After hours of negotiations, the Major League Baseball Players Associations elected not to go on strike on August 30, 2002. The players and the owners agreed to have a luxury tax for the first time in the history of the game.
The owners felt that it was not fair that the same teams could go out and buy all the best players and win championship every season. Teams like the Atlanta Braves, who have qualified for the postseason every year since 1991, and the New York Yankees, who seem to have won every title since the dawn of man, always took advantage of playing in a large market. The owners felt that the smaller market teams, like the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins, could not fairly compete against the teams with big pockets.
Bud Selig tried to contract the Montréal Expos and Minnesota Twins this past off-season, saying they couldn’t compete against the bigger clubs and they were losing more money than they were bringing in. The Expos by far have the lowest attendance in the league; they couldn’t sell-out a game even if a Beatles reunion was promised during the seventh inning stretch. On September 5, 2002, the Expos played a game in front of a grand total of 1000 fans.
Even though some of the teams were struggling to even make their payroll, the players felt that it was not fair that they weren’t getting a bigger piece of the team’s revenue. The players wanted to raise the twenty percent they were already getting. It sounds fair; we all know how grossly underpaid baseball players are right?
Baseball is the highest paid of the big four sports leagues (Basketball, Football, Baseball and Hockey). MVP candidate Alex Rodriquez’s name has been thrown out every time the word strike has been mentioned. Rodriquez was an all-star shortstop with the Seattle Mariners, but decided that he got sick of all the winning he was doing and felt it was time to go on to greener pastures.
Rodriquez signed a monster ten-year 250 million dollar contract with the Texas Rangers in 2001. The Mariners ended up getting the last laugh, by winning an unheard of 116 games, while the Rangers were delegated at the bottom of their division.
This has been the biggest problem in baseball over the past few years. This past off-season the Yankees went out and bought the Oakland Athletics best player Jason Giambi. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner feels that if he has the money, he has every right to go out and buy all the best players available. But is that fair to teams like the Kansas City Royals, who haven’t won a title since 1985?
The owners felt that if a Salary cap was put into the game, it would be more competitive. The players agreed, but wanted the cap to be around 130-150 million dollars. The owners and players finally agreed to a 117 million dollar cap, well over the NBA’s (42.5 million) and NFL’s ($71.101 million).
Will this really change anything? Probably not. The Yankees will most likely still be in the World Series every year, the Oakland Athletics will start slow and go into another huge win streak, and the Boston Red Sox will choke down the stretch and blame it on the curse of Babe Ruth. How will the owners and players handle a salary cap system? Can George Steinbrenner go on without buying all the best players?
Baseball narrowly missed going on what would have been the most devastating strike in pro sports history. If the players weren’t playing on September 11, they might as well not suit up for the rest of the season. The fact of the matter is, Baseball is no longer America’s pastime (Now that title belongs to Football.) That changed in 1994 after the last strike. But if the players and owners can get their act together we’ll most likely be reliving this in 2006 when the Collective Bargaining Agreement ends. Let’s hope not!