Saturday, August 26
Money only matters if you win
By Ray Ratto
Special to

  So Jerry Colangelo is poor now, is he? Eating tuna out of the can in front of the Circle K? Selling his players' blood for ready cash?

Well, OK. And the point is?

Jerry Colangelo
Jerry Colangelo took out a $20 million loan to cover operating expenses.

We've had a week to sample the opinions and digest the conclusions made from the Arizona Diamondbacks' borrowing $20 million to shoo that lupine pest from the veranda, and the one thing nobody seems to understand is this:

Big deal.

While it is true we live in a relatively flush age, economically speaking, the fascination with baseball's financial state has always been a bafflement. The drones at Fortune, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal can be forgiven; money and the moneyed are all those folks traffic in, and it would be wrong to give them a flaying for doing their jobs.

On the other hand, would you, the average Diamondbacker, rather have the owner putting the best available product on the field and enduring a temporary case of the money shorts, or would you rather have him warm, content, rich and running a 70-win team?

Before we get any farther into this relatively easy topic, let us note that the number of poor and endangered teams always seems to grow exponentially a year before labor talks begin. I mean, the blue-ribbon panel that just filed its report and is still leaning catatonically against the juke box at Dexter's Midnight Lounge concluded recently that 27 of 30 teams have lost money in the last five years. They might as well have announced that 30 of the 27 were losing money for all that anyone believes them.

I mean, if baseball were this sick an investment, the major leagues should have folded and reorganized as a keg league in downstate Illinois. We don't want Rupert Murdoch's cheeks to sink into his skull now, do we?

But let's not go there now. Let's take another big draw on what Dad left in the glove compartment of the pickup, believe that the D-Bax really did need all that jack to keep the coins off their eyes, and re-pose the question:

What would you as a fan rather have -- wins or wealth?

The issue has become hopelessly convoluted in the NFL and NBA, where salary cap concerns affect everyone from Patrick Ewing to Sam Jacobson.

Baseball has no such cap, though, and all to the good. If George Steinbrenner would rather spend his money on Derek Jeter than shove it into his Cayman Islands IRA, isn't that good?

Well, isn't it?

You'd be amazed, though, how many people think not. You'd be stunned to discover how many people think money is the root of all evil in baseball, especially now that an owner is pulling his pockets out of his pants and making that boo-boo-kitty face.

For one, Colangelo will make that $20M back for his investors. This is what Paul Gigot, the WSJ talking-head, would call a liquidity problem. There will be more liquid soon enough.

For two, without that spending, the Diamondbacks wouldn't have Curt Schilling, let alone Randy Johnson, and they'd be the Milwaukee Brewers. With all due respect to Davey Lopes, we have enough of them already, thank you very much indeed.

For three, well, shut up. True, that's putting it indelicately, but every owner in baseball bought his team in a year in which salaries rose from the year before and would rise again the year after. Only an idiot would budget it any other way. Colangelo knew the deal when he signed on, the same way Mike Ilitch did in Detroit, and the same way Tom Hicks in Dallas, and the same way Jerry McMorris in Denver.

All we want to know, in the end, is whether the team is winning games. Arizona is winning games. That pretty much covers it. If Jerry Colangelo can't cover a dinner check at Don and Charlie's, then we'll worry about him. Otherwise, we simply can't, won't and shouldn't be bothered.

Ray Ratto, a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, is a regular contributor to

Report: D-Backs borrow $20 million to meet expenses