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I asked Prospectus authors if they thought there would be a strike
and if there would be playoffs this year. Everyone said there would be
playoffs, and a few thought there wouldn’t be a strike. Consensus among
the strike-heads seems to be it’ll be short and sharp, a 7 day 1985-style
strike.

I could use the break, to be honest. The Mariners are getting beaten by
teams like the Tigers and the Indians, while the A’s are on a tear barely
to be believed. If this were a basketball game we’d have called a momentum
time out and regrouped. A brief strike might suit my team well right now.
It’s hard to watch some batch of half-trying scrubs beat your team and
then flip over to SportsCenter to see your divisional rival introduced
with "Another gem from Barry Zito as the A’s roll to their 82nd
consecutive win."

And since the Mariners, fearing a strike, are blackmailing their
season-ticket holders into paying up front for–get this–every
potential home playoff game every round, including a possible one-game
playoff at the end of the year, I’m a little peeved at the home team lately.

That’s right. If a game is mathematically possible, no matter how
unlikely, I’ve got to give the Mariners a free two-month loan for the cost
of tickets. No, I don’t get to charge them a service fee on the order, or
a convenience fee for mailing a check in. This is the most ridiculous
extortion I’ve ever been subjected to in fandom. Even the NBA (or the
Sonics, anyway) let fans purchase tickets for the first round, and if they
move on, get charged again. The Mariners will collect all that money and
sit on it, which (scribbling on napkin) works out to something like
$250,000, or three Jose 0-for-man games. Which is exactly the kind of
bench presence they need in this AL West race.

So I’m a little sore about this season.

I wrote
an ESPN article much earlier this year
on the Angels, looking at
their earlier success, comparing them to the Mariners, and predicting the
Angels would hang around in case a contender failed. Some astute readers
wrote me about neglecting over the A’s, but I believed Oakland didn’t have
the offensive unit or the bullpen to run with the big boys.

Yeah. Turns out I was wrong about the A’s there. I should have known
better, of course, that they’d tweak and trade and come roaring back.
Right now, Oakland wins the AL West crown, the Angels hit the back door,
and the Yankees and Twins are in. A strike that goes more than a couple
days could wipe out the Mariners’ best chance back in–head to head
games against their two division rivals. If we get a short strike, it’s on,
and I’ll be in the front row cheering.

Good thing about this is that Lou Piniella’s started swearing a lot again,
which amuses me no end. When Piniella is quoted as saying "I’m tired of
our lousy hitting. You want to find out why we’re not hitting? Go down the
hall, ask the players…" well, you can pretty much bet you’re only
getting about 1/5th of the actual verbal content. This is they don’t carry
many long video or radio segments of post-game interviews, and why
Piniella comments after losses tend to vary widely from source to source
even if the sentiment is the same, because the beat writers have to write
around him. And if there aren’t any quotes at all–the story says
"Piniella expressed serious disappointment with Franklin’s performance"–you
can bet there were some shocked Teamsters blinking in awe as they
pulled up to the stadium with the next day’s supply of rosin.

Anyway, the strike–I hope that no one who has made any comment about
not coming back after a strike comes back. I don’t want to hear "oh, I
meant an extended strike". Nope, you should have written that on the sign
you held up for the cameras.

I don’t go telling my lovely and talented wife I’m going to leave her when
she doesn’t (uh, for instance) clean the cookie sheets she’s cooked on. I
don’t threaten it because I love her, and I understand it’s part of the
package. Professional sports are no different–it takes an immense
amount of money to pay the best athletes in the world on the field, and
those same athletes are going to want fair compensation for their
services. That they’re going to argue about it sometimes shouldn’t
surprise anyone. Would it be in the best interests of everyone if the
owners stopped seeing the players as an exploitable resource and instead
as potential partners in growing the game? Sure. But there aren’t a lot of
companies, much less industries, who have that kind of enlightened vision.

If your relationship with baseball, or any professional sport, is so
filled with jealousy and anger that you can’t enjoy the beauty of the game
and the talent of its players because management is inept, go
watch Friends
(which has been beset by labor, money, and drug issues
throughout its history) and forget all about the greatest sport there is.

A seven-day strike that gets us four years of labor peace (and, likely,
increasing competitive imbalance, but I digress) and clears out the angry,
"players are overpaid" crowd? Sign me up.


Derek Zumsteg is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by
clicking here.

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