- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Here's a news flash about the competitive imbalance in baseball that everyone is railing about: If Ted Williams died 50 years ago, was frozen and brought back to life today, he would find one thing had not changed in all that time the New York Yankees had all the money, the best players and won all the time then, and the Yankees have all the money, the best players and win all the time now.

So much for the good old days, when only a handful of teams had a chance to win a pennant when the season opened. Contrary to popular opinion, competitive imbalance is not destroying baseball.

What is ruining the game is that while the faces have changed, the baseball owners have been frozen in time for the past 50 years, running the game into the ground with their egos. They ruled the game like lords then, and they still believe they are lords of the realm, convinced they must crush players in order to save baseball.

So there will be a baseball strike, just like there has been a work stoppage eight times before. Sure, the players didn't set a date for a strike at their meeting in Chicago on Monday, but they didn't set a strike date at their meeting preceding the 1994 All-Star Game, either. All it took was a phone call three weeks later, though, to set the date for the last strike.

There will be a strike because neither side has enough incentive to give in. The owners are tired of losing and believe that until they break the union or at least score a decisive victory like NBA owners did in their last labor war they will never get the upper hand they once used to rule the game 50 years ago, when things were a lot better than they are now, right?

And if you're the players, why should you give in on anything when you're undefeated? I mean, every time you've gone to war against the owners, you've won. So why should you stop now, for the good of the game? The only thing that has been very, very good to the players is the union that has made them millionaires. So if the union says the only way to protect itself from the owners unilaterally implementing new rules when the season is over and locking out the players is to strike, then you vote to strike, even if you buy into the predictions of doom awaiting the game if there is another strike.

The owners want to increase revenue sharing, but they insist that any such meaningful plan would have to include some sort of greater drag on salaries and want a larger increase in the luxury tax on payrolls than the players are willing to agree to. Of course, the luxury tax the players agreed to last time was supposed to solve the competitive imbalance problems, and we see how effective that was.

The problem is that there is no luxury tax on stupidity, but there should be. That might solve the so-called competitive imbalance problem. The Orioles have money, and they have stunk. The Dodgers have money, and they've stunk, too. The Mets have money, and they stink. So do the Rockies.

The Twins have no money, and they have stunk for a long time. But they don't stink now. The Marlins have no money and have stunk for a while, but they don't stink now. And the Expos are the biggest joke in all of baseball. They have been the poster team for all of baseball's woes, and now, here they are, on the verge of being shut down and without even an owner, and they don't stink anymore. In fact, they are pretty good.

Maybe it's no coincidence that once the Expos had no owner, they got a lot better.

Boy, if that doesn't illustrate how messed up the game is. Here you have the Expos, owned collectively by all 29 major league owners after they made a deal to buy the franchise from Jeffrey Loria to allow Loria to buy the Marlins, which in turn allowed Florida owner John Henry to buy the Red Sox. And you have the Expos pulling off the deal of the season by acquiring Bartolo Colon from Cleveland. Now, don't you think other teams were trying to deal for Colon as well? But they got beat out by the Expos, which means that one or several owners of teams talking to the Indians were beaten out by another team they own. That's an Alice in Wonderland scenario.

The only way, and it's always been the only way, to avoid a work stoppage before the end of the season is for the owners to take a major step in repairing their credibility gap. Fans may hate the players for making large sums of money for playing a game, but they don't believe the owners. No one does, certainly not the members of Congress who listened to Cadillac Bud Selig testify earlier this year about the woes of the game.

A major step would be for Cadillac Bud to resign. He has no credibility and certainly no power at this point. Can you imagine David Stern allowing two of the NBA's biggest stars to sit out the All-Star Game to spend more time with their families or for other personal reasons as Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez did last night? He never would have allowed it, but Cadillac Bud?

There were fears at one point that the players would boycott the All-Star Game to punish Cadillac Bud since the game was in his Milwaukee ballpark, otherwise known as the Leaky House that Bud Built.

But Cadillac Bud won't resign. His ego won't allow it, and his fellow owners won't call for it, either, for fear it would look like a sign of weakness instead of a sign of sanity, which is what it would be.


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