Despite a close call, the baseball season is safe after players and owners finally settled baseball’s latest power struggle last week. And that’s a good thing, too.
Another strike would have destroyed the integrity of a game already besieged with steroid scandals, budget problems, commissioner incompetence and the New York Yankees.
One of the first concessions was when players agreed to begin mandatory steroid testing. This was a necessary move. The sport cannot survive if fans lose confidence in hitting, the one thing that draws them.
In the interests of competitive balance, the richest teams will be taxed on how much they spend each year. This purposefully hurts the Yankees more because owner George Steinbrenner has been buying championships since the mid 1990s.
The luxury tax, which we may call soft-core socialism, works here where it would not in a normal economic system. Whereas in America the rich employ the poor and middle class, in baseball the richest take from the rest thanks to a nifty trick called free agency.
As long as baseball refuses to play like the rest of the business world, such drastic measures are necessary.
The new collective bargaining agreement also allows baseball to take from the rich and give to the poor via revenue sharing. Such a process was already in place, but it was ineffective. Only time will tell if revenue sharing truly will be a benefit to small-market teams.
Two more things need to happen for baseball to avoid more problems when the deal runs out in 2006 or 2007.
Congress needs to revoke baseball’s antitrust exemption and treat the game like the business it is. This protects the consumers of the product from mismanagement and price-gauging.
And baseball also needs a payroll floor. Although a salary cap would be nice, the problem with the game isn’t that players get paid too much. After all, they ask for what the market bears.
But nothing keeps greedy owners from scuttling their own teams in the hopes of making millions, crying poor and selling out. Florida, Montreal and Minnesota have seen this, and it destroys the market for baseball in those areas.
Any agreement is a good agreement in baseball. The game plays on four more years, and for baseball fans, that’s all that matters. But serious problems will not go away, and unless they are addressed soon, it could be another strike.
Then we’ll all be out.