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The Baseball Strike and A Metaphor Alert

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, March 29, 1995.

The baseball strike, which has utterly befouled all good memories of the game, again totters at the edge of collapse as the owners and the player’s union reluctantly try to settle their plight. You can, perhaps, imagine how I feel, seeing as how unions currently fall into that gray area between extortion gangs and inept big businesses, and that their main occupation often seems to be who has the most obese, golf-playing President with the most pending indictments.

But in this case, I cannot take that easy position of saying “They’re both greedy, have the government end the strike.” It's true, both sides are greedy, but one of them is clearly wrong. So let's sing a round of the Old Red Flag while we vivisect the owners.

First off, it is true that the average baseball player earns over one million dollars a year, but the facts are that players don’t have a long professional life, do not as a rule, have deep educational backgrounds to allow transition to another job when they take a line drive on the knee. But even if they earn twice as much, it’s irrelevant. If the public wants to pay them that much, that’s between the fans and the players. But the owners don’t see it like that. How many owners waited till the last minute to test public reaction before announcing reduced prices for replacement game tickets. And how reduced when it came to it? Not much. If that’s the only effect of having your labor costs cut in twenty, than the owners are lying through their teeth about the potential effects of the player’s demands.

Further, baseball owners have been granted a special status in American Business. They are exempt from antitrust rules.

They achieved this after Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis tried to repair the game after the 1919 scandal that nearly closed the business. That clearly temporary measure is still there. It needs to go. Let’s see if the Republican congress will dare impose the market place on its Republican brethren who compose nearly all the owners. Because of that benefit, professional baseball does not have to share its financial status with the players, and that is just wrong.

Further, if financial records were then open, the public could see how gigantic the pie is the owners divvy up. Since the owners want that granted privilege status, their cries of financial woe strike a hypocritical note.

And if the public knew, maybe the public might put pressure to get prices down, to shorten the season so that exhausted, drained players aren’t walking through one hundred fifty-six games.

You may may not agree with the myth of baseball, but the strike issue has nothing to do with that. It’s a strictly legislative decision: you either agree with level playing fields and market forces, or you side with the owners. Since the Federal government currently protects the owners, the path is clear. It’s puzzling why the government is not acting in a case that puts ethics up against their pocket book. Who’d have thought?