Outside Oberlin

An Immodest Proposal to Fix Professional Baseball
by Zach Pretzer

Well, it’s 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 didn’t have enough to worry about), Oberlin’s finest are issuing countless damn (and might I add pointless?) snow-ban tickets when it’s 70 degrees outside and this year my hall is taking bets as to who can catch the wild turkey that’s 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 year’s 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 it’s sunny and 60 (scratch that, we live in Ohio) or 30 and raining (now that’s more like it). Third, it is almost 100 percent likely that the first day it snows I won’t be properly motivated to walk to class, as I can imagine will a few other Oberlin students. As a result, I’m sure I will be punished for staying inside by Langston’s 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 hasn’t 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, I’m trying to hold back my excitement a little bit because I know that a huge percentage of Oberlin students are Yankees fans (isn’t 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, I’d feel a lot worse if they hadn’t 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 year’s 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 Mazeroski’s 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 don’t 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 would’ve won the fourth if it wasn’t 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.
I’m 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 Arby’s 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 wouldn’t resign a few key players, most of all Juan Gonzalez, and they would cut their payroll by over $20 million.

For 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, it’s 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? Let’s 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 Cominsky’s players made only slightly more than the popcorn vendors — it’s 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 game’s 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 and accountants.
Of course this would never happen and I’m sure it would have some obvious problems. However, I’m all for anything that would prevent the Yankees from winning just because of their payroll, and I’m 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 don’t see fans chilling in the right-field swimming pool at Arizona next year in the World Series.

Contraction in Major Leagues a Sensitive Issue
by Ian Haynes

Earlier 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 owner’s 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 doesn’t 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 player’s 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 baseball’s 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,” Conyers said.
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 teams.
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 season.
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.

November 9
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