I think the short answer is yes. But, we’ve yet to see what that looks like, and how Major League Baseball plans to roll out America’s favorite past time this year.
There’s an awful lot to dissect here, and both the owners/league and players union have muddied the waters enough to find difficulty in pointing blame. I get both sides of the argument at this point, but let’s break it down a little bit further.
The players want to play. They’re competitive individuals, and they have scores to settle along with pennants to chase. And at the end of the day, they have lives to fund. The current hangup appears to be in language originally accepted by both sides in March. That agreement stated players would get prorated salaries based on the number of games played as well as full service time. The players want to play for what they’re worth, and nothing less than that. Fair enough.
The league is stating in the same contract language that owners have the right to revisit the salary issue is certain issues exist, including no fans in attendance at ballparks. Those conditions do indeed exist, and so owners wanted to renegotiate those salary issues. The players don’t like that, and they want to hold the league accountable to what they feel was already agreed in March. This is where reputation, and appeasing the fans comes into the mix. More on this later.
It’s easy math to see that merchandise sales will be down, ticket revenue is essentially gone, and so is concession revenue. Yes, there will be major losses this and probably next year. Owners are going to want to preserve money in order to remain competitive going forward – all those folks out there running Matt Klentak into the ground for not extending J.T. Realmuto, where do you think that money comes from?
Someone has to take the brunt of the financial loss, and the general public and players seem to believe the owners have bottomless pits of cash and insurance with which to protect themselves and their businesses. I don’t think that’s the case. I believe a major opportunity was missed here for a large group of people to stand up and do what’s right, and they failed to do so.
What both sides appear not to understand is that this is a fluid situation, one that can and will still rapidly change in one direction or another. The game could suddenly be ordered to shut down again for another three months, which would kill a 2020 season completely. What lies ahead for all of us, nobody knows.
So that’s kind of the gist of what failures in the negotiating process to this point have brought, and some of the options that are and are not being considered. It really isn’t too difficult to understand how the two sides would struggle to come to a final, formal agreement.
Another big public relations problem that MLB has is that both the NBA and NHL have very solid plans to return to play soon. NASCAR and the PGA have returned. UFC (and even “pro” wrestling) continues to have fights without fans. The NFL is claiming they’re not doing anything different, they’ll be ready to go when the season starts.
So, how do full contact sports have league operations figured out during a global pandemic, when baseball, essentially THE socially distant sport, can’t?
A lot of fans still talk about past lockouts and strikes. I was too young to know what was going on back in 1994. I just knew there was no baseball, and the players demanded more money. Many longtime fans stopped following their teams due to perceived player greed. Blame was cast on both sides. Those camps are still alive and well, and are some are now taking the owners and the MLB side, saying once again there is too much player control and that players are being greedy.
I get it. It’s tough as a fan to sit back and watch other sports lay out their plans while the one we love is left hanging in limbo. Especially when so many people are already out of work, and here are millionaires and billionaires stating they won’t make enough money in the current proposal and environment. Pretty easy to want to look them in the face and just say, “Shut up and play!”
Despite all of the moving pieces involved, the smoke screens, and the media up/down play of it all, I think what the world needs more than anything is something to rally behind. Baseball could’ve, should’ve been the answer to that.
Recent days may be moving us closer. The players began a public relations social media campaign, with many posting the message “When and where”, meaning that MLB should just tell them when and where to show up and play. Owners have since decided to abide by the March agreement on salaries. Now the last hurdle appears to be the number of games played, likely between 60-75.
I’m disappointed it’s been blown so far out of proportion, and there isn’t any kind of closure yet. Hopefully an agreement on a 2020 season comes sooner rather than later. Whatever capacity we do see baseball return to will be wildly different than what we’re used to seeing. I think MLB still makes it through if the season is cancelled, but it really puts a damper on things for a while.