SBJ/August 6 - 12, 2001/Opinion

IN OUR VIEW

Subscribing to the theory that silence is golden, Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball have been mum on their strategy for the coming labor negotiations. And who's to say that's not the right course for a war council preparing for a high-stakes battle that may determine the economic future of the game?

There are those who suggest that besides an absence of communication, there is also an absence of consensus among owners or an absence of any viable plan. That rumor is more harmful than others born out of the silence, such as those of contraction and lockouts. But let's give Captain Selig and his soldiers the benefit of the doubt. Let's presume that the war chest is full, that the troops know the mission and that the weapons, the words that will guide baseball into the future, are sharpened. Let's presume that the tactics, for the first time in baseball ownership history, are both reasonable and realistic. It's a stretch, but let's presume the game is in capable hands.

That then brings us to the other consequence of silence: the confidence level of baseball's business partners. And here, silence in anything but golden.

There has been a complete lack of public communication aimed at reassuring baseball's business partners. No attempts to build the confidence so vital to encouraging investment. No pronouncement that baseball will avoid a work stoppage or do what it can to minimize its impact.

In this climate, it's increasingly difficult to do business. Can Michael Ilitch refinance the Tigers' new stadium? Or will financial institutions balk at the risk? Can the Padres get full value for their stadium naming rights? Can Fox or its affiliates rely on budgets built before we know if there will be another season? Can MasterCard leverage its sponsorships and realize the full value of the millions it invested?

Owners, most carrying huge financial obligations, will find it harder and harder to do business. They will feel the pinch increasingly until they require their leadership to assure their partners and those who do business with their partners that investing in baseball will be a prosperous proposition.

— SportsBusiness Journal

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