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MLB - The Death of Baseball

By Piet Van Leer
Saturday, July 13th, 2002

Baseball is cooked, over, finished. Write the obit. MLB is officially dead. It has been for quite some time, 1994 to be exact. The first baseball strike not only killed the World Series, but it also ensured zero competitive balance. Owners and players are so far apart that the only question is whether there will be a World Series. A strike is guaranteed.

It was 1994 when the Powers That Be decided to cancel the World Series, only to sign another lousy bargaining agreement. It is because of the owners' unwillingness to finish what they started that they find themselves in the predicament that they are faced with today. The only question is will they wait for the players to cave, or will they cave themselves, there by eradicating every statement of how baseball finances must be altered?

Who should you root for in this eternal struggle of greed? Teamsters or the Mob? There has been a new cry, though, from the gallery, actually rooting for a strike and ending this whole miserable sport. Let's face it -- baseball is not the national past time. Football is, and anyone who questions that will see how much baseball is missed when Week 1 of the NFL rolls around.

One of the only things baseball still had going for it was the differences between it and other sports. Records for example. The whole country was glued to the Sammy Sosa/Mark McGwire homerun challenge. You don't sit around on Sunday wondering if Kurt Warner or Brett Favre will out gain on each other to claim the NFL pass yardage title.

Steroid talk has thrown the power numbers into question, and every statement of "I will be the first one to take a test" is met with the follow up of "You mean, substantiate my previous statement? I'll wait for the Union to tell me to." The Union uses steroid testing as a bargaining chip, and the cycle continues on endlessly.

My question is, why fight it at all? The NFL has steroid testing, and hardly anyone ever gets caught. You know that more than half of the NFL is on steroids, so what does the Union fear? That the doctors will catch up to the cheating methods? The players will spend 10 times the amount of one test to ensure the urine sample provided is clean. It's like the government taking on Big Tobacco. No matter how much Uncle Sam gives to fight, cigarette companies spend up to a 1,000 times more.

Of course, all this was beautifully illustrated by the All-Star Break events. It started innocently enough, but when Bud Selig decided to end the game prematurely, everyone went nuts! Except the players. They did enough work during their vacation. What used to be a compelling, competitive matchup had turned into the Pro Bowl.

All this was fine with Barry Bonds, though, who was elated about getting his requisite 12 hours sleep before collecting his thoughts for the Jay Leno show. Some of those thoughts were cohesive enough to compare the plight of his union to Local 287, otherwise known as the Bus Driver Union.

Meanwhile, Nomar Garciaparra believes the Players' Union is the same as every other union, except for the money. I'm the same as Brad Pitt. We're both men, we both like movies and Jennifer Anniston, except he acts and sleeps with them and I've ... well, I watch a lot of TV.

Of course, just when the players were showing off how in tune with reality they are, Bud Selig had to one up them. It began innocently enough by whoring himself to FOX, starting the game at a most David Stern-like 9:00 EST. Baseball must realize they're losing kids' interest, yet they ensured no child would be awake past the fifth inning unless they lived west of the Mississippi. And only those children who managed to stay awake during the hour-long pre-game.

And just when you thought Bud couldn't get worse, he announces that one team might wind up bankrupt and one team could fail to meet payroll this week. Now I was really lost, because I heard Bud Selig testify that all but six MLB teams lost money last year. Attendance is down, so all the teams should be bankrupt. At the very least, 24 of them should fail to meet payroll.

I was also confused because Bud kept the teams a mystery. Why would he do that? He publicly opened the books to Congress and named all the teams in financial peril. Those books had to be accurate, right? I mean, what kind of auditor would sign off crooked books? Certainly not ... Arthur Anderson, who was responsible for MLB's audit?

Baseball then did the about face that we're accustomed to seeing, saying the mystery team was kept afloat, but they don't know for how long. Does anyone really care what the Bud says anymore? He has the credibility of what he is, a used car salesman.

It's gotten so bad the fans are rooting for a strike. They're daring the players to walkout, daring the owners to cry poverty. We all know, football is right around the corner, and then they'll see how much baseball is missed when the NFL kicks off it's season, which is right around the corner.

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