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August 15, 2002

Memo to MLB: Don't strike out
By Dan Patrick

As we approach the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, we also approach the idea that Major League Baseball could go on strike again in the next several weeks. To put those two ideas in one sentence is appalling.

Bud Selig
Last September, players and owners assured us that they knew their place; baseball games are fanciful diversions. They are entertainment. Owners and players told us they knew they were lucky to be involved in sports for a living. They also said they knew that baseball, like all the other games we follow, can provide a respite from the grind of daily life for the rest of the population. (And this was never truer than when all sports resumed in the week following the attack.)

I believed them.

So, I wonder, what has changed in the last 11 months? Are they really going to bust up the game again and cancel the postseason and World Series, just eight years after doing it for the first time ever? These people still can't figure out how to divide billions? Don't we still need baseball the way we did last fall? Surely that talk last year was not just for show.

Just the fact that the players have been considering a strike date is depressing to me. And while I know recent signs have been encouraging, this is Major League Baseball -- you can't assume things will get fixed in time to save the season. It's especially galling that neither side seems to have learned from the last strike. We are discussing the same issues this time around.

The players have to know they will lose the PR battle if they go on strike. The average MLB salary is $2.3 million, so they won't garner any sympathy. That should be enough for the "honor" of playing a game you "love."

These people still can't figure out how to divide billions?
The owners certainly won't win any fans, either, if this season is shortened or if we miss another World Series -- especially in cities that have forked over stadium money and friendly business deals since the last strike.

Finding common ground and settling these issues is obviously in the best interests of all parties, including the fans. You honestly have to wonder if all of these claims about both sides caring about the game are true. A stoppage would seem to be proof to the contrary. You don't care about something and treat it the way these two groups have over the years. You pretty much need all your fingers to point out the guilty parties in this mess.

Commissioner Bud Selig was on my radio show last week. And if he is as tough to negotiate with as he is to interview, I think we're in trouble.

So as the wider media prepares for the anniversary of the attacks, the sports media will have to deal with baseball and its labor problems. And I think that everyone in MLB is making a mistake if they think the game can withstand another strike. We've all been reminded that time and life are precious. Why waste either one on a sport that can't take care of itself?

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Patrick/Dibble Archive


Peter Gammons joins Dan Patrick and Rob Dibble to break down the latest strike talks.
Listen Now's Jayson Stark reports from Chicago following Monday's Labor Meeting.
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Union Chief Donald Fehr and NL Player Rep. Tom Glavine on collective bargaining.
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