Wednesday, December 28, 2005

MLB IN 2005

Baseball in 2005 took lot of shots as the sport majorly struggled with steroids. Where the Chicago White Sox were getting appreciation for their first World Series title since 1917, Rafael Palmeiro flawed the good-will of his team when he was tested positive for a steroid after nudging a finger in the air and forcefully telling Congress: "I have never used steroids." His statement was followed by Aug. 1 suspension. Mark McGwire followed the trail as set by Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa. On March 17 he refused to comment upon whether he had used steroids, which consequently shattered his reputation left his induction in the Hall of Fame shaky. Bonds, too, was part of the steroids story.

Precisely in 2005, MLB ended up with the toughest steroids program in American sports. Baseball went from no drug policy in 2002, to anonymous testing in 2003, to counseling for positive tests in 2004 to a dozen 10-day suspensions this year. The next season, MLB will become more rigid and an initial positive test will cost a 50-game suspension, and players will be tested for amphetamines for the first time -- with penalties for a second positive result.

On December 19, 2006 baseball's labor contract will expire, and with it the sport's luxury tax, designed to slow spending by the New York Yankees, who despite baseball's first $200 million payroll failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs. New York has run up tax bills of $3.15 million in 2003, $25.96 million last year and $34.05 million this season. The only other teams to exceed the payroll thresholds were Boston ($3.15 million in 2004 and $4.16 million this year) and the Angels ($927,059 last year). The fiscal and economic landscape is not at this point equivalent to what it was in 2001 and '02. And the MLB clubs have been commenting in virtually all of the negotiations about distressed economic conditions.

Baseball's $2.5 billion, six-year television contract with Fox, which broadcasts a Saturday game of the week, the All-Star game, the World Series and most of the playoffs, is about to expire and the sport's plans to start a baseball channel seem to have been put on hold.

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