The Left Wants to Nationalize Baseball…

Thursday marks Opening Day of the 2022 Major League Baseball season, which means it’s open season for hot takes about how to fix what ails the National Pastime—disputes between labor and management, declining attendance and TV viewership, increasingly dull on-field product, etc.

The New York Times Wednesday probably won the MLB preseason hate-clicks derby by publishing a Matthew Walther op-ed under the headline, “Baseball Is Dying. The Government Should Take It Over.” It’s at least semi-satirical, so not worth getting exercised over (beyond the basic responses of “No it isn’t,” and “No it shouldn’t”), but both the essay and the spectacle of an ambivalent Opening Day are timely reminders that much of what plagues the sport is not solvable by government, it emanates from government.

It’s weird that baseball would still require rescuing, given that Congress as recently as 2018 passed the Save America’s Pastime Act (see how semi-satire works?). That law, which probably never could have been passed as a standalone bill, was actually crammed into a must-pass omnibus spending whatever, and as such is a fine example of what happens when you mix government with baseball.

Sold both by gullible congresscritters and arms-twisted Minor League Baseball (MiLB) owners as the last, best hope for maintaining small-town professional ball, the act in fact was something closer to the opposite: a way for bottomless-pocketed Major League Baseball (MLB)—which pays for, and dictates terms to, the captive feeder leagues—to use the threat of franchise-contraction for a federal exemption from labor laws, so that minor leaguers could continue being paid as low as $1,100 a month for their seasonal work.

Within seven months of the act’s passage, MLB started leaking out the names of MiLB franchises that would be euthanized anyway. By December 2020, the deed was done—40 of the original 160 teams were summarily severed. As I wrote in a feature on the topic last year, “Local governments were suddenly on the hook for a quarter-billion dollars’ worth of investment in event spaces that no longer held events.”

Hmmm, why would local governments invest in professional sporting facilities? Let’s hit the refresh button on one of the worst recurring examples of mixing public sector activity with a private sector business: Stadium welfare.

Sold both by gullible congresscritters and arms-twisted Minor League Baseball (MiLB) owners as the last, best hope for maintaining small-town professional ball, the act in fact was something closer to the opposite: a way for bottomless-pocketed Major League Baseball (MLB)—which pays for, and dictates terms to, the captive feeder leagues—to use the threat of franchise-contraction for a federal exemption from labor laws, so that minor leaguers could continue being paid as low as $1,100 a month for their seasonal work.

Within seven months of the act’s passage, MLB started leaking out the names of MiLB franchises that would be euthanized anyway. By December 2020, the deed was done—40 of the original 160 teams were summarily severed. As I wrote in a feature on the topic last year, “Local governments were suddenly on the hook for a quarter-billion dollars’ worth of investment in event spaces that no longer held events.”

Hmmm, why would local governments invest in professional sporting facilities? Let’s hit the refresh button on one of the worst recurring examples of mixing public sector activity with a private sector business: Stadium welfare.

In baseball, the handsomest stadium I’ve ever set foot in is Oracle Park, home to the San Francisco Giants. Opened in 2000, it was the first ballpark built without public money since the 1960s. Why, it’s almost as if people who spend their own money on a thing take extra care to make it real purty!

Self-funders are also incentivized to stay put, rather than jilting the local fan base. “When governments become landlords,” I wrote last year, “sports businesses, no matter how deep their pockets, start acting like tenants: always eyeing the exits for a potentially better deal. If you build it, they will leave.”

Baseball doesn’t need to be nationalized, it needs to be privatized—no more subsidies, no more finger-wagging congressional hearings, no more State of the Union address moralizing, no more unique-to-this-one-sport carve outs from federal law. It’s time for these welfare queens to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and compete for audience share as if their bottom lines depended on that as much as it does on the ribbon-cutting innumeracy of dull-witted politicians.

2 thoughts on “The Left Wants to Nationalize Baseball…”

  1. Let ‘um. I stopped watching when Chief Wahoo was fired and the team became the Cleveland “C”. (It[s what they had on their hat. It’s even worse now they call themselves the guardians. What the hell are they guarding? … Do you know they once had a guy that suited up as the “interpreter” because one of the Japanese players couldn’t understand English? Maybe thaystill have one,,,or more. America’s pass time yurass.

    Makes as much seance as when NASCAR let in Toyota. Since when can a jap car be considered a Stock Car but that’s another story.

    Let the commoi9es take over baseball.and confiscate the rich clown owner’s assets; I couldn’t care less. A big chunk of the players ron green cards anyway. . .

  2. The whole world needs to take a break away from professional sports, until we all get rid the push for a One World Government. We all need not to be distracted by “entertainment” for a while and concentrate on creating a stable future for our children and grand-children. I love sports … but my grandkids are more important.

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