It was just over two years ago that you bought the Tribe. You had a nasty team and a sold-out stadium that the city built tax-free. Gotta love that welfare. You could charge $19 for the bleachers and five for a beer, which was better than stealing, since you didn't have to worry about wiretaps.
More important, you were no longer just Chardon lawyer Larry Dolan, brother to the cable magnate, known to lackeys and valets, but anonymous on the street. You became Larry Damn Dolan. Owner of the Tribe. Big Man on Campus. Household Name.
But you forgot about the popularity curve, which goes like this: Owners of mid-market teams only get to flirt with public affection. It lasts one, maybe two, three years tops, before the fans turn on you. They always do. You traded this guy and you didn't sign that guy and your payroll's never high enough.
So now you're Larry Dolan and you're the most ridiculed guy in town. The papers call you "alligator arms." On the call-in shows, you're a cheap sonuvabitch. You don't even want to know what's said in the barber shops and bars. Even the Big One, your radio partner, has that shrill bastard Kevin Keane on after every game, yipping like a poodle on a rich lady's lap. It should be legal to stab a talk show host, you're thinking to yourself. Yeah, that'd be a good law.
And to figure you paid $323 million for your troubles. Hell, it's not even Larry's Field; it's Jacobs Field, named after the guy who sucked all the money from the franchise, then sold you the carcass. Jesus Mother Mary Joseph, what were you thinking?
But there's nothing you can do now. You could have signed Manny and Juan. You could have kept Robbie and Bartolo. Wouldn't have mattered. Hell, you blew $92 million last year, and all it bought was a first-round playoff exit and $14 mil in red.
So you retooled this year, cut back to $82 mil. You talked about "small ball" and "character" and "fundamentals," which is old-school spin for "Jesus, I can't be burning that kinda jack." You knew that talk plays in Cleveland. You also knew it might bomb like a white hope in a title fight. Which it did. Spectacularly.
So you could have climbed back in the saddle. You could have been Big Larry, Businessman Action Figure -- working the phones, making the trades, bringing in a new batch of sluggers. Yeah, you could have bought back the city's affection. It would have cost you only what? $20 mil? $30 mil? But you'd still be far behind the Yankees, who pick up all-stars the same way working stiffs pick up Chinese on payday. And why spend $110 mil to get your ass kicked when you can get it kicked for $50 mil? You didn't get to be Larry Damn Dolan by acting like a moron. You play the percentages.
Besides, what other move do you have? You bought into a game where the bobble-head doll is the greatest achievement in 20 years. Where prosperity is based on extorting your customers for new stadiums. Where you elected that mutt Bud Selig, a guy whose team hasn't won in nine years, to run the show. And despite billions in municipal welfare, despite gouging your customers at every turn, you still can't make money. The mutt says baseball lost $519 million last year.
Okay, so you know that figure's counterfeit. It's corporate accounting, for chrissakes. It might have been a billion, might have been 16 bucks. Either way, you're losing. What's worse, you're in the 18th-largest market, and you still had to kick $13.2 million into the league's revenue-sharing pool last year. Anaheim and Philly, with the fifth- and sixth-largest markets, pulled out $21 mil. So it works like this: You get welfare from an impoverished city, and Disney, which owns the Angels, gets welfare from you.
You heard that right: Larry Dolan, Chardon lawyer, has to play sugar daddy to a company with revenues of $25 billion last year.
So your only hope is that the mutt comes up with a game plan -- "Stop us, before we spend again!" But you're the only industry on a 30-year losing streak to organized labor. Yeah, that's you, the titans of American business, getting your asses kicked by players whose lips move when they read. It's embarrassing.
And you know the players won't bail you out. This isn't the football or the basketball union. Hell, it's not even the UAW, guys who know a good contract means everybody earns. This is the baseball union. They're gonna suck till there's no blood left. And how can you blame 'em? You've been laying down for 30 years. They're addicted to easy pummeling. They can't stop themselves any better than you can.
So you're Larry Dolan and you're seriously screwed. You could make like Arizona and lose $65 million over three years just to buy a World Series. But you'll have to lose bigger every year just to stay there.
You could wait for the mutt to work a miracle. But the mutt can't even lie to Congress properly. How's he gonna win a street fight?
You could sell the Tribe while the selling's still good. But the price has gone up, and the pool of morons with reckless wallets has dwindled. Disney's been trying to sell for years. You don't hear the phone ringing.
So you cut the payroll back to $50 mil, and you wait. Which makes you Larry Dolan, the cheapest bastard in town. And it's the only play you got.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.