Sports is a business.

First, with the Phillies’ recent acquisition of starting pitcher Freddy Garcia, we the team now has one too many starters. With many teams in need of a proven starter, a trade will occur before spring training. The odd man out is Jon Lieber, but that’s not what’s important. This quote from Phillies assistant GM Mike Arbuckle explains how to operate in a market.

“If we’re sending Christmas gifts to starting pitchers, we’ll probably only have to send out five,” he said with a laugh. “But we’ll let numerous teams come to us and see what the best offer is. Supply and demand may work in our favor.”

Bud Selig and the other owners in Major League Baseball talk a lot about parity, which can be seen as little more than talent redistribution when carried to the extreme. Yet, it doesn’t work out that way. Some teams seem to build talent in excess of what they need.

In this case, the Phillies and starting pitchers. Would it make sense for Major League Baseball to take one of the Phillies’ pitchers and give him to the Devil Rays, for example, because they need starters? Of course not. The Devil Rays, and every other team, are left to extract that player from the Phillies in exchange for another player. As any reasonable person could predict, the Philadelphia will try to improve its roster (demand) by offering a starter (excess supply). This is logical, so why do so many in our government feel that this does not apply to every other situation in economics?

Next, Senator Arlen Spector has interesting opinions about the NFL and its collectivist bargaining of television rights. Consider:

Whatever his motivation, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., claimed at the end of a Thursday hearing that he will sponsor legislation to strip the NFL of the antitrust exemption that permits the league to negotiate its television contracts for all 32 franchises, rather than have the teams do so individually.

“Wouldn’t consumers be better off if teams could negotiate [individually]?” Specter said. “This is the NFL exerting its power right down to the last nickel.”


Specter said the NFL should not use the exemption to negotiate exclusive programming packages such as DirectTV Inc.’s “Sunday Ticket,” which allows viewers to watch teams outside their regional market.

“As I look at what the NFL is doing today with the NFL channel with the DirectTV … a lot of people, including myself, would like to be able to have that ticket,” Specter said.

Among the grievances cited by Specter in what he termed a “fans be damned” mentality demonstrated by the NFL was the relocation of franchises, and decisions like the one that moved Monday Night Football from ABC, an over-the-air network broadcaster, to ESPN, a cable entity.

Using Sen. Spector’s logic, couldn’t individuals better negotiate wage contracts with employers tailored to meet their own needs? Perhaps collective bargaining is a great benefit for those involved. Perhaps not. But those involved should decide how they best wish to negotiate, free of government intervention or protection. The NFL’s structure is a voluntary club in which individuals and corporations transact with known rules. This is not the problem.

I could get behind Sen. Spector’s sabre-rattling about antitrust exemptions, but he’s attacking the wrong beast. He apparently can’t fathom the idea that the government should have little role in the operation of business. Remove/reduce the concept of antitrust and this matter goes away. Sen. Spector doesn’t want that; he is a politician, after all. But he seems to believe that being a football fan also entitles him to manipulate a market because he’d rather get the NFL and DirectTV’s combined product without having to include DirectTV. No. Subscribe to DirectTV or don’t, but leave the government out of it.

On Sen. Spector’s last point, what would he propose regarding Monday Night Football? That ABC receive a monopoly on broadcasting that, even if someone else (ESPN, like ABC, owned by Disney) is willing to pay more? I don’t recall reading anything about a fundamental right to free broadcasts of the NFL in the Constitution.

Finally, the Orioles are getting a new JumboTron, except they don’t want it. They’re not paying for it, so they want a bigger JumboTron.

The Maryland Stadium Authority agreed yesterday to move forward with the purchase of a new Mitsubishi video screen for Camden Yards despite objections from the Orioles.

Orioles officials say the DiamondVision screen is too small and technologically inadequate and plan to file a temporary restraining order in Baltimore Circuit Court today to block the $1.5 million purchase. The restraining order would give the Orioles time to move the dispute to arbitration as is called for in the team’s lease for the stadium.

On the surface, this is little more than a contract dispute. It should be decided as such given the constraints of reality. It’s possible to accept the facts while rejecting the assumptions. The taxpayers of Maryland should not be forced to subsidize the purchase of a bigger video screen for a private business.

Major League Baseball and the NFL are businesses and should be treated as such. Politicians who interfere *cough*Tom Davis*cough*, for whatever reason, are anti-capitalists trying to break fundamental laws of economics. They should not be tolerated.

Hat tip to Baseball Musings for the last item.