I am a huge baseball fan. I live and breathe the game Ä I even dream about it.
But what do I get for my devotion to the game? One big headache is the answer, and I don't know how much longer I can take this.
The game's labor situation has deteriorated to its lowest level since 1981, when the game was graced by a 50-day players' strike. It seems odd to refer to a game, especially a quaint, pastoral game like baseball, as having a "labor" situation, but that's what it is.
What ever happened to fathers playing catch with sons? Playing ball in the back yard? The romance has evaporated from this most beautiful of sports, in favor of acrimony and big business.
The game currently has some exciting young players, like Ken Griffey Jr. of Seattle, Mike Piazza of Los Angeles and Albert Belle in Cleveland. They bring youth and spirit to the game, but unfortunately, they are not what stands out most about the game. Not anymore.
The owners are crying poor, whining that in their small markets there is not enough revenue to continue to pay these players exorbitant sums.
The owners, as a group, believe that a salary cap, with concomitant revenue sharing among the players and the owners, is the only way to ground the spiraling salaries and staunch the flow of red ink.
The National Basketball Association has a plan that ensures the players 53 percent of the league's gross revenues, with a salary cap in place that mandates both minimum and maximum amounts that may be spent on salaries. It has revitalized professional basketball, which at one point early last decade was orphaned and almost abandoned.
But the baseball players, led by their blowhard spokesman/chief agitator, Donald Fehr, are standing in defiant opposition. They say they will not accept a salary cap, and will strike if need be. As long as they get back for the playoffs, which assures the participating teams a percentage of the profits, of course.
Ah, the playoffs. Don't even get me started on the playoffs. Starting this season, the American and National Leagues split into three divisions from the traditional two, allowing each division winner and a wild-card team from each league to get into the lucrative postseason bonanza.
When baseball was a game, only the winner of each league advanced, right to the World Series. Each season was a 154-game (later 162-game) struggle for supremacy in which the strongest survived and everyone else went home. 1969 brought a split into two divisions in each league, which created another set of playoffs, but the idea of the elite advancing to the postseason was essentially intact.
But now, welcome to the best-of-five opening round of the playoff circus. Why fight for 162 games when your season could be ended in a mere three games by an upstart team that catches fire? The only reason the season was so long in the first place was to ensure that the cream rose to the top. Once you shake the pitcher enough times, though, all you get is sour cream.
With this lovely three-division format, the Texas Rangers are in first place in their division, readying for the playoffs. As of today, the Rangers have a record of 39-42, which is like rewarding your most mediocre employee with a trip to Hawaii.
Keep in mind, divisions have been won by mediocre teams before, but in the modern era, the worst record by a division winner belongs to the 1973 New York Mets, who finished 83-79. As in over .500.
And now the players are talking about going on strike if they are confronted with a salary cap. Just imagine it: baseball fans will no longer be able to watch below-average teams dilute the playoffs and tarnish the integrity of this once-proud game. The shell of the grand old game might break after all.
Let them go.
Adam Hartmann is the Summer Wildcat editor in chief. His favorite baseball team is the Baltimore Orioles. Read Next Article