1994 Baseball Lockout ‘s humored analysis of game’s implosion.

North County 8/24/94


“The ways by which you get money almost without exception lead downward. To have done anything by which you earn money merely is to have been truly idle or worse. If the laborer gets no more than his employer pays him, he is cheated, he cheats himself.” – Henry David Thoreau from “Life Without Principle” 1854

It is the second full week of the Major League Baseball Strike of ’94 and I’m hunkered down in the bowels of my home trying to piece together the hordes of ugly information seeping into my reluctant subconscious.

There are only so many pre-season football and minor league baseball games, and golf highlights that any self-respecting sports fan can endure before contemplating true acts of random communication with the outside world.

At my last official count there have been only three meetings between the players’ union and management lackey, Richard Ravitch since August 12 (or what is now being referred to in the inner circles of the Big Leagues as the day the money machine came to a screeching halt).

The owners, who up until the deal went down were decrying the end of civilization as we know it, have yet to show up at one of them. Union mouthpiece, Donald Fehr has been on everything from CNN’s “Crossfire” to the “Geraldo Show” and has presently taken the art of whining to its highest level to date. Still there is no real grit.

If nobody shows up at your games, and you have no sweet TV deal, and the market is dry…then get out.

Sources from the owner’s camp are leaking that the war is really between the HAVES and HAVE NOTS.

The richer franchises like the Yankees and Dodgers, Cubs, and Blue Jays want no part of this salary cap stuff. The troubles in places like Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Montreal secretly don’t concern them.

If nobody shows up at your games, and you have no sweet TV deal, and the market is dry…then get out.

They feel Bud Selig, owner of another painful franchise in Milwaukee, and acting commissioner, has painted them into a corner by trying to equal the social order. Evil words like socialism are sometimes heard in corner offices of large buildings somewhere in the heartland.

Braves owner, Ted Turner has started to perk up, and underground reports have revealed that even Jane Fonda can no longer control him. “We have a legal monopoly and we still screw it up,” he has recently told his fellow owners.

Billions of dollars lost in less than two weeks, and in two more weeks the NFL will blow their product off the scale.

“The greed always outweighs the cause!” they chant around our nation’s capital when filibusters drag on and connections fade. It is a well-known fact (and one not lost on Mr. Ravitch) that if there is no settlement by Labor Day, or soon thereafter, the idea of selling the post-season to media outlets will be gone.

And with no guaranteed network revenue from ABC and NBC it will be doomsday for the small market teams anyway.

Fehr is putting out feelers now that indicate the owners will crack again, just like they always do. The players know there will be a game. There has always been a game; since high school, and in some cases college, and the minors, too.

The players are not only the employees, but the product as well. A product that has been pummeled in the last few years by the likes of Shaq and Messier, and the resurrection of the Dallas Cowboys hype machine.

The AP and UPI lines are quiet. The parks and stadiums are empty.

The pastime is passing into oblivion, and there is little that a federal mediator, or Bill (I can’t pass a bill through Congress on a sled) Clinton, or the poor lonely baseball fan can do about it. The ball, as it has been from the beginning, is in the owners’ court; simply because they own the court.

The clock runs, and the cash slips through the grating.

Ravitch and the owners have to know that even today under the new bargaining agreement a good deal of their actions would not be the least bit legal out in the private sector of the business world. When the dust settles all the owners really want if for that nasty ARBITRATION to go away. Maybe then the wheels will turn fast enough to have a baseball fan. Maybe not.

The players union is strong. The owners alliance is not. And the real fight may be between themselves for such things as properties, revenue sharing, and equal rights under the baseball money law.

A billion-dollar business that is untouchable by antitrust laws is at stake. Lines are being drawn in the sand, and the heavy stuff is yet to come. Ross Perot’s “giant sucking sound” has become audible and the view from the front line is becoming ever more frightening with each passing day.

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