Baseball strike

Topics: Regulation
10 Feb 1995

From: "DG Ervan Darnell"

This was just too silly, but the level of political pressure being applied
deserves some comment. Clinton's great persuasion skills that passed Health
Deform and rescused the House for the Dems seems to have done equally well
with baseball players and owners. A Rep on M/L even said that their
behavior was disrespectful of the presidency. Like the presidency in the
person of Bill Clinton is deserving respect? Snubbing Clinton doubled my
esteem for the players. As has been pointed out, Clinton has no power and
the players knew it. I say it's a damn good thing the president cannot just
roll in and force a particular person to do some arbitrary thing. It's what
rights are all about. The question is why should he have ever tried?

Unfortunately, the Reps are not doing very well on this. The standard line,
from Gingrich and Dole, is that congress cannot be bothered by such trivia.
That's a DOA response. Only Phil Gramm was brave enough to speak the truth:
(2/8 Houston Post) "There is something more important than baseball. It's
called freedom." Absolutely! Where are the rest of the Reps on this?

Bill Clinton instead proposes to enslave baseball players. Before you
complain this is pointless hyperbole, the owners are already training new
people to play. The baseball season will go forward one way or another.
When Rep. Schumer (Clinton's point man on this) said 'There will be no
season unless congress acts. And, lot's of people, vendors, ticket agents,
etc. will be without work' is just dead wrong. Well, until Clinton gets
into this. He wants to prohibit the new baseball players from being allowed
to play. Here is the situation: we have some rich, grown men who would
rather rest than play a *game* (1). We have some extra rich owners who
would rather keep their money than pay some people to play a *game*.
Clinton wants to have congress force these people, these particular people,
to play a *game* when they would prefer not too.

Now, Schumer says "We are not choosing sides. We are only forcing binding
arbitration." (an exact quote from M/L this week). Yeah, right. Congress
won't force baseball players to play. They will only force them to abide by
someone else's opinion who will force you to play. I'm glad he cleared up
that important distinction.

And where does the justification for this come from? Schumer: "Fans deserve
a place at the table." Right. Slavery. We consumers like cotton clothes
but not the wages you want for picking it and/or that the plantation owners
will pay. Get out the whips. The government will send in the police to put
down any rebellions (amongst the pickers or the plantation owners). All of
this for a *game*. Jeez. The military draft is bad enough, but for a *game*?

Schumer goes on with this justification (paraphrased) 'This is a special
case. Congress already meddled by granting them an anti-trust exemption.
Now, it must clean up its mess.' Now, I don't understand baseball laws in
any detail, and someone may set me straight, but what Schumer just said is
because congress has specifically *refused* to regulate baseball in the past
by exempting it from one odious piece of regulation it must now regulate in
the particular in the interest of consistency. Hello?

Even if it were justified in the principle, the economics of it are totally
broken. Big bucks are being lost here. Both sides know that. This penalty
is the price that must me paid to work out an equitable settlement.
Congressional intervention will only make the problem worse another day.
How to find the best players if they are overpaid and more people want play?
How to keep the game at the level of quality that fans demand if the best
players are underpaid (as seems likely)?

Also, it is a lesson to other franchise sports about how they must organize
(free agents and all that) to avoid major losses. Cushioning that lesson
would be a serious mistake. Futhermore, fans can watch minor league, or
little league, or the new pros coming this season, or football, or hockey,
or the clothes dryer. Their switching is the penalty to be paid for failure
to reconcile, just as in any union negotation. It is the penalty that
should be paid. Ultimately it will drive people to sports they enjoy more
because of their stability and credibility. Congress can create labor
stability in baseball no more than it created stability in the S&L market.

(1) Credits to Thomas for clealy putting the emphasis on this in the first