Over the last week, baseball fans have been whipsawed between Commissioner Rob Manfred’s “100 percent” chance baseball would be played this year to his statement that he was “not confident” that would happen. The latter statement was made just Monday.
Here’s something Manfred forgets, I think, per Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic:
Baseball is a business, we all know that. But it is a business that former commissioner Bud Selig describes as a social institution with social responsibilities, a business that holds an antitrust exemption, distinguishing it from every other professional sports league. Such a business should hold itself to a higher standard, but in these talks, if you can even call them that, Manfred and the owners keep sinking lower. Unless making dead-on-arrival proposals, tone-deaf public remarks and other assorted blunders is your idea of negotiating savvy.
There’s your bottom line, right there. Manfred and the owners have made this “100 percent,” for lack of a better term, about money. It’s about more than money, as Rosenthal wrote.
The players are ready to play:
Tell us when and where! We are ready!— Anthony Rizzo (@ARizzo44) June 16, 2020
Rob Manfred and the owners are walking back on their word...AGAIN. The fans do not deserve this. So I’ll say it one more time, tell us when and where.— Max Scherzer (@Max_Scherzer) June 16, 2020
I could post dozens more tweets from MLB players, but you get the idea. Players are unified. It’s been said that there are “six to eight” owners who don’t want to play at all this year, presumably for financial reasons. I don’t think those owners understand the damage they would do to the game’s future if they got their way.
It’s June 17. Time is not on MLB’s side. Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci issued this caution:
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases warned of the potential dangers of letting the Major League Baseball season go too far into the fall.
“If the question is time, I would try to keep it in the core summer months and end it not with the way we play the World Series, until the end of October when it’s cold,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Times. “I would avoid that.”
This is what owners had initially proposed and wanted to stick with, a regular season ending Sept. 27 and a postseason completed by the end of October. If it had to go a bit into November — well, why not play some postseason games at neutral sites? There are two stadiums in southern California that could serve this purpose.
I’ll repeat: Time is not on MLB’s side, as noted by ESPN’s Jeff Passan:
Don’t forget to make sure the schedule works. Teams need to bake in at least a week to gather players at facilities and three weeks of spring training on top of that, making the earliest possible start date, in the event of an unlikely quick agreement, mid-July. The likelier opening day is closer to July 20, which leaves 71 days through the end of September.
MLB could, according to sources, consider moving off a season-ending date at which it has held firm: Sept. 27. The league has cited a potential second wave of the coronavirus as the reason for the cutoff. Pushing the playoffs into October and potentially November, while not ideal, could prove a satisfactory solution. Build in off days, schedule doubleheaders. It’s not easy. It’s not ideal. But then nothing is.
We’re already about a week past the time when Spring Training 2.0 should have begun, and about two and a half weeks to the time when an 82-game season could have begun around July 3. Now, as Passan noted, mid-July is likely the earliest possible starting date. If some doubleheaders could be scheduled — maybe even seven-inning doubleheaders, if pitching staffs are to be protected — an 82-game schedule might still be possible. Or 70, or 72, or something in that range.
People in the USA are absolutely starved for sports. A golf tournament this past weekend garnered huge ratings:
CBS Sports scored a hole in one when it came to their coverage of the Charles Schwab Challenge. The network’s return to PGA Tour golf managed to deliver the tournament’s most-watched final round in 16 years.
Baseball games, which would be on TV every afternoon and evening, could do the same, get ratings the sport hasn’t seen in decades. Instead, Rob Manfred and the owners are spending their time shoving their collective feet into their mouths and wasting precious time.
Get it done. Now. Today. Tell the players when and where. Make a deal. Play ball.