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May the Best Team Win: Baseball Economics and Public Policyby Andrew Zimbalist
Synopses & Reviews
Major League Baseball is experiencing a period of distinct uncertainty. Congress has called into question baseball's presumed antitrust exemption. Broadcast rights disputes for popular teams have created complications for fans. However, new stadium facilities and the renewed excitement brought to the game by shattered batting records and the blazing pitchers of the late '90s brought fans back. A strike was narrowly averted at the end of the 2002 season, a campaign that yielded one of the most exciting post-seasons yet, with the unlikely Anaheim Angels claiming the coveted World Series trophy.
Beneath these encouraging developments, however, deep problems persist within Major League Baseball. This book explores the abuses and inefficiencies in the functioning of the baseball industry and how these problems are directly connected to Major League Baseball's monopoly status, its presumed exemption from antitrust regulation, and public policy. Andrew Zimbalist, a noted sports economist, spares no criticism for baseball's current leadership. He asserts that the biggest problem for baseball remains the economic realities of its monopolistic practices. The absence of competitive pressure has bred arrogance, laxity, and inefficiency in Major League Baseball, according to Zimbalist. Among other recommendations, he argues that lifting the presumed exemption would allow government and judicial oversight, with an eye toward ending the abuses.
This book provides a solid, hard-hitting analysis of the current state of America's pastime. Easily accessible and highly informative, it is bound to become a standard reference tool for fans seeking a deeper understanding of the important issues underlying the game.
"A professor at Smith, Zimbalist argues persuasively that the biggest problem with baseball today is the monopoly power exercised by the owners running it....In addition, Zimbalist documents instances in which team accountants' massaging of club finances has called to mind another profession ? one for which massage often serves as a handy euphemism. Ever since the publication of Zimbalist's somewhat dated but more accessible Baseball and Billions (1992), owners have been trying everything to discredit his figures ? everything, naturally, except opening up their books to public scrutiny." David Kipen, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
"[A]n absorbing, provocative discussion....At the very least, this volume provides baseball fans with enough material to allow them to engage in one of their favorite pursuits — arguing over what should be done to save the national pastime." Publishers Weekly
"When Andrew Zimbalist writes about the economic struggles of professional baseball and other sports as well, I pay close attention. May the Best Team Win is an interesting, insightful, and revealing examination of the business of baseball — a book that will shave the game to its roots. It will become the ultimate book on the economics of professional sports. You will find it just as riveting as I did." Pat Williams
?May the Best Team Win is a great book — just the latest indication of why I tell my students at Harvard that Andrew Zimbalist is the top sports economist in the country, the one whom the sports authorities, not just we sports fans, should always be reading and learning from.? Paul Weiler
"An absorbing, provocative discussion." Publishers' Weekly
?Especially revealing.? Boston Globe
?I highly recommend Andrew Zimbalist?s new book, May the Best Team Win.? ROB NEYER, ESPN.com
?My daydream . . . is that somehow every sports talk show host and every caller to such a show might mysteriously find himself or herself reading this illuminating book. That development would decrease the dumbness quotient of discussions between the former and the latter by about 99%.? Bill Littlefield, NPR?s Only a Game
?Another important cautionary tale.? Washington Times
?Zimbalist writes with obvious love, but deep concern for our national pastime.? CHRIS BERMAN, ESPN
?Exhilarating . . . . Combines an academic?s precision with a fan?s passion.? ALLEN BARRA, Newhouse Newspapers
Book News Annotation:
According to Zimbalist (economics, Smith College), major league baseball is striking out due to its exemption from US antitrust laws. From a data-based analysis of team profits and performance, he calls for reforms including public subsidies for stadiums and better industry self-regulation. Foreword writer Bob Costas, of NBC and HBO Sports, seconds the need for change. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The business of baseball stands in sharp contrast to the game?s wholesome image as America?s favorite pastime. Major league baseball is a deeply troubled industry, facing chronic problems that threaten its future: persistent labor tensions, competitive dominance by high-revenue teams, migration of game telecasts to cable, and escalating ticket prices. Amid the threat of contraction, existing franchises are demanding public subsidies for new stadiums, while viable host cities are begging for teams. The game?s core base of fans is aging, and MLB is doing precious little to attract a younger audience.
According to Andrew Zimbalist, these problems have a common cause: monopoly. Since 1922 MLB has benefited from a presumed exemption from the nation?s antitrust laws. It is the only top-level professional baseball league in the country, and each of its teams is assigned an exclusive territory. Monopolies have market power, which they use to derive higher returns, misallocate resources, and take advantage of consumers. Major league baseball is no exception.
In May the Best Team Win, Zimbalist provides a critical analysis of the baseball industry, focusing on the abuses and inefficiencies that have plagued the game since the 1990s, when franchise owners appointed their colleague Bud Selig as MLB?s ?independent? commissioner. Run by a shrinking and self-selecting group of owners subject to no oversight, MLB suffers from a lack of competitive pressure. Several large franchises are owned by media companies that have shackled their teams to lucrative broadcast and cable contracts ? often making it impossible for fans to see games on television. Others own entities that do business with the teams, charging inflated prices for facility management, concessions, and catering. Complex intracompany transactions can reduce franchise revenues substantially, causing operating losses for teams while the owners still make millions.
Zimbalist estimates that tens of millions of dollars are sheltered from MLB revenue each year ? more than enough to eliminate the operating losses that led Selig to claim contraction and other radical remedies as fiscal necessities.
Zimbalist believes that many of baseball?s problems would be effectively addressed by removing the industry?s presumed antitrust exemption. He urges reconsideration of baseball?s antitrust status, encouraging legislation to force monopoly cable providers to de-bundle their services, along with private initiatives to cultivate the game?s fan base, such as offering special ticket prices for families, allowing fans on the field after games, and involving players more in community events. Zimbalist also provides MLB with guidelines to reconstruct the incentive system underlying its revenue sharing policies.
Zimbalist believes that consumers need an industry that is subject to judicial checks and competitive pressures. Only then will baseball fans be able to put the traumas of the 1990s and early 2000s behind them and utter freely the simple and enduring exhortation: May the best team win!
Easily accessible and highly informative, this book is bound to become a standard reference tool for baseball fans seeking a deeper understanding of the important issues underlying the game. The author explores the abuses and inefficiencies in the functioning of the industry and how these problems are directly connected to Major League Baseball's monopoly status, its presumed exemption from antitrust regulation, and public policy.
About the Author
Andrew Zimbalist is Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics at Smith College. He has served as a professional consultant in various disputes between owners and players in the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball. He has written and edited numerous books, including (with Roger Noll) Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums (Brookings, 1997), Unpaid Professionals: Commercialism and Conflict in Big-Time College Sports (Princeton, 1999), and Baseball and Billions: A Probing Look Inside the Big Business of Our National Pastime (Basic Books, 1992).
Table of Contents
Introduction: cause for concern — Baseball's presumed antitrust exemption — Competitive balance: leveling the playing field — Profitability — Collective bargaining — The stadium issue — What is to be done?.
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