It’s nothing short of bizarre that our national pastime, which ostensibly embodies the all-American values of competition and fair play, remains the only business exempt from U.S. monopoly laws. That a single recreational activity deserves such special treatment—absent any economic reason except greed or convenience—should offend our sense of decency.
A Soviet-style central control model opts Major League Baseball out of market forces and accountability. This shameful state of affairs basically allows MLB to break free-market rules, cheat the game with performance enhancers and cheat the public with artificially steroided ticket prices. Memo to team owners: The Free World won, and you guys are dinosaurs.
The United States’ phenomenal prosperity in the 20th Century can be attributed in part to antitrust legislation that promoted competition. The laws prevented any single company from fully dominating their industry. Competitive markets work better than controlled ones because they force organizations to be more efficient and respond to their customers rather than keep prices artificially high.
Who gave a Kremlin in Milwaukee the power to decide whether San Jose could build a stadium with its own money for a baseball team? The United States Supreme Court.
In 1922, nine now-dead justices, including the distinguished William Howard Taft, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and Louis Brandeis, decided unanimously that baseball wasn’t interstate commerce. A smart bunch, sure, but not exactly on the cutting edge. Their thinking had been rendered technologically obsolete the previous year, when the 1921 World Series was broadcast by radio for the first time to a market that crossed state lines.
Subsequent court rulings have acknowledged that baseball is in fact an interstate activity that should abide by the same laws that prevent other sport leagues and businesses from engaging in anti-competitive behavior. Yet somehow the anachronistic decision stands, courtesy of judicial and congressional inertia to preserve a special interest carve-out. And it’s not good for the sport, for the fans or for our national claim as the global champion of freedom.
It’s especially bad for San Jose, the nation’s 10th biggest city, with the fans and the land to save a foundering franchise. Nor is it good for the Bay Area, which will lose a team and be at the mercy of the GIants owners, who will charge whatever the market will bear to attend a game or buy a corporate suite to enjoy the region’s only major league baseball team.
It’s time to stop the charade and bring baseball into the 21st Century. Hopefully, some attorneys and red-blooded believers in liberty will step forward and challenge this ridiculous 91-year-old ruling—whether or not San Jose gets a team.