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Troubles in Baseball
Baseball is a game that America has embraced from its early existence. Regarded as the national pastime baseball has embedded itself it our culture and has captured both adults and youths alike. It is a game that mirrors the image of America; a game that combines fine tuned skill with intellectual strategy, one that provokes emotions, the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat. Baseball is also a game that has evolved with the nation. As America s class system becomes more defined so does that of baseball. The game has become stagnant with the same large market teams: Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Cleveland Indians and a few more, competing in the fall classic each year. With this elitist practice baseball has lost its entire competitive flavor. With this competition among elite becoming more evident as the Yankees have taken four out of the last five World Series. With no cap or regulation on the amount one team can spend to acquire its players the logic would follow that: the rich teams dominate. Without a salary cap and some type of revenue sharing implemented and efforts among owners and players baseball will cease to exist in America. Major League Baseball needs a permanent solution to its lack competitive balance. One with a salary cap and revenue sharing to restore the competition baseball once adored.
The new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players will end October 31, 2001. With this deadline approaching and no new developments among the baseball insiders the fans may get another taste of the 1994 players strike. Under the new collective bargaining agreement signed in 1995 there would be limited revenue sharing with a maximum of five teams with payrolls exceeding a set amount will pay a tax that will be used in part to fund a revenue-sharing pool (Abrams197). However with this plan in tact the Bronx Bombers have still been crowned world champions four out of the last five years. Put another way, the Yankees won 80% of the Series crowns since the new agreement. This is a clear sign that this temporary fix put on baseball needs heaving revising, and a permanent plan that allows baseball to foster competition and embrace America as it once did.
The major discrepancy between teams and the competitive imbalance that follows is the issue of revenue. Unlike other revenue sharing sports, the visiting teams only receive 5 percent in the national league and 20 percent in the American league of the gate revenue, or money made from tickets on that specific game. Clubs do not have to compete for fan attention and attendance, and the gate constitutes about 50 percent of a team s revenue The market value of the different territories varies greatly. (Abrams177). Therefore teams in a larger populated region have more fans to pull from and create more revenue, little of this is shared with the visiting teams. Another disparity of revenue is found in the broadcasting of games. The revenue generated from nationally televised games is shared throughout the league, a small amount of games are nationally televised. Most games are seen on local networks and depending on the size of the network, teams local broadcasting revenue can differ greatly. For example the Ted Turner owned Atlanta Braves are seen almost every night on the Turner Broadcasting System. This generates millions for the Braves while the Montreal Expos to the north have none of their games locally televised. This disparity in revenue creates a money gap between teams and without a salary cap rich teams are free to spend as much as they want.
If there is a resolution for baseballs competition problem then two crucial questions must be answered. First, what plan or set of plans can be implemented to improve talent uniformity among teams? Secondly, and most importantly, can both the owners and players come to an agreement on the proposed plans? The most common way to combat lopsided competition is the salary cap. In the major American sports, football, basketball, and hockey there is a salary cap to control wealthy owners and promote small market teams. Yet baseball is reluctant to implement a salary cap, and its reluctance is due to the strength of the Players Association.
The Commissioners office needs to take a stand and implement this regulation to bring competition back to the free agent market and on the field as well. Commisioner Selig has recognized the problem, The system has to be changed the inequity in this system is now so apparent. (Associated Press). In addition, Commissioner Selig and others have recognized full revenue sharing as a remedy for baseballs competitive balance problem. With this revenue sharing must come another regulation. A requirement that demands the small market teams to use the money gained from revenue sharing for player salaries. To ensure this happens a salary minimum can be implemented. With these plans put into action baseball could improve parity between teams. Moreover the small market teams would be able to generate greater revenues as a result of a more talented team. The next step is to allow the players and owners to tweak the implementations to their liking, a much easier task said then done.
Some may argue that baseball as an institution is one that is healthy and creates a balance more so today than ever. In baseball s early days before money had taken over the game there were dynasties able to exist. The herald Yankees of the 40 s and 50 s who were almost a lock for the World Series in a twenty-five year span. Before the free agent market invaded baseball there were teams that still dominated the sport. This domination is due to a well coach ball club and chemistry between players, a skill that cannot be taught. Critics may also cite the Baltimore Orioles or Los Angeles Dodgers who spend huge sums of money yet still sit in the cellar as post season arrives. The point is not that those who spend will win, rather if you don t spend you have no chance. In addition, the large market teams that generate the most revenue should not be penalized. The revenue they generate comes as a result of their popularity among fans and that ultimately the fans dictate the large market teams with the power they hold as a consumer. However as Abrams states, Thus the primary stated purpose of revenue sharing was not for the rich to pay the poor; rather, the concept was indented to grow the game (Abrams197).
Each year there are teams that are eliminated from the pennant race before the season is even under way. This is true in other sports as well, however almost 70% of all teams are eliminated in the game of baseball due to their lack of buying power. With teams like the Twins, Pirates, Royals and others all but eliminated it is ridiculous for fans to invest time in money in their teams when realistically there is no chance for a title. Major League Baseball needs to bring back the game that America has come to call its own. In doing so the fans will see increased competition and can follow their team religiously, knowing that there is a chance they could stand atop the baseball world.
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