07 August 2002

Ah, look at this. Yet another person who thinks he has an opinion about which anyone other than himself really cares. Well, maybe you don't but if you're reading this, then you probably have some interest in baseball, so I like you already.

A friend asked me if I'll still watch/follow baseball after a strike, if there is one, and it elicited this response:

I'm a baseball fan. Also, the sky is blue. But seriously, as a baseball fan, I can't help but like baseball, and I can't help but desire to see it played the best it's played anywhere, which is in MLB. Yes, I like the Yankees. Also, I like ice cream, if it tastes good. If they suddenly started to make my favorite ice cream taste terrible, I'd switch to something else. Similarly, if the Yankees suddenly started to make lots of really stupid decisions, I'd hafta look for another team to follow. I like that Oakland and Minnesota and Cincinatti have found ways to win without having the deep revenues of Atlanta, LA or Chicago. I dislike teams like Pittsburgh and Kansas City and Milwaukee for using their stature as an excuse, when clearly there are ways to find some success without high revenues, and I resent even more teams like Philadelphia and the Cubs who pretend to be small market clubs, even though they're not, and use their cheapness as an excuse for why they never win.

It sucks that the players and owners can't be a little more self-interested by being a little less selfish, because if they were really that interested in their own well-being, they'd realize that it's ultimately in BOTH parties' best interests to have a non-partial, binding arbitrator sit down with the numbers and figure out a way for everyone to make money almost all the time. Mostly, they both seem to be predominantly interested in sticking it to the other side.

There's really plenty of money out there. They bring in over $3.5 billion in revenues anually, with 55% of it going to the players, which allows for an average of over $2.5 million/player, and an average of $52.5 million in revenue per team. That's after players' salaries are paid. Seems to me that there's no reason one can't reasonably expect men who were smart enough to become multi-millionaires and billionaires to figure out a way to make a baseball franchise that rakes in over $50 million annually (again, after players' salaries) profitable. Because if they can't, or more accurately, if they won't, they're going to lose a lot of fans, and a lot of revenue, for a long time.

The owners don't want to have to give up the privelige of keeping their actual bookkeeping secret while showing the world how much money they're "losing" every year. (This phenomenon is very similar to how I "lose" money when I take change out of my pocket and put it in a jar in my basement.) And the players' association is too damn proud to concede anything, since they've never even lost an argument about whether to get pizza or Chinese for lunch during negotiations for the last 30 years.

For the players and the owners, they know what baseball is "really about": Money. These are people who are blessed with a talent that makes them orders of magnitude richer than almost anyone else, which only whets their appetite for more. This statement applies to both sides. It's only the fans for whom it isn't about money, though it should be. There are other ways to spend your entertainment dollar here in the 21st century, and people have already found that some of them are cheaper and more satisfying than being a major league baseball fan. More of them will discover this soon, if there's a strike. It's not me they have to worry about, I'm a die-hard, dyed in the wool (whatever that means), hard-core baseball fan. And I'll go to a game or two a year for as long as I can afford it, which may not be long. Otherwise, I'll continue to follow it on TV and the internet. It's the marginal fan they have to worry about. The kid who's growing up playing soccer and football and baseball and basketball, trying to decide where he most wants to spend his energy and time. Those other sports, plus hockey, NASCAR, college sports, all sell themselves well. Heck, curling sells itself better than Bud Selig sells baseball. For a former used car salesman, he sure doesn't seem to know how to make a pitch anymore:

"Yes sir, this is a nice car, but you know, it gets lousy gas mileage, and the seats aren't very comfortable. This one here? Well, it's OK, I guess, but there's not much head-room. That one has some nice features, but it'll cost you a fortune...you should really go down the block, to my competitor's dealerships. Yeah, Stern & Tagliabue's Jeep/Chrysler seems to have some much better products. Boy, I wish I wasn't stuck with all these lemons...Bye!"

So they're in for a rude awakening if they do strike. People will come back, but it'll be a long, arduous process, and they'll have to can Selig. I don't see how they can justify keeping the guy in power after two Strikes, one or both of which cancelling part of the season and/or playoffs. People like me, junkies, will come back right away. Others will take a while, which will lower attendance, lower revenues, and hopefully lower ticket prices to compensate for lowered demand. This will bring more people back to the sport, allowing them to raise prices again, and I will be back to affording only one game per year.

Y'know, when the simple question of "Will you still watch baseball if there's a strike?" elicits a response like this, maybe I should look into becoming a baseball columnist...

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