Tonight is Game 1 of the World Series between the Yanks and the Phillies. Fifteen years ago, Game 1 never took place. Yes, it was 15 years ago this year that baseball work stoppage was in full swing.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Allen Barra writes about the 1994 shortened MLB season. Tony Gwynn was closing in on .400, and Matt Williams was on pace to break the home run record. The Montreal Expos had baseball’s best record at 34 games over .500, and a staple of good young talent such as Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, Pedro Martinez, Moises Alou, and John Wettleland.
Bud Selig, at the time, claimed that the reason for the strike was competitive balance. However, that would prove to be false. Barra writes about how that season was one of the more competitively balanced seasons in recent memory (when examining the dispersion of winning percentage). In fact, the previous five World Series Champions were not in “large” markets (Toronto X2, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Oakland).
As Barra points out, the real reason was salaries (shocking!). The owners of course wanted that salaries lower (and a salary cap) while the Players Association said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Once the strike ended and the two parties started working on the next CBA, the idea of a luxury tax (an idea that Barra notes came from the Players Association) was introduced by Selig and now is part of MLB. Since then, the home run record has been broken twice, players have testified in front of Congress about steroids, Montreal Expos is now the Washington Nationals, a Blue Ribbon Panel was commissioned, and the Yankees have won 4 World Series titles and have been to 3 others (counting this year). All for competitive balance?