A cure for what ails baseball-Parasiliti column

August 27, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

Congratulate me.

I just got a promotion.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, I've been elected by a margin of 1-0 to be the supreme arbiter over the impending Major League Baseball strike.

I have all the requirements:

I'm impartial (Both sides are out of line).

I get annoyed by political posturing (Does the stadium issue ring a bell?).

And most of all, my solution will upset both sides (That is probably the biggest asset ... neither side wins, which is in the best interest of the game).

Before I unveil the specifics of the my "Pacifier Plan," - titled to stop all the crying - let's identify the combatants.


In the red corner, we have the players' union, an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp. This oversensitive group of "workers" says it deserves a bigger piece of the game's economic pie. But like broadcaster Jimmy Roberts so aptly pointed out, "Why do they need a union?" Thirty years ago, the players needed a union to improve conditions. Now, it's tough to hum the "Work for the Union Label" anthem for guys already dripping in gold chains and driving cars that cost more than most fans make in a year.

And in the blue corner is the management team - the owners who can't get along among themselves, let alone fake a united front in solving an impending problem. They are a bunch of rich businessmen who think they can make another fortune with their hobby of owning real-life baseball cards. They refuse to understand sports runs by a different set of business rules.

It's a classic battle of the unreasonable force against the inflexible object.

Without further adieu, let's take this strike issue out of both sides' hands before they hurt themselves - and everyone around them.

As the supreme arbiter, I say ...

1. From this point on, end negotiations of any plan that economically benefits only 3 percent of the work force (the players). Bag revenue sharing and luxury taxes which no one will ever agree on. The discussions will revolve around the league minimum salary.

Make sure all ballplayers make a reasonable yet decent wage. When that amount is endorsed, every single player in baseball - from Alex Gonzalez to Speedy Gonzalez - will be paid that amount.

All former contracts will be null and void because, from now on, every player will be paid with incentive-based contracts.

In most cases, players, and their agents, hit the bargaining table armed with last year's statistics. That has no bearing on this year's performance.

Each contract would be tailored to each individual player's talents. For A-Rod, hit x amount of home runs, you will be awarded so much of a bonus. The amount will grow as the home run production grows. Scales would be devised for the number of hits, RBI, errors committed, runs scored, games played and so on.

Players like Ricky Henderson would be rated for his stolen bases. Randy Johnson? How about wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, walks and ERA, for example. John Smoltz will be rated on his saves and his efficiency, among other standards.

Baseball players will have to work at their trade like, say, the concession workers at the stadium. Each would have to hustle to make more money. Salesmen work on commission, a rating of their performance to date, not what they accomplished last year.

Let's face it. Guys like A-Rod, Sosa, Bonds, Jason Giambi, Johnson, Schilling and Maddux will still make the most money of anyone playing the game while the important utility players will make a decent wage and wouldn't be accused of being overpaid.

A system of pro-rating will have to be devised to take care of seriously injured players. At the same time, it could prevent players sitting out games because of minor "day-to-day" injuries because every game has new importance.

2. Incentive-laden contracts will make free agency a little more interesting and will involve the smaller market teams. Players' decisions won't be made solely on the highest bidder, because this system won't allow it. Players will be forced to choose the team they feel best suits them. Some might even choose to stay put.

Veteran players can receive a 5 percent bonus for every five years of service and more if it's all with the same team.

This part of the plan is implemented to prevent every player from running to teams with the deepest pockets. Personal and family lifestyle will come into play, which is supposed to be one of the wholesome selling points of the game. Without the financial pressures and enticements, the league's talent might disperse itself naturally.

The star players may feel underpaid, but they will be required to constantly prove their superiority, which will help keep fans in the stands.

Besides, the top players have other methods of income. They won't lose their endorsement power because they are making less money. Would Derek Jeter lose his Gatorade gig because he's not making $18 million a year? I doubt it.

3. Now for the owners' half of the deal.

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