Word came yesterday that Major League Baseball owners ratified the new labor agreement by a margin of 29-1. The one abstention? To no one’s surprise, it’s the New York Yankees. Good for them.
Knowing full well that the majority of teams would ratify the deal, the Yankees knew their vote would not impact the agreement’s ratification. But, with Commissioner Bud Selig issuing orders of silence to the owners, this was a way for Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to voice his opinion, and we should listen to George — at least this time.
The fact that my rooting interest lies with the Yankees is irrelevant to this column. I was in favor of a much stricter luxury tax, if not an all-out salary cap. And therein lies the problem with the labor agreement — it will do very little, if anything, to actually remedy the problem that Selig and company sought to fix: competitive balance, or lack thereof.
One feature of the agreement is an increase in the amount of revenue sharing money that wealthy owners will give to the smaller market teams. However, absolutely nothing is in place to ensure that the owners receiving the aid will use the money on players. With teams in today’s economy owned by corporations, what’s to stop a baseball team’s corporate parent from taking the revenue sharing money and applying it to the company’s bottom line? Nothing. Although I am not implying that this has happened in the past, nothing prevents it from happening in the future.
It recently came out that the Kansas City Royals spent some of their revenue sharing money on new frozen yogurt machines for their stadium. While I have nothing against improving an aspect of one’s stadium, this action does nothing for competitive balance. I am sure it gives great comfort to the fan in Kansas City who can enjoy delicious, price gouged, frozen yogurt while watching the auditions for the next Bad News Bears movie out on the playing field.
The postponement of contraction until 2006 is ludicrous. Baseball over-expanded, and, to their credit and my astonishment, the owners actually realized it, and wanted to contract. While I disagree with the teams to be cut in contraction — Minnesota deserves a baseball team — the idea was good. It would raise the talent level, a clear benefit to the game.
With the new labor agreement, very little will actually change. Steinbrenner is currently the only owner negatively impacted by the luxury tax, and he has shown in the past that winning is more important than anything, so he’s not likely to change his ways. What this means is, four years from now, when this, to use Selig’s term, “historic” agreement is about to expire, the game we love will be in a state similar to today. And this time the negotiations will be ugly. The players will be able to point to their so-called concessions (luxury tax, increased revenue sharing) and say that they didn’t help, so they will be pulled off the table. The owners will say they need more. You get the picture.
This was the perfect chance to fix things for a lasting impact on the game, and both sides failed miserably.