Baseball's Bad Sports

Time for another report [Sports Theme] from the "Wide, Wide Wide, WILD World of Sports."

Today's feature: Big league baseball rigs the game. Not the game on the field--where Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson, Sammy Sosa, Derek Jeter, and others continue to thrill us fans with great play--but the game up in baseball's executive suite, where the owners keep playing a shell game with their finances.

"Oh, pity us," wail the owners, constantly poormouthing. Whether trying to abandon cities that won't build luxurious stadiums for them, trying to bust the players union, or trying to hang onto their monopoly status, the constant refrain from the billionaires and corporate fiefdoms that own the teams is that they're broke, and that they only keep going out of the goodness of their hearts. But as the players will tell you, if you want to keep your beer real cold, put it next to a team owner's heart.

Baseball commissar Bud Selig appeared before congress last December, whining that owners should get special breaks because they provide a public service at great financial loss to themselves. Selig even put numbers to his whine, asserting that overall the industry suffered $232 million operating losses last year and that 21 of the 30 teams were money-losers. Of course, he refused to open baseball's books to congress, saying they should trust him.

But now comes a report that says Selig is cooking the books. This is not a report from the players union or some anti-business goup, but from Forbes magazine, famous for being a corporate cheerleader. Forbes ran baseball's number and came up with a far different score: Only 10 of the 30 teams lost money and, instead of an overall loss, the industry enjoyed a $75 million profit. "A few teams are struggling," says a senior Forbes editor, "but baseball as an industry is in strong financial shape."

This is Jim Hightower saying...When players are caught cheating, they're thrown out of the game. Shouldn't this basic rule of sports ethics apply to owners, too?

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