Players could pull major PR coup by averting strike

MINNEAPOLIS -- So there's a strike date coming up that the Major League Baseball players have set, threatening to walk off the job again if they can't agree with the owners by then on a new collective bargaining pact.

On August 30, if the games stop, the Game will stop, too.

Recovery? The Minnesota Legislature would have an easier time getting Gov. Jesse Ventura to declare a statewide "Career Politicians Day" than Bud Selig and his buddies would have trying to bring baseball back from the dead for the second time in less than a decade.

One of the biggest losers in this whole deal would be, of course, the local nine. The Twins haven't been able to afford any free agents more expensive than Tom Prince the past few years. They surely couldn't afford to have their dream season interrupted by a strike.

A lengthy work stoppage would bury any hope of securing public funding for a new stadium, let alone prevent everyone's chance to see what this young bunch can do in the playoffs against big spenders like Seattle and the Yankees.


Yes, everyone knows all this. But do the players? Or more specifically, can they allow themselves to realize it?

The rhetoric flowing from their side over the past few weeks is an insistence that they're not being greedy. They're simply trying to keep what they have and not dishonor the efforts of the players before them who fought so valiantly for all the benefits they've got now in the labor battles of the late 20th century.

Such loyalty. The American soldiers who went to Europe in World War II would be proud.

Ballplayers aren't saints, but they're not buffoons. The owners are. They're the ones who've been suckered into spending so much money on salaries, the ones who wanted Selig to be their commissioner, the ones who agreed in 1995 to Band-aid solutions to problems that have reached troubling proportions in 2002.

And don't forget the way they bumbled through their contraction plan, announcing their intent to eliminate two mystery teams just days after the most exciting World Series in a long while and then giving up on it temporarily when our state's trusty court system stepped in.

There is no one, other than perhaps their families, in the nation who sides with the owners. The players have everything to gain.

But only if they back down from some of their demands.

Here's all the union has to do. Get an agreement before next weekend. Have one of their most popular members, like Arizona's Curt Schilling, call a press conference and say:


"While we're disappointed to have to sacrifice some of the luxuries that we've enjoyed during our careers, that our predecessors fought for, we realize we have to look at the best, long-term, interests of baseball.

"We hope that the players who've come and gone before us will understand, since we believe nobody wants to see this great game ruined. We'll agree to more revenue sharing among teams and a luxury tax on high payrolls, even if it means a slowing of salary increases for us, because it'll help all of our teams have a fair opportunity to compete for the playoffs each year.

"We've made dozens of concessions, which the owners have not been willing to do. They care about their profits, not about the nation's pastime. We do, which is why we've got a new agreement."

Oh, what a public relations coup that would be.

Think of the fans they'd appease. Sure, there are some who've been turned off forever since the '94 strike. Many don't care and see them simply as out-of-touch millionaires. But most people -- those folks fed up with the conflict itself and its affect on the health of the sport much moreso than management or the union -- would love the players forever for their good deed.

It'd be something like Kevin Garnett announcing next week he's agreed to a drastic reduction in his current salary and a reasonably financed long-term deal to ensure that his Timberwolves can sign a few free agents to help him lead the team past the first round of the NBA playoffs for once.

Only in this case, there'd be 750 major leaguers instead of just one guy showered with praise from the sporting public.

And it's pretty safe to say playing utility infield for the Kansas City Royals would still earn a man a decent livin'.


Better to be popular or simply well-paid?

Dave Campbell covers Minnesota sports for the Minneapolis bureau of The Associated Press. He can be reached at

What To Read Next
Get Local