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Archive for March 4th, 2011

(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Over the past two days, the NFL and its players association have been engaged in a high stakes game of chicken. Will the league lock the players out? Will the union decertify first and force the fate of a new CBA into the courts? Or, will both parties agree to an extension, thereby allowing each side to stare down the other for at least another week?

Meanwhile, almost 10 months before its current CBA expires, baseball’s management committee and players union met for the first time, and had what new MLBPA head Michael Weiner described as a “productive session”. What a difference a decade makes! Not too long ago, it was the NFL that enjoyed relative labor peace, while baseball had to battle tooth and nail for every new CBA extension. Maybe salary caps aren’t a panacea after all?

As recently as 2002, baseball’s owners and players remained bitter enemies when it came to negotiating a CBA. That year, the players went so far as to set an August 30 strike deadline, but an agreement was eventually reached without a work stoppage. It was the first time since 1972 that the two sides had been able to make a deal without a lockout or a walkout, and the momentum from that negotiation was carried over to 2006, when the current contract was completed two months before the previous one’s expiration.

So, what has happened since 2002 to foster baseball’s current labor peace? Perhaps it was the near doubling of league-wide revenue (even in the midst of a drastic recession) over the past eight seasons?

MLB Yearly Revenue, 2003-2010

Source: Forbes and MLB.com

After so many years of acrimony, it seems as if baseball’s owners and players have found a way to share the game’s enormous wealth. However, that doesn’t mean the upcoming CBA will be completely uneventful. Just because neither side is likely to seek a major change to the sport’s financial system doesn’t mean each party won’t have a wish list they’d like to incorporate into the current setup. Listed below are some possible issues that could come up during the negotiations. (more…)

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In a recent article for Slate, soccer columnist Brian Phillips took an interesting look at the fine line that sports leagues must walk when determining the appropriate balance between greatness and parity. Phillips ironically juxtaposes the cut throat nature of soccer leagues in socialist-leaning Europe against the more egalitarian leagues in capitalistic America. According to Phillips, while Europe has opted for the “beautiful game”, the United States has gone down the path of “competitive balance”.

Would it be worth achieving greater parity in soccer if it meant breaking up Barcelona? (Is it OK if I answer no?) By the same token, imagine if American leagues had developed along the lines of European soccer. Would it have been more fun to watch the Lakers trample the Bucks by 40, back in the day, if the Lakers had a roster as stacked as the 1992 Dream Team? – Brian Phillips, Slate, March 3, 2011

Although Phillips raises many interest philosophical points, he misses a couple of big ones that help define the differences between the sports leagues on both sides of the pond: scheduling and playoffs. In Europe, the league champion is the team that finishes in first place, whereas in America, the regular season is simply a vehicle to making the playoffs. So, while Europe relies on the marathon to determine its champion, America uses it as the qualifier for a sprint. That is the single biggest difference between the sports leagues on both continents, and the most significant reason why one seems to favor greatness and the other gives a nod to balance.

Different League Champions, Since 1990

Due to labor disputes, there was no MLB champion in 1994 or NHL champion in 2005.
The English Premier League started in 1992; the Scottish Premier League started in 1998.
The Serie A’s 2004-2005 championship was rescinded from Juventus and left unassigned due to a match fixing scandal.

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