One of my favorite classes in high school was American History, mostly because of my teacher Mr. Meier but also because of the content. I was particularly fascinated by the Bill Of Rights, one of our country's most lauded and important documents. Like many of my fellow classmates I'd already heard about the right to free speech but I'd never heard its most important caveat: free speech is only protected if there is not a clear and present danger resulting from said speech. (Yelling "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater is the example most often cited.)
Free speech and "clear and present danger" applies to many aspects of life--even baseball. Whether you agree or disagree with Randy Levine and Hank Steinbrenner's recent comments about revenue sharing is besides the point. Do people like Steinbrenner, Levine, and even Red Sox owner John Henry have a right to voice their opinion? Absolutely. After all it is their constitutional right.
But there are always consequences.
John Henry made comments in 2009 to the Boston Globe regarding revenue sharing. He stated that "seven chronically uncompetitive teams, five of whom have had baseball's highest operating profits" received close to 1 billion dollars. For exercising his constitutional right, Henry was promptly fined $500,000 by Commissioner Bud Selig.
Excessive? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely.
Listen, even though Henry's words to the Boston Globe were honest and accurate, they still presented a clear and present danger, not in the governmental sense but definitely in the United States of Major League Baseball. My opinion from an industry standpoint is that if a company continues to fail time and time again financially, they should go out of business. But this is baseball not corporate America. The league and the fans can't afford to have five markets suddenly contracted just because they didn't turn a profit. That's why revenue sharing is so important. A free market capitalistic MLB is a pipe dream. (Some might say the same is true of the current USA with all the bailouts that have been occurring, but hey that's a post for another time and another blog.) Is it "welfare" like Steinbrenner and Levine said? That's a little harsh. From an economic standpoint it is slightly socialist but I think very necessary.
As Craig Calcattera pointed out today "Bud Selig's job is to keep the labor peace and keep the PR machine running smoothly." Even though I can't stand Selig as a commissioner, I totally agree with Calcattera's sentiments. Selig cannot allow inflammatory comments like Henry's, Steinbrenner's, and Levine's go without consequences. The bottom line is that this is the deal that the owners agreed upon. If they don't like it, change it the next time the issue needs to be addressed. Making comments bashing the system only undermines the system that is already in place and sows unnecessary dissension among the rank and file.
So fair warning Hank and Randy: you're about to get fined. And I'm pretty sure Selig won't take payment in government cheese.