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Jewish World Review August 7, 2002 /29 Menachem-Av, 5762

Benjamin Shapiro

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Consumer Reports

Keep baseball American | Baseball is America's national pastime for many reasons. It's the most intelligent major sport. It encourages personal achievement just as much as team play. When a pitcher and hitter square off, it's one on one, a showdown.

But there's another reason baseball is America's sport: It's the most capitalist of all the major sports. Football has salary caps and complete parity. Basketball has salary caps for players and high taxes for owners exceeding a maximum payroll. Baseball has none of these.

Some might say that this is baseball's problem. It's why baseball is the only major sport that has real dynasties. It's why baseball players are paid enormous salaries. It's why the Chicago Cubs perennially stink.

But that is baseball's beauty. Often, the more an owner is willing to spend, the more he will make in revenue from ticket sales. If Cubs fans are willing to go to games to watch a terrible team, they shouldn't blame the owner for not buying tremendous players. He's already got a source of income.

It's uniquely American. It must be preserved and strengthened. And it's also why both sides in the current player-owner standoff are at least partially wrong.

There are obviously problems with the current system. Major leaguers are making a minimum of $200,000 a year. Steroids dirty the game. Los Angeles fans pay more attention to the beach balls floating around in the stands than they do to the baseball game.

So here's what needs to happen.

All teams should split home revenues 50-50 with the visiting teams. That means that if the New York Yankees visit the Montreal Expos, and the game creates a clear profit of $600,000, both the Expos and Yankees should receive $300,000. If, on the other hand, the Cincinnati Reds visit the Expos, and the profit is only $150,000, each team should receive $75,000. Major League Baseball wants 50 percent of all profits to go into a pool, to be divided equally among all teams; they want the other 50 percent placed into a fund that Bud Selig would distribute to teams according to his judgment of their need. This is a bad policy. Each team should keep the profit it creates.

The owners won't like this. Neither will the players. The owners with worse teams want a chunk of what the Yankees make. The worst players will want all owners to have more money to spend on them. But that's not American, and it shouldn't be baseball.

There should be no payroll luxury tax. Major League Baseball is calling for a 50 percent tax on all money spent above $98 million by owners. Instead, teams should be allowed to spend freely without being taxed. If the Yankees spend $400 million a season, they must be confident that they can bring in the crowds. Free markets should ensure that owners do not overspend.

The owners aren't happy with this, either. Many want parity. Too bad. If you can't compete, sell the team.

The minimum salary should be abolished. An owner shouldn't be forced to pay $200,000 to a player who bats .167. The government doesn't guarantee a doctor $100,000 a year if he kills a high percentage of his patients. Baseball shouldn't do it, either.

This is where the Players Union will go bonkers. It would like to see a minimum salary increase to $300,000 per year, with annual raises of $25,000 per year. Fine. If the players decide to strike, so be it. Bring in the scrubs. Hundreds of players labor in the minors all their lives to play baseball for less than $300,000. Let's give them a shot at it.

Finally, there should be mandatory random drug testing of players. I recommend this only because baseball will lose fans if players like Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa come under suspicion of steroid use. And really, who thinks that Sosa and Bonds aren't on steroids at this point? Sosa used to look like Ally McBeal, only skinnier, and now he looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Some of the owners would approve these proposals. Those who do should force the issue. If some owners don't like it, they can sell. If players don't like it, they can strike. Hey, I don't care if the major leaguers strike -- my Chicago White Sox are 5,000 games back of the division lead anyway at this point. Now's a great time for a strike!

It's time to save baseball. Let's do it along capitalist lines and keep baseball uniquely American.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate