Immodest Proposal to Fix Professional Baseball
by Zach Pretzer
its that awkward time of year again. Our week off from Oberlin
is far in the past, spring semester scheduling is right around the
corner (as if we didnt have enough to worry about), Oberlins
finest are issuing countless damn (and might I add pointless?) snow-ban
tickets when its 70 degrees outside and this year my hall
is taking bets as to who can catch the wild turkey thats been
visiting the environmental studies center first and invite it to
a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner.
For myself and the rest of us in Oberlin, some upcoming events will
surely resemble last years happenings in November. First,
scheduling on Presto will without a doubt be a pain in the ass
it never fails. Second, I will unquestionably forget to move my
car one of these nights, whether its sunny and 60 (scratch
that, we live in Ohio) or 30 and raining (now thats more like
it). Third, it is almost 100 percent likely that the first day it
snows I wont be properly motivated to walk to class, as I
can imagine will a few other Oberlin students. As a result, Im
sure I will be punished for staying inside by Langstons untimely
fire alarms, and will be sent outside at 4 a.m. in my boxers until
I turn into one of those blue smurfs.
These are all events that have never failed to occur in November
in my first two years at Oberlin. However, there is one specific
occurrence that hasnt taken place since I filled out that
hilarious form that said Why Oberlin? about three years
ago. What could be so important to your sports editor that he can
hardly wait to mention it? The Yankees lost!
Now, Im trying to hold back my excitement a little bit because
I know that a huge percentage of Oberlin students are Yankees fans
(isnt everybody these days?). In addition, I realize more
than any other year, this would have been the best year for the
Yankees to win the World Series considering the attacks on the World
Trade Center. However, Id feel a lot worse if they hadnt
won the last three World Series. Sure, a subway series would have
been great, but I can only handle so many New York teams at once,
and a repeat of last years match-up would have been a little
too much for me to handle.
Nonetheless, by the numbers, the Yankees were completely destroyed
by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Until the last inning of game seven,
though, it almost turned into the World Series of 1960, when the
Yankees destroyed the Pittsburgh Pirates (do they still have a professional
team these days?) in three games of the series, but lost the other
four by only a few runs and fell in game seven due to Bill Mazeroskis
game-winning home run. In this case, it would have been truly disappointing
to see the Yankees still win the Series after being utterly embarrassed
15-2 in the sixth game.
So you dont believe Arizona dominated? You think they slipped
by the defending champions? Just take a look at the digits: Arizona
batted .265 in the series, while New York hit a pathetic .183. The
Diamondbacks scored 37 runs in seven games, for an average of over
five runs a game, while the Yankees only put 14 runners across the
plate an average of two runs a game, which is hardly enough
for any team to win.
What does all of this mean? Call it luck or even call it tradition,
but somehow the Yankees found a way to win three games and wouldve
won the fourth if it wasnt for a throw-away at second base
by Mario Riveria a play that commonly plagues high school
and college. Was this error just plain bad luck for the Yankees?
Well, surely it led to a bad result for New York, but more than
anything this play was perhaps the beginning of a tradition that
I hope will be kept in place for years to come: New York finding
a way to lose.
Im a Cleveland Indians fan, so am I inherently biased since
Cleveland had a disappointing season? Yes, definitely but
in my loathing of the Yankees, I feel I am not alone. As the Arbys
commercial says, different is good. And this case, different
was extremely good for this baseball fan.
In the sprit of change, I would like to make a little proposal which
would make the game of baseball not only more fair, but would also
ensure that the Yankees would have a tough time literally buying
championship teams. My proposal is based on economic grounds, and
as a Cleveland fan, only recently have I been exposed to the atrocities
of team payrolls. You see, recently Cleveland owner Larry Dolan
made it perfectly clear that the Indians wouldnt resign a
few key players, most of all Juan Gonzalez, and they would cut their
payroll by over $20 million.
most teams, even Cleveland, who has had a rather high payroll since
arriving at Jacobs Field in 1994, this is a huge amount of money.
For a team like Cleveland, it is enough to knock them from division
champions to second or even third place. However, for a team like
the Yankees, whose payroll exceeds $100 million, its quite
a bit less almost harmless. Take a team like the Kansas City
Royals or the Milwaukee Brewers. Their payrolls are both about one-third
of that of the Yankees, and in the Royals case, about a fourth
(about $30 million). The Yankees probably make more selling spilled
popcorn than the Royals or Brewers make overall.
So what to do? Lets try to establish some fairness in the
game without re-distributing the wealth everyone knows that
salary cap business just gets to be confusing. If baseball teams
and players are so concerned with money, then all the games should
be played with one eye on the scoreboard and another on the ledger
sheet. After all, in the days of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Black
Sox scandal, Charles Cominskys players made only slightly
more than the popcorn vendors its no wonder his teammates
wanted some extra cash.
For example, if the Yankees, with say a payroll of $120 million
host the Detroit Tigers, who have say a payroll of $60 million,
then D-town only has to score half as many runs as the Yankees to
win. So basically, the Tigers run total is multiplied by two
before the games winner or loser is determined.
