Grand-slam player salaries are a major reason baseball is hustling as fast as it can to the home plate of corporate America. Ads are now plastered almost anywhere there’s an empty space at a stadium. “At some point the whole scheme is going to collapse,” says Wulf. “Baseball cannot keep on paying these salaries.” For one thing, escalating ticket prices are already striking out many families from the stands. For another, the quality of the game is being hurt. Since nothing attracts money more than more money, the megabucks teams are attracting the fat sponsorships and grabbing the top players, leaving everyone else to scramble. “Some franchises are desperate,” says Wulf. “The entire team salary of the Royals or the Expos, for example, is less than what Dodger pitcher Kevin Brown makes.” Hard to imagine how still more money would make for a level playing field -- or a fun game to watch.
What’s the latest strategy baseball management and the players union have up their sleeves? Why, pinning advertising patches on the players' sleeves. Baseball representatives are talking to various sponsors to see if they can strike a deal. These guys have only the noblest of intentions, of course: It’s only about bringing valuable new partners into baseball, they say. And don’t worry, they insist, you won’t see any ad patches for tobacco or alcohol. Wow! Any chance this might lead to a lowering of ticket prices for fans? Long silence. “This is nothing more than another vehicle for owners to bring in more money” says TIME’s chief of research, Jane Wulf, a long-time sports journalist, “and there’s already too much money in professional sports.”