Synopses & Reviews
Expanded and Updated Paperback Edition Now Available 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 Baseballs monopoly status, its presumed exemption from antitrust regulation, and public policy.
The business of baseball stands in sharp contrast to the games wholesome image as Americas 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 games 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 nations 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 MLBs 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 contractsoften making it impossible for fans to see games on television. Others own entities that do business with the teams, charginginflated 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 yearmore 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 baseballs problems would be effectively addressed by removing the industrys presumed antitrust exemption. He urges reconsideration of baseballs antitrust status, encouraging legislation to force monopoly cable providers to de-bundle their services, along with private initiatives to cultivate the games 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!