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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Revenge of the Nerds

Rotisserie Geeks 1, Major League Baseball 0.

As I understand it, the wise men at Major League baseball decided to take a stand and insist that fantasy leagues license the right to use team names and player names, because they constitute intellectual property that belongs to MLB.

As Warner Wolf would have said, if you took Major League Baseball and 48 pages' worth of a judge's opinion, you lost (the opinion apparently was 49 pages long).

Here's the thing: it may be that the trial court is wrong and that MLB will win on appeal. It may be that MLB (and the union) have a good point. Yes, it may be that they are right as a matter of law.

But it's also the case that you don't always win by being technically right on every point. What the Lords of Baseball don't get is that fantasy leagues help the teams make more money by promoting the game. People who play fantasy ball for modest sums and pay stat services to compile their numbers are more likely to spend money on all sorts of stuff that baseball sells -- merchandise, tickets, etc. So why do they insist upon a cut of this particular action?

Because, I suppose, it makes money, and, because, I suppose, they believe that they have to pursue all intellectual property matters to that they can't let anyone think that they've pulled something over on Major League Baseball. Fine. But the owners have a monopoly on the Major League game in their cities, and that can spell trouble if you live in Tampa Bay, Kansas City or even Philadelphia, where your teams flirt with mediocrity perennially. We can't bring in another team, we can't compel our incompetent owners to sell the team (I'll say that about Kansas City and Philadelphia), and if we want to watch the game live we have only one choice. Why not just leave our fantasy leagues alone? What's the harm in that?

There are some things worth fighting about. This, I would submit to Major League Baseball, is not one of them.

Leave the armchair GMs and managers alone, before they pick up their pitchforks and hoes and march en masse on the stadiums of the teams that are destined to finish at best in the middle of the pack. Make the game too commercial and too mercenary, and you'll turn people off for good. It's bad enought that World Series games start after my kids' bedtime -- don't be the Total Scrooge and take away the fun of your loyal fans.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill Giles' recent comments about the current ownership group "never" selling the Phillies were arrogant as hell.

We'll never sell, he implied, even if we're lousy for the next fifty straight years. Considering that the taxpayers paid for the better part of the cost of their shiny new ballpark, you'd think they'd feel some small obligation to succeed, rather than just rake in subsidized profits.

5:58 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...


As I said before, if they didn't have a monopoly on the product, they would have gone broke years ago. If it weren't for the facts that a) baseball is played in good weather and b) families make it a ritual to go to games together, they'd draw under 750,000 per year, nice park or not.

The best thing that could happen to this franchise would be for the Giles group to sell -- and to a hungrier ownership group who won't be stupid enough to cry foul and claim that the Phillies play in a "small market."

4:38 PM  

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