The room was dark, but the well-dressed elite within would have called it 'atmosphere'. A quiet piano plinked away tunelessly in the background.
The waiters wore tuxedos, but not as expensive as the tuxedos worn by the two men in the corner.
There were no prices on the menus. Prices didn't matter in places like this.
The older of the two men casually flipped his rotund wrist. There were no words and definitely no eye contact, but the waiter did as he was told. He opened the Le Chambertin and poured two glasses before he disappeared once more.
The older man never touched his glass. He leaned forward and trained his flint-speckled eyes on the younger man.
The younger man fidgeted nervously. He didn't know if he should ignore his as well, or if he should make sure to finish his glass of $1000 per bottle wine.
"I laughed at him at first, but Joe seems to know what he's doing. The things he's doing - they're working."
"Hogwash. He's a kid and his team is in last place. I have nothing to worry about. The league has nothing to worry about."
"Then you're not paying attention, Mr. Simpson."
"Every home game this season has sold out."
"At $5 - $20 a ticket, that's not surprising. He's still not making as much as we are."
"Not on ticket sales. But the increased interest has created new fans. People love what he's doing. They can't keep merchandise in stock."
"Neither can we. Our Dominguez and Greenley jerseys have been selling out for years."
"And both of your stars are retiring this year."
"So he sells a few more jerseys than me next year. Again, why do I care?"
"Their endorsement deals are through the roof. And that's major money; corporate money. Long-term contracts."
"All right, you have a point. But when I win the World Series this year, again, I'll have all the endorsement deals I want."
"That's the point, Mr. Simpson. You won't win it again next year. You'll be stuck rebuilding the team for the next few years. You won't get the usual deals you've grown accustomed to. But that's still not your biggest worry."
Mr. Simpson frowned. He finally reached for his drink.
"He's getting the younger players at a fraction of the cost you are. He's hiring them all at league minimums. His payroll is the lowest in the league."
"Good. He'll never keep them that way."
"Wrong. They're signing extended contracts already. And the veterans are begging to renegotiate their contracts similarly."
"Why in the world would they do that, Mr. Finnigan?"
"He's splitting the team's profits with them. Across the board. For life."
Mr. Simpson's wine glass was empty.