Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Bernie Sanders Can’t Fix Baseball

Sanders’ critique, of course, came from the left: He accused team owners of negotiating in bad faith during the offseason to try to break the players’ union, and promised “to prevent the greed of baseball’s oligarchs from destroying the game.”

But just last year the senators grandstanding on the issue were top right-wing Republicans: Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Josh Hawley of Missouri, who announced their own such bill in response to MLB’s decision to move last year’s All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver following the passage of Georgia’s new voting restrictions.

“There’s no reason Major League Baseball should enjoy special subsidies — corporate welfare that no one else gets,” Cruz said at a news conference. But the bill, like others before it, has gone nowhere.

Despite the recent noise, the high-water mark of Congress’s skepticism about the exemption came in the middle of the last century. As the New York Times reported in the summer of 1951, “Capitol Hill, somewhat sated with solemn inquiries into the firing of General MacArthur, communism in Hollywood and crime all over the map, got a change of pace this week when a House Judiciary subcommittee began an investigation of organized baseball to determine whether it runs afoul of the anti-trust laws.”

At the time, baseball was worried that the Supreme Court would yank the exemption, and sought a law enshrining it. Baseball trotted out stars for the hearings, such as Ty Cobb, who was its lead witness.

No laws were passed. And the Supreme Court offered a chance to rethink the ruling, wound up keeping the status quo, affirming baseball’s exemption in a 1953 case called Toolson v. New York Yankees. Four years later, in ruling that the NFL was not exempt from antitrust laws, Justice Tom Clark elaborated on the rationale for the ’53 opinion: “The court did this because it was concluded that more harm would be done in overruling Federal Baseball than in upholding a ruling which, at best, was of dubious validity,” and noted that Congress hadn’t made any change to baseball’s exemption.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 12, 2022 at 10:23 PM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: anti-trust exemption

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Hombre Brotani Posted: June 13, 2022 at 12:40 AM (#6081454)
This thread should go great. Very civil.
   2. Miserable, Non-Binary Candy is all we deserve CoB Posted: June 13, 2022 at 01:03 AM (#6081456)
Reminds me of a Steve McQueen quote from The Magnificent Seven

Vin : Reminds me of that fellow back home that fell off a ten story building.

Chris : What about him?

Vin : Well, as he was falling people on each floor kept hearing him say, "So far, so good." Tch... So far, so good!
   3. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: June 13, 2022 at 02:00 AM (#6081459)
Practically speaking, what would removing MLB’s anti-trust exemption accomplish? The NFL doesn’t have one and from time to time somebody tries to start a rival league, but the rival leagues always fail (anyone remember the USFL or XFL?) because the NFL has a national fan base. I can’t see an upstart league legitimately competing again MLB.
   4. bigglou115 is not an Illuminati agent Posted: June 13, 2022 at 02:19 AM (#6081460)
@3, I think both of those leagues currently exist.
   5. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 13, 2022 at 07:12 AM (#6081462)
As a center-right-leaning kinda guy (or in Primer terms, Hermann Göring), I'd rather have Bernie as president than the clusterf*ck we have now. At least Bernie is entertaining.

I can’t see an upstart league legitimately competing again (with) MLB.

The main thing that's preventing a rival baseball league is a lack of stadiums (stadia?). There's plenty of large football stadiums to house alternate league(s) and lots of big arenas that a rival basketball or hockey league could use. But nearly every MLB-sized ballpark in the country is already being used by you-know-who. The proposed United League of the mid-90s planned to put together a patchwork of football stadiums, minor-league parks and at least one brand-new stadium, to be built on Long Island. (Also, there was an attempt to put together a league in the late 80s, led by everybody's favourite ex-president.)
   6. AndrewJ Posted: June 13, 2022 at 07:43 AM (#6081463)
Also, there was an attempt to put together a league in the late 80s, led by everybody's favourite ex-president.

No need to drag James K. Polk into this...
   7. sanny manguillen Posted: June 13, 2022 at 08:18 AM (#6081465)
"the rival leagues always fail (anyone remember the USFL or XFL?) because the NFL has a national fan base. I can’t see an upstart league legitimately competing again MLB"

The colleges fill this role. In baseball, meanwhile, the Triple A clubs are more anonymous than ever since the minor league purge.
   8. Lassus Posted: June 13, 2022 at 08:23 AM (#6081466)
Was he trying? News to me.

