Saturday, May 26, 2007

Baseball salaries, 1990 vs 2005

Baseball has always been my favorite sport, from back when I was a wee lad. My favorite team has always been the Yankees, and in 1990, they came within a whisper and a cough of only their third 100 loss season. For me, I was just happy to watch the team. It didn't matter to me that the Mets were the good team in the city (that wouldn't last, like usual). As far as I was concerned, Mattingly-Sax-Espinoza-Velarde was the best infield in the league.

Fortunately, as I got older, the team improved. By 1994 they were in first place and would have made the playoffs if not for the strike. By 1995, they were in the postseason. By 1996, they won their first World Series title since 1978. Then came the so-called dynasty, which was then followed by a massive explosion in payroll.

Over the years, I have heard countless complaints regarding the Yankees spending. I began thinking of the financial discrepencies. The Yankees do spend a lot of money. Did it matter? How much did they spend in 1990, that terrible year? What about 2005, when they won their eighth straight division title? Last year, I took a look at the figures.

The Oakland Athletics ($21,785,040) were swept by the Cincinatti Reds ($14,870,166) in the World Series in 1990. The Cincinatti payroll was pretty much the league average. In the 2005 World Series, the Chicago White Sox ($75,178,000) beat the Houston Astros ($76,779,000). Both teams had functionally equivalent salaries, and were fairly close to the league average. I have argued in the past few years that a team could win the World Series with a salary of around $60-$65 million. I was just going by my own theory, but it seems perhaps the reason is that the average cost of a 25 man roster is around that price.

As of August 31, 2006, Detroit had the best record in baseball, with a payroll of $82,302,069, close to last year's average 25 man cost. Of the four teams within $5 million of last year's average, Texas, Minnesota, San Diego and Oakland were still in contention. Washington was not. If you stretch it to ten million dollars, two or three out of an extra five more were still in contention. Nevertheless, dollars do speak loudly - the New York Yankees had the second best record in the A.L., and the New York Mets had the best record in the N.L. The bottom five payrolls had been out of contention for a long time, while the top five remained in the playoff hunt or in the lead. Stretch it to the top ten and bottom ten, and 8/10 highest payrolls were in contention, whereas 3/10 of the lowest were still in contention.

The Yankees have always been near the top of the payroll heap, as evidenced in 1990, but they have supremely distanced themselves this decade. I estimate the Yankees could have kept all of their 2005 roster by offering the most attractive contract and still paid about $50 million less. Granted, some of the salaries, like Alex Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu's, were set by other teams (in fact, Texas pays a fair chunk of A-Rod's salary). However, even with an adjustment, that's still a comfortable margain above Boston and well beyond the rest of the next (Los Angeles Angels, Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 1983, the Yankees payroll was $11.6 million (second highest in MLB). In 1993, it was $46.6 million (third highest in the league). In 2003, the Yankees payroll was $149.7 million (highest). Quite the increase. For fun, let's take a look at the good ol' days of baseball when everything was sepia toned and there were no Latinos in the game. In 1933, the Yankees payroll was $294,982 (highest). In 1943, it was $301,229 (highest). In 1953, $438,250 (second highest, behind Cleveland). Conclusion? Well, I guess the Yankees have a long history of reinvesting their earnings back into the ballclub.

Although it looks like the Yankees make a healthy profit, if you factor in that the club paid $77 million in revenue sharing in 2005, the Yanks actually lost money. You can argue that they made the money up somewhere (although television revenue and merchandising is included in total revenue), it's pretty apparent the team will enjoy its new stadium (new stadium means no revenue sharing for a few years, thanks to a special clause in the mysterious book of MLB).

On the other hand, I once read an article when George W. Bush was running for governor, and when asked how he could manage the budget of the Texas government when he couldn't do that for the Texas Rangers, he replied that there was two types of numbers, the published figures and the private ones.

In the book Moneyball, author Michael Lewis describes how Oakland is able to put together a quality baseball team with limited financial resources because their front office knows what makes good players. Interestingly enough, in 2006 Oakland's payroll was $62.3 million. You might remember last year's average cost for a 25 man team was $65.8 million. Oakland won their division, ahead of L.A./Anaheim ($103.6), Texas ($65.1), and Seattle ($87.9).

The point to be learned from all of this, to quote Michael Lewis, is that whether it be the Yankees' gross overspending or the tight pursestrings of certain teams or the success of teams within range of the average roster cost, "in professional baseball[,] it still matters less how much money you have than how well you spend it."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Springtime is love time

Devo - Love Without Anger

The Runaways - Cherry Bomb (Live in Japan 1977)

Bloodhound Gang - Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo

Warrant - Cherry Pie

You have to click over to YouTube thanks to Sony.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Horse Cock

It's no Citizen Kane, but it packs quite a punch:
A SEMI-documentary about a group of U.S. men who had sex with horses has taken the title as the most shocking movie at the Cannes film festival.
* * *
The documentary – in which actors recreate non-explicit scenes under audio interviews with some of the men involved – centres on a true-life incident.
I believe Alec Guinness simulated sex with goats early in his career while performing on the London stage.
In July 2005, a 45-year-old man died of internal bleeding after being penetrated by an Arabian stallion during a bestiality weekend in the US state of Washington.
Live by the horse cock, die by the horse cock.

