A rivalry that rivals all others

Philip Consuegra

It’s all I’ve heard since I arrived here last year. It’s all that’s been talked about, even at Christmas. It’s what people seem to live for here in the Northeast, and no, I’m not talking about the Jersey Shore.

You can see them everywhere, any time of the year: Yankees and Red Sox hats, shirts, shorts, sweaters, jerseys, necklaces, watches and even shoes. It’s the most highly-publicized rivalry in baseball and a rivalry comparable to top-rated sports rivalries of Michigan and Ohio State in college football, Duke and North Carolina in college basketball and the Eagles and Cowboys in pro football.

So, for an outsider, you can see the intimidation I felt when I first arrived here.

But as an outsider, I also have neutrality that comes with the territory. I speak now as a baseball fan – not a Yankee, not a Red “Sock,” but as a true, loyal fan of the game of baseball. I may get things thrown at me, but I will gladly take the punishment for a cause that I feel is so just.

To me, this series represents all that is unholy, soulless and wrong with Major League Baseball. We have the two highest salaried teams in Major League Baseball playing in the ALCS. The arms race is at its apex.

Yes, it’s exciting, I know, but it’s also revolting. Yes, it makes history, but it’s also repulsive. Yes, it seems good for baseball, but it is this very series that shows how much the American people buy into this joke.

There’s no salary cap. The revenue-sharing program is a disgrace and does little, if anything, to help small-market teams. There’s no discipline. This sport is going downhill, and it’s going down fast. Very, very fast. It’s no longer America’s pastime; it’s relinquished that title to the NFL and college football. So what does the MLB have to do to get back up there?

In order for baseball to become once again America’s sport, Major League Baseball and its Players Union, or as I like to call “The Unholy Alliance,” must swallow both their pride and their arrogance and create a salary cap for baseball. I know it would be hard for Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez and Alex Rodriguez to live on maybe $10 million a year instead of $17 million. It even may send them dumping into a lower tax bracket, and we just can’t have that. Or maybe they will have to reconsider that new jacuzzi in the back yard. Too bad.

It’s ruining baseball. It’s the same teams in the playoffs, each and every year. The Yankees, the Sox, the Angels, and yes, even my Atlanta Braves. My only solace is that the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets actually have the reverse effect of a high salary: they’re never there.

The revenue-sharing in baseball is a sorry excuse for a helping hand. Teams pay just as much as they receive in revenue-sharing. The Montreal Expos may have gotten $28 million dollars last year from revenue-sharing, but they paid $27 million. So, in essence, they actually gained $1 million. Wow.

The way salaries are going today, they can maybe – maybe – afford a mediocre middle reliever. A lot of help that’ll be for them. It’s good to see such generosity from the League.

Finally, fans, there is no discipline in Major League Baseball. Under the current rule, MLB players have to flunk a steroid test five times in order to be disciplined. Five. Call me crazy, but when you take a drug test in the real world, in a real job, it’s one strike and you’re out. If you fail the drug test, you’re not hired. No discussion. The rule should be the same for baseball.

Performance enhancing drugs are bad for baseball, and until the league rectifies their negligence toward this, there will always be a dark cloud over people like Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield. This even sparked a debate in Congress, and a Democrat – yes, a Democrat – Joe Biden, cursed the Union for being so stubborn.

If you want a league that has got it righte and shows it, watch the NFL. They have a salary cap that the players can live with. (Obviously, their players can get their heads beaten in and get concussions, yet they can still live off of $9 or $10 million, even though it may be difficult.) Their revenue sharing program opens doors for small-market teams like Carolina and Seattle to make it from worst to first in the matter of two or three seasons. They have discipline. They suspend players for use of illegal drugs or steroids. And I know I may be going out on a limb here, but their sport is also much, much more dangerous than baseball.

This ALCS has made me wonder about the state of sports in America today. Does it really reflect our values as Americans? Does this recklessness and greed really come from the fabric of our American culture? And as we watch today, how far will it go? At what point will the permissive attitude of “America’s pastime” finally end?

Until then, I’ll wait for football season.