Will A Strike Be The Demise Of Baseball?

By: Mike Dunlop, www.isledegrande.com

Revenue, line of credit, payroll, economic system, and revenue sharing are words that if I were asked what they were describing, I would say that they probably had something to do with Wall Street.  However if the words contraction, salary caps, and steroids, were added into the mix, without a doubt the subject of the query could only be Major League Baseball and its impending strike.  Players and owners are remaining relatively quiet in regards to a strike date but have mentioned that if the current state of Major League Baseball, namely its finances, isn't corrected, a player's strike is inevitable.

So what is the source of the problem, just why will the players go on strike?  There really isn't an easy answer to that question for there are many variables that go into the equation.  Some of the variables were mentioned earlier, such as, revenue sharing, salary caps, line of credit, payroll, and now even concerns of rampant steroid use by the players, and are all contributing factors that may cause the players to strike.  The consensus among many, including players, owners, and most importantly the fans, is that Major League Baseball needs to change, but not courtesy of a work stoppage.  Many experts feel that Major League Baseball is on the brink of destruction whether there is a strike or not, but if a strike occurs this season, it could have permanent detrimental effects. 

The problems of Major League Baseball are many, but most deal mainly with team finances, such as player salaries and revenue sharing.  At the beginning of the 2002 Major League Baseball campaign, teams were paying out a total exceeding $2 billion to its players.  Several players, such as Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi, have signed contracts that are close to $25 million a year.  The average salary of a Major League Baseball player for the 2002 season is $2,383,235.  According to the Census Bureau, an average household income in the United States is $57,045; a player only has to work an average of four days to equal in salary what an average American would have to work for a whole year.  What further complicates matters is that the New York Yankees have a $135 million payroll, while teams like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays spend $92 million less on their players.

Many fans and owners are beginning to gripe about certain teams, namely the New York Yankees, who have an endless flow of cash because of local television revenue.  The formula is simple, the more that a team makes the more they can spend.  Teams like the Cleveland Indians, who tried to remain competitive in the late 1990's by stretching their bank account to its limit, have recently been forced to have a fire sale to lower their team's salaries.  It is believed that in order for all teams to remain competitive, there must be some sort of revenue sharing that would allow an equal playing field for all teams.  Major League Baseball's current revenue sharing plan has been unsuccessful at doing that.

As time passes and the possibility of a strike looms larger, owners are now beginning to blame each other for baseball's current status.  Larry Dolan, owner of the Cleveland Indians, recently blamed Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for the problems that Major League Baseball is facing.  Dolan claims that Steinbrenner, in the wake of two recent trades for top talent and a run at the playoffs, is forcing other teams to overspend to remain competitive.  The Yankees owner dismissed the accusations passing it off as jealousy over his team's rich history and winning ways. 

To further complicate matters, two former Major League players, Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti, have recently made accusations that many Major League players are using performance enhancing drugs, namely steroids.  Canseco's estimate of the amount of players using steroids is an astonishing 85%, while Caminiti's estimate hovers at about 50%.  As a result, most fans, owners, and players now want drug testing in the majors, but players insist the testing must follow strict guidelines in order for their union to agree on allowing testing.  

So where does Major League Baseball go from here?  Should the owners and players stick to their guns and continue to dispute the issues that are ruining baseball?  As a fan, I wonder where I stand in the owners' and players' eyes.  If it weren't for me and the millions of fans around the world, who spend our hard earned dollars on merchandise and tickets, there would be no such thing as Major League Baseball.  How do Major League Baseball officials plan on explaining yet another strike to its foreign markets, namely Japan and South America?  Will Donald Fehr and Bud Selig ever get along?  I for one will lose great if not all interest in baseball if the players go on strike.  What a great day it will be if the strike is averted and I will be able to go see the New York Yankees in an afternoon game in the Bronx in the heat of another pennant race in August.