An Error Baseball Can Avoid

Even after an unsatisfying, tied ending to the All-Star Game, baseball fans should be free to anticipate an exciting second half of the season, with some tight pennant races. Instead, they face the prospect of something even less satisfying than a tied contest: another players' strike.

This is baseball's dark side returning after last year's remarkable Diamondbacks-Yankees World Series, which seemed to revitalize the game.

A millionaires-versus-millionaires labor battle is hardly what Americans relish right now – already put off by the accounting antics of well-paid executives in many big companies.

The main issue dividing players and team owners is how to divide up the sport's revenues. The owners would have the more prosperous teams hand over a larger portion of their money to struggling smaller-market teams.

This makes perfectly good sense as a way to narrow a huge competitive gap between teams that habitually make the playoffs, epitomized by the Yankees, and teams that almost never do. The cellar dwellers simply don't have the cash to buy better players.

The players' union, however, sees the owners' plan to hike revenue sharing to 50 percent of wealthy teams' local income as a threat to the big salaries paid by those teams. Ditto for an owners' plan to put a "luxury tax" on teams with payrolls higher than $98 million.

The players will have to balance their abhorrence for anything that smacks of a salary cap with a realistic concern for the competitive health of their sport. Pro baseball has a lot of competition for sports fans' attention these days. It has never quite gained back the fan base it lost after the 1994 strike, which led to the cancellation of the World Series that year.

A repeat of that performance would surely hasten the search of many fans, particularly younger ones, for a new national pastime.

The revenue-sharing issue, and others on the table, shouldn't be beyond the negotiating abilities of the two sides – if the long-term good of the game is kept in view.

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