Baseball's Last Chance

Friday 5 July 2002

As I write this, the 2002 All-Star game is imminent...and shortly thereafter, perhaps, a strike.

If they strike, I'm done with baseball. This is the last chance they get.

I haven't analyzed the issue in depth, but the one thing I do know is that both sides are millionaires. That's a lot more than I make, and I'm not doing something I love, something that should be fun. If I had the talent and the chance, I'd play major league baseball for the league minimum. Greed is a terrible thing.

Here's a typical example of the idiocy of high-priced contracts: Monday night, Raul Mondesi was traded to the Yankees. This is a man who in 1998 signed a 6-year, $60 million contract with the Dodgers that would lock him up there through 2003. Since then, he's moved TWICE (to Toronto in 2000 and now to New York in 2002.) Mondesi's contract isn't a contract - it's a joke. Like those of so many of his peers, he simply agreed to something which he and the team knew was a lie. Perhaps the ultimate example of this was the Florida Marlins in 1997; they bought a handful of superstars, won a World Series, and then traded those players. If I was a Marlins fan who bought season tickets after the 1997 World Series, expecting to see that great team take the field in 1998, I'd have been steamed. The players who do this get their millions and often get to move on once their antics grow old. The owners get to wheel and deal in a great gambling game to try and win. The fans get screwed. As usual.

I would lay the blame for a strike on both sides. They are so intent on fighting each other that they seem to have forgotten who it is that makes both their livelihoods possible: us, the fans. Neither side seems to care much what we think, and unfortunately, a massive fan boycott and the resulting drop in revenues would take years, perhaps a decade, to produce the desired retribution. By then, many of the players who helped make the strike happen will have retired.

If the game still had more of its classy players - Ripken, Gwynn, McGwire - I might give it more of a chance. I like seeing 20-year veterans climb up all-time stat lists. Unfortunately, right now it's just one ageless wonder with a bad attitude (Henderson), one home run wonder with a bad attitude (Bonds), a handful of sluggers in their 30s who have a good shot at the 500 home run club (Sosa, Griffey, Palmeiro, McGriff), and a couple of pitchers who are creeping towards 300 wins (Clemens, Maddux.) All of these guys will see their career totals hurt by a strike, yet not one of them has made an effort to avert a strike.

It's a great game, but I'll say it again: if they strike, they lose this fan.

[Editor's note: an amazingly similar editorial by Charles Krauthammer appeared in the Washington Post the same day as this article was published --- I can vouch that Thomas's came first]