Baseball is wearing me out through its apparent indifference to fans, but I likely won’t feel a lot better about it when they finally start playing.
The MLB Players Association made a counter offer yesterday to the owners counter offer, and so it will go until finally commissioner Rob Manfred orders players back for a 48 game season.
The stumbling block in these inane negotiations is that players want to be paid a prorated portion of the cash their contracts call for over a 162-game season, regardless of how many games are played. The owners want to pay players 50% of the revenue they expect to generate through media deals because fans will not be allowed in stadiums. The more games that are played, the more money owners claim they will lose. The fewer games played, the less cash players will get.
Millionaires arguing with billionaires. Fun.
The issue that gnaws at fans is the lack of urgency expressed by each side’s intractability. Each step taken by the players and owners has been entirely predictable. The offers are disingenuous, and responses have been formulaic.
The question most germane to my interest in baseball is whether the players play because they love to compete at the game or because they love earning millions of dollars. Is it cash or yearning to win. I have no interest in watching grown men play a kid’s game because it is insanely lucrative. If baseball players love the game and happen to get paid sick amounts of cash for the privilege, I’m good with that.
This round of negotiations has painted players as a group who don’t give a damn about the game or fans, and owners whose only interest is money.
Silly haggling wouldn’t be so galling if other leagues appeared to be anywhere near as greedy and myopic as Major League Baseball. Major League Soccer announced this morning it will return to play on July 8 with an all-skate tournament in Orlando. The NBA will be back with the continuation of its regular season on July 31. The NFL is unlikely to miss a beat because of the serendipitous timing of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Baseball could have embraced a July where it rose above greed and contentiousness to dominate news cycles for a month in the way it used to for an entire summer, but it chooses to bicker instead of ball.
America’s Pastime stopped being America’s Pastime a long time ago as avarice, doping, and the slowing of the pace of play caused fans to view the game as a quaint distraction rather than must see TV. As commissioners Adam Silver and Roger Goodell work to expand the popularity of their respective leagues, Rob Manfred seems content to preside over baseball’s slow death.
Everyone paying attention knows the right answer. Get back on the field as soon as possible. If owners and players take a bit of a financial haircut in order to grow baseball’s popularity in this unprecedented spring and summer, the game and its revenue with grow for future years. That is called not wasting a crisis. Baseball, though, seems intent on not only wasting a crisis but using it to harm itself.
These moments require leadership, and as usual, the MLB’s commissioner’s desk is being manned by a leader lacking ability to solve real problems and lead his game to another generation of great fan engagement.
Baseball has become a slower game over the years, and now MLB has established itself as slowest-witted of the major leagues.
Manfred has surely become used to appearing doltish compared to Silver and Goodell, but who would have thought MLS commissioner Don Garber would outshine him by such a magnitude during this crisis?