Choosing football over baseball wasn't an obvious decision for Kyler Murray at the time. The five-foot-something Cardinals quarterback was drafted ninth overall by the Oakland A's in 2018, while Oakland was in the midst of what would be a 97-65 season. The Cardinals, meanwhile, were flunking their way to the first overall selection in the same year's NFL draft.
And, even though The Athletics have developed a reputation as a cheap organization, the average career earnings of a major leaguer are more than $10 million more than those of an NFL player. Some of that has to do with the rate of NFL injuries, which are still a concern for someone with - as Stephen A. Smith puts it - a "miniature" stature, like Kyler Murray. Some of it has to do with the MLB's guaranteed contract structure. Either way, football seemed like a high-risk selection for Murray.
One year later, Murray was obviously correct. Not just because he finished 2019 as the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year, or because he'll be throwing to DeAndre Hopkins in 2020. Not even because the Oakland A's were found to have missed a $1.2 million dollar rent payment in April. Kyler Murray made the right decision because he chose the league that still cares about its brand. That will be invaluable in the long-run.
Rob Manfred said Monday that he's "not confident" baseball will return in 2020, and called the labor standoff between owners and players a "disaster" for the MLB. That disaster, in large part, has been brought upon by owners, in pursuit of short-term profits. That, of course, makes little sense. As RedBird Capital Partners' Lyle Ayes said recently, “It’s never been a cash-flow game anyway...Owners historically have not bought these assets to generate cash, for the most part."
The NBA, in contrast, is ready to lose money in the short-term to maintain its brand in the long-term.
"This entire endeavor is all expense," Brian Windhorst said of the NBA's scheduled Orlando return on The Hoop Collective podcast. "This whole thing is one giant money-loser. These are all game that were already contracted to play, and you're not getting any new revenue for them."
The NFL, for its part, raised team debt limits from $350 million to $500 million in preparation for any financial stress owners may incur.
The MLB owners, on the other hand, don't care about their league's brand. They haven't for a long time. They're interested in winning the argument short-term, and letting Rob Manfred take the bullets. They operate like oligarchs - robbing a nation's institutions, shipping away jobs and letting the president take heat for the wreckage they lobbied for. George W. Bush, coincidentally, almost had Manfred's job.
Kyler Murray probably didn't foresee this, but something about the past decade tipped him off to the relevance he'd lose by entering the baseball world. Maybe it was baseball's unwillingness to adapt to our ever-shortening attention spans. In 2013, 14% of Americans said baseball was their favorite sport to watch. In 2017, that number fell to 9%. The NFL, meanwhile, sits at 37%, ahead of the NBA's 11%.
Whatever it was, Kyler Murray is visible. He'll probably go down as the best quarterback the Arizona Cardinals ever drafted. If he just makes the playoffs this season, he'll be a household name in NFL circles, which are much larger than MLB circles. His team's owner, Michael Bidwill, is a part of a 32-member group committed to shaving the fat, and growing the game. That's more than I can say for baseball's oligarchs.