Cheap Seats

Ranting and raving

With the news that MLB players association rep Donald Fehr will retire with an $11 million bonus and all the speculation that the Cardinals could soon be priced out of being able to afford either Matt Holliday or Albert Pujols, I think I have finally cracked.

I just can't take the money component to baseball anymore, and I think it is time for drastic changes to what was once and should be again our national pastime.

I don't care what the market bears. Sometimes capitalism doesn't apply. Corporations drove up the ante in baseball in the 1980s and 1990s by buying up all the best seats and creating the demand for new ballparks with luxury boxes. Since then, things have completely spiraled out of control until we got to the point that the guy on the street can't even afford to go to the games anymore.

Like what happened with the banks and on Wall Street, that's all over because the bubble has burst with the bad economy. Corporations are not only pulling out on perks like a suite at the ballpark, they are taking away their advertising dollars, too. Meanwhile, the little guy is left holding the high-priced bag.

The reality is that we live in a world where people can't afford medical coverage for their kids, but ballplayers make $20 million a year.

I don't begrudge entertainers making a healthy paycheck. What I do resent is the fact that you can't take a family of four to ONE NIGHT at a major league ballpark for less than $200 when ther average family income in this country is less than $1000 a week BEFORE taxes. The game has simply priced itself out of its market and it is going to strangle itself to death if something isn't done to stop it.

Major League Baseball needs a salary cap, and it needs it yesterday. And I'm not talking about freezing things where they are now. There is no reason on the planet that a ballplayer needs to make more than $5 million a year. (Actually, we know there is no reason to justify one making a tenth of that, but I am trying to be somewhat reasonable.) It also needs revenue sharing like the NFL where each team has the means to put a good product on the field.

Cut major league payrolls to a maximum of $50 million. Then the owners can do their share and cut ticket prices back so you can get into the ballpark for less than $20 a seat and get a beer and a hot dog for less than the price of a tank of gas.

I know this is fantasyland stuff that ain't never gonna happen. But imagine if it did. How many more people would come to the ballpark and how much more popular would baseball be if it was once again the game of the masses in America?

How much more popular would the game be if former baseball hotbeds like Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati could field competitive teams again?

We'll probably never find out. But if things keep going the way they are, the only teams that have a chance are going to be the ones in New York and Los Angeles. How much fun is that going to be to watch?