Baseball, I’ve been reminded, is quite amazing.
The competition. The characters. The crowd. The vibe. As much as I try to be impartial in my work, I really didn’t do all that great, especially considering what we have collectively endured over the last three months of COVID-19 of the judgment.
Now, I’m not going to go to the rose water and saccharin, and I certainly don’t want to speak for others, but I guess a lot of baseball fans feel the same way. There was a priceless opportunity here to service the public within a parent sports empty, in the middle of an unprecedented global health crisis, and to convert new fans, otherwise, reluctant to engage with the sport.
Instead, Major League Baseball, alienated its customer base and the wider market with a bad taste and largely useless to try to undermine the 26 March agreement committing to pro rata pay for the players who was supposed to serve as a road map through the pandemic.
Remember, the owners initially floated a 50-50 revenue share, which was essentially a hidden wage ceiling, only to offer the same salary percentage in different ways multiple times before, last week, breaking a self-created impasse by accepting the honor of what they had already agreed upon.
Even then, the commissioner Rob Manfred and union head Tony Clark have fought on if they had established a framework agreement for a return to the game or not, with each side drawing a line in the sand on a 10-game gap, refusing to find common ground on a 65-game season.
That led to Monday’s drama.
First of all, the MLBPA’s executive committee has voted 33-5 to drop the owners a 60-game plan. Then, MLB has responded by unanimously approving plans for a 60-game season, depends on the players agreeing to a July 1 reporting date and the finalization of the health and safety of the protocol by 5 p.m. AND Tuesday.
Hard to imagine a more discouraging “Play Ball” cry.
Given the circumstances, it is so far beyond ridiculous, it isn’t even a word for it.
And all that for what?
An expression that I’ve heard to describe the last two months, is the impolite version of “feces show”, and even with all the ducks apparently aligned now, one person has suggested the sides would always find a way to screw things up.
Another warned not to think of anything, until the pieces are locked in place.
“The fact that these people can not be in the same room as the other is brutal,” said a third. “They are selfish.”
Return to play without a problem could have been really changing the rules of the game for a sport already struggling with the dual challenge of an aging fan base and a sense of disconnection with the younger children.
However, the sides managed to create what is essentially an appetizer to the main course of labor disputes on the horizon with the current collective agreement expires in December 2021.
Cincinnati Reds ace Trevor Bauer, pretty much sums up in the following tweets from a thread after the word broke that the players ‘ association has voted down MLB’s offer and Manfred again postponed its threat to impose a season.
It is the absolute death of this industry to continue to act as it has been. The two sides. We are driving the bus directly from a cliff. How is that good for anyone involved? Covid 19 already presented a lose lose lose situation and we have somehow found a way to make it worse. Incredible.
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) On June 22, 2020
If it’s going to be a fight against time to fight is after the ‘21 season when a new CBA is negotiated. 5 years of potential for change. We are doing irreparable damage to our industry on the rules that last MORE than 16 months. WTF kind of sense does that make?
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) On June 22, 2020
A scary idea that should shake the industry database is that if this is the way the sides behave in the midst of a pandemic, when a unique opportunity existed to grow the sport, this type of conflict looms when the game’s economic structure is for the reset, he really needs it in a year and a half?
Too often overlooked in the recent dispute is how to mitigate the risks for everyone with COVID-19 broke out in several U.S. local, including Florida and Arizona, where all 30 teams have their training bases.
As Brett Anderson has tweeted:
What happens when we all get some?
— Brett Anderson (@_BAnderson30_) On the 23rd of June 2020
All training facilities have been closed over the weekend after an outbreak in the Philadelphia Phillies camp and symptomatic player to the Blue Jays’ facility, with clubs responsible for preparing for the season in their home cities instead.
Beyond health concerns, there are a myriad of logistical problems, also, for the Blue Jays, who at this point are not even sure where their players should report. The border remains closed, put the team’s hopes of playing in Toronto this summer as a danger, and the backup plan of Dunedin seems to be off the table, at least for the moment.
The share of Tropicana Field with the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the possibilities under consideration before the club really focused on Dunedin, has been put in place, although nothing is set.
Putting it all together, baseball is now facing a particularly difficult sprint to try this afflicted of the season, in the face of a merciless agent, and after a senseless bitter negotiation is left to a little bit of the pie.
What a shame that a game so easy to love himself so easy to hate.