Graziano: Does America need to find a new pastime?

Christopher A. Smith

There is a definite possibility that, for the second time in nine years, the World Series will be cancelled. Such an occurrence could cripple what once was the national pastime, but could soon be regarded as an assembly of the most greedy, heartless human beings on the face of the planet. Or, the labor problems could be solved before this column is printed Thursday night, and I could look like an idiot for writing it.

It is tough to say what will happen.

Both sides know the damage a strike could do, but the numbers that each side is proposing are farther apart than the distance in the standings between the wealthy New York Yankees and the poverty-stricken Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Whether you like MLB commish Bud Selig or not, baseball’s financial problems cannot be ignored. Only a handful of teams each year are in the running for top free agents and one of the league’s eight playoff spots.

Fans in cities like Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Kansas City, to name a few, go to the park in the hopes of seeing their teams play .500 baseball. Such disparity cannot be found in any other sport.

The ways the owners plan on solving baseball’s problems is through luxury taxes and revenue sharing. Such plans would force teams like the Yankees to pay a tax for however much money their payroll was above a set amount, one that would lie somewhere slightly above $100 million.

And the richer teams, like those in New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta would share some of their revenue with smaller market teams. Such financial plans would shrink the gap in spending money, putting teams on a more level playing ground. Currently, the players oppose such plans, and the proposals they have offered for the plans would make little difference.

Smaller issues, including steroid testing, have also been delaying a settlement. The principle behind this issue is similar to all the others – the players are illogical. Every other sport has steroid testing, because they have recognized that steroids provide an unfair and unsafe advantage.

Up to eight owners have gone on record as saying they are prepared to see a strike happen, and would be willing to wait up to a year before making a settlement in order to make sure that a financially-pleasing deal would be made. Such conviction amongst the owners suggests that the players may not have as much bargaining power as they have in recent labor disputes.

In a recent poll conducted by CNN, 43 percent of fans said they sided with the owners, with just 30 percent agreeing with the players. It is hard to believe that an average salary of $2.34 million is not enough, especially as the season approaches Sept. 11.

President Bush has gone on record as saying he would be “furious” if there was a baseball strike.

Millions of fans around the world would feel the same. This time it will take a lot more than a homerun derby between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire to bring baseball back in the hearts of fans.

First, baseball needs to find its way back into the hearts of its players.