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Rejected Freelance Attempts: Part One

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As some of you know, I once played a freelance writer. Today I'm posting one of the pieces I wrote before shopping, and then found zero takers through the market (mostly because of focus and the fact that I'm not Dave Zirin). I'm a gratification junkie and can't stand the thought of letting something I spent hours on go to waste. So here. It's not entirely Rays related, and I blame myself for the politics, but it's not really politics. Hopefully some find enjoyment in it, if not, allow me a stinker every once in a while. Thanks.

Baseball fans are generally considered intellectually superior to their football brethren. Their game is more complex and less violent, has deeper intimacy with math and strategy with fewer bruises and brutes, and is ultimately more innocent in nature. Despite baseball's supposed sophistication, football fans have grasped one important concept that baseball fans cannot. The concept is the platoon; a modern way of saying playing two or more players at one position based on a variable such as the pitcher's throwing arm or recent performance.

When the New York Giants won the Super Bowl in early 2008, they had no full-time running back. Instead, Head Coach Tom Coughlin rotated the powerful Brandon Jacobs, the shifty Derrick Ward, and the speedy Ahmad Bradshaw based on down, situation, and formation. The media and fans adorned the trio as ‘Earth, Wind, & Fire' and played up how well each complemented the others. Flash forward nine months to the Tampa Bay Rays' appearance in the World Series. Their right fielder on any given day was either Gabe Gross or Ben Zobrist, depending on the match-up. Naturally, fans felt this was a glaring weakness rather than a potential strength.

Maybe it has to do with the limited roster spots. With 53 roster slots available, football teams can hide players with limited skill sets better than a team of 25 in which 12 or 13 spots are reserved for pitchers. Roster spot scarcity is certainly a possibility, but remember that baseball is the American pastime. Many writers and poets have inked prose lauding baseball as the real American game. If such is the case, then must baseball share the American view on foreign politics as well? Few would disagree that the general American opinion on Communism is disapproving at best, which would indicate that the sport also holds distaste for the form of government.

The only Red Scare that Gross and Zobrist conducted involved red stockings, but consider that communism preaches equality and even-handfuls throughout. The modern construction of platoons would hardly meet the approval of Karl Marx, because the truth is the left-handed portion will likely get 60% of the at-bats. However, that fails to stop the negative connotation associated with the roster machination.

Using a platoon is often an admission of poverty. The big market teams can afford a right fielder that can be supported with one jersey purchase. Nobody is walking around St. Petersburg with a Grobrist jersey. This leads to natural resentment of riches and, in theory, support for a more neutral financial playing field. In sport terms: a salary cap. Football has one yet somehow multiple have made runs for perfect records and the league's bottom seems weaker now than ever before, so perhaps talent trickling down is just a myth.

Baseball has avoided the dreaded cap for more than a decade despite the separation between the richest and the middle class increasing steadily since 1994 - the year of the last work stoppage in baseball - and there are no signs things will change anytime soon. The answer to baseball's checkbook imbalance can be debated all day and night, but the root cause can be summed up quicker than the moon rises:  baseball fans hate equality.

Hockey is the sport with the most equality. The National Hockey League features both a strict salary cap and floor. The play itself is more equal as even the starters spend less than half the game on the ice. Yes, good players will spend the most time on the ice, but there are still four lines that split time and the on-ice rotation is in constant evolution.

Hockey is the least popular of the four major professional sport leagues in America. Not having natural ice in some states could contribute to this sense of apathy, but this is the same league that implemented rules resulting in a gutting their previous champion. Installing a salary cap forced the Tampa Bay Lightning to decide between star winger Martin St. Louis and unbeatable goalie Nikolai Khabilbulin. They chose St. Louis and suffered through poor goalie play for seasons to come. Would any other league be able to do this before riots reached the stage of critical mass and national emergency? Communist-run countries like Russia and formerly Czechoslovakia adore hockey despite the lack of love for the most beautiful game on ice in America. And Canada, a socialist country, has hockey in its blood like America does baseball. Perhaps that's not a coincidence.

What is Communism if not a monopoly on power? Naturally, Americans and baseball fans hate monopolies -- with the exception of Major League Baseball itself. MLB has rules in place to avoid monopolies of talent by any of its component teams. From option and roster limits to as minute intricacies like the Rule 4 and Rule 5 drafts, the league does its best to spread the talent around.

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner may be the most polarizing non-player in baseball history. Yankee fans love his riches and his devotion to winning by dumping battleships full of dollars at the feet of any notable free agent. Everyone else points to his irresponsible spending as a bad for baseball. In 2009, Forbes ranked Steinbrenner and his estimated worth $1.3 billion as the 341st richest person in America. If someone in the mid-300s can drive the majority of baseball fans nuts, imagine what would happen if Warren Buffett decided to sell his share of the Omaha Royals and go for the Kansas City mothership.

As it stands, baseball replicates the promise of the American business system. The Rays showed that forward-thinking and efficiency can eclipse stacks of dead presidents and there are numerous examples throughout the country's history of the little entrepreneur hitting it rich while a Fortune 500 company goes belly up despite all the money in the world.

So if baseball is America, and America hates Communism, then Fidel Castro probably is one of the game's least favorite people on Earth. It actually seems that way. Castro of course ran Cuba for roughly half a century and loved baseball as much as anyone. Like a fan of the smallest market team in the world, he watched his players - and for all purposes, they were his players - grow from youngsters to teenagers to world class athletes who bolt for America's soil and riches.

Castro loves the game despite its conflict with belief system. If one of the most hated men on the planet can put aside his biases against capitalism and inequality, then why can't Americans?