The Baseball Barons' Bread and Circuses

The sport's owners contend with hard times, racism and sudden death

IS BASEBALL STILL THE NATIONAL PASTIME? SURE, IF the sport is meant to reflect the greed, rancor, farce and tragedy that can be found -- along with the athletic grace and thrill of competition -- in real life.

The grace and thrills come on the field between April and October. All the other stuff was on display at the owners' winter meetings in Louisville, Kentucky, where baseball's barons went on a daft pre-Christmas shopping spree for talent -- including $43 million for six years of outfielder Barry Bonds' services -- while moaning they were near bankruptcy.

Suicidal profligacy was the least...

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