This is about enforcing the pitch clock, right?
   9. . Posted: June 13, 2022 at 09:04 AM (#6081471)
Practically speaking, what would removing MLB’s anti-trust exemption accomplish?


Nothing. The other sports don't have them and the courts have pretty consistently upheld the right of their franchises and owners and commissioners to conspire to limit franchises and control franchise movement. Those are the things that give them leverage in negotiating with cities.
   10. Esmailyn Gonzalez Sr. Posted: June 13, 2022 at 10:34 AM (#6081477)
   11. JL72 Posted: June 13, 2022 at 01:26 PM (#6081490)
control franchise movement


The Raiders and Rams have been moving around quite a bit, so I am not sure this is entirely correct.
   12. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: June 13, 2022 at 01:55 PM (#6081497)
[4] I just looked it up and there is a new USFL that is not related to the old USFL that lasted from 1983-86. We’ll see if this one is any more successful. The XFL played one season in 2001. They tried to reboot it in 2020 but Covid hit mid-season and they filed for bankruptcy. Apparently McMahon has plans to try again for a third time in 2023, but I doubt it will go any better than the first two attempts.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: June 13, 2022 at 03:49 PM (#6081516)
Not only is there a USFL but there's always a little in-game USFL ad on Fox (ESPN?) baseball broadcasts. I asked about it a week or so ago. The USFL and XFL are more likely to target MLB tix/viewers than NFL.

Congress removed the anti-trust exemption with regard to labor issues quite some time ago. As a leftie, my other concern is how teams rip off cities but (a) this is really the fault of the city councils ... quite likely to be Dems and (b) I don't see how removing the anti-trust exemption would make that less likely and a genuine rival league might even make it more likely. So, per usual, Bernie is tilting at a windmill for little/no practical purpose.

I suppose there are some "monopolistic" concerns with teams owning stadiums and RSNs and the real estate around the park. Also I think it's pretty clear that the mega-metros of NY and LA could support a third team each, NY maybe even a 4th team (under the big assumption that stadiums could be built) and the anti-trust exemption pretty much makes that impossible.

But realistically, I'm not sure even a country of 350 million can support much more than 30 baseball teams. And it's not like there aren't plenty of privately and publicly funded entertainment options other than going to a MLB game. So MLB has a monopoly on premium baseball -- the exemption doesn't allow them to run museums, theaters, music venues, carnivals, state/national parks, etc. out of business. The people have plenty of other places to spend their entertainment dollars, they don't really need other places to spend their baseball-specific dollars.

Logically of course it was a terrible decision and legally it could have set a dangerous precedent so I understand an objection in priciple (which I share). But the decision is now, what, 80 years old and baseball remains the sole recipient of such an exemption (as far as I know) so the practical consequences of the decision are minimal.
   14. BDC Posted: June 13, 2022 at 04:22 PM (#6081529)
The XFL venue in Arlington TX is "Choctaw Stadium," none other than my old un-air-conditioned Ballpark. The team did play a game or two there in 2020 and I guess could play again next year, though Calculus Instructor may be right that it's a longshot. They reconfigured the Ballpark for football, and Choctaw is now the prime venue for major high-school games in the middle of the DFW area.
   15. Sleepy was just “inspecting the bunker”, y’all Posted: June 13, 2022 at 05:46 PM (#6081540)
#13, it would be interesting to research whether d or r pols are more often responsible for cities “getting ripped off”.

Just looking at one example, the worst deal in recent history was probably suntrust park; Cobb county commissioners were solidly (and eminently corrupt) Republicans.

The only democrat on the commission (Lisa Cupid) voted against the stadium deal.

I would support a constitutional amendment stating that taxpayers cannot be forced to fund sports arenas…
   16. Walt Davis Posted: June 13, 2022 at 06:08 PM (#6081542)
It would be. Major city governments are heavily Dem; suburban governments often Repub. The whole Atlanta metro is a mess regardless. Anyway, my guess would be that giveaways in actual cities (new Comiskey, what the A's are trying to do in Oakland, San Fran**) were the result of Dems and it's my impression (without checking) that baseball teams are usually still in the city proper. I'd guess when the suburbs steal the stadium, that might well be the work of Repubs. I'd say it's also possible that enough inner-city Dems have shifted to the left that the cities may be less likely to offer such deals these days to prioritize other spending (or just keep the city from further debt).

