On Only Baseball Matters I found a link to a Newsweek article by Mark Starr entitled "Remember the Fans?" It's a scathing diatribe against the players, that has fundamental problems that Only Baseball Matters covers well. I had never read anything from Mark Starr and do not think that he is a sportswriter but merely a fan with a forum. Actually his bio bears this out: his title is Senior Editor and Boston Bureau Chief. But he seems like a reasonable man who is not grinding any axes, unlike George Will, who is basically the owners' propagandist. He seems like someone that one could have an interesting conversation with over lunch.
That's why it's all the more disturbing to see that the owners' disinformation brigade has gotten to him, too. I am sick of this labor war. I am sick of having discussions with friends, relatives, and colleagues, in which I feel that I have to defend the players. I feel almost embarrassed and try at first not to say anything, but once they start spewing the owners' party line I feel compelled. I don't even want to go into who's right, the players or the owners. I want to point out how odd, unfortunate, disturbing, fill in your own depressing adjective here, it is that the owners' concerted effort to lie, inveigle, and obfuscate has worked so well. It has permeated every level of the conversation when it comes to the labor wars: from call-in show idiots to Newsweek.
I guess that I should not be surprised. On the owners' side is ABC, ESPN, AOL/Time-Warner, Disney, Fox, CNN, Sport Illustrated, the Gannett newspaper and television chains, the USA Today, Baseball Weekly, and the Tribune Company's newspaper, radio, and television chains. They all own teams or parts of teams. As I said, George Will is their propagandist, a well-known national figure who has written books on baseball, appeared in Ken Burns' Baseball documentary, and sat on MLB's hand-picked Blue Ribbon Panel, who also happens to sit on the board of two major-league teams. I heard Goebbels was great on TV as well. Did I forget anybody? (Who owns Newsweek?) The players' have Donald Fehr's pained expression on the tube and interviews with their constituency after the game when they're sweaty and half-naked.
With the maelstrom of information that is not only biased towards the owners, it is bought and paid for by the owners, there is hardly a forum for the players' side. When something positive comes from the players, like a strike date not being set, it gets buried under layers of yellow journalism, like the "I Love Bud" show on ESPN.com. The journalists who are independent of these organizations swallow whole the lies of the owners and their propaganda divisions. I think the word is dupe. It is all the more gauling becauase the players' union would rubber stamp the old agreement and are asking for nothing in the new one. The owners have to cook their books, feign contraction, and spread stories of missed payrolls and doom and gloom to justify demanding changes when revenues have nearly trebled since the last agreement. While salaries have not even kept pace with the revenue increase (they've doubled). This is in MLB's Blue Ribbon Panel's published findings.
I feel that these smear tactics have been successful and that the owners are at the verge of victory. The players do not want to set a strike date-they are fearful of it-as they demonstrated the other day. But it is their only weapon. They probably will play this card today, and unless the seemingly unlikely event of concessions being made by both sides on the luxury tax issue is realized, we will be without an agreement by the strike date. What will the players do? I think that there are enough players who remember 1994 well and who do not want to be on strike during the anniversary of the September 11th attacks that the union may have to cave into the owners to avoid a strike. That failing, the union may break apart and the owners will have total victory. However, it plays out I just wish that it would already.
[Some additional comments on the Starr article: On steroids, how about smaller, more hitter-friendly ballparks, expansion, a more lively ball, or a myriad of other causes, which are more plausible than steroids, for the home run explosion. I'm sick of these journalists who jumped on the Sosa and McGwire band wagon in '98 jumping off when there is a sniff of impropriety in the game's inflated numbers. If players were induced to take steroids, were not the news services who lionize the home run somewhat complicit? He overlooks Anahiem in his conversation about the Twins being an "aberration". They all forget the Angels, maybe because they play in the second largest city in America and are funded from Disney's coffers. Also, he theorizes that the Twins will be compelled to dismantle the team because of all of the arbitration-eligible players next year. Carl Pohlad is possibly the richest man in baseball. Why can't he open the old wallet and pay his great players a decent living? Why is no one asking that-see the article above.]