I love baseball. I love the way we create heroes (Frank Thomas/Sammy Sosa, anyone?), the way we create rivalries that last (Cubs/Cards, Cubs/Sox, Sox/Twins...etc), and the way that the game is played.
...which is why baseball needs to have another strike.
The reason that we don't have a long lasting player we love like Thomas (the closest we get is Konerko, and he's likely on the way out) is because of the ridiculous inflation in Free Agency. Every year the contracts go higher and higher, and owners eventually get to a point where they just can't compete with the Yankees and Red Sox financially (especially with the Rangers doubling whatever the going rate is for any given FA).
Carlos Silva just signed a $48-million dollar 4-year-deal with the Mariners. Carlos Freakin' Silva! Are you kidding me!?
Silva's only year with an ERA under 4.00 was the year he got hurt and missed half the season after a good start. In '06, he had a Todd Ritchie-esque 5.94 ERA and laughable WHIP of 1.5. The contract has nothing to do with him being any better than a cheaper player -- it's simply the going rate nowadays. Players actually look forward to being unemployed, because no matter how bad they are, they'll always get a raise.
As long as this trend continues without a strike, we're going to see a few things happen:
#1. Bend over, season ticket holders. Not only have seat-prices been climbing rapidly in the past few years (see: Cubs), but in order to compensate for those crazy player prices, we're looking at $9 hotdogs and $15 beers. $25 for bleacher seats on a value day? Not too far off.
#2. Contraction. Much like how the Expos had to go the wayside, the Devil Rays, Marlins, and Royals will likely be gone. This league setup is not entirely impossible:
AL: Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Rangers
NL: Cubs, Mets, Dodgers, Cardinals, Mariners (they'd be moved to the NL to even things out)Aside from being an ESPN analysts' wet dream, this isolates the top-paying teams from the rest of the pack, and forces cheap contenders like Oakland and Minnesota out on their asses.
#3. Who's on first? With the value of an all-star player ever on the rise (cough, AROD, cough), how long do you get to keep that productive player? Most players nowadays look for a one-year deal to drive up their asking price (I'm looking at you, Joe Crede), and then sign a 2-3 year deal that allows them to get a bidding war in any even more lucrative bidding market. Some teams are only competitive now because of shrewd trading ability and impressive farm systems -- these teams and their methodologies would likely be kept out of contention in the future.
So to you, baseball, I say this:
Like many Sox fans, I'm still really pissed about the 1994 strike -- we had a good chance to win it all, and the season got cut short because of the strike. Wah. Get over it. We need to institute a salary cap once and for all -- don't kick the Royals out on their asses because they can't afford the salaries. Don't force the Orioles to rebuild every two years. In that same vein, don't allow the Cubs to spend $300 million in a single offseason, or allow the Yankees to buy the Devil Rays as a farm team.
History shows that MLB has a strike every 10 years, and we're due for another one.