Anyway, I didn't mean my statement to be "Dems would, Repubs wouldn't" or vice versa, I think it's pretty universal that politicians like sports teams.*** I meant it simply as "most big city governments are Dem, most teams are located in big cities, therefore Dems have had more opportunities" but maybe there are more suburban stadia these days than I realize.

** if memory serves, Pac Bell wasn't substantially publicly funded (by the standards of such things) but I have an inkling the 49ers were.

*** A few years ago, I was working with some "parks = health" folks at a time when NSW announced I think $300 M (over several years) in financing for new parks, etc. They were very excited and pointed out to cynical me that this was evidence of the research's policy impact. I pointed out that they also approved $900 M for a football stadium. The football stadium opens in three months. (NSW government is conservative.)
   17. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 13, 2022 at 06:09 PM (#6081543)
I'm not sure even a country of 350 million can support much more than 30 baseball teams.

The UK is about one-fifth that size and it supports approximately eleventy billion kajillion soccer teams (OK, ninety-two in the Football League). Bill James famously wrote (back in 1988!) that the USA could easily support at least 200 major league baseball teams, although he cautioned that increasing the number of MLB teams ten-fold obviously couldn't happen overnight. (I've run historical OOTP leagues that start small in the 1870s and slowly ramp up to 200+ teams by the 21st century. Fun, but a huge mess.)

And it's not like there aren't plenty of privately and publicly funded entertainment options other than going to a MLB game.

There were 400+ minor league teams after WW2; TV and the automobile killed off most of them, and the minors didn't really recover until the 1990s. (Of course, now MLB itself has decided to kill off the minors, so there's that.)
   18. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 13, 2022 at 06:14 PM (#6081545)
my guess would be that giveaways in actual cities (new Comiskey, what the A's are trying to do in Oakland, San Fran**) were the result of Dems


The drive to build New Comiskey and keep the White Sox in Chicago was led by Illinois' Republican governor Jim Thompson.
   19. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: June 13, 2022 at 06:37 PM (#6081549)

Right, often it is the state or county government, not the city government, doing the giveaways. Of course, that can still be a Democratic state/county, as was the case with the Buffalo stadium deal in New York.
   20. Jay Seaver Posted: June 13, 2022 at 07:14 PM (#6081563)
(b) I don't see how removing the anti-trust exemption would make that less likely and a genuine rival league might even make it more likely. So, per usual, Bernie is tilting at a windmill for little/no practical purpose.


A lot of antitrust talk these days involves breaking up tech companies a la AT&T - unwinding Facebook's purchases of potential competitors like Instagram, not letting companies like Amazon/Google/Apple both run shops and have products in those stores, etc. - perhaps fancifully so. I suppose, if that sort of thing worked out, they could break up Major League Baseball and separate the American and National Leagues into separate entities. I suspect that it would have a lot of interesting effects: Lots of cities open up as expansion targets, there are now two national television packages for networks/streamers to bid on (maybe this helps jump-start actual competition to ESPN), who knows what the effects on player/umpire labor are, etc.

This will, of course, never happen. But I imagine that it's a technical possibility once you get rid of baseball's anti-trust exemption, especially if some of the groups trying to bring a team to various cities decide that MLB will never actually expand rather than using them as stadium leverage and figure it's worth a shot.
   21. Swoboda is freedom Posted: June 13, 2022 at 07:26 PM (#6081566)
It would be great if the federal government got rid of the tax exemption on bonds to support private enterprises. I hate when city and states pay for stadiums, a waste of money. Of course when I saw the headline, I pictured Bernie with a needle and thread, fixing a baseball like he was darning socks.

   22. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: June 13, 2022 at 08:22 PM (#6081577)
Chase Field (then Bank One Ballpark) was approved by a GOP-majority Maricopa County Board of Supervisors - one of whom had the gall, after his vote, to run for re-election on a platform of fiscal responsibility.
   23. Howie Menckel Posted: June 13, 2022 at 08:37 PM (#6081580)
I just looked it up and there is a new USFL

it's an 8-team league, all with names that match original USFL names - my favorite is the "Houston Gamblers" which was, well, dicier than it is now.

all of the games in the 10-week stadium are played in Birmingham, with the playoffs to be held in Canton, Ohio. pretty low overhead there.

there are two weeks left, but all four playoff spots have been determined and there IS no home-field advantage - so nothing to play for. well, the hometown Stallions are 8-0 (barely) but I doubt the remaining 1972 Miami Dolphins will surrender their glory if the Stallions finish 12-0.

