I have written quite a bit lately about the lack of real action toward a 2020 MLB season. Inching forward, owners and players go back and forth with proposals that feel like they’re being delivered by Pony Express.
Check this out:
MLB: Do you want a half dozen donuts?— Daniel Descalso (@DanielDescalso) June 13, 2020
MLB: Oh, So you want 6?
MLBPA: That’s the same thing
MLB: Our mistake. How about 2 sets of 3?
MLBPA: Never mind.
MLB: Wait wait, I can give you 3 sets of 2. How’s that?
That made me laugh. And cry. And if Daniel Descalso is the Cub who has the best ear to the ground on this... though, he did later give credit to someone else:
Credit to Landry S with the analogy! pic.twitter.com/joVKHtijgz— Daniel Descalso (@DanielDescalso) June 13, 2020
Sunday, ESPN’s Buster Olney summed up the problem in having baseball players and owners fight like this:
The opportunity to own the sporting stage in early July is gone. The potential goodwill (and ratings) all but certain for the first big sport out of the gate may be all but squandered.
Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts talking about a cash-flow problem when tens of millions of people have lost their jobs? Not good. Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt, who has seen the value of his franchise multiply by at least a factor of 10, talking about how you can’t make money in baseball? Not good.
At a time when some people are struggling to apply for unemployment benefits, nobody wants to hear about the quandaries of billionaires. Nobody should ever hear about minor leaguers having their salaries slashed, in the way that the Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics intended to do.
But here we are, and the longer this impasse lasts, the more resentful that fans get, as the owners haggle over amounts of money which, when measured against their collective wealth, are pathetically small — certainly not worth rendering long-term damage to the sport.
Olney’s article is headlined “How shortsighted greed is tearing baseball apart,” and that’s absolutely correct. I couldn’t possibly say it any better than that. Olney sums up what I think every baseball fan is feeling and thinking right now, and I’m going to put it in big letters so that maybe, just maybe it might get through to those who run the game we love (and no, it’s not likely that any of them will ever read these words, but I can dream):
Stop it. Grow up. Love the game like we do. Take a bit of a short-term financial loss and play ball, already.
And to players, whose side I’m on but who haven’t handled this situation all that well either:
Stop it. Grow up. Learn to negotiate instead of posture. And for the sake of all that’s holy, stop Tony Clark from public speaking.
Over the last years and decades, baseball has watched as other sports, primarily football and basketball, have taken over as more popular in the American public’s imagination. The NFL has created a perfect made-for-TV show. The NBA has popular superstars and has mastered modern social media.
MLB? Viewed as a sport for old white guys. That’s obviously not entirely true, but it’s a perception that’s definitely not good for baseball’s future.
Baseball had the perfect opportunity to grab something positive out of a situation that wasn’t its fault and bring it to the forefront of American culture and remind everyone what a beautiful game it is.
MLB entered into an agreement that provides the players prorated salaries and allows MLB to set the season’s length. MLB has admitted that it knows that those are the terms. The players are, quite reasonably, holding on to that which they obtained in negotiations and have offered MLB more in the form of expanded playoffs. It has asked MLB for financial documents to prove its claim that prorated salaries are simply unworkable, but MLB has not opened its books to make its case.
Rather than accept or acknowledge that — rather than admit that it made a not-so-great deal for itself back in March — Major League Baseball has chosen to gaslight the public as to what the March Agreement actually says and to cynically and erroneously lambaste the MLBPA as a bad faith actor in last night’s press release.
I hope I’m wrong. We might hear later today about a plan to bring baseball games back, and maybe sooner than we think. I hope I’m pleasantly surprised by that, but I suspect I won’t be. Baseball has lowered the bar for my expectations. I’d love to see that change. I miss the game terribly. We could all use some sounds of the crack of the bat and baseballs slapping into gloves and mitts. I’m not holding out hope for a positive development, though.
Mostly, I’m just sad.
Baseball, you’ve got a chance to fix that. Here’s hoping. Play ball.