What would the results of this be? Well, everyone would be figuratively
happy. The fans of small market teams would be happy because their
teams will finally have an opportunity to win, the owners will be
happy because there will finally be something that will provide
downward pressure on salaries. The fans of other bigger market teams
should be happy as well because the increased necessity for strategy
and timely hitting and pitching and a little boost will be given
to the economy as surely every team will need to hire extra economists
Of course this would never happen and Im sure it would have
some obvious problems. However, Im all for anything that would
prevent the Yankees from winning just because of their payroll,
and Im all for anything that would ensure different results
at the end of every October even if that means, as cool as
it was, that we dont see fans chilling in the right-field
swimming pool at Arizona next year in the World Series.
in Major Leagues a Sensitive Issue
by Ian Haynes
this week Major League Baseball owners decided that the league needed
to be cut from 30 to 28 teams. The contraction is the first in baseball
since 1899 and comes just four years after the league expanded from
28 to 30 teams.
The two teams that are being heavily looked at to be cut are the
Montreal Expos and the Minnesota Twins. Other teams that have been
mentioned include the Oakland Athletics, the Florida Marlins and
the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, one of the two expansion teams in 1998.
The contraction, which was decided upon by all 30 owners, is raising
a number of questions around baseball, the main question being,
Can they do this?
Whether or not they can contract the league, the owners are certainly
going to try. Their basis for cutting two teams has a number of
reasons. The main point of the owners decision to cut two
teams is that they feel Major League Baseball should not be in markets
that cannot generate sufficient funds from local revenue. Cutting
two teams is the owners answer to the fact that a Major League team
with a payroll ranking lower than 15th has not won a World Series
since 1991. The owners are saying if a team doesnt have the
money to buy a World Championship, then they should fold.
What does contraction mean? It means that two teams will be gone
next season, with the players on the teams dispersed amongst the
remaining teams. To do this, every team would have to expand their
roster from 25 to 27 players. This also leaves both minor league
systems to deal with. What to do with them is another problem. In
all likeliness both single A teams will be removed, the players
from AA and AAA will be relocated to different A, AA and AAA teams.
Basically contraction will strengthen the player pool, but eliminate
jobs for many players.
The chances of contraction actually happening are slim to none when
you look at all the ways it can be opposed. The main opposition
is coming from the Players Union who will attempt to argue that
the disbanding of two teams violates the Federal Antitrust Law.
Baseball is currently exempt from the Antitrust Law, based on a
ruling from the Supreme Court in 1922. If the players union
is able to overturn this exemption and prove that the owners are
attempting to run out other owners, then the teams will stay.
Any time 30 of the wealthiest and most influential individuals
get together behind closed doors and agree to reduce output, that
cannot be a good thing for anyone but the monopolists, House
Representative John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary
Committee said. I will do everything in my power to see that
this ill-considered decision does not stand, including introducing
legislation to ensure that the full weight of the antitrust laws
applies to this anti-competitive decision.
Other legislators are fighting the decision along with Conyers to
overturn baseballs antitrust exemption. Senators Paul Wellstone
and Mark Dayton, both Democrats from Minnesota, are on board with
Conyers and have asked President Bush to support legislation overturning
the exemption. This is like a game of musical chairs
two teams will be left standing and their fans will be left out
in the cold. This unprecedented decision is bad for the fans, bad
for the players on the field and the workers and businesses at and
around the stadium, bad for the minor league teams that will also
be cut loose, and bad for the cities that will be forced into new
and more costly bidding wars to avoid being dumped by baseball,
The Players Union has also filed a grievance with baseball saying
that they must be consulted when talking about contraction, something
the owners have yet to do. They owners, though, are within their
right, as long as all players on the two teams are placed on other
These are just the arguments on the upper levels. In Minneapolis,
a hearing scheduled yesterday on a suit by the Minnesota Sports
Facilities Commission was postponed until next week. In the meantime,
Hennepin County District Court Judge Diana Eagon has issued a temporary
restraining order against the Twins and Major League Baseball. The
commission is suing the Twins and Major League Baseball in an attempt
to get the Twins to honor their lease to play in the Metrodome next
The two teams that are most likely to be cut are on the chopping
block for entirely different reasons. The Montreal Expos, who joined
the National League in 1969, are the leading team in contraction
talks. They averaged just 7,648 fans per game in Olympic Stadium
this season, creating local revenue of just over $16 million. That
is barely eight percent of the New York Yankees $200 million.
No progress is being made in Montreal for a new stadium and their
owner lives in New York and has few ties to Quebec.
In Minnesota, failed government support for a new ballpark, and
the fact that Twins owner Carl Pohlad has pushed commissioner Bud
Selig, the owner of the nearby Milwakee Brewers, to eliminate the
Twins in exchange for a large contraction payment. Pohlad wants
out of owning the Twins and he would receive more money if the Twins
fold than if he sold the team.
Other options include moving teams to a higher market area, such
as the northern Virginia/Washington D.C. area. The two teams that
are being considered for the move are the Florida Marlins and the
Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Both teams had poor attendance this past year
and failed to create adequate revenue. The Baltimore Orioles are
opposed to this, citing that a large part of their fan base is in
that area, and that their revenue would be highly decreased if a
team moved into that area. This is another reason that Selig is
in favor of the contraction. Cutting the Twins from the Majors would
mean the closest team would be the Brewers. There has been talk
of Pohlad taking over any team that moves to the D.C. area, or joining
another owner in partial ownership of their team. The last team
to move cities was in 1972 when the Washingtion Senators became
the Texas Rangers.
Another problem that contraction causes is an unbalanced league.
If contraction occurs, the defending World Series Champions Arizona
Diamondbacks could move from the National League to the American
League next season.
Contraction, if it occurs, will cause a huge mess. On top of it
all, the Collective Bargaining Agreement expired earlier this week.
What happened the last time that happened? Think back to 1994: players
strike, no World Series, replacement players. What a mess the owners
have put themselves in.