Strikes and You’re Out?
that the strike is temporarily over, a lasting settlement must be found.
The problem with the solutions proposed by mediators, fans, and both
sides is that the players and owners will be the only beneficiaries of a
settlement. Any settlement that excludes the wishes of the third group
who should be involved, the consumers, would be nearly fatal to the
long-term survival of Major League Baseball™. The only action that
would irrevocably stick a sword through the heart of the major league
game would be interleague play (sorry, Paul).
players, owners, mediators, and negotiators (and even to some extent,
the media) have ignored one fact: the fans believe both sides are wrong
and do not want to see either side win. Thus, for labor and revenue
sharing agreements to benefit the industry, the fans must be the
winners, and the fans must perceive that the owners and players are
making sacrifices to promote the health of the game.
I were dictator of the game, here is the unscientific plan I would
a commissioner who would report to the congress of the United
States. As “baseball, inc.” has been declared the national
pastime by legislative action, the president and the congress
have the authority to dictate to the game as necessary.
President Clinton should have ordered the owners and players to
continue the season last September. The new commissioner should
be a famous fan who is popular with the public, regardless of
any other qualifications. Candidates could include (in
alphabetical order) Sparky Anderson, Roger Angel, Ernie Banks,
Jim Bouton, Bob Costas, Tommy John, Larry King, Buck O’Neil,
Phil Rizzuto, Rachel Robinson, and Paul White. The commissioner
will represent the fans, rather than any other side, in the same
way a judge represents the law.
maximum ticket price in all stadia shall be $8.00 (excluding
luxury boxes). The maximum ticket price for general admission
shall be $2.00. Children under age 18 receive a 25% discount off
all tickets. This will help the fans and the owners, as lower
prices will result in higher attendance. The caps are in effect
proceeds are split 50/50 between the home and visiting team. If
people go to Yankee Stadium to see Ken Griffey, Jr. play for the
Mariners, the Mariners have earned half the proceeds. That would
be true even if the fans go to the game because they are likely
to see the Yankees win. The teams that draw the most fans will
still make the most money.
MLB Players’ Association shall form a corporation that will
receive 100% of all revenues from all
television broadcasts of baseball games. The Association can do
whatever it wants with the money: match player salaries, vote
its own supplementary salaries for players, endow their pension
fund, or anything else. The owners and players will equally
split the cost of marketing the game to television. The owners
keep all other media and sales revenues (gate, souvenirs, radio,
etc.). The Association will provide all fringe benefits to
players, including severance and disability pay. Rather than
having to negotiate with the owners for fair treatment, the
players can take care of themselves with their own pool of
maximum salary paid by owners to players will be $100,000 for
players with fewer than five years experience, $120,000 for
players with five to 10 years experience, and $140,000 for
players with more than 10 years experience. The minimum salaries
will be $40,000, $60,000, and $80,000, respectively. Service
will be based on days on the active roster, and exclude time on
the disabled list. Salaries will be based on a 12-month
contract, and players are obligated to engage in marketing their
team and the game at the direction of team management, or they
sign a 7-month contract with a 25% reduction in salary. Players
on 12-month contracts will be fined for declining reasonable
requests of fans or the media.
contracts are for one year, and not guaranteed. As owners have
relinquished the rights to television income, the salaries
should be in line with their reduced revenues. The best players
will continue to make the most money, but the one-upsmanship
salary escalation caused by ego-gratification will end. A senior
star will earn 3 1/2 times as much as an unproven entry-level
worker. The union could pay supplemental salaries that were a
percentage of owner-given salaries.
owners may sign a maximum of two free agents annually at more
than 80% of the maximum salary for the player’s service class.
Teams may have a maximum of seven players earning more than 80%
of the appropriate maximum salaries. This will allow players to
“switch jobs” for the same reasons union workers in other
occupations do. An electrician may get union scale anywhere, but
may prefer working conditions, co-workers, management, and other
factors offered by a particular employer. Money will not be a
deciding factor for the players because their income will result
more directly from the success of the game (without the owners
having to open their books). Fans will benefit from greater
continuity and greater parity.
season is too long and too grueling for religious fans (like me)
who don’t want to miss a game, but don’t want to give up the
rest of our lives either. Organized baseball must implement
steps to shorten the season and game times and increase
off-days. Children cannot be at the ballpark or even listening
to the radio at 10:00 at night.
must schedule at least five Sunday doubleheaders a year. Ticket
prices will be two-games-for-the-price-of-one. At least half of
all Saturday games for each team must be day games. Many fans
live more than a couple of hours from a major league city. They
need to be able to make day-trips and weekend trips to
rules must be strictly enforced as written to speed up the game.
Pitchers have 20 seconds to throw a pitch. The batter must stay
in the batter’s box, and not obliterate the lines. The
first-baseman must stay on the bag until he catches the ball.
There are no phantom double plays. The strike zone for both
leagues is exactly as written. Fans should recognize that
reducing offense will result in more close games, more exciting
games, more strategy, and shorter games. Literal enforcement of
the rules should result in fewer arguments with umpires.
delays caused by violence are almost as bad as the violence
itself. Batters (or baserunners) who take two steps toward the
mound will be automatically suspended for seven games. The only
appeal will be whether the batter actually took two steps toward
the mound. Second suspensions are for 30 games. A third offense
will result in expulsion. Violence toward fans will not be
tolerated, and will result in a minimum suspension of 30 games
without pay. Albert Belle should have been suspended for life
for assaulting a fan with a baseball from point-blank range. In
the future, the victimized fan will decide the length of the
suspension. The commissioner must enforce the suspension. A
player can appeal through the legal system, but must prove he
didn’t commit the assault to prevail. These rules apply to
violence at the ballpark.
shall allow a total timeout of two minutes for mound
conferences, unless there is an injury. After two minutes the
manager and the incumbent pitcher will be ejected, and the team
must donate 2,000 tickets to nonprofit organizations.
scoreboards will show times for pitch release and mound
conferences to pique the interest of the fans when a game
appears to drag.
play with the extra round of playoffs will be dropped. Purists
and traditionalists have good reasons why the new format hurts
the game, but more importantly, we just don’t have an extra
week to devote to it. The World Series must be played in
networks and stations must agree that games will not be delayed
so they can squeeze in extra commercials. Shorter games will
benefit television, too.
who wish to relocate due to inadequate revenue must first reduce
ticket prices 25% for 40 games to determine if that will raise
Players’ Association corporation can, at their discretion,
finance new ballparks or upgraded facilities.
of revenue sharing, free agency, and salary arbitration are not directly
addressed by this proposal, but I believe the problems may be solved.
The proposal is from the fans’ perspective, and we don’t care about
the business aspects of the game; we want to keep our teams, we want a
competitive balance to allow our teams a level playing field (well, not
necessarily literally), we want the owners and players to treat us as
customers, and we want exciting, uninterrupted seasons. Let’s make
“Play ball!” the dictate of the fans as well as the umpires.