Every-Thing Sports

How to fix MLB's "broken" system

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My affinity for the game of baseball goes back to the late '80s. Most of my fondest sports memories and obsessions trace themselves back to that time. I was the kid who wanted to know everything about anything I was interested in, and sports was at the forefront of my inquisitive beginnings.

I remember the Bash Brothers in Oakland, Orel Hershiser's '88 season, and the Reds ending the A's dynasty (as well as Rob Dibble and Chris Sabo's speeches at their celebration). My favorite team back then were those Braves' teams of the '90s. We moved to Atlanta the summer of '91 in the midst of them going worst to first and beginning their run.

As I grew older, I began to look into the business side of things in sports. Contracts, their structure, salary caps, team revenue streams, etc. Whatever I could read about or research, I found fascinating. Keep in mind, this was just before and during the internet boom. I didn't have quality internet access until I was a freshman in college.

One thing that has stood out to me is the fact that baseball players have the highest average salaries of all major pro sports in this country. They play a 162-game schedule, plus playoffs, over a seven month period. Playing almost everyday is tough, but it isn't as physically demanding as football, or as fast-paced as basketball.

Over the last few offseasons, baseball has seen a switch in philosophy. No longer are teams backing up the Brinks truck and giving free agents a blank check. Top stars like J.T. Martinez, Jake Arrieta, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have all found themselves without the deals they were expecting heading into spring training. Part of the reason is that baseball is no longer as popular, therefore no longer as profitable, as it was years ago when guys like Alex Rodriguez could get multiple $200 million-dollar plus contracts.

Another reason is the obviously more team-favorable system when it comes to players under team control. I have a proposal to help fix baseball's broken system:

Players are placed under team control for at least six years on an active 25-man roster. Teams will often hold players down in the minors, or stashed on the 40-man roster, until they feel they're ready to start their six year clock in the big leagues. Prime example locally is George Springer. He won't be a true free agent until he's 31. I propose teams sign their drafted rookies to similar deals like the NBA and NFL have. A simple four or five year deal, with team options for the fifth or sixth year seems logical. However, if the player is still in the minors or not, the team would have to resign him to a new deal. This eliminates the team from stashing the player and holding off his 25-man roster clock. This also rewards the player for working hard and getting to the big leagues sooner rather than later.

Teams will benefit under this system if they're able to sign a player to a long term extension before or after his rookie deal is up, but before he prices himself out of their budget. Smaller market teams would have a better chance to retain their players, rather than losing them upon hitting free agency. An example of this is when the Rays signed Evan Longoria to a six-year deal a few years before he was set to be a free agent instead of going to arbitration. Many were shocked he took the deal, but he bet on himself and the team bet on him living up to an early deal.

This was a mere conversation starter about a sport I feel that could be on the verge of losing its place in our sporting pantheon. Baseball is a game that needs more help that it's willing to admit. Soccer is itching to take baseball's place. It's growing like weeds and prone to take over if baseball doesn't weed and feed it's lawn.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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