Archive for July 31st, 2006

What about that trade between the Phillies and Yankees? Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle for four minor leaguers.

Maybe it’s just sour grapes pushing my pen here — I’m a Red Sox fan and my team nurses a half-game lead over the Yanks — but this trade was obscene. Abreu and Lidle for four minor leaguers? None of them remarkable, even. If one of them becomes an everyday major leaguer, the Phillies will be lucky. Of course, the Phillies didn’t make this trade for the prospects. They did it to dump Abreu’s contract, some $20 million dollars for the rest of this year and the next.

Apparently the Yanks were the only team to afford the price tag.

I’m not advocating a salary cap, which has made basketball a mess (but has made football a lot of fun). But the current financial structure that allows only one team to afford the services of a player that may tip the balance of power in the entire American League is…repulsive. The Yankees have spent foolishly of late, especially on pitching. Yet not only do they have the resources to continue making mistakes, they have the resources to fix those mistakes midseason. The wins the Yankees accrue are not earned through baseball skill, but with money.

On the other hand, I don’t believe all teams should necessarily play on the same financial level. The Royals, for example, don’t have the same size fan base — should their smaller support reward them with the same payroll as the Yankees? And few people complain about the Red Sox or Orioles who, while rich, who are forced to live with the expensive mistakes they make. You can still outsmart the Orioles with half the money.

(The Times’ Murray Chass predictably blamed the Phillies for the trade, not the imbalance of team wealth.)

Perhaps there’s no real solution. The Yanks’ wayward — almost desperate — spending may reflect the waning health of the Boss. Maybe he wants a championship before he gives up the team. And it’s hard to imagine an owner or ownership group who are as impulsive and demanding and free with their money as Steinbrenner. Maybe the problem goes away when the team ownership changes hands.

(By the way, a snarkier blogger might note that Steinbrenner and Castro seem to be in similar shape…)

Ultimately my b*tching is an expression of fear. With Abreu and Lidle, it’s obvious the Yankees are more than a half game better than they were before. The Red Sox may have just been bought out of the playoffs.

Just the other day during my rant against the local dailies for not adequately covering the story behind the funding for the terrible trio of initiatives, I mentioned that newspapers are strangely resistant to new technologies that could bring in extra revenue. As if on cue, the New York Times reported on the Washington Post’s contract with an online aggregator, which will post links to other newspapers on the WaPo’s site. It’s a rarity for papers to acknowledge that their traditional counterparts exist, let alone send ‘em their readers.

It’s counterintuitive — to traditional publishers, at least — but putting links up on your site to other related sites only increases your own page views.

Newspaper Web sites, which commonly post articles from sister publications, wire services and even blogs, have typically stopped short of providing generous doses of news from competitors. The move made by these papers is not a result of cooperation across the industry as it is a counterattack by publishers against Google and Yahoo, which have stolen readers and advertisers from newspapers in recent years, both with their search engines and their own news aggregation services.

Those, like me, who want to read the news first go to Google’s “News” page and check out the top stories for the day. Each story has a number of links — a reader can quickly cycle through all the different newspapers’ versions. You can also enter a name or topic and see the different papers’ stories. That’s how I see the different coverage of, say, Montana’s initiatives.

The point is, the Billings Gazette, say, could retain all the clicks related to my searches on local issues with a similar aggregator. Imagine, you open a Gazette story about Schweitzer — in the sidebar, you’d see all the other Montana papers’ stories on that same topic. Why would you start or end on any other Montana newspaper? All the clicks lost by the other papers are gained by the Gazette.

The ironic part of this story is that it’s the Times reporting on the Post’s innovation. Lately the Times has lost favor among bloggers because it put all of its regular columnists behind its firewall. You have to pay to read portions of its content. Thousands of political junkies transferred daily devotion to the Washington Post, which has augmented its print coverage with extra online content — bloggers, comments, live chats with reporters and the ombudsman, etc. Suddenly the WaPo — among the online community — has become the paper of record.

The Missoulian, by denying online users some of its content and having an awkward user interface, is in danger of becoming irrelevant outside of its immediate locale, especially if another Montana paper used an aggregator. Why would anyone ever visit the Missoulian’s online site again? (Except if you happen to live in Missoula.)

The point to this post is a plea for openness and availability. It’s good for business, it’s good for the community, and it’s good for partisan hacks and their broke-down blogs, like this one.

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