"The lockout was designed to produce an agreement before the season and prevent a work stoppage during the season, and it worked," said Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig in the wee hours of Monday morning. Several hours earlier, at about 10 p.m. on Sunday, Selig and the five other owners on the Player Relations Committee ( PRC) had come to an agreement with the Players Association on a new four-year collective-bargaining contract, thus ending baseball's 32-day spring training lockout. Camps opened on Monday; the regular season is expected to begin April 9, a week late. A full 162-game season may yet be salvaged by rescheduling lost games.
The players seemed to get most of what they wanted. The new contract raises the minimum salary from $68,000 to $100,000, forces owners to increase their contribution to the players' pension fund from $39 million a year to $55 million, calls for expanding rosters from 24 to 25 players starting in 1991 and, on the stickiest issue of the lengthy negotiations, makes some players with between two and three years' big league service (the 17% with the most service, assuming they were with a club for at least 86 days during the previous season) eligible for salary arbitration. Under the expired contract, no player with less than three years' service had been eligible for arbitration. Now, about 15 a year will be.
Was the lockout really necessary? Of course not, despite what Selig says. Cities and businesses in Florida and Arizona were needlessly hurt, as were fans who had scheduled trips to spring training sites. The truncated spring training may yet result in player injuries and sloppy early season play.
Said Chicago White Sox owner and PRC member Jerry Reinsdorf, "I wouldn't say both sides are incredibly happy, but we're both happy that it's over." Amen to that.
BACK TO OAKLAND
Los Angeles Raider managing general partner Al Davis announced on March 12 that if final details can be worked out, he will move his team back to Oakland in time for the 1992 NFL season. In an astoundingly generous offer, Alameda County and the city of Oakland have agreed to give Davis $54.9 million in cash and to refurbish Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum at a cost of $53.5 million. In addition, they have promised to make up the difference if the Raiders don't take in at least $416.8 million in ticket revenue and $130.8 million in revenue from stadium club membership and luxury boxes over the 15 years of the deal. The $416.8 million figure is based on the projected sale of 57,000 of the stadium's 63,500 seats for every game.
Davis is said to be worried that tax-payers may shoot down the deal as too extravagant. East Bay voters certainly ought to be asking if a pro sports franchise—especially one that deserted Oakland in 1982 in hopes of finding greater riches in L.A.—is worthy of such a public outlay. As Oakland resident Gary Robinson pointed out at the public meeting at which city and county officials approved the offer to Davis, "Our schools need help. Our social-welfare programs need help. Our police need help. We have to turn kids away from Little League teams because we can't afford places for them to play, and here they want us to come up with this kind of money for the Raiders." Oakland city councilman Wilson Riles Jr., who wants the deal put to a referendum, says he is "aghast" at "the amount of money being handed to Davis when the city is in dire need in aiding education and fighting crime."
Proponents of the deal, including Oakland mayor Lionel Wilson, say that the Raiders would generate millions in economic activity and tax revenue. But such financial benefits are generally overstated. Robert Baade, an economics professor at Lake Forest (Ill.) College, has researched the economic effects of big league franchises on numerous cities and found the benefits to be minimal in most cases.
"These studies treat sports spending as new spending, but people have limited budgets and leisure time," says Baade. "If a person is eating and drinking at the ballpark, then he's less likely to be eating at a restaurant or going to a bar that night." The Giants, Athletics, Warriors and 49ers might be interested to hear that, according to Baade, "the more sports teams there are in a region, the more revenue a new team detracts from the others."