Congress vs Baseball

Rep. Christopher Shays, the Yogi Berra of the latest (but alas not last) round of unintentionally comic congressional hearings on steroids, should have headed to the showers after his opening line last Tuesday: “This is almost surreal to me.”

He got that much right. The whole performance-enhanced proceeding called to mind an earlier episode of mind-blowing ballpark bizarreness, when Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis hurled a no-hitter in 1970 while tripping on LSD. Few scenes could be stranger than watching the senior citizens on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform – an invention of Newt Gingrich’s revolution that was designed to prune back the federal government’s reach, not stick its nose into the nation’s locker rooms – attempt to justify government intrusion into a private sporting league, let alone understand basic chemistry or baseball history.

I don’t watch a lot of baseball… but I can agree, Congress’s incessant meddling with baseball is like an analogy for everything else they do.

Yeah, of all things that the Congress of the U.S. was set up to do, I don’t believe getting involved in pro sports was one of them.

It’s kind of a mystery why they’re so deeply involved with baseball. Has everything flowed from that anti-trust exemption? Why did that even get passed, anyway?

Congress is involved in baseball because news coverage on an issue that will make the papers is a very valuable thing for congresscritters. It’s basically free media exposure. The reason that they keep making so many gaffes and asking question from an obvious position of ignorance about the issue is that they quite properly do not care about the issue. They just want the free exposure.

It makes me wish there was a way I could punish these self-aggrandizing jerkholes.

I mean me personally, without the rest of you interfering with your “lobbying” and “voting” and whatnot.

Some quick searching reveals it’s actually the result of a Supreme Court Decision, not a federal law. Baseball is not considered Interstate Commerce, and is therefore is exempt from the Sherman act. See here:

Wow. That’s some creative definition of interstate commerce when virtually every game is using players from two states (and now, for interstate television revenues).

playing baseball is commerce now? huh?

When games commonly involve teams from multiple states receiving payment for a sporting event . . . yeah it’s interstate commerce.

The actual opinion sheds a bit more light on why it’s not considered interstate commerce:

Full opinion is here:

Yeah, but now the “exhibition” is broadcast across state lines, tickets are sold across state lines, merchandise is nationally distributed, etc. Not that I’d argue for the Congress to take an active hand in the business of baseball, but saying it still isn’t interstate commerce in this day and age is quite a stretch.

Especially considering the expansion of the definition to make just about everything a Federal matter…

It’s always been a shitty piece of legal reasoning. IIRC the only reason it happened was the chief justice at the time was a HUGE baseball fan.

Here’s a thought. Maybe performance enhancing drugs should be illegal. I mean, you’ve banned all other drugs, I don’t see why pro athletes should get a free pass. Laws are the business of congress, right?

Wow. What makes you think I banned those drugs or wanted them banned in the first place? I honestly don’t care if they are taking steroids. They are adults, they can weigh the health benefits of what they put on their body on their own. The entire league could look like an army of Barry Bonds, I don’t really see a problem here.

While I disagree with you on performance enhancing drugs for athletes, it’s hardly relevant what either of us think. The topic was about how the US congress meddles in sports in the wake of a steroid scandal. Well, they clearly have an interest in drugs being illegal, why shouldn’t that be enough to motivate their interest in pro baseball?

For various reasons, MLB feels it needs the anti-trust exemption granted to maintain it’s status quo. One area where having that exemption pays off is in having a fair amount of control over franchise movement. In comparison, in the NFL an owner can pretty much move a team wherever they want and the league has little power to stop it (see the Raiders moving from Oakland to L.A. in the early 1980’s. It also limits the possibility of a rival league forming.

Because Congress has the stick, they excercise it on occasion, as we’re seeing with this steroids issue. It can be argued that it has been this Congressional interest that has force MLB to enact stricter drug testing and rules.

Well, there is the whole issue that steroids are a controlled substance that are only supposed to be prescribed by doctors for legitimate medical uses. That does not include a desire to improve athletic performance.

From a libertarian point of view, I agree. However, you could make the same argument about cocaine and other drugs.