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You're Up, Baseball Owners


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YOU'RE UP, BASEBALL OWNERS

As Yogi Berra didn't say, "It's deja vu all over again." With baseball owners and players set to shut down the game for the eighth time in as many labor negotiations, the temptation is to say: A pox on both your houses. Yet the owners bear the burden of explanation for the central issue of the dispute.

The problem, of course, is money. Large-market teams such as the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers rake in tens of millions of dollars from local TV and radio broadcasts. The owners argue that this gives them a leg up in buying the best talent against small-market clubs such as Minnesota and Cleveland. Their solution: a uniform cap on the teams' salary pool, making players more affordable for the less well-endowed clubs (page 26).

The players, not surprisingly, disagree and prefer to continue to let the market set their salaries. They argue that there's another answer. The league, they say, currently pools its national TV revenue and shares it. Why not put all the local money into the pot and divide that up, too--the way the National Football League does? That would generate enough funds for all the teams to buy high-priced talent.

Large-market club owners, of course, hate this idea. But it would solve most of the disparity problem, and it would be fairer than asking players to pony up for the financial problems of a half-dozen team owners. The league is a business that depends on the health of 28 clubs to mount a game the public wants to see. If a few units of this business have difficulties, it's up to the league, not its employees, to solve it.


Steve Ballmer, Power Forward
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