just talk about the smooth transition from Posada to Mauer. The transition seems to be taking place in a different way, though. I talked a while ago about these young guys not opting for free agency, signing deals early, maybe losing a bit of money. Mauer probably left a good 20-40 million on the table. You could argue that Felix Hernandez did the same, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Red Sox try to lock Beckett up before the end of the year. If they do, the 2010/11 free agent class becomes pretty boring.
Mauer was a unique case, obviously. His importance to the Twins cannot be overstated. They’re moving into a new park, he’s a hometown hero, and letting him go would have been catastrophic. Especially since, even though the Twins don’t have tremendous revenue, they are owned by one of the richest families in all of baseball. The Pohlads aren’t going to have to start panhandling to pay this contract, believe me. They’ll be fine. And, I think it illustrates the fact of how important it is to have an owner with deep pockets. These smaller market teams will constantly be struggling to get out of the hole if they don’t push the payroll a bit, and try to win consistently as opposed to the Marlins get lucky occasionally plan.
Baseball might not ever work in Miami, but in places like Minnesota, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati baseball could be perfectly successful. They just need a good owner, and a break or two to turn things around. Here in Philadelphia they paired a new ballpark with an emerging team and went from a middle of the road payroll to one of the highest. That’s what happens when you sell 3.3 million tickets. A place like Pittsburgh already has a great park, they need a new owner to bring in some talent and the fans will come back. Minnesota had the wealthy owner, built the new stadium, and thankfully they kept their franchise player. Baseball should be healthy in the Twin Cities for a while.
Of course, that doesn’t make the Yankee fans feel any better. They’ve been jilted again, the poor bastards. And, I’m telling you, LeBron stays in Cleveland and we could be seeing some temper tantrums on the streets of Manhattan.