Fehr No More; Baseball Averts Strike

The bleachers will be filled in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, the rally monkey will have a lot to cheer about, and McCovey Cove in San Francisco will see splashdowns once again. The powers that be in baseball came to an agreement on a deal through 2006. The field of greed is once again a field of dreams.

As National League rep Tom Glavine came out and announced a settlement, baseball fans countrywide were in high spirits; the game had been saved, and the bleak threat of an autumn without the national pastime had been lifted.

A new revenue sharing plan is in place, as well as a luxury tax. As part of the bargain, contraction will be put off until at least 2006, though no specific details were released at the news conference held this afternoon in New York City.

Two weeks ago, the player representatives set the August 30th deadline in hopes that they would be able to force the owners to come to an agreement - and thereby settle this battle in which only the fans would lose.

Well, it came down to the wire (didn't we all know it would?) and now the titanic struggle between millionaires has been settled. We, the fans, the enthusiasts who so passionately love the game, have been spared.

In ballparks throughout the country Thursday night, angry and disgusted crowds tossed back foul balls, and littered diamonds with beach balls, dollar bills, toilet paper and other debris. They bawled and wondered, "why must we suffer?"

It had been demonstrated for weeks, through signs and chants, that if the players went on strike many fans wouldn't be back. You couldn't blame them, could you?

There is something terribly unfair with a system that penalizes it's supporters, and in this case the more you loved the game, the more it would hurt. Baseball fans love their sport, and didn't want - didn't deserve - to be the victims of a quarrel such as this one.

So now, for once, they have gotten what they wanted. The players will continue to do what they're paid so handsomely to do - play ball.

With apologies to the Beatles, Bud Selig called it a long and winding road. Proposals were exchanged and re-exchanged, time and time again. We counted the weeks as they passed, then the days, and finally we were counting the hours and minutes. Still no deal.

They are too far apart. No, they're close. This stumbling block is insurmountable. That roadblock has been removed. The players are greedy. The owners are liars. A luxury tax. Contraction. Still no deal.

As the deadline loomed, so did the question: could the sport's 9th work stoppage since 1972 be avoided?

Then finally, at the eleventh hour, all the hard work paid off; baseball had avoided a strike. For the first time in history the owners and players had come to a deal on a new bargaining agreement without losing a single game on the schedule.

There was no doubt that the players in this drama wanted a deal. They knew what it meant to the country, they knew what would happen if they failed, and they worked long and hard to get it done. As the clock ticked down towards the deadline, proposals were re-crafted and fine-tuned and they finally found the one that worked.

This season there are many records being chased, and races being contested that will go down to the last game. All that, and all the thrills that they would bring to the fans, would have fallen victim to a work stoppage. Now we know that the games will be played, the races will be won and the marks will be set.

The Oakland Athletics have won 17 games in a row, and the AL West race is one of the greatest. There's a batting title up for grabs, and Bernie Williams, Ichiro, and Mike Sweeney all have their eyes on the prize.

Curt and Randy are trying to win twenty-five games. Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro could each hit their 500th home run before the season concludes. It has been, and now will continue to be, a great season.

The labor situation is finally on the back burner, and now we can focus simply on the game, they way it should have been all along.

Writer Christopher Guy covers the Mets and is the football guru for NYFansOnly. E-mail him at NYMetsBelieve@aol.com.

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