Baseball strike

This morning, when my alarm went off, I couldn't move. Physically, and not because I was tired, but because of pains from a Saturday afternoon full of broomball at the Amazon company picnic. My brain sent the order to my left arm to rise up and turn the alarm off, but my arm was locked up at the shoulder joint. So I laid there and listened to the talk show hosts of some radio station (for all the years I've been in Seattle, my alarm clock has been set to the same radio station, but I have no idea which station it is). For some reason, these radio talk show hosts were discussing the impending baseball strike. After listening for a short while, it was clear they knew nothing about baseball or the strike, and they chewed out some poor caller who tried to argue against them. I'm not sure why people bother calling in to radio talk show hosts. Most of these morning hosts are ignoramuses who simply know to package vapid arguments in rabble-rousing rhetoric.
What is true about the baseball strike: You don't have to sympathize with baseball players or owners. I've never really sympathized with baseball owners. Most are greedy businessmen with no knowledge of baseball. And while I love watching some of these baseball players play, I can't say I sympathize with them (I definitely can't empathize with them). In this economy, with plenty of people just looking to get work, if a professional player has his salary capped it's no great tragedy. Yes, it's true, the median salary in baseball is much lower than the average salary, which everyone seems to quote liberally (the average salary is elevated by a small number of huge contracts; most pro players actually make about $400K per year, which is far far from poverty but a far cry from the $2M average salary so popular in the press). Still, for those who make the pros, it's a charmed life by any reasonable standard. I don't know too many people who are concerned about the plight of players and owners, and that's completely understandable.
However, lots of points being bandied about are ridiculous. First of all, baseball players are not expendable, as the radio hosts insisted. Baseball as an entertainment may be expendable, but today's MLB players are, for the most part, not. There is only one Alex Rodriguez, and there's no one in the minor leagues who can replace him. There are 750 players in the major leagues today, and you won't find 750 players with the same skills anywhere in the world. Sure, you could get a bunch of semi-pros or minor leaguers to cross the lines and replace them, but let's be real. No one would fill pro stadiums to watch them.
Secondly, salary caps are not inherently good. They do not, by necessity, increase competitiveness. Basketball has a salary cap, and that sport has more back to back champions in the past several decades than any other sport. Football has a salary cap, but the competitiveness there results more from the number of players required to field a competitive team (and the high number of injuries in that sport to key positions) than to the salary cap. A sensible revenue sharing plan, like the one Derek Zumsteg of Baseball Prospectus suggests, is a far superior solution to guarantee competitive baseball. Frankly, even without a salary cap, it's no given that the team with the highest payroll this year, the Yankees, will win the World Series. In fact, in many ways, the Oakland A's, with a payroll a third of the Yankees, are a better team (their rotation of Zito, Mulder, and Hudson is certainly stronger this year than the Yankees front line of an aging Clemens, a tired Mussina, an old and overweight Wells, a rehabbing Pettite, and an inconsistent El Duque). Most of the lack of competitiveness in baseball is the result of lousy personnel management.
And frankly, on principle, a salary cap is counter to the American way. I wouldn't want my salary capped except by the amount of economic benefit I could bring to my employer, and the same should go for baseball players. The fact is, millions of people every year pay lots of money to go watch baseball, and that wouldn't happen if those 700 players didn't come out and play. So economically, they've earned that money. The salaries that are offensive are the fat contracts teams pay for players who are clearly not worth it on the field, like the huge contracts given to Greg Vaughn, or Mo Vaughn, or Bobby Higginson, or Mike Hampton. Of course, the easy conclusion to draw is that if you don't like MLB player salaries, don't go to the games! Don't buy jerseys and caps, don't watch baseball on TV, and the owners really won't be able to afford to pay the salaries that they do. They won't be able to charge the prices they do for season tickets and individual seats.
So feel free to complain about player salaries, and the looming strike. I agree, the owners and players should be able to compromise on the luxury tax and avoid a strike, or I will give up on baseball for a long time. Cold turkey. But don't argue for salary caps or that the pro players do not possess unique skills which keep the fans rolling through the turnstiles unless you're willing to admit that a great portion of your antipathy is rooted in jealousy.

No time in the day

It never feels like there are enough hours in the day to do everything I'd like to do. Read, catch up on news, ride my bike, work, learn how to [insert some new hobby], plan my next big trip, catch an episode of whatever my Tivo has recorded. One can only choose to do so much.
Do I feel sorry for myself? I do not.