How has the strike affected the marketing of major league baseball?
Ken Schanzer, president and CEO of The Baseball Network, which is in its second year as the game's national television marketing arm, says that advertisers are as confused and anxious about the status of the '95 season as anyone else. Some advertisers (such as True Value Hardware) who were scheduled to join TBN this year have already taken their business elsewhere. Schanzer's group has been in constant touch with the remaining sponsors. "You can't ask me to apply precision when the people in the game can't apply precision," he says. "The complexity of this thing is overwhelming."
What happens if, say, the Cleveland Indians' replacement players go 5-22 the first month, then the strike is settled. Will those games count, as the NFL scab games did after a players' strike was called in 1987?
Probably, although it's wise to remember what happened to the New York Giants, the defending Super Bowl champions in '87. The Giant front office put together a horrid replacement team that went 0-3, and the regular players never recovered.
One way to soften the effect of scab games on the standings would be to break the season into two parts: replacement games and regular games, with playoff' representatives from both.
Are owners flooding the market with free agents in an attempt to lower salaries?
It's as if a dam has burst. Even before the owners' salary-cap implementation, high-salaried and low-production veterans were being released and waived in record numbers. The implementation plan, which created a new category of restricted free agents affecting players with four to six years' service, set 63 more players loose. The flooding of the market hurts players such as Bob Tewksbury, late of the St. Louis Cardinals, and former Ranger Kevin Brown, who were the top pitchers available among the free agents under the old collective bargaining agreement.
Now, thanks to the owners' new unilateral scheme, the following pitchers are also free agents: Kevin Appier of the Kansas City Royals, Steve Avery of the Atlanta Braves, Andy Benes of the Padres, Alex Fernandez of the White Sox, Ken Hill of the Expos and Ben McDonald of the Orioles. Granted, because they're only restricted free agents, their current teams have 10 days to match any other team's offer, but Tewksbury now faces much greater competition in the marketplace, and his price will certainly drop, as will those of many other players. "There are going to be quality players out there at reasonable prices," says Malone.
A particular challenge for Malone is that three of the new restricted free agents—Hill, centerfielder Marquis Grissom and reliever John Wetteland—as well as rightfielder Larry Walker, a free agent under the old system, are Expos, and he will have difficulty signing them even at reasonable prices. Although they had the best record in baseball when the strike started on Aug. 12, the Expos, according to Malone, lost $15 million (U.S.) in 1994.
Can this dispute be solved at the bargaining table?