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A Golden Age of Labor Peace?
Posted by Ted Rossman at 7/30/2006 11:16:00 PM
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News today from MLB* that the collective bargaining negotiations are progressing well and that an agreement might even be in place by the end of the 2006 season. How sweet would that be for baseball fans? I still shudder every August 12 when I remember what happened in 1994 with ballparks going dark all across the country, not to come alive again until the following spring.

With the current CBA set to expire on December 19, I've been a little nervous over the last few months that a deal might not be reached. This news makes me feel better. I still can't decide if the steroids issue helps or hurts the chances of a deal. On one hand, both sides seem committed to rooting out cheating (and the suspicion of cheating) in the game. On the other hand, however, the steroids issue has created some animosity between the players and owners.

Baseball has made progress from where it was in 1994, and the 2002 agreement was certainly ground-breaking, but I think there is still room for economic improvement. As a lifelong Colorado Rockies fan, I hate it that as of opening day, it would take the Rockies, Devil Rays, Marlins, Pirates, Royals and $10 million extra just to match the Yankees' $196 million opening day payroll. I hate it when every year (except maybe this one) the Rockies are a seller at the trading deadline, while the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Mets get richer and richer.

Lately, there has been a lot more parity in baseball, and it has even extended to the postseason. If I could make some reforms? I'd expand the playoffs to five teams in each league (the two wild-card teams could play each other in a best-of-five series before the Division Series) and I'd institute more meaningful revenue sharing. I know that neither is likely to happen, and I don't think that baseball is nearly as broken as it was in 1994, or the NHL was in 2004-05, but I'd like to see more teams with a chance.



MLB learned from its mistake in '94. Too many fans, including myself, dropped the game like a lead weight. And today, I'm only engaged in baseball from a fantasy/statistical perspective -- watching it, particularly on TV, is worse than waiting for paint to dry. Reforms to address 'roids, playoffs and revenue sharing would, in part, improve the sport's image and help create greater parity. But alas, they just won't make those kinds of moves.
Posted by eaglehawk at 7/31/2006 11:58:00 AM
Um, the Wild Card has not made the postseason or regular season better. There are less close pennant races in the fall and fewer compelling ones if you break it down. I'd rather go back to 3 playoff teams in each league and truly reward the team with the best record (what do the Tigers really get if they win 120 games this year? Nothing). Adding a 5th team would buy into the marketing hype that says the Wild Card and interleague play have saved baseball. Both are vastly overrated and used to justify Bud Selig's reign, when labor peace and just good solid baseball is all it takes to grow the game.
Posted by schoenke at 8/1/2006 2:27:00 PM
What would be accomplished by adding an extra playoff team in each league? The season is 162 games. If a team can't win it's a division or be the best of the rest, does it deserve to make the postseason? I think the Wild Card, interleague play, the last CBA, basically everything Selig has done is overrated. Baseball is as popular as it's ever been not because of all that stuff, but because of what happens on the field.

Posted by Jason Thornbury at 8/1/2006 5:58:00 PM
*More* meaningful revenue sharing? Please... the current system only encourages teams like the Royals, Pirates and Marlins not to spend, because their owners are making a silly profit because of the revenue sharing. The Royals, for instance, had a revenue sharing payment that topped their payroll in 2005. It's not as if this is a community-owned team that's scraping by - it's freaking WalMart that owns them. I hate this portrayal that these teams are hopeless little waifs, who would be regular competitors if not for those nasty Yankees.

Do the Yankees have an advantage? Yes. Is it meaningful? Yes. Is it debilitating for other teams? Not at all. The Rockies consistently used to draw more fans than anyone in baseball and had a huge windfall in Coors Field, a largely community-funded stadium. They blew it - the system didn't blow it for them.
Posted by Erickson at 8/1/2006 11:03:00 PM
MLB allows 26.7% of its teams into the postseason. The NBA allows 55.2%, the NHL 53.3%, the NFL 37.5%. Under MLB's system, this year alone we wouldn't have had the great stories of the Pittsburgh Steelers (from sixth seed in the AFC to Super Bowl Champions) and the Edmonton Oilers (from eighth seed in the Western Conference to the Stanley Cup Finals).

As for revenue sharing, I agree that it shouldn't be used as a blank check just to turn a profit. But look at what happens every year at the trading deadline. Baseball is the only sport where the trading deadline becomes a feast where only the richest teams are invited. And with only four teams in each league invited to the postseason, the trading deadline often decides who those four teams are.
Posted by tedrossman at 8/3/2006 8:54:00 AM

While I agree it doesn't exactly help baseball as much as they perceive to have the Wild card, I doubt the folks in Boston would agree. To say that didn't help baseball a little bit that they won is nonsense. To say they are rewarding teams that aren't good enough isn't necessarily the case either.(See Boston and Houston) Is it probability and luck that Wild card teams win titles? I think not. Do they deserve to be there? Maybe/maybe not. Does it take away from some great divisional races where 2 teams are in regardless? Some years. But this year there are count em, 9 teams in the NL in reach of winning a wild card and 5 or so in the AL. To say the Twins for example don't deserve a chance at the playoffs is justifiable. But as a Twins fan, it keeps me excited to note that we're only 2 games out of a Wild Card and thus the reason I still watch closely and spend money on going to games, when I otherwise wouldn't if we weren't in a race. While I agree Selig(he wanted to contract us) and most he has done is trash, I like the fact my team still has a chance, and I'd hate to face us come playoff time if we get that spot.
Posted by schwang2u at 8/4/2006 1:51:00 AM
On another note, the Twins drew over 140,000 fans for a 3 game series with Detroit last weekend. When Liriano got 2 strikes on someone or we got a hit, it felt like the roof was going to fall off. The Homer Dome felt electric to say the very least. In all honesty I don't believe I've heard the dome that loud since the 91 World Series. If we weren't in a Wild Card race I'd go on record to say we would have drawn about 1/3 of those #'s. That may not help baseball as a whole, but it's helping my team this year, and that's what I care about most.
Posted by schwang2u at 8/4/2006 4:20:00 PM

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