Can Major League Baseball Survive Another Strike?

By Bob Barry, Jr. | THE JOURNAL RECORD, May 17, 2002 | Go to article overview

Can Major League Baseball Survive Another Strike?


Bob Sr.: Yes!
Major League Baseball is in quite a quandary. Attendance this season is down 5 percent. The Major League Baseball owners tried to begin solving their financial problems by downsizing. But the players' union went to court along with individual teams and scotched that for now at least.
The players union and the owners do not have a new labor agreement and haven't had since last year. They have been in negotiations from time to time since, but so far they apparently are not even close to a new labor contract. So this week, the New York Times reported that the players' union is talking about going on strike in August.
The union is careful to state that it is just talk at this time, but that something has to be done to get the negotiations moving forward.
Then there is the politics of the situation. Major- league owners have spent a record amount of money lobbying members of Congress, to try and get legislation on their side to help solve the main problem plaguing baseball.
OK, so what exactly is the main problem with baseball?
Here it is, simply stated. The rich teams win the championships. The financially poorer teams don't have a chance at being competitive. So the same teams are in the playoffs each year and in the World Series.
That's it. That is the central problem.
Then there are a myriad of other problems. The owners claim most of their teams are losing money. The players say that's not true. The players claim the financial statements released to the public hide certain money to make it appear many teams are financially strapped.
There is the "free agency" problem. Players have the right under the current although expired labor agreement, that after they are in the major leagues a certain amount of time, they become free agents and are able to make their own deal with whatever team they want. This drives the players' salaries up and up, and puts us back to the main problem.
The wealthier teams can afford to pay the big bucks, they get the better players and they win games and championships. The other teams lose their good players, the fans get mad at the players leaving their team, and get mad at the owner for not paying to keep their better players, so they don't go to the games in numbers that the owner must have to make it.
How many times have I heard fans say something to the effect that they are no longer going to go to Major League Baseball games because the players make too much money; or because the owners won't pay what they should to keep good players.
The last time there was a strike in Major League Baseball it wiped out the playoffs and the World Series, and as you perhaps will remember it almost wiped out Major League Baseball. Neither the owners nor the players want a work stoppage, no matter what the players say about going on strike. Both sides realize their golden goose could be cooked it they do stop playing in the middle of the season.
As badly as I hate to say it, I really believe that Major League Baseball is at a point where there must be some help given by the government to solve the main problem. Simply stated, there must be some sort of cost-sharing agreement among teams. Or some sort of situation whereby teams can all share in the proceeds from the large- market teams like in New York and Los Angeles, and the smaller market teams like in Minnesota and Montreal.
I hate government intervention in sports, but we are at the point where that seems to be the only solution. The other pro sports have these types of agreements, why can't Major League Baseball? So far litigation by the players union has prevented that from happening.
As to the main question, can baseball survive another strike? Yes, it certainly will. Baseball is a great sport. Perhaps the greatest in combining the individual and team concept in one sport.
But the road is a rocky one. Hopefully the two sides and the government will throw strikes and not the kind that has baseball going out swinging. …

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