The average salary in baseball has risen from $51,500 in 1976 to $2.38 million today. Though the Royals will spend nearly $50 million on its roster this season -- the team's highest payroll ever -- that amount is almost $90 million less than the New York Yankees' talent budget. Those who don't believe baseball is already dead in Kansas City need to read those figures again.
Royals general manager Allard Baird recently had his contract renewed through the 2004 season. Baird is in the process of guiding the Royals to the franchise's worst three consecutive seasons. Why would David Glass give a vote of confidence to a general manager whose job performance is as bad as Baird's? Because he knows that even if he still had both Whitey Herzog and John Schuerholz on the Royals payroll, they couldn't help the team win a World Series. He needs to get into the bidding war for the league's best players, and so far, he hasn't.
Big-city teams make and pay big money. Baseball just isn't fair for a small city like ours, and it won't be until salaries are closer to equal among major league teams. "Our payroll is going to decrease quite a bit next year," Baird says. "Yet we intend to win more games." That sure has worked well in the past.
Baseball fans in KC have been reduced to sightseers. We come to the park to watch other cities' teams work toward a pennant, knowing our Royals are nothing but scenery.
A union-destroying players' strike is the miracle we need in Kansas City. It's clear that owners and players will not avoid a play stoppage or negotiate an amicable agreement. In baseball's 100-year history, new labor agreements have come only after play has halted.
If the pampered millionaires of the Major League Baseball Players Association are replaced by scabs and sent the way of Ronald Reagan's striking air-traffic controllers, I won't be upset. Unions hold an important place in our history, but baseball players are a disgrace to every Teamster and schoolteacher.
The players' union has never lost a battle with the wealthy owners, but if it wins this tiff, baseball in Kansas City will be as stone dead as the bronze statues of Ewing and Muriel Kauffman outside Kauffman Stadium.
"I know that we need peace," Bud Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, has said. "I know that people are tired of hearing about all of the strife and all of the anger from both sides." What we really need is war. We need for the owners to unite and crush the life out of the players' union.
The owners must refuse the players' demands, no matter how long this impasse lasts. If that means we're without a World Series this year, so be it. That also means we could be without baseball next season and the next. The owners will have to band together to cover each other's financial losses during this strike. Many teams have new stadiums that require huge mortgage payments each month. The players are gambling that these debts will be enough to fracture the owners' unity.
The owners will be sorely tested, but this is why David Glass was their choice to run the Royals. They know Glass has battled labor unions for years and beaten them as Wal-Mart's CEO. Glass wasn't part of the losing owners' group during the strike of 1994. He might become the most important man in baseball over the next few months.
If Glass and his fellow owners are successful and the players' union crumbles, baseball must be rebuilt by instituting a salary cap and meaningful revenue sharing among the clubs. Only then will Royals fans be able to dream of wearing crowns again.