Light, Less-Filling, it's Blue Ribbon!

31 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2002

See all articles by Stephen F. Ross

Stephen F. Ross

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law


In an effort to draw support for his agenda of revenue sharing and salary limits, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig commissioned a "Blue Ribbon Panel" consisting of Richard Levin, Paul Volcker, George Will, and George Mitchell to make recommendations on reforming the national pastime. This commentary reviews and critiques the report. It concludes that the creation of the panel and its focus on competitive balance was a constructive step. In particular, the commentary praises the Report for focusing discussion on ways to ensure that all clubs have a regularly recurring reasonable possibility of postseason play.

However, in several important respects, the commentary explains why the Report is unsatisfying. Its reasoning lacks the rigor and comprehensiveness one might have expected from such an expert Panel. The report establishes payroll disparity as a proxy for competitive imbalance but fails to provide a detailed analysis of causality in light of a history of competitive balance despite disparity. Its recommendation that weak teams be encouraged to increase payrolls, while wealthy teams be punished for maintaining high payrolls, harms the Panel's credibility as disinterested observers and creates the appearance of bias in favor of owners. Building on the Report, this Commentary suggests five concrete and plausibly acceptable proposals to improve competitive balance. Permitting cash sales of players subject to the Commissioner's oversight, establishing a mandatory minimum payroll at a level likely to permit clubs to viably contend for postseason play, imposing payroll maxima only on dominant teams, changing the Rule 5 "minor league draft" to limit the players on top teams that can be protected, and establishing procedures to reform or rid the industry of inept management, are all designed to give observers of the game the same "hope" for the future of our National Pastime that each fan perhaps will have, if these proposals are implemented, each springtime.

Suggested Citation

Ross, Stephen F., Light, Less-Filling, it's Blue Ribbon!. Available at SSRN: or

Stephen F. Ross (Contact Author)

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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