Will Major League Baseball continue?

By Hugh Walterman

Will Major League Baseball continue?

That is the question that many baseball enthusiasts are asking these days. With the current labor agreement about to expire at the end of this season many question what is in store with the new labor negotiations. Many experts have speculated that a player lockout is inevitable.

Can baseball survive another work stoppage? The experts say, no. Baseball lost much of its appeal to the fans after the player’s strike of 1994. There have been eight work stoppages in the history of baseball and five of them have been since 1972.

This seems like a ridiculous figure. The fans are tired of seeing millionaire players and billionaire owners fighting over money. Many of the fans have recently returned to the ballparks with attendance rising since 1998. If there is another work stoppage there will be no return for most.

The 1994 Labor Negotiations ended with the cancellation of the last six weeks of the regular season, the World Series and part of the 1995 season causing an abbreviated season as well. The players returned to work only in response to a Presidential order that guaranteed that the union and owners would return to the bargaining table and work out a labor agreement.

The agreement that came from this presidential order was still not ratified by the players until 1996. In the end the owners gave up their demands for a salary cap and to some extent revenue sharing. Bud Selig was the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers during the five work stoppages in 1972, 1981, 1985, and now 1994, and 1995.

He had been acting commissioner of baseball since the resignation of Fay Vincent in 1994, before getting appointed as commissioner in 1999.

Commissioner Bud Selig had instituted a gag order prior to the 2001 season with a million dollar fine for owners and their representative who violate the order. No one has violated the order other than anonymously but what has been determined is that Bud Selig plans to bring about contraction of at least two teams during the upcoming negotiations.

These anonymous sources suggest that their organizations will not allow their teams to be contracted and that Selig is using this as a bargaining ploy to help the owners get the demands that they want from the players’ union. Selig has stated many times in press conferences and publications that he is seriously considering this avenue of reducing the loss of revenue by eliminating the smaller market teams that cannot compete.

Recent articles in publications (such as Baseball Weekly, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated) suggest that the recent tragedy has brought about a change of heart among all parties. These articles suggest that the owners, players and union are all hoping for a speedy and amicable agreement can be reached. Many of the players according to the articles have said that they would even be in favor of signing a one or two year agreement to prevent a work stoppage to occur so soon after the tragedy. Selig has rebuffed this offer, according to Sports Illustrated, suggesting that an extension of the current agreement would not do anything to solve the economic woes of MLB.

From the same story in Sports Illustrated (Oct 1,2001), union assistant general counsel Gene Orza, states that terrorism has changed both sides, both sides will attack the issues with less fury.

“Perspective is sometime achieved at a terrific cost,” Orza said.