I've seen small snippets of a few games, and minus probably the Stallions games, I doubt there are even 1,000 people in the stands.

but the games are on most or all of the major networks, and I'd be afraid to look into an apples-to-apples comparison of ratings vs MLB, NBA, or NHL. it's football, and half the country can legally bet on it.
   24. Mayor Blomberg Posted: June 13, 2022 at 10:08 PM (#6081590)
OK, so the names match the original names. Was there a plan to site the names in locations where there'd be no reasonable connection, or was that the case the first time around as well?
   25. winnipegwhip Posted: June 14, 2022 at 09:52 AM (#6081652)
#18

Yes Big Jim did it with classic Chicago political moves...

White Sox Stadium Vote 1988
   26. dejarouehg Posted: June 14, 2022 at 11:05 AM (#6081663)
I can’t see an upstart league legitimately competing again MLB.
Maybe MLB is fortunate the Saudis aren't baseball fans.
   27. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: June 14, 2022 at 02:42 PM (#6081705)
OK, so the names match the original names. Was there a plan to site the names in locations where there'd be no reasonable connection, or was that the case the first time around as well?

From Wikipedia:

On October 12, 2021, Tad Snider, the executive director of the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Authority, announced that the league was in serious discussions with the board of directors of the BJCC about the possibility of the USFL playing all of its games in Birmingham, Alabama. According to initial information, USFL players/staff would be housed in Birmingham during the season for an estimated economic impact of about $15 million (47,000 hotel nights), while the league would play the bubble season at Protective Stadium and Legion Field.[9][10][11] The "bubble" setup may possibly continue in the league's second year, with as many as four teams playing in Birmingham and as many as four in their respective cities. The teams would then be expected to play in their own cities by Season 3.[12]
   28. Walt Davis Posted: June 14, 2022 at 06:30 PM (#6081754)
Forcing the AL and NL to operate separately is an interesting hypothetical and a much different approach than a rival league. I still don't see it having much effect on the fan's baseball perspective.

The Yanks and Mets will still insist on their territorial rights in the separated leagues (so no change in Chi, LA, SF either). I'm not sure any of the other markets could support two teams -- certainly no point the AL expanding to St Louis but I could see the NL will want a team in Texas somewhere and both Hou and Dallas are probaby big enough for two teams (but Austin might be easier). The AL would be concerned that Balt will get crushed between Philly and DC (how times have changed!) and might shove the O's into DC or move the A's back to Philly (though even less desire to give NL exclusive rights to SF). I suppose the AL would no longer sit idly by as the A's piss away a big market or the NL as the Mets/Cubs go through decades of ineptitude. Both leagues would have to expand by at least one to get to an even number of teams. If there was enough money in 1902 to create the World Series, there's surely enough in 2022 to make sure it continues.

The TV contracts are an interesting question. Do two networks face off in the same time slot, one NL the other AL or do they mysteriously stay out of each other's way? Not sure about the notion that this contributes much to a real competitor for ESPN -- baseball isn't a big part of their portfolio these days and all the regular season games are on RSNs somewhere and we've already maxed out the variety of national outlets (Peacock, Apple, YouTube, ESPN, Fox, Turner .... are facebook games still a thing?)

I can see it would have impacts on salaries and, most especially, the draft and international signings. That's where the old NBA-ABA, NFL-AFL and, yes, NHL-WHA dynamic would take hold. Presumably Adley Rutschman, Juan Soto and Mike Trout are much wealthier men.

So kudos -- I think that's certainly a more viable idea than a rival league.
   29. 57i66135 is a hard word for me. Posted: June 15, 2022 at 12:27 AM (#6081853)
more evidence that punching nazis is not just a public service, it is a public imperative:

I wasn’t expecting to have a borderline-introspective conversation with white supremacist leader Richard Spencer on Tuesday night. But a Jezebel reader spotted him on the dating app Bumble in the Dallas, Texas, area and sent me a few screenshots of his profile. So I found the guy’s number and reached out for comment: Is this really you? Are you really politically “moderate” and “vaccinated?” I needed to know.
...
Spencer went on to tell me that “life experience” and “intellectual rethinking” have caused him to reconsider the white nationalist views that he “embraced earlier in life.” To reiterate, this man coined the term “alt-right.” The Southern Poverty Law Center calls him “a kind of professional racist in khakis.” He was also notably punched in the face while wearing a Pepe the Frog pin in 2017.
   30. Jay Seaver Posted: June 15, 2022 at 02:58 PM (#6081931)
I'm not sure any of the other markets could support two teams -- certainly no point the AL expanding to St Louis but I could see the NL will want a team in Texas somewhere and both Hou and Dallas are probaby big enough for two teams (but Austin might be easier).


