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UA News
Baseball strikes out

Josh Bogorad
staff writer
By Josh Bogorad
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday August 29, 2002

As I followed the Major League Baseball labor talks for the past week, something became overwhelmingly evident to me ÷ a strike will not kill baseball, because baseball as most of the country once knew it is already dead.

America's pastime has passed, and all that remains is a contractual dispute among millionaires. Waiting to see if the second World Series in eight years would be cancelled gave me time to reflect on a few things I've always noticed, but never really put into perspective until now.

Recently, I was watching the Arizona Diamondbacks play a game at Bank One Ballpark. It was somewhere between the Honda "Keys to the Game," Nextel Direct "Call to the Bullpen," Geico "Protection Play of the Game" and the Pennzoil player of the game that I noticed just how business oriented baseball had become.

I understand that baseball is a business, and had I not seen all of this the week that a strike deadline approached, it may have gone in one ear and out the other like a Monday morning lecture. However, that was not the case this time. I've always known that baseball was a business, but it was at this point that I realized just how poorly run a business it is.

The season is nearly 80 percent done and several storylines have captivated fans. At a time when eyes should be glued to record-chasing performances by John Smoltz or the Oakland A's pitching staff, they're fixated on revenue sharing problems. While the National League Wild Card and American League West playoff races are tighter than Rosie O'Donnell in a size four dress, the fans are worried about luxury taxes. While the postseason is scheduled about a month away, fans are wondering if they'll see baseball next week.

A major rule in business is you keep the customer happy. Another rule is that you try to keep internal problems just that, internal. Baseball has marked itself as one of the most poorly run businesses in the world with the way they have handled not only a strike, but their product over recent years.

Customers who support baseball are not happy. They are either upset, or they no longer care. In a recent poll conducted by ABC Sports, less than 30 percent of people care if there is a work stoppage tomorrow. But can you blame them? It seems like the players and owners don't care either.

MLB Commissioner and life-long idiot Bud Selig arrived in New York yesterday to join the labor talks. It's nice to know that the man who sits at baseball's helm waited until 48 hours before the deadline to join the negotiations. I can only imagine the things that were more important than this that kept him in Milwaukee. Hopefully, for Selig's sake, he was picking up job applications at local breweries, because lockout or not, Selig needs to be removed from the game öö forcefully.

Many owners have altered their teams' travel plans for the upcoming weekend, and the Baltimore Orioles only gave their players half of their allowance for the upcoming road trip, signaling they believe a strike is imminent.

Boston Red Sox pitcher John Burkett said this week, "I plan on striking. I think it's going to be long."

Now that's the kind of optimism I like to see from the players and owners. With a week remaining before the deadline, when the players and owners should be doing everything humanly possible to see that no strike takes place, the commissioner has been M.I.A., the owners are already making preparations for a lockout and the players are publicly stating that a strike is probable.

Los Angeles Dodgers player representative Paul Lo Duca said late Tuesday that the two sides had agreed on the drug testing policy, one of the key issues in the negotiations. It was revealed yesterday that the sides had not come to an agreement, and were only getting closer. The people involved in the negotiations don't even know what's going on. The whole procedure too closely resembles a "Three Stooges" episode.

This kind of action would not be tolerated from other businesses, so why should it be tolerated in baseball?

Even if the two sides manage to stop their bickering long enough to bring closure to this season, history has proven that we can only look forward to this down the road. The only reason we haven't seen a lockout since '94 is because the last agreement went through last season. If this agreement, which is proposed for four years, takes place, rest assured that come the 2007 season we'll get to do all of this over again.

Baseball is a shade of what it once was. The mystique of baseball and the pureness of the game that once defined our country is fading more and more with each day. Ebbetts Field has given way to Minute Maid Park. Autograph sessions have yielded to silent auctions. And our national pastime has become a collective bargaining agreement.

Will the players strike? Maybe. We'll find out tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Yet regardless of whether the players strike tomorrow afternoon, baseball has already struck out.


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