I grew up in baseball stadiums. No, my father was not a major league player, and no one in my family owns a team, but every summer, as part of my family’s travels, we would attend a baseball game in whatever city we visited. I had been to Fenway Park and seen the Red Sox play by the time I was four (they’re still my favorite team), and I even sat through an A’s game in Oakland, petrified to root for their opponents, the Orioles, because the fans around me were a little, well, fanatic.
The 1994 baseball strike, the only one I can remember, made me angry. In all the hype of the sport, the players, coaches and owners had forgotten the most important element – the fans. The 232 days of the strike made a mockery of the “national pastime” and prevented the teams from playing the World Series that year. Not only was it disappointing and frustrating for the fans, it was a heart-breaking way to end a tradition.
Baseball has never fully recovered from the 1994 strike. Anyone who says differently is kidding themselves. The sport has been in flux for years, and only with individual star power, such as Mark McGwire’s home run streak, and the staying power of established teams, such as the New York Yankees, has the sport managed to persevere. There are die-hard baseball fans out there, but the number is dwindling. With new “extreme” sports, like snowboarding and wrestling flooding the market, younger generations are getting a thrill out of fast-paced sports and losing interest in nine innings with more strikeouts than hits.
It seems the greed of Major League Baseball knows no bounds, and this is what has hurt the fans the most. The average ball player makes $2.4 million a year. That’s not a small sum. Top tennis players can barely break $1 million a year, even after they have played more than a dozen tournaments.
To give the number even more perspective, the President of the United States only gets paid $300,000 a year. This is the man who decides whether we drop nuclear bombs on foreign countries and how much money should be spent on things like education and health care.
To elaborate, I wouldn’t want the president to be a disgruntled, underpaid worker. If salary is a form of respect, the numbers give a clear sign as to how we prioritize in this country; entertainment first, important stuff later.
If the players strike today at 3:20, it will be a death knell for Major League Baseball. In case the owners haven’t noticed, the economy is not exactly running in the black. Even if they manage to maintain their fan base through the strike, which is doubtful, they won’t be able to give people money to see the games, buy the souvenirs and eat the high-priced food at ball parks once a truce has been called.
It becomes a trivial matter when the one issue the teams can’t agree on is money. Baseball is already making $3.5 billion a year. Paying taxes on the money teams earn and give to their players is all part of the business. Baseball is a great sport, with a great tradition. Every kid should have the opportunity to enjoy a summer afternoon staring at the Green Monster, trying to figure out how to fill in a scorecard. To ruin that chance over money issues seems an insulting way to treat the national pastime.
Megan Sullivan is The Oracle’s opinion firstname.lastname@example.org