In the wake of the owners' bitter defeat at the hands of Judge Susan Nelson last night, Roger Goodell penned his thoughts in the Wall Street Journal this morning. His intent is to scare the fans, and I'll admit... It's working on me.
What are the potential ramifications for players, teams, and fans (of no collective bargaining agreement)? Here are some examples:
• No draft. "Why should there even be a draft?" said player agent Brian Ayrault. "Players should be able to choose who they work for. Markets should determine the value of all contracts. Competitive balance is a fallacy."
• No minimum team payroll. Some teams could have $200 million payrolls while others spend $50 million or less.
• No minimum player salary. Many players could earn substantially less than today's minimums.
• No standard guarantee to compensate players who suffer season- or career-ending injuries. Players would instead negotiate whatever compensation they could.
• No league-wide agreements on benefits. The generous benefit programs now available to players throughout the league would become a matter of individual club choice and individual player negotiation.
• No limits on free agency. Players and agents would team up to direct top players to a handful of elite teams. Other teams, perpetually out of the running for the playoffs, would serve essentially as farm teams for the elites.
• No league-wide rule limiting the length of training camp or required off-season workout obligations. Each club would have its own policies.
• No league-wide testing program for drugs of abuse or performance enhancing substances. Each club could have its own program—or not.
Frankly, I'm pretty uninterested in hearing the owners complain about the outcome of yesterday's ruling. They chose to opt out of the current labor deal, which was their right, but they made that decision. They chose to sit on their hands while two years went by and only made an offer with literally hours left on the clock. They locked out the players, not the other way around. They played with fire, and they got burnt... badly. Hopefully the fans won't be burnt as well by turning America's best sport into baseball, a sport in which you can almost eliminate half the league from playoff contention before the first pitch of the season is thrown.
Goodell's op ed piece will undoubtedly elicit a response from the players. It would really put my mind at ease to hear them say they're not attacking the draft and the other things Goodell mentions... but unfortunately, I don't think we will.