Also, as the kids say, "lol"...I'd love to have written the obituary.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Heaven and Hell Tour May 13, 2007

As a teenager immersing myself in the world of heavy metal, I was under the impression that there was only one real Black Sabbath, that being the one fronted by Ozzy Osbourne. That's what everyone said, or so it seemed. The other Sabbath incarnations were just pretenders, pale imitations of the original.

It wasn't until I heard the title track from the 1981 album The Mob Rules that I understood just how good Black Sabbath was without Ozzy. In fact, the second singer for Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio, belted out some powerful tunes over three studio albums and a live album (another live album from the early 80s was released this year). Dio's tenure with Sabbath began in 1979, when, according to Tapio Keihänen, guitarist Tony Iommi invited Dio to replace Ozzy. Their first meeting together produced the song "Children of the Sea," and after that, two studio albums followed. The first, Heaven and Hell, was released in 1980, and the next came out the following year. That one had the song that was so influential on my interest in the band.

Although Dio and Iommi/Geezer Butler had a falling out in 1982, the band regrouped again in the early 90s and produced one more album, Dehumanizer, before the same problems caused them to break apart. But time heals wounds, specifically a decade or so, and so the band has reunited again to promote a best of collection from the Dio albums. As the Ozzy incarnation is currently "together," this version of Sabbath decided to tour under the nom de metal "Heaven and Hell." Bill Ward, original drummer for Sabbath up through Heaven and Hell, decided to bow out, so Vinny Appice (Mob Rules and Dehumanizer) took over.

Needless to say, as soon as I heard about this, I was giddy as a school girl on Amphetamines. When I had the opportunity to buy a ticket, I did. The fact that Megadeth, another favorite of mine, was one of the opening acts was icing on the cake. Sadly, my seat was directly in line with a tower of amplifiers, so my vision of about 1/3 of the stage was obscured. If the music wasn't so good, I would have been extremely pissed. Instead, I was just mildly agitated.

The first act was Machine Head, a band I am not into. They were serviceable, which is all I can really ask. They didn't suck, but they didn't interest me enough for me to go out and listen to their songs. Here is a video from that show where the Oakland grinders churned out an unknown (to me) song from a very short set -

Next up was Megadeth, sans long long longtime bassist Dave Ellefson. I saw Megadeth on the Maximum Rock tour way back in 2000, when they were touring with Motley Crue. Funny how just ten years earlier, the two bands would never be seen on the same stage together, as one was glam/pop metal and the other was thrash metal. Yes, a precedent had been set with Guns N Roses and Metallica in 1992, but by then Metallica was becoming a pale relic of what they were. In any event, I guess Crue and Deth decided that just lasting through the 90s while still playing riffs was sufficient for them to get together and celebrate rock and roll. Anthrax was supposed to be on that 2000 tour as the opener, but Motley Crue kicked them off for financial reasons, which actually cost me two opportunities to see that band (Anthrax was also supposed to go to my then hometown inbetween Maximum Rock dates).

Blah blah blah, the moral of the story is Megadeth kicked a lot of ass back then. This time around, the band was proficient, but they seemed to lack the energy of early incarnations. Everyone except Dave Mustaine is a newcomer to the band, which might explain it. I heard comments in the audience saying that the band really shred, so maybe I was just harboring high expectations. Maybe their 2000 tour was so good it makes a normally great show look ho-hum in comparison. Here's the classic "Hangar 18" live in Philly -

I was a little bummed that Megadeth didn't perform one of my favorite songs, "In My Darkest Hour," but the theme of their set seemed to include their political songs. In any event, by that time I was all set for Black Sabbath, alias Heaven and Hell.

I had never seen Sabbath live before, and this was a thrill. Iommi is a king, a master of riffs, and Butler still thuds out those throbbing basslines. And Dio, what to say about Dio that hasn't already been said? He can sing like the best of them, or even better than the best of them. If you had to pick the three best vocalists in metal, going with Dio, Halford and Dickinson would be a very strong choice. It's hard to argue.

Seeing one of my favorite bands from my youth perform live was simply wild, especially considering that I never expected I would ever have the chance to do so. The set was comprised entirely of Dio era songs, which is good because I love those tunes and Dio never really handled the Ozzy material all that well. Their vocal styles are vastly different, and they don't cross over well. Besides which, it gave me a chance to hear such classics as "Computer God" and the aforementioned "The Mob Rules."

H&H also played two of three new numbers from their compilation album, which were "Shadow of the Wind" and the amazing "The Devil Cried." I had listened to the songs before the show, but hearing them live and performed with such majesty really drew me into them. I listened to "Devil" a bunch of times afterwards, and I really appreciate just how good a song it is. It is definitely up there in the Sabbath pantheon.

If you like metal, I have nothing but high regards and recommendations for the Dio-era Sabbath material. If you have the opportunity to see Iommi, Dio, Butler and Appice (who puts on a nice drumo solo) play together for perhaps their last tour together, do yourself a favor and check them out.