George Will doesn't know labor relations or baseball historyMay 27, 2009 4:44 PM EDT ››› JAMISON FOSER
George Will takes issue with the notion that Sonia Sotomayor "saved baseball":
"The president is a gentleman and a scholar and a great ornament to our society, but he's not a great baseball historian," Will told us.
"He says that when she ended the baseball impasse that was interrupting play in 1994 and 1995, she saved baseball," Will says. "Far from it. What she did was overturn in a sense, the essence, the underlies, the essential theory of American labor relations, which is the parties should slug it out because they know best and whoever wins, wins."
Really? The essential theory of American labor relations involves management having a monopoly by virtue of being exempted from antitrust law? That's George Will's idea of a fair negotiating situation in which "whoever wins, wins"?
By the way, Will serves as a director of both the Baltimore Orioles and the San Diego Padres, meaning that his views on baseball labor relations are not exactly impartial.
Will says that "in fact, what she did was take sides, took union's side against the management, and in so-doing, wasted 262 days of negotiations. That, far from saving baseball, consigned baseball to seven more years of an unreformed economic system, which happened to be the seven worst years in terms of competitive balance."
I don't know how Will defines "competitive balance," but I do know that however he defines it, 1995-2001 aren't the "seven worst years." Just to take the simplest possible definition: The New York Yankees won 6 World Series in the 7 years from 1947-1953. Four different teams won the 7 World Series played during Will's "seven worst years in terms of competitive balance." If Will wants to provide a different definition of "competitive balance," I'll explain why he's wrong based on that definition, too.
UPDATE: To that last point, here's Bill James in his 2001 book The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract: "the method I have established to measure competitive balance does show that overall competitive balance was greater in the 1990s than in any other period of baseball history." James is an actual baseball expert; Will just plays on on TV. James doesn't specifically address the competative balance of the years 1995-2001, but it's a pretty safe bet that if the 1990s as a whole featured greater competative balance than any other decade in history, 1995-2001 must not have been the "seven worst years," as Will claims.