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Special NewsHour Stories on Sports
Changing Baseball Elizabeth Farnsworth looks at the new kind of baseball owners and the effects they are having on baseball. (3/31/98)
For the second time in 10 years, major league baseball players may go on strike. The last time this happened, in 1994, there was no World Series.
This time around, baseball may not be strong enough to recover. In the wake of a faltering economy, a nation sick of corporate greed may not be very sympathetic to baseball's high-paid stars.
The players' strike is set to begin on August 30th and it would be the third time major league baseball stopped playing games mid-season since 1972. What has happened to America's game?
Estimates have attendance at baseball parks continuing to drop this year, and if the players strike, many fans say they may never come back.
Even President Bush said, "The baseball owners and the baseball players must understand that if there is a stoppage, a work stoppage, a lot of fans are going to be furious, and I'm one of them."
it is estimated that only four of the 30 major league teams will earn
a profit this year, and on top of that, Bud Selig -- baseball's commissioner
-- wants to cut two major league teams to save the league money.
The players union and the team owners have been trying to reach a new contract since last year. However, there are still many problems that need to be worked out.
The major sticking-point between the players and the owners is the "luxury tax" owners want to place on the richest baseball teams. This tax is a way for the owners to slow the rising cost of players' salaries.
In addition, many owners want to increase the amount of money shared among teams so the richest teams could help support the poorest.
Together, these two points basically create a "salary cap," which limits how much individual players can make. In 1994, the players refused to accept such salary limits and stopped playing -- causing the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.
Unlike the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball has no limit to players' salaries.
Many experts and fans agree that no salary cap allows teams like the Yankees to dominate the league because they can afford to pay the best players the high salaries they demand.
The players have grudgingly agreed to allow the luxury tax, but the strike will begin on August 30th if the players and owners can't agree on how big that tax should be.
The Players' Union wants the tax to take as little money as possible from their salaries, while the owners want the tax to be relatively large.
As recently as August 12th, players and owners were optimistic that a deal would be met, but that all fell through when they couldn't find the middle ground in the payroll tax debate.
If the strike occurs and ends the current season, players stand to lose 16 percent of their salaries.
For the highest paid this equals more than $30 million. For those making the league minimum, the number is around $30,000.
Either way, a nation that has endured corporate scandals and a sluggish economy may not return to the major leagues. A family of four can save $100 by going to a minor league game.
And with the average household making less than one fifth of the lowest paid professional baseball player, the price of the major league may be too high.
What do you think? Are you a baseball fan? Why or why not? What would you say to the baseball team owners? To the players?
-- Contributed by Colin Gwin
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