As Hank would tell us if he hadn’t been gagged by Bud Selig, socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources. You know this is true because that’s what it says in Wikipedia. From this definition, we can see that baseball is not a socialist enterprise, since we don’t have public ownership of baseball teams. All major league baseball teams are privately owned.
But, here’s a surprise: baseball is a little bit socialistic. One part of socialism is cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources. Baseball has that. As written in the Yankee Stadium bond prospectus, the Kommissar (er, I mean Commissioner) of baseball has the power to take actions he deems to be in the best interests of baseball, even if these decisions are not in the best interests of the Yankees. These decisions include the length of the season, the scheduling of games, the teams that the Yankees play against, the league where the Yankees play, and of course the sharing of revenues.
This brand of socialism pretty much goes with the territory. Baseball is a cooperative enterprise. The Yankees are trying to defeat their opponents on the field, but they’re not engaged in a capitalist struggle to drive their opponents out of business. The Yankees’ business success depends on there being other interesting teams to play against. No one is going to show up at Yankee Stadium just to watch the team take batting practice (at least, not at those prices).
Baseball has always had revenue sharing, as Pete Toms noted in a recent post. Revenue sharing used to take the form of splitting a game’s gate receipts with the visiting team.
Now, baseball shares revenue in different ways, and in total the Yankees probably retain a smaller share of certain revenues than it would have received under the old system of splitting gate receipts. This may upset Hank Steinbrenner, but he can console himself with the knowledge that baseball’s socialism ends with that business about cooperative management. When it comes to the issue of private ownership, baseball remains firmly capitalistic. The value of the Yankees, which has grown about 16,000% since Hank’s father purchased the team, remains securely in private hands.
You might say that Hank Steinbrenner is the happiest of socialists: a rich one. You might also say that rich capitalists can brag about their achievements, but rich socialists should keep their traps shut. By definition, a rich socialist got rich through cooperative effort, which in Hank’s case means that he didn’t get rich in a vacuum. The teams that receive the Yankees’ revenue sharing contribute to the Yankees’ success.
Baseball has no more determined an opponent of its revenue sharing system than yours truly. See here and here and here, as examples. But my opposition is limited to which teams gets the revenue sharing money, and what these teams are supposed to do with the money. I have no problem with the Yankees’ being required to pay money out. That’s just the kind of good, old fashioned socialism that made this game our national pastime.