Strikes and Balls

In Baseball's Labor Game, Reporters Miss the Signs

In short, the issue that very nearly ruined baseball had nothing to do with competitive balance. The NFL, which was held up as the model for baseball, had seen exactly 18 different teams go to the Super Bowl in the previous 21 years; baseball, despite losing the end of the season in 1994, had seen 20 different teams play in the World Series over the same period. Even during the Yankees' remarkable seven-year run, seven different teams had played in the World Series, while the NFL over the same span could boast just eight different teams in the Super Bowl. That football was somehow more "competitive" than baseball was an illusion fostered by its greater number of playoff berths.

If Selig's intention was to spread the wealth, he'd have approached the players with a promise that all newly shared revenues would go for players' salaries and not into the owners' pockets. This never happened. The real object from the beginning was to sneak through the back door a spending tax that would hold down players' salaries.

And who was that tax directed at? Why, the Boss himself, who insisted from the start that the new agreement would unfairly penalize him and who, if he does take the issue to court, stands a very good chance of finding a judge who agrees with him. And where will that leave baseball? Right back where it was before all the nonsense of the Blue Ribbon Panel began, only this time stripped of any illusions that Major League Baseball is a self-governing body. Which means that after more than a quarter of a century of being baseball's Antichrist, George Steinbrenner may actually be the man who ends up saving baseball from itself.

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