Baseball: Troubled signs across the pond for English clubs

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The Independent Online

If it is true that when America gets a chill Europe catches a cold, the moneybags of the Premiership, not to mention the embattled Nationwide League, should be stocking up on lemons and whisky.

Ten major league baseball clubs have slashed their salary budgets going into the new season, but even if the measures are strong, the chances of rescuing several clubs, including the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins are still not considered high.

Ironically, Minnesota are one of the few clubs to have increased their wage bill, but this is seen as a last throw for an organisation which last season found that a rock-bottom outlay of $24.1m (£16.8m) guaranteed abject failure. This time the Twins are spending $40.2m with pitcher Brad Radke collecting $8.75m.

Yet something magical happened at Tampa Bay, where the Devil Rays general manager Chuck La Mar, eking out a meagre $34m, announced a new policy of intense scouting and the development of young players. "It's the only way we can compete," he announced. The Devil Rays then promptly whipped the Detroit Tigers, who are spending $20m more, 3-0 in the opening series.

This may make grim reading for the likes of David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, but they should hold their nerve for at least a little while. A top player can still count on a decent living. Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers is a gifted short stop who faces no immediate need to pull in his belt. He remains, by a nifty $2.5m margin over the Toronto first baseman Carlos Delgado, baseball's top earner. Rodriguez pulls in $22m a year.

Said one baseball expert, "There may be a squeeze, but we are not screaming just yet. That may take a year or two. And maybe half a dozen clubs."

Sniffling English football must hope to be so lucky.

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