Baseball Is About To Strike Out
August 26, 2002
For us, the fans of major league baseball and the players we root for, this Friday could very well be one of the saddest days in professional sports history.
By a vote of 57-0, the executive board of the Major League Baseball Players union has designated August 30, 2002 as the deadline for bringing an amicable contract resolution between the players and the owners. The players have been without a contract since the end of the 2001 season.
Will the players actually walk out on their fans? Will the owners be greedy and fail to come up with a contract that will work for both sides?
I vividly remember the last major league baseball player’s strike in 1994. When it was announced that the postseason had been cancelled, people were disgusted. They were appalled. Baseball fans were were saying, “how dare these overpriced jocks do this to us?” Many threatened to never watch another major league baseball game again in their life.
In fact, several overzealous fans created websites devoted to pushing for a fan strike of major league baseball. Some of those interesting and informative websites have been rekindled during this year’s strike threat, including http://www.mlbfanstrike.com (there’s a hilarious countdown clock that ends at midnight this Friday, the beginning of the fan strike and a fan cost index graphic that shows just how outrageous prices have gotten to see a major league baseball game over the past decade) and http://www.major-league-baseball-strike.com (this website shows a complete team-by-team listing of how much money each major league baseball players get paid, facts about major league baseball and some humor that you don’t want to miss).
Nevertheless, as mad as we got over the last work stoppage, most of us still came back to the game in the late 1990’s. Diehard and fair weather fans alike watched athletes like Ripken, McGwire, Sosa and Bonds breaking records that had been held since our fathers and grandfathers were children. We came back like nothing had ever happened!
But 2002 may be different. Last year, after the terrorist attacks on the United States in September, baseball became a refuge for people seeking a sense of community and hope for the future. Patriotism became a central theme in ballparks across America. We were united as one behind the cause of defeating the ones responsible for the atrocities.
Baseball stadiums became makeshift chapels and synagogues for us to meet together to be lifted up in our time of hurt and despair. How ironic is it that there may not even be a single major league baseball game played on the one year anniversary of 9-11? How sad. What could possibly be the reason for a major league baseball work stoppage at such a sensitive time in the life of our country?
The answer to that question is at the center of the dispute between the players and the owners. The major disagreement is over a proposed luxury tax that would “tax” a team for spending above a set amount for their payroll. The disagreement is over what level to set that number at.
The players say that setting this number too low will give owners more incentive to cut payroll and that their salaries will begin to decline. Awwww! Poor babies! Instead of $5 million a year, they can only get $4 million. Somebody call the welfare office and see if any of these guys can qualify before they starve to death on a few million bucks! Give me a break!
Another reason for the strike is over contraction. A ruling is due from an arbiter on that issue, but the result of that ruling has been delayed until the luxury tax issue has been resolved. In other words, even if an agreement can be made over the luxury tax issue before Friday’s deadline, both sides will still need to discuss the issue of contraction. As slow as negotiations have been thus far, I think I am safe in saying that major league baseball in 2002 will end this Friday.
Some owners are saying that they are willing to take a financial hit so that the outrageous players salaries can be brought back down to reasonable levels. Of course, owners of large market teams, like the New York Yankees, don’t have a problem with the high salaries since they can afford to pay them. However, owners of small market teams, like the Montreal Expos, say that they can’t compete. A lack of unity of purpose between major league baseball owners has caused a stalemate in preventing the strike.
So, what now?
If a strike is prevented and a contract is signed, then all will be well in the world of baseball and its fans. People will soon forget about talk of a strike and cheer on their favorite teams as the playoffs begin.
But, if a strike happens in major league baseball this Friday, fans have threatened to strike back. This time those threats may very well become a reality. If so, then baseball is about to strike out for good!