A MODEST PROPOSAL
"It's not the owners' game, it's not the players', the game belongs to the fans. They're the ones who lost their playoffs and the World Series."
Thomas Lasorda, 5/3/95
The fans know the strike is not over, just suspended. The arbitration, free agency and salary cap issues have not been resolved, the threat of another strike or lockout still hangs over the game, and the fans know it. They aren't coming back until the future, stability and integrity of the game is restored.
The fans want the spirit of baseball back. They want teams with players who stay with the team long enough for the fans to get to know them, see them around town and for the players to become part of the community. They don't want salaries listed like stats in the newspaper. They don't want maneuvering around salary caps to be a more important strategy than squeeze bunts and double steals. They don't want to lose their stars everytime the team has a winning season. And they want the players to get a fair share of the revenues and profits. The fans want their stars to be paid what they are worth.
Fans should be able to afford to go to more games. Tickets, parking, a hot dog, peanuts and a soda costs $40 for a father and son. For most Americans, that's too much. Only the rich can afford more than a couple of games a year. Whose game is it anyway? Get the message, it's the fans' game. Give it back to them.
And the fans are voting with their feet. They are staying away from the stadiums in numbers greater than anyone expected. If the owners and players think it is just temporary anger and the bad publicity of the strike and lockout, then they are missing the message.
Sound familiar. The last time the fans went out on strike was after the Black Socks scandal, and the solution was a strong Commissioner of Baseball with the authority to restore integrity to the game. For thirty years the Commissioner of Baseball protected the game for the fans, not for the owners, not for the players. The Commissioner preserved the integrity of the game against gambling, drugs and all manner of cheating and other scandals.
Proposal: Establish a Baseball Board of Trustees to appoint a strong Commissioner of Baseball. The Board would be designed to represent fans, with each of the following appointing one member:
President of the United States
Speaker of the House of Representatives
NCAA Commissioner of Baseball
President of Little League Baseball
President of the Baseball Writers' Association
Trustees would serve only a single 2 or 3 year term, no consecutive terms. The Trustees' principal job would be to hire the Commissioner for a 4 or 5 year term. Successive terms for the Commissioner would be allowed and encouraged. No firing except for bribery, stealing or crimes of moral turpitude. The owners, players and their representatives could testify and present written materials to the Board of Trustees in connection with its deliberations regarding selection of the Commissioner, but the Board would not be limited to candidates nominated by the owners or players, and the owners and players would not have any veto over the Board's choice.
The Commissioner would have complete authority to decide all disputes in connection with the game, with a special view towards protecting the game and the interests of the fans. The Commissioner would have the authority to establish rules regarding salaries, arbitration, free agency, revenue sharing, team moves, division alignments, and rule changes - anything related to the game of baseball. The idea is a strong baseball "czar."
To protect against any radical shifts by a single "czar" Commissioner, upon appeal by the owners association, the players association or the umpires association, the Board would be entitled to reverse a decision of the Commissioner by a majority vote. The Board would not be allowed to impose its own decision or solution. The Board's authority would be limited to canceling the Commissioner's plan and appointing a new Commissioner, but not until the current Commissioner either resigned or reached the end of his term.
Will this take away a lot of the power the owners currently wield?
Will it take power away from the players?
Yes. Baseball strikes and lockouts would be banned by the same federal law establishing the Board and Office of the Commissioner, and the integrity and authority of the Commissioner would make a strike or lockout political suicide.
Will this protect the fans against losing their seasons, pennant races, runs for the records, play-offs and World Series?
The fans want their game of baseball back. That means there must be someone involved in every aspect of the game who looks out for the interests of the fans. That means a strong Commissioner with authority and political backing to tell the owners and the players what is best for the game. Owners, do it now. Congress, if the owners won't do it, then do it for them. Do it before the owners and players do any more damage to the game.