Some stories to watch in the new year

By Kent Ward,
Posted Dec. 26, 2008, at 6:27 p.m.

As the year winds down and the bearded old coot toting the hourglass with the sand fast running out exits, stage left, for the new babe sporting diapers bearing a “2009” logo waiting in the wings, stage right, news junkies await the twists and turns that news stories born in late ’08 might take in the new year.

Few among us are willing to bet the farm that combative Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich — a loose cannon seemingly without a friend in the entire universe just now — will hang onto his job after allegedly trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder.

Whether the publicity hound with the big hair will make good on his implied threat to make every effort to embarrass the incoming president and his palace guard as he goes down swinging in a court of law seems a more bet worthy proposition, however.

No one can say with certainty how this melodrama will play out. But it is safe to say that reporters covering Illinois state government will have no shortage of material to work with in filing their daily news budgets with the home office. Oh to be among them.

Ditto in New York, where Caroline Kennedy is hustling New York Gov. David Paterson to appoint her to the Senate seat formerly held by Hillary Clinton on the basis that it is “something I’d like,” or words to that effect. Those are scant qualifications for a normal aspirant seeking high office. We’ll soon know if they are sufficient for a Kennedy.

In the meantime, there’s baseball to keep us guessing. Will 2009 be the year that the forces of greed finally bring the venerable game to its knees?

If, as we are constantly being reminded, the nation is in a bitter recession that is only one automobile maker bailout and a couple of bank failures from a full-blown depression, someone should spread the word to owners of Major League Baseball teams, particularly the management of the thoroughly detested New York Yankees.

As unemployment figures rise and ordinary people who have lost their homes to foreclosure join the growing welfare class in droves, wealthy Major League Baseball team owners experience no shame of luxury. Oblivious to developments in the real world, the moguls continue to outbid one another to see who can throw the most money at another team’s free-agent ballplayers to induce them to switch sides.

The Yankees’ latest attempt to buy an American League pennant as they prepare to move into a gazillion-dollar new ballpark financed in part by New York taxpayers has seen them guarantee an aggregate $423.5 million in salaries to just three players over the next several years.

Former Los Angeles Angels first baseman Mark Teiexeira will get $180 million over eight years ($22.5 million per season) to play in Yankee pinstripes. C.C. Sabathia, late of the Milwaukee Brewers, has signed for $161 million over seven years ($23 million per season). Pitcher A.J. Burnett has agreed to jump the Toronto Blue Jays ship for a paltry $82.5 million over five years ($16.5 million a year). This on a ballclub that already pays its third baseman $28.5 million per season to head a roster loaded with double-digit millionaire playmates who, for all their hefty paychecks, have not been particularly successful of late.

Hard times, you say? You’d never know it by reading the sports pages of the nation’s newspapers. Nor will you find an explanation of just how a nation of unemployed baseball fans might be expected to buy ridiculously overpriced tickets to help pay those obscene salaries. In a logical world they wouldn’t, of course. Not that that would make much difference to baseball’s big spenders.

In these illogical times, should any team owner’s franchise go belly-up as a result of profligate spending habits, so what? He knows he can go whining to Congress in search of a bailout, with a 50-50 chance of success, to keep his ace pitcher chucking the baseball for more money per game than many formerly employed people could have hoped to make in half a lifetime of toil.

Is this a great country, or what?

BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at olddawg@bangordailynews.net.

http://bangordailynews.com/2008/12/26/opinion/some-stories-to-watch-in-the-new-year/ printed on September 17, 2014