My Dinner With Arte

A True Insider Look at The Challenges of Baseball Ownership

“Hi guys.” “Hi Arte.” Seated around a gigantic, circular, one-piece redwood table that no man could reach the center of, the Major League Baseball owners sit down in regal comfort. Each lounge chair surrounding the table has rich mahogany accents with gilded gold. Only the finest maroon velour graces the bottom of each cheek. “I am here to host an emergency get together here on our private owners island to discuss the crisis that is unfolding…” “The crisis of how quickly I can move this team” mutters Tampa owner Stuart Sternburg. “Be quiet Sternburg, I paid for that chair” screeches John Henry. “No guys, the Covid Crisis” corrects Jerry Reinsdorf. “Anything to avoid talking about that Jordan doc” laughs Thomas Ricketts as he works his phone to transfer assets to a Trump PAC. “Shut up Thomas, congrats on that World Series win, only took you guys a hundred years.” “C’mon guys, focus,’ Arte interjects. “If we fight amongst ourselves, the American public wins.” Quiet nods fill the room.

Hal Steinbrenner takes the podium. “Okay guys, we are here to focus on the one thing we all have in common: being filthy rich.” More quiet nodding surges across the room as Fred Wilpon slinks down in his chair. “As you know, now is the time to strike. When financial crises hit, the bastions of wealth in this country need to strengthen their grip. This is our chance to take advantage. As you all know the average person will be furious with the players if they say anything other than that they will play for free. They have no idea how rich we are.” Mark Walter jumps in, “That’s right, out here in LA I am just some dude people haven’t heard of. They don’t have any idea that our wealth could absorb any COVID loss in a heartbeat.” (Wilpon sinks even lower, whispering into his phone to A-Rod) “That’s right,” jumps in Ray Davis, “Everyone in Arlington still thinks Bush owns my team.” “That’s right, no accountability, so here is what we are going to do,” says Steinbrenner. “We are going to make these players do whatever we want, and if they balk at anything, we will just leak it right to the media. These basketball players will never know what hit them.” “It’s baseball Hal, I keep telling you that,” reminds John Henry.” “What if we just let them all go, you don’t really need baseball players to play baseball,” reminds Peter Angelos. “We keep trying that in Miami, and we got a new stadium” says Bruce Sherman. “Yes, but is it really worth it. Then we have to find a bunch of scrubs, and pretend they are players. It’s harder than it seems. My dad tried that in the strike year, and it was a pain” Says Jim Pohland. “Just keep investing the bare minimum”. “We all already do that, we will just make the tax payers fund whatever. Loria told me that.” reminds Sherman.

Hal Steinbrenner retakes control of the meeting. “Look guys, we all know that these teams create so much equity that it doesn’t matter at all what we have to pay for. Let’s focus on bilking the players and screwing over the fans.” “The fans are going to be upset if we don’t play a season,” Rob Manfred cuts in, from his stool in the corner. “You should SEE my mentions.” “What’s a mention?” a dozen owners ask in unison. “Never mind,” Manfred mumbles, “I am just saying, we need to at least vaguely consider the fans.” The sound of snickering fills the room. “Don’t worry about it guys, the players can’t go a whole year without paychecks. Plus they LOVE baseball. They have been playing it their whole lives.” Steinbrenner continues, “We pay peanuts for a lot of these guys, especially the Caribbean guys we keep out of the draft.” The room breaks into uproarious laughter. After about a half hour, things quiet back down. “What if we just have them play a tiny season, but a full playoffs? That way we can pocket all that playoff money and not pay them a salary for most of the year.” Arte jumps in. “The public won’t fall for that,” Manfred interjects, “I am telling you, people want baseball.” “Who cares? They will blame the players, they are jealous of them. Besides, who cares what the fans want. We have the TV money already,” says Steinbrenner. Quiet nodding continues. “Plus the public will forget about literally anything you do in a couple months,” reminds Jim Crane. “ I could have my team cheat for years, pursue players who commit crimes, tank multiple seasons to rake in huge profits, protect misogynists and racists and lie your ass off. You name it. In a few months, everyone will be on to the next Trump tweet.” “Could do it? You DID do it” says Manfred. “ I know I wrote that thing to tell everyone you had nothing to do with it, even though you are obviously running the organization, but still, at least try to fake it in these meetings. Who knows who could be listening?” “Focus guys,” Moreno again reminds them. Steinbrenner and Moreno go back and forth “What else can we squeeze out of the union?” “ Well if they want a longer season, we will just keep changing the games but making sure they only make 2/3rds of their salary” “Yes, that’s peanuts to us, but it will show them we are in charge?” “What else?” How about a salary cap. We could hide it by lowering the pay of the highest paid players so they will fight amongst themselves.” “Well, one thing we agree on is the DH. We definitely need that. Baseball fans will hate it, so they will blame the players even more. Plus it will make the games longer so more concessions and it will take away strategy” “Yes we could pay managers less” jumps in Wilpon, as he perks up. “For sure,” continues Steinbrenner “Plus, it will end all of this confusion of how often our pitcher has to hit” “Hal, I keep telling you, you are in the AL.” “What’s the AL? My dad used to talk about that.” “Nevermind Hal.” “OK, guys, so it’s agreed. We take the players for all they are worth, introduce the DH, add a salary cap, play as little baseball as possible, and continue to rake in the profits?” “Yes” unanimous approval.

“What about this racism stuff?” Says the Rogers representative from Toronto. “Racism stuff?” several owners mumble. “What are you talking about? We have all been in the Bahamas riding out this Covid thing.” “We saw up in Canada on the news. People are angry about all this racism in America and cops killing black people.” says the Rogers rep. “Are you sure this isn’t about the players not playing?” asks Jim Dolan. “I don’t recall Cleveland having any racial issues.” “No really. All your teams even put out statements condemning it,” the Rogers rep continued. “so we did too.” “Well, I’ll be darned, he’s right. We have never done anything about it before, but I guess our PR team did send something out. I wouldn’t worry, Trump will handle it. He will settle everyone down,” reminds Ricketts, moving another 4 million to a Trump PAC. “Yeah, this isn’t our thing. I’m sure Atlanta’s fine” Hal says glancing over at the empty Braves chair. “So it’s settled. Hey, one more thing before we go,” says Arte “who ordered the lobster thermidor?” A chorus goes out, “I did!”