King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Lords of Baseball: We need a salary cap! Well, those five weeks of harmony were nice. Plus: NFL Week 14.

By Salon Staff
Published December 8, 2006 5:00PM (EST)

OK, who had five weeks in the pool?

That's how long it took for the Lords of Baseball to end the new era of peace, love and harmony and start bellyaching about the need to rein in salaries.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported from the just-concluded Winter Meetings in Florida this week that Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and other top executives, singing the praises of labor peace and record attendance and revenues a few short weeks ago, are upset about the skyrocketing market for talent.

"We need a system of salary restraint," Passan quoted Reinsdorf saying. "Revenue sharing has helped somewhat, but not enough. Until there's a system of salary restraint, the players are going to get all incremental revenue."

It's 2002 all over again! The game can't possibly survive without a salary cap! And please ignore that since the last time we were saying that, the game has set records for attendance and revenue, achieved unprecedented labor peace and had nine different teams win the 10 available league championships! Thank you!

Passan also quoted laments of varying intensity from execs of the Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians. And he quoted Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon, who said, "I'm OK with it. I really am. I find it interesting. I find it a great challenge."

I've never met Maddon, but he seems like one of those guys whom baseball brands as eccentric and weird and loopy, but when you actually meet him, you discover he's just kind of a regular guy. I mean, ooh, weird Joe Maddon. He has a laptop and designer eyeglasses!

Anyway, you realize what these guys are lamenting, don't you? They're lamenting that they can't compete with the $136 million, eight-year deal the Chicago Cubs gave Alfonso Soriano or the $100 million and six years the Houston Astros gave Carlos Lee.

They're moaning that they were priced out of the market for journeyman center fielders Gary Matthews Jr. and Juan Pierre, the trio of interchangeable middle relievers the Baltimore Orioles signed for $41 million and the non-Cy Young-like twirling of Ted Lilly.

Have these fellows not witnessed the last decade? In two years or so, the tulipmania of this off-season will have passed and, say, Alfonso Soriano will be seen for what he is, a good but not elite player who had an outlying career year in 2006.

At that point he'll be 33 and entering or well into his decline years. And his tremendous contract will be an anchor on the Cubs for six more years. That's not to mention the other $200 million or so the Cubs have lavished on free agentry this winter, mostly Lilly and Aramis Ramirez.

What we're talking about here is executives complaining that they can't keep up with the Cubs. The Cubs! The Cubs, people. The Cubs!

In two years or so the Cubs will be wondering what the hell to do with Alfonso Soriano and his 136 million little friends and the Brewers will be laughing all the way to the playoffs. And the owners will be whimpering about a salary cap.

Meanwhile, David Wells, last seen leaking oil and headed for retirement, has said he just might want to come back, and former World Series hero Jim Leyritz, 42 years old and six years past his last big-league game, is planning to begin working out in hopes of catching on somewhere.

No wonder. In this market, wouldn't you? Frank Robinson won't be managing the Nationals next year. He's been swinging a bat. Just to stay loose, you see.

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Winners in caps, plus the picks of the coin-flippinest 3-year-old north of the equator, who's tied for second in the Panel o' Experts standings with porn star Adriana Sage.

Early Sunday games

ATLANTA (6-6) at Tampa Bay (3-9): The Falcons looked like they were doomed, seasonwise, when they fell behind to Washington last week, but they came back. So they're not. Doomed, that is. Yet.
Buster's pick: Atlanta (coin)

TENNESSEE (5-7) at Houston (4-8): The Titans are 5-2 since that 0-5 start that included a one-point loss to the Colts. Who was it who wrote in his season preview for Salon, "For no other reason than that I think this franchise knows what it's doing, I say they'll hang around the wild-card race to the end and be the biggest surprise in the NFL"? Hey, come back here. I didn't say to read the rest of that preview! OK, shut up. You thought Miami'd be good too.
Buster's pick: Houston (coin)

NEW ENGLAND (9-3) at Miami (5-7): Just, you know, shut up. All right, Miami is turning out to be pretty good, though they lack a certain je ne sais quoi, which is French for we don't have a quoiterback. Also running back, until Ronnie Brown returns from injury, which won't be Sunday. The Patriots are back to playing hot dog vendors on defense, which is a bad thing for any team but the Patriots, who win Super Bowls with that method.
Buster's pick: New England (coin)

Philadelphia (6-6) at WASHINGTON (4-8): The Eagles were supposed to go belly up, or whatever it is Eagles do, without Donovan McNabb, and it looked for a while like that's what they were doing, getting routed by the Titans the day McNabb got hurt and by the Colts the next week, then trailing the Panthers for most of the night before a comeback win Monday.

