We've seen this before. A seemingly preemptive move that quickly turns into an advantage for the opposition. A newly unified front crumbles back into a messy collection of selfish cliques and lone wolves. Lessons learned are quickly forgotten in a breathtaking dash for cash. That's right folks, the geniuses who canceled the 1994 World Series are back for an encore.
Why let people savor one of the best World Series ever? Let's have a labor mess! It really doesn't matter, anyway. You can imagine them saying, "When the dust settles, we can juice the ball up again and let Sammy Sosa take a crack at 80."
|Commissioner Bud Selig has proposed eliminating the two-time world champion Twins as part of his solution to baseball's problems.|
While we wait for the inevitable hosing of the commissioner and owners by the best union in professional sports, I spoke to former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent. He may not have been good enough for the owners, but they should listen to him anyway.
Until somebody listens to Vincent, or anyone else who puts the game first rather than the owners' wallets, there will always be these disruptions. Somebody has to accept the fact that the Royals and Pirates are not playing the same game as the Yankees and Red Sox. The economic disparity between teams will erode the game's credibility and popularity.
Commissioner Bud Selig even admits this. But unilateral contraction plans that do not include input from the players' union is bad strategy. "The lawyers in baseball have been so wrong in labor matters," Vincent says. "It probably puts baseball off on the wrong foot. And that's too bad."
Vincent has dealt with union chief Donald Fehr before. Fehr doesn't make mistakes. Vincent trusts his judgment. And Donald Fehr says he doesn't think contraction will happen. "I'd believe him," Vincent says. So the big move by owners seems doomed before it even gets rolling.
For so long, the owners have been the Washington Generals and the players have been the Harlem Globetrotters. They toy and then they destroy. It's a joke. And it's all because the big-revenue teams do not wish to share their riches with the small-revenue teams. They want to share the field with them, but they don't feel it has to be a level playing field. As Peter Gammons has said, the Yankees don't play 162 intrasquad games.
There are many solutions to this mess. Contraction, done properly, is one of them. You could cut four teams but increase the roster size to 27. There could be a better distribution of luxury-tax money, with the stipulation that all of it be used on payroll.
||The lawyers in baseball have been so wrong in labor matters. ”
||— Former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent
There could be, rather than a salary cap, a salary floor. If you can't spend at least, say, $65 million on player salaries -- get out of the game. If your market can't support that, move or fold. Whatever. These are just suggestions, talking points, ways to start a negotiation process.
But MLB just decides to cut two teams. Then they look at the union and say, "What are you going to do about it?" Real smart. Good business.
There are many shameful things here, but Twins owner Carl Pohlad getting more in a "contraction payment" than he could in an outright sale is mind-boggling. These guys are good at being mind-boggling. Never fear, though
-- this will backfire. The union won't lose any jobs. We may lose Montreal and Florida or Anaheim, but I wouldn't be surprised if Minnesota keeps baseball.
Why? Because the owners always lose and the players always win. We've seen this before.