Has it really been 15 years since the baseball work stoppage to end all baseball work stoppages caused the cancellation of the 1994 World Series and threatened the sport's reverential status as the national pastime?
The reason I ask that question is that we're in the midst of another postseason in which the chasm between the small-revenue and big-revenue teams is very much on display.
The New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, who appear destined to face each other in the World Series next week, represent the hugely populated Northeast corridor that generates more media-related revenue than any other section of the country. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels, the other two teams still in the postseason mix, thrive economically in the only other region with comparable population density.
If I remember correctly, the whole point of that 1994 labor war was to narrow the gap between the so-called large-market and small-market teams, even though the previous decade had featured eight World Series champions from cities that now would be considered - at best - medium-sized markets.
Want a little more historical irony? The day that the owners and players pulled the plug on the 1994 season, the team with the best record in baseball was - drum roll, please - the Montreal Expos, who are better known now as the 103-loss Washington Nationals.
Baseball owners were seeking to implement a salary cap back then because, according to acting commissioner Bud Selig, the gap between the haves and have-nots was growing wider and eventually would lead to an unacceptable level of competitive imbalance.
So, why bring all this up now?
Not to make any excuses for the Orioles, who squandered their position among those elite teams after being at the front of the new-stadium boom, but to point out what a lot of people already know. Major League Baseball has to make a new effort to achieve a greater degree of economic parity.
Of course, the Major League Baseball Players Association was able to fend off that 1994 attempt to place strict limits on payrolls, instead accepting a luxury-tax system that was intended to help teams in the lesser markets stay competitive. That approach, which has been tweaked several times since the original compromise, has succeeded in keeping teams such as the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates from going belly-up and allowed Major League Baseball to triple its gross revenues over the past 15 years, but Selig's competitive nightmare has all but come true.
The new Yankees dynasty rose out of the ashes of that labor disaster and led to a level of payroll disparity that is impossible to defend even in the face of the industry's record $6.5 billion in revenues last year.
Case in point: The combined salary of the three-man starting rotation that Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced for the American League Championship Series - CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte - was higher than the entire payrolls of the San Diego Padres and Florida Marlins. Yankees star Alex Rodriguez made almost as much all by himself this year ($33 million) as the whole Marlins team ($35.5 million).
The defenders of the current system point out that the Yankees have not won a world title since 2000 in spite of their vulgar spending habits, but it's impossible to dispute the impact of the economic advantage held by a small cadre of large-market teams.
Since 1995, only three teams outside the Northeast corridor, the Los Angeles metropolitan area and Chicago have won a World Series title, while seven of the past 14 world championship teams have come from New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
It might be convenient to look at the huge increase in overall revenue and say that the game isn't broke and it doesn't really need fixing, but the bottom line isn't the only bottom line in this case. When you have one player making as much as a whole other team, something is seriously out of whack.
That's not just me talking. I've heard the same sentiment from some people on the ownership side, though I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for a majority of baseball owners to make another big push for a hard salary cap. Everybody's making way too much money to put those giant revenue streams at risk with another labor showdown.
The best you can realistically hope for over the next few years is another big enhancement in baseball's revenue-sharing system, hopefully with stricter rules requiring teams receiving those funds to spend them on payroll.
That wouldn't stop the Yankees from buying their way into the playoffs every year, but something has to be done to keep hope alive in the hinterlands.
Listen to Peter Schmuck when he hosts "Sportsline" on WBAL (1090AM) and check out "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.