Now it's a whole new season. They're right back in the playoff hunt, holding a wild-card spot. Jeff Garcia is clicking at quarterback. And they get to play a struggling Washington team with a bad defense, the very same team they routed 27-3 four weeks ago.

They're going to lose.
Buster's pick: Washington (coin)

Oakland (2-10) at CINCINNATI (7-5): Have I mentioned lately that I'm a Raiders fan? Grim thing to be these days. You're just kind of, you know. Waiting.
Buster's pick: Cincinnati (11-point favorite)

N.Y. GIANTS (6-6) at Carolina (6-6): Michael Strahan yelled at someone for having a gap between their front tooth this week. Two wobbling teams that both need a win if they want to make the playoffs, which it's safe to assume they do. Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme will either play with a very sore right thumb or give way to backup Chris Weinke. Either scenario gives the Giants a slight advantage.
Buster's pick: Carolina (coin)

Minnesota (5-7) at DETROIT (2-10): How bad's the quarterback situation in Minnesota? The Vikings have signed Drew Henson to the practice squad. Because Brooks Bollinger is hurt! The Lions are the best 2-10 team in the league. They might even give a 3-9 team a game. They really do seem to be putting things together a little bit.
Buster's pick: Minnesota (coin)

INDIANAPOLIS (10-2) at Jacksonville (7-5): The Jags are good against good teams, not so good against not so good teams. The Colts are 10-2, which is good. But they're not that good. My head hurts. Also my thumb. It's just a cut, but it's right on the tip, you know? Thanks for asking.
Buster's pick: Jacksonville (coin)

BALTIMORE (9-3) at Kansas City (7-5): I was starting to think of the Ravens as Super Bowl material before that loss to the Bengals last week. I'm still not far from thinking of them that way. The Chiefs losing to the Browns looked a little more like spitting the bit.
Buster's pick: Baltimore (coin)

Late Sunday games

Green Bay (4-8) at SAN FRANCISCO (5-7): Two teams moving in opposite directions should continue doing so unless Brett Favre has one of those last-hurrah great games, which isn't altogether unlikely against the 49ers defense.
Buster's pick: Green Bay (coin)

Seattle (8-4) at ARIZONA (3-9): What the Heck Pick™ of the week.
Buster's pick: Arizona (coin)
Note from Dad: I think my kid's getting screwed here. How is the spread on this game only three points?

Buffalo (5-7) at N.Y. JETS (7-5): This game is a lot more interesting than it looked like it was going to be 13 weeks ago. Playoff hopes, home-field advantage and the running game should be enough to get the Jets a hard-fought win. If the defense can stop Buffalo's running attack, which isn't a given, and put the game in J.P. Losman's hands, it won't be that hard fought.
Buster's pick: New York (coin)

Denver (7-5) at SAN DIEGO (10-2): The Chargers' comeback win in Denver three weeks ago started the Broncos on a tailspin. San Diego has kept on rolling, extending their win streak to six, though both the Raiders and Bills have kept it close in the last two weeks. The Broncos will have to fight for their playoff life with a banged-up defense and a rookie quarterback playing his second game. Vital signs are weak.
Buster's pick: San Diego (7.5-point favorite)

Sunday night game

NEW ORLEANS (8-4) at Dallas (8-4): You win a game on a late field goal and you've pretty much won a coin flip, and that Giants team the Cowboys beat last week is a mess. Still, Dallas is looking like the most complete team in the NFC now, with apologies to Rex Grossman's 1.3 passer rating. But with Drew Brees, the Saints have a puncher's chance, and here's a hunch pick that the Saints will emerge as, for the moment anyway, the team to beat if the Bears aren't the team to beat.
Buster's pick: Dallas (7-point favorite)

Monday night game

CHICAGO (10-2) at St. Louis (5-7): The Bears should be able to run on the Rams, but Grossman's going to have to get that passer rating up to at least 3.5.
Buster's pick: Chicago (6.5-point favorite)

Record so far this week: 1-0
Season record: 107-86
Last week: 9-7
What the Heck™ Picks: 1-11
Difference between Rex Grossman's passer rating last week and the passer rating this column would have if the Bears let it play quarterback this week. Barefoot. And drunk: 1.3

Previous column: "Ali Rap"

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