How could they?
How could baseball owners and baseball players fail to agree on how to split a giant bag of cash at an hour when there is global strife and pandemic fatigue?
How could they be this tone-deaf?
How could they not realize we have no appetite for their petty squabble? How can they not be aware that they are teetering on the brink of irrelevance, offending a dwindling population of older fans while further distancing younger generations who are more than ready to live without big league baseball?
How could they not notice that the NFL just had its best-ever playoffs, and that the NBA has captured America’s young sports fans (Ja Morant is at the Garden Thursday night), shoving baseball to the dusty back shelf where once-great boxing and horse racing are hidden?
The cancellation of baseball’s opening week got about 10 seconds on Norah O’Donnell’s CBS nightly newscast Tuesday. Over on ESPN, baseball’s bad news was mentioned only for a moment while hosts talked endlessly about Tom Brady’s maybe comeback and the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. There was no baseball labor story on the Wednesday front pages of the New York Times or USA Today.
This baseball revolution will not be televised. It will not be talked about. Folks won’t lose sleep. They will simply move on.
In March of 2022, America’s message to the owners and players is: Take your ball and go home. Take an entry-level course in Self-Awareness 101. Take a look in the mirror and realize that you are not “kind of a big deal” anymore.
You have driven your loyalists away with your abysmal pace of play and lack of action (only walks, strikeouts, and homers allowed). And now, for the second time in three years (MLB and the players couldn’t come to terms in the first days of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, which resulted in a hideous 60-game season), you have put your pettiness and greed on display when there are so many more critical events unfolding.
The billionaire lords of the sport and the young millionaire ballplayers did not choose the timing of their expired basic agreement. Baseball owners and players could not have predicted that their labor negotiations would coincide with a global plague that has killed millions and changed lives for everyone … plus a European war that puts images of death, destruction, terror, and uncommon bravery in front of our eyes every hour.
The timing of baseball’s labor lockout could not be worse.
Oblivious to everyone and everything, MLB this week went about its big-money business the way it always does. Baseball players — who believe they are business partners (when they are not) and always think the owners are trying to screw them — turned down an offer that would have increased the minimum big league salary to $700,000. Owners — who never tell the truth about how much money they are making and believe the players should be grateful instead of angry — were never interested in negotiating anything beyond a lopsided win and erased April games they were always willing to live without.
The players probably are early winners of the PR battle, but it’s always a tough sell when you reject a first-year minimum of $700,000. Also, players do themselves no favors when they do not address pace-of-play issues.
But the young athletes still look good when compared with clueless commissioner Rob Manfred, who is making Bud Selig look like Winston Churchill. With a straight face, Manfred Tuesday said the last five years have been financially tough on owners (every franchise is worth north of a billion). He also was photographed practicing his golf swing during the talks and wrapped up his press conference with awkward laughter.
There is simply no perspective. No embarrassment. No public recognition of how petty and stupid this sounds to the everyday people who have supported this great game for more than a century.
Baseball fans these days are worried about the cost of gasoline, child care, and prescription medicine. They are worried about nuclear war. They’re ever-ready to come back to the ballpark and live life the way we lived it before 2020, but now they are bludgeoned in a PR battle over the competitive balance tax and pre-arbitration bonuses.
Think this is going to get better? Think again. Bruce Meyer, lead negotiator for the players union, has already said that players expect full pay and service time for games that are going to be missed.
Good luck with that one.
Call us when you’ve figured it out.
We might come back.
Or maybe not.