Talks between players and owners regarding the return of Major League Baseball have been ongoing in recent days, though there’s nothing really new to report this morning. Some of the issues between the parties have become contentious.
Jayson Stark of The Athletic reminded everyone Friday that every single person who cares about baseball has a huge stake in reaching a deal and making things work. He reminds us that he covered the nasty 1994-95 strike, and you might have forgotten how much that hurt the game, but he hasn’t:
Baseball may have regained its ability to generate revenue over this last quarter-century. But you know what it has never regained? Its place in American culture. Its place in the American heart. Its place in the American soul.
For 100 years, baseball was America. Baseball was summer. Baseball was ingrained in the fabric of American life in a way no other sport was. But killing that World Series cut that cord. Yes, baseball still matters. But not like that.
Stark is right. Baseball used to be the heart and soul of America. Oh, sure, people like us still love the sport, but it doesn’t feel like it used to. Not like it was before.
And he worries that the game might be ready to drive itself off the proverbial cliff again. Baseball has the chance to revive that spirit. If it’s the first of the four major North American sports to come back, even in empty parks, think of the attention, the lifting of spirits, what it would mean to this country.
Instead, billionaires and millionaires are fighting over money. It’s truly distasteful, and I know whose side I’m on, but that really doesn’t matter. All that matters is this:
The NHL is going to play. The NBA is on the road to figuring out a way to play. You know the NFL will play. But meanwhile, MLB, the non-contact sport in this playground, is somehow going to wind up as the sport that is not going to play — not over safety concerns, but money? Are people this smart really going to decide that’s an acceptable and sensible decision?
No. No, no, no, no, no. It’s not sensible. It’s not acceptable. It’s a total disaster. Do not do that. Do not let that happen.
So any day now, when it’s clear that all those other sports are going to play, the stakes have to mount. Any day now, when every fan, every columnist and every talk-show host runs out of patience, the outside pressure to get this done will be impossible to ignore. Right? Won’t it?
At that point, these owners and this union will have a choice. Either they can get over themselves, remember how brutal this looks and find a path to a deal — or they can ignore all of the above and go explore that cliff.
Stark is right. If anyone involved in baseball truly cares about the sport’s future, they cannot let this happen.
Now, here are the results of this week’s SB Nation Reacts survey, which had to do with the designated hitter. We’ve discussed the DH here before, but now I have data to present to you from fans of all teams, and separate results from fans of National League teams only.
Since we’re likely going to have a truncated 2020 season, there has been a renewed call to unify both leagues with the addition of a designated hitter to the National League. As a whole, baseball fans are ready for the DH to be universal.
The numbers are slightly skewed by the breakdown between leagues. Adding the DH was almost unanimous among AL voters. NL voters, on the other hand, had a slight majority against the change.
Here are the team-by-team results for NL teams:
Quite a range there, and it appears NL Central fans are the division most interested in a DH, with the NL East next and the NL West far behind.
There has also been discussions of changing the roster size for teams. The active roster was already set to expand this year from 25 to 26, but there has been talk of a 30-man roster with a 20-man “taxi squad.” The overwhelming majority of voters in the survey agreed with that idea:
Least important to actual game play, although potentially most restrictive, there also could be limits on what players can and can’t do on the field. This would include spitting. For some, spitting is just part of the game, others see it as an ugly habit. However, in this time of increased germ awareness, a majority of fans aren’t ready to stop spitting.