28 August 2002

Down to the wire: The labor talks are getting uncomfortably close to the strike date, August 30. There are all sorts of people out there with all sorts of opinions as to whose fault it is and what should be done about it. I'll go into some of the options for change in another piece. Right now, let's talk blame:

Some think it's primarily the Owners' fault, or primarily the Players' fault. David Schoenfield thinks it's all the Yankees fault, to which I would respond (if he had asked me, which he didn't) that Steinbrenner and the Yankees did not create the system, they're simply taking advantage of their natural...well, advantage. Supposedly, the Yankees should just let free agents go by, so that other teams can sign them, or at least bid lower for their services, so as not to raise the salary bar so much. While it's true that signing guys to huge, multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts raises the bar for everyone else, what is the alternative? Free agents and the Scott Borases of the world know what the Yankees can afford to pay, and if they bid under that, they don't get the player. Sure, they could just not sign free agents and King George could just pocket the profits that come from owning the Yankees, even if they lose, but isn't that exactly what everyone complains about when conversation turns to people like Carl Pohlad, the Twins' owner, and Jeffrey Loria, formerly owner of the Expos? Not signing those guys, or not retaining their own, home-grown talent when they become free agents, does not make the Steinbrenner and the Yankees "fair" players, or benevolent or even-handed. It makes them fools. And they would also be fools to want to change a system that has made them both successful and profitable, for a long time. On the other hand, they'd be even bigger fools to stand in the corner holding their breath, waiting for a deal they like while the whole system collapses around them. But I don't think anyone of consequence really thinks that the whole system is going to collapse. Well, maybe Jim Bunning.

Sure, it makes the Yankees greedy and selfish to operate this way, but who isn't? The Yankees are just better equipped to be selfish and have more to be selfish about than most of the other owners.

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