Baseball in the Red?

I packed up my 3-year old son in our 2003 Cadillac Escalade and pulled out of the driveway when I attempted to lower the rear window for a little fresh air.

Nothing happened.

I called the dealer and he said bring it in, which I did. They examined the damage and decided I needed a new window motor. Ok, I thought, my son plays with it a lot.. nothing too unusual.

The cost? Almost $750.

As I sat patiently waiting for the motor to be replaced, I started talking with some of the other customers and was surprised to hear that another person was waiting for the exact same operation on their car.

When the service manager handed me my keys with a big grin on his face, I felt a bit unnerved. I got a hunch and played my cards by telling him I just looked online and noticed the average cost for an Escalade window motor replacement was $450 – not $750. What would he do for me?

He took me over to a screen and brought up the dealership’s costing program and put my car info in, checked the box that said window replacement, and it spit out $597 at him. He said he wasn’t finished, closed the program, went onto the Internet, brought up some off the wall labor program site and drilled down to the motor replacement and it spit out a labor cost $165 higher than his original dealership cost and told me the two together equaled $750 and why he priced me like that.

OK.. I wasn’t born yesterday and I realized I was getting conned at that point, so I told him I didn’t sign an estimate of repair so yank the new motor out and put my old one back in. I wasn’t going to pay $750.. end of story.

To make a long story short, I ended up paying $486, got a free oil change certificate from the dealership, and learned that the new Chinese built motor will last 10 years compared to the original American motor that are designed to break in 4 years to get me back into the dealership to spend more money.

Then it hit me.. baseball is becoming another American automaker.

Let’s face it, foreign players are cheaper, sexier, and have more bells and whistles like Matsuzaka’s gyroball.

The end result now is that Selig has announced plans to open a Chinese office to attract players, baseball camps have sprung up all over the East, and every team wants an Asian influence with Australia next on the radar. Yesterday Selig announced that MLB will open the season in China in 2008 *if* a new stadium is built. Sound familiar?

The owners are happy because players from the East are expected to be cheaper once they start mining on their own away from the agents. Players in China don’t have worker’s compensation, pensions, or many of the traditional American benefits. And they seem to stay healthier and play longer too, just like the new window motor in my Escalade.

Sooner or later the fans will stop going when box seats become cost prohibitive or too many lazy American players become entrenched on one uncompetitive team like the Pirates have now. Then the player’s union will lose clout and American team’s will start having financial trouble.

Just like Chrysler and GM have had.

The fans won’t care – they just want to see competitive baseball whether it is with 25 American men, 25 Asian men, or 25 players from the moon. Cheaper seat costs, lower priced beer, and reasonably competitive play is all the fans want in the US. If the team smells like a winner, looks like a winner, and talks like a winner, it’s a winner. Right? So what if it only has a .497 winning percentage this year. We’ll get them next year. Rah-rah-rah. Hope, hope, hope.

Pittsburgh fans applauded Kevin McClatchy for saving the team in Pittsburgh when he bought the franchise but the fans have been anything but happy ever since. In a few years, perhaps the fans will be applauding a new owner for saving the team from becoming the Taiwan Elephants?

Don’t think it won’t happen. It’s closer than you think.

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