Guest Editorial

Sam Pizzigati

Is it time to seize pro sports teams?

“Take me out to the ball game,” as baseball’s fabled 1908 classic puts it. The ancient refrain ends: “I don’t care if I never get back.”
Unfortunately, America’s billionaire baseball owners may not care if you get back, either. Just look at how baseball’s owners are reacting to the success of Major League Baseball’s new rules to speed up the game.
“Time of play” has emerged over recent years as a major concern of just about everybody in baseball, especially fans.
Decades ago, the vast majority of Major League games ended in less than three hours. In 1981, for instance, the average game ran just a tad over two-and-a-half. By 2021, average games were running over 40 minutes longer.
Those long times were bumming out fans — and baseball owners as well. These owners worried that fans would simply stop showing up if the games kept lasting so long. The answer? A set of mostly welcome rule changes that speed up the games.
These rule changes went into effect this season. With no runners on base, pitchers must now deliver their pitches within 15 seconds. A new “pitch clock” is even keeping track.
Fans seem to love the pitch clock and other new time-saving rules. Games are already running significantly shorter, by just over a half-hour. Players like the new pace of play, too.
But the owners now realize they have a problem. With shorter game times, fans have less time to buy beer. Owners don’t like that. They make a lot of money off beer sales — the average beer at a Major League ballpark last year cost nearly $7, with fans in Chicago paying well over $10.
How are owners reacting to this spring’s drooping beer sales? Not well. To maintain the beer revenue they net, some owners have actually started putting baseball fans at serious risk.
Up until this year, most ballparks stopped selling beer in the seventh inning of their nine-inning games. That policy made eminent sense. No one should be drinking beer one moment, then heading out to the parking lot and the drive home the next.
Baseball owners, facing shorter games, are now starting to change that long-standing policy. Several Major League ball clubs have begun extending beer sales through the eighth inning.
To be responsible, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Matt Stram counters, baseball’s beer policies ought to be going in the exact opposite direction. With games over sooner, ballparks ought to be cutting beer sales off before the seventh inning.
The seventh-inning cut-off, Stram points out, gives “our fans time to sober up and drive home safe.” With innings and games now taking less time, he asks, shouldn’t baseball be moving “beer sales back to the sixth inning” to give fans that same time to sober up?
Baseball’s owners can certainly afford to put safety first. Of baseball’s 30 principal owners, all but six currently rate as billionaires. The “poorest” among the 30, Cincinnati’s Robert Castellini, has a fortune worth $400 million.
Unfortunately, umpires don’t have the authority to call the sport’s owners out. But city councils and other government bodies that have subsidized baseball owners over the years do have some power here.
Local leaders have often used “eminent domain” to seize — in the “public interest” — the property that sports owners have wanted for new ballparks and stadiums. Maybe we ought to be using eminent domain to seize sports teams and run them in the public interest.

Sam Pizzigati co-edits at the Institute for Policy Studies. His books include The Case for a Maximum Wage and The Rich Don’t Always Win. This op-ed was distributed by


The Press

The Press
1550 Woodville Road
Millbury, OH 43447

(419) 836-2221

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Ohio News Media Association