July 11, 2002

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

I'm as big a baseball fan as there is out there but folks that's all going to end if the players and management can not come to some form of labor agreement in the near future and avoid another strike. Don't these guys realize that all this strike talk is turning fans off? Without us pushing through the turnstiles at the stadiums, buying the Major League Baseball merchandise, and watching the television broadcasts, there are no million dollar salaries for ball players and there definitely is little chance for ownership to turn a profit.

Maybe I'm just jealous but I don't imagine too many people in Scotland County have seen the average salary for their job jump from $51,000 in 1976 to more than $2.38 million this year. That's pretty good money for playing a game for six months a year. (Hey guys if $2.38 million doesn't feed the family try getting a job during the off season.)

However players are upset that the league wants to slow down the growth of salaries. Management is using the small market vs. big market argument, stating that teams like the New York Yankees, which has 10 times as much revenue thanks to large TV contracts and added revenues from being in the nation's largest market, have an unfair advantage over teams like the Kansas City Royals that have much less revenue generated. You must admit the Yankees are just a tad bit better team than the Royals. Of course last year management was using the Expos and the Twins and a few years ago it was the Oakland A's as examples of the poor small market teams. However, despite being among the three lowest revenue drawing teams this season all are in playoff contention.

I realize both sides need to make concessions but I must say (it pains me to admit I side with big management) I think the players need to take a look around and realize they aren't going to make $2.5 million a year without baseball.

The process likely will bog down around a few key areas. Management wants to increase revenue sharing to 50 percent. Currently all teams contribute 20 percent of their local revenue to a pool. Obviously this is a way to take money from the big markets to help the small. The players seem to be against this idea because they're afraid it limits the possibility of these big teams paying out the mega contracts.

A similar issue is the luxury tax, which takes a percentage of a team's payroll if it exceeds a league established level. Again this takes money from big teams and is meant to prevent salaries from continuing to wildly elevate. Obviously the players are also opposed to this idea. The union also doesn't like the idea of contraction (will lose two teams meaning a decrease of 60 major league players jobs); insist on being paid even when they are suspended for fighting; say drug testing is an invasion of privacy; and don't think the league needs a minimum or maximum salary cap for teams.

It all boils down to the fact an industry can not run without employees. However that business can't survive if the workers cost more than the finished product. History has taught us that big business often sticks it too the little guy. Unions are important tools to protect the average worker and strikes can make management realize how important the worker bees are.

However I think history will show a different story if there is a baseball strike in 2002. Attendance has never recovered from the 1994 strike that cost us fans the World Series, the first time since 1904 that the games were not played. A lot of us have reluctantly returned but if you do this too us again, I feel that it will mark the end of MLB as we know it. The players are going to strike for more money, but if they do they may finally realize they had it pretty good because I for one won't spend another dime to

support such blatant greed.

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