MLB story lines: Will the economy affect baseball?

Before the season started, we polled our writers on what they believed would be the biggest story lines in baseball in 2009. They came up with five consensus topics. What do you think will happen in each situation?

For years, baseball salaries have been on an upward climb of epic proportions. Mediocre pitchers were getting contracts of $100 million or more, middle relievers were holding out for huge offers, and even slap hitters received outlandish compensation for not all that much production.

Now, with the economy in the tank, teams (well, except for the Yankees) are taking a hard look at ways to cut expenses. Sluggers like Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell received lower-than-expected contracts that almost could be considered modest. Some teams have been openly considering the possibility of moving to more profitable stadiums, worried by the possibility that fans could stay away in droves. Even the luxury suites may be taking a hit -- some of the bigwigs who manned these mini-palaces have found themselves a bit too light in the pocket to keep up their lavish baseball-watching habits.

How has the economy most affected baseball, SportsNation?

What We're Saying

Rob Neyer: "Everybody wants to know what this recession is going to mean for the game, but mostly we're reduced to guessing. We can guess that franchises are going to tighten their belts in the front office, which means some good people will lose their jobs. We can guess that players' salaries won't rise their usual (or rather, their average) 10 percent over the next couple of years. But we can also guess that for us, as fans, baseball will plow along like it always does."

Dec. 23, 2008
Teixeira and the economy

Tim Kurkjian: "Rockies at Padres. The Peoria, Ariz., ballpark, which is beautiful, is practically empty. This could be a sign of things to come in the major leagues unless the economy changes real soon."

Mar. 15, 2009
10 spring days in Arizona

Steve Phillips: "I think you're gonna see teams that fall out of the races get rid of players earlier. I think you're gonna see, at the end of May, teams making players available that normally would be available on July 31st."

Mar. 27, 2009
BBTN: Economic Impact on 2009 Season

By the Numbers

At season's end, three sluggers seemed primed to get big paydays. Adam Dunn, splitting time between Cincinnati and Arizona, was coming off a year in which he put up his typical 40-homer, .386 OBP numbers. Pat Burrell had a solid and consistent season for the world champion Phillies, capping off a four-year run with an OPS+ over 120. Bobby Abreu was a multidimensional offensive threat, able to hit for power, get on base and steal the occasional base. In years past, all three players would have been in line for long and valuable contracts -- Abreu in particular was believed to have expected a three-year, $48 million deal. All three players have noticeable flaws, however (defense being the common thread), and all received a much lower-than-expected payday.

Bobby Abreu

Abreu's age may have played a factor in his salary.
2008 Stats
OPS: .842
OPS+: 120
OBP: .371
K: 109
SB: 22
SB%: 67
HR: 20
Age in 2009: 35
2008 salary: $16 million
2009 contract: One year, $5 million

Pat Burrell

Burrell's bat didn't translate into cash.
2008 Stats
OPS: .875
OPS+: 125
OBP: .367
K: 136
HR: 33
2B: 33
Age in 2009: 32
2008 salary: $14.25 million
2009 contract: Two years, $8 million/year

Adam Dunn

Dunn has a big bat but a weak glove, which drove down his price.
2008 Stats
OPS: .898
OPS+: 129
OBP: .386
K: 164
HR: 40
Age in 2009: 29
2008 salary: $13 million
2009 contract: Two years, $10 million/year