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Interview of Andrew Zimbalist

Peter Handrinos of All-baseball.com has conducted an interview of economist Andrew Zimbalist, co-author of co-blogger Stef Syzmanski. Here's a snippet from part I of the interview:

PH: In your past writings, you’ve placed a lot of emphasis on baseball’s monopoly status, on its status as the only industry which enjoys a presumed exemption from antitrust law. Please explain how you think that works in the game, and why you think it’s important.

AZ: If you take a long view of the exemption, which dates back to 1922, you see an industry that stood pretty much alone on the professional sports pedestal in the United States. On top of that, they were given an exemption from the nation’s antitrust laws. So, not only did you have an industry without a lot of competition, but essentially, you had one with a lot of power to prevent competition from materializing.

In those circumstances, you encouraged those in charge to be lax, lackadaisical, and non-responsive. I think if you look at the central governance of baseball, if you look at the management at the team level, you see this kind of creeping lassitude take over. Instead of getting entrepreneurship, instead of establishing bridges to the local community by courting fans and doing marketing to promote the game . . . instead of doing all that, they sort of sat back and said ‘We’re baseball. We’re a monopoly, we can do what we want, we’ll open the gates a little before game time and people will come’.

That might be exaggerated a little bit, but basically [that] was the management culture that set in.