I figure there would be relatively few new two-team cities, but the NL might target someplace like Portland, OR which the Mariners might block today, while the AL sets up shop someplace like Nashville or the Carolinas. Canada maybe gets tricky, but I suspect the NL would look at Montreal or Vancouver. At least in the short term, though, it might mean less monopolistic practice with the territories, and I wonder if making MLB into two weaker leagues might make other rival leagues more feasible down the line.

The TV contracts are an interesting question. Do two networks face off in the same time slot, one NL the other AL or do they mysteriously stay out of each other's way? Not sure about the notion that this contributes much to a real competitor for ESPN


Yeah, you'd probably have to do the same thing to the NFL to create a potential rival for ESPN, although maybe not, if you don't restrict the idea of a rival to cable television, since a lot of streamers are building sports hubs. If ESPN winds up with the American league and Fox Sports One or Paramount+/CBS builds something with the National League, it could get interesting. Probably not, especially if this is just a one-time thing and you're not generally fighting/unwinding consolidation.

I also kind of wonder what might go on with the minors, especially if you wind up with league leadership and ownership groups that see their value differently. Aside from major league expansion creating the chance for minor-league expansion, I imagine those have to be pulled apart and reconfigured (possibly in different ways) as well.

Anyway, like I said, there's probably zero chance of this happening, unless the various would-be ownership groups in Nashville, Portland, San Antonio, etc., decide they're okay with burning their bridges with MLB as it is and the really aggressive anti-trust folks get more power in Washington than they have now (let me know when they block Disney buying something). But it's probably the most sane next step if you want to actually accomplish something by taking away the anti-trust exemption.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
HowardMegdal
for his generous support.

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogOMNICHATTER for the week of August 8-15, 2022
(11 - 6:18pm, Aug 08)
Last: cardsfanboy

NewsblogMariners add a free agent: Tucker, the clubhouse dog
(1 - 6:15pm, Aug 08)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogTo challenge their hitters to improve, Orioles minor league coaches go to great lengths to develop 'nasty stuff' for batting practice
(2 - 6:10pm, Aug 08)
Last: Tom Goes to the Ballpark

NewsblogPete Rose brushes off question about alleged sex with minor: ‘It was 55 years ago, babe’
(66 - 6:03pm, Aug 08)
Last: GregD

NewsblogEjected Twins manager Rocco Baldelli blasts overturned call in loss to Jays as 'one of the worst moments' of umpiring he has ever seen
(3 - 5:39pm, Aug 08)
Last: SoSH U at work

NewsblogSt. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs to play 2-game series in June of 2023 in London
(29 - 5:00pm, Aug 08)
Last: Karl from NY

NewsblogRed Sox announcer and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley to retire from NESN after the 2022 season
(8 - 4:49pm, Aug 08)
Last: Captain Joe Bivens, Pointless and Wonderful

Newsblog2022 NBA Playoffs thread
(4082 - 3:10pm, Aug 08)
Last: tshipman

NewsblogDorktown: How to score 10 runs in the first inning and lose
(6 - 2:50pm, Aug 08)
Last: Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome

NewsblogGuardians designate Franmil Reyes, their Opening Day cleanup hitter, for assignment
(6 - 2:38pm, Aug 08)
Last: RoyalsRetro (AG#1F)

NewsblogOMNICHATTER for the week of August 1-7, 2022
(393 - 2:01pm, Aug 08)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogAtlanta Braves sending struggling right-handed starting pitcher Ian Anderson to minors
(5 - 1:58pm, Aug 08)
Last: My name is Votto, and I love to get Moppo

NewsblogMiguel Cabrera of Detroit Tigers clarifies stance on future, says he'll return next season as initially planned
(9 - 11:54am, Aug 08)
Last: Jobu is silent on the changeup

NewsblogThe Baseball Stadium That “Forever Changed” Professional Sports
(36 - 11:01am, Aug 08)
Last: ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick

NewsblogVerlander's latest gem cashes $25 million option for '23
(12 - 10:55am, Aug 08)
Last: Ithaca2323

Page rendered in 0.4270 seconds
45 querie(s) executed