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Broken One Way, Or Broken The Other

Note: This is a rant. As such, the author is not responsible for anything that is deemed to be incoherent, poorly argued, offensive, illogical, or simplistic. The author will, however, gladly take credit for anything that is deemed to be utterly brilliant.

Major league baseball just can't get it right. For years, owners had the extreme upper hand and treated players virtually like slaves, i.e., like commodities that could be overworked, underpaid, bought and sold like property. Rich, white men treating poorer human beings like possessions--how freaking original. Then the pendulum swung and now the players have the extreme upper hand, with earlier arbitration, "start the bidding" free agency, and limitless budgets sending salaries farther out of whack with every tick of the clock.

This is not to suggest that owners are standing on street corners begging for spare change. Owners are still rich because they always enter baseball rich, and they can usually recoup any annual losses through the eventual sale of the team. But the players' union is one of the most powerful unions around, and the union has used its muscle not to fight for equity but for greed--and it has usually succeeded.

Did I blink and miss the middle ground where baseball got it right? Where someone was motivated by equity and not greed, where what was best for baseball and its fans was given a looksee? Other sports have adjusted along the way, inspired either by crisis or strong leadership, and have introduced salary caps or restricted free agency, while baseball has taken baby steps (e.g., revenue sharing) but has, ultimately, done little to discourage someone from making Scott Eyre a millionaire 11 times over, or from giving B.J. Ryan a 5-year deal for an amount that surpasses the entire 2005 payroll, give or take a dead rat, of 8 teams.

No, the players union is not "just doing its job." Unions were created to fight for equity, not just to become the enemy they were fighting, only on the other side.

No, the agents are not "just doing their jobs." An agent's purpose is supposed to be to save their non business-savvy clients from having to construct their own deals when they are not in the deal-constructing business. That does not suggest that being greedy is an inherent part of an agent's job.

No, the owners are not victims. The owners are, at worst, the original culprits who modeled greed for the players union and are, at best, shameful enablers who serve drinks to the alcoholics and then complain about drunk driving.

Any system in which a few "top paid players" earn nearly 100 times that of dozens of "lowest paid players"? Any system in which one team's payroll can be 10 times that of another's? Any system in which fans can't afford to go to games but who cares because their favorite player just left anyway? Not so unbroken.

I'd like to see the minimum salary raised to $500,000 but the top salary capped at $10,000,000. I'd like to see arbitration awards judged on an absolute scale, not based on some inflated salary some stupid owner was desperate enough to offer some other player. I'd like to see teams have the right to match the offer on any of their free agents, thus keeping more beloved players on the same team for a while. I'd like to see agents paid a flat fee, or an hourly rate, instead of a percentage of the salary they negotiate. I'd like to see Scott Boras gnawed at slowly, from the inside, by 37 rabid ferrets. And I'd like a pony for Christmas. If that's not too &*#%ing much to ask.

sighs, curls up on foot of bed and escapes reality by watching back-to-back-to-back episodes of The Golden Girls