If asked, would you be able to identify the five most important issues surrounding the current baseball strike? Prior to choosing sides, one must understand the position of both the owners and the players.
The players' position is simple. They are happy with the current system, which was outlined in the expired collective bargaining agreement. The players would like to sign a new agreement, thus maintaining the status quo. This is a pretty reasonable suggestion when you consider revenues in baseball reached an all-time high of $1.8 billion in 1993.
The players argue the game has never been healthier, as illustrated by Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas moving onto the list of the world's ten most marketable athletes. The players feel the real dispute is between the small-market clubs and the large-market clubs. The smaller markets feel a revenue-sharing plan between all the owners is vital in order to ensure viability. The large markets have agreed to share revenues only if a league-wide salary cap is imposed. Therein lies the problem. Ownership would like to fix industry costs in order to share in larger profits.
The owners continue to argue that several teams, upwards to 19, are losing money. They maintain that salaries are uncontrollable and a few franchises are on the brink of bankruptcy. Also, they claim their original proposal calls for the players and owners to split league-wide revenues 50/50. Furthermore, they argue that if revenues continue to increase at a reasonable percentage, within seven
years players will post an average salary in excess of $2 million per year.
Each side has feverishly painted itself into a corner, leaving little room for compromise. We are presently witnessing a billion-dollar game of chicken.
We are faced with a deep-rooted problem that stems from a lack of trust. Fans have to realize that baseball is much more than a game to these grown men in pinstripes. It is plain and simple their livelihood and trade. Most of these players have been on this career path since youth leagues. This is all they know. The current management-labor dispute is about what every American can relate to, job security.
Baseball players have learned quickly from the present NFL environment. Countless veterans are losing jobs because teams need to cut payrolls in order to meet industry standards. How else do you explain Phil Simms, a long-time football hero in New York, getting the ax. Very capable men with tremendous talents are being left behind. When you are 32-years old and have many years of your life invested in a specific trade, a sudden career change would be difficult for anybody.
In closing, history has shown that championships cannot be bought and small-market clubs have been extremely competitive (the Minnesota Twins winning the World Series, for example). Ironically, the 1994 season best explains the aforementioned. The Montreal Expos have the second-lowest payroll in the league and are running away with their division. Also, the Texas Rangers spent over $40 million on three players during the offseason and are currently playing below .500. The Pittsburgh Pirates, a team clearly struggling, recently sold for $85 million.
The translation: the current system is working and if by chance you find your team in distress, sell for millions and realize a gazillion-dollar profit.
Keith Kreiter is the founder and president of Edge Sports International, Inc., a management, marketing and consulting firm specializing in sports and entertainment.
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