The 2020 MLB season has been hijacked not so much by the coronavirus as the conspiracy put together by team owners to offer fans a diluted product. No Way!
The 2020 MLB season never stood a chance to get off the ground in a non-diluted form.
From the moment the players’ union (MLBPA) inadvertently signed off on the agreement reached on March 26, in effect ceding full power to the league to determine the number of games played during the regular season, “negotiations” had no real meaning.
Actually, inadvertently is a kind choice of words. Tony Clark, President of MLBPA, was never the measure of Rob Manfred.
As the owners hardened and calculated media assault to keep their best foot out front, they played hardball, Clark played softball.
It is said the two sides have reached an impasse and there is no need for further talks.
When, in fact, “talks” never took place. Instead, a series of letters were exchanged while the 2020 MLB season hung in the balance, like notes passed in a high-school classroom.
2020 MLB Season: Team Owners Con Game Played Brilliantly
For many of us, the strategy employed by MLB owners has always been clear. In the face of knowing the 2020 MLB season would be a venture into losing money, they developed an algorithm to determine the fewest number of games that could be played before their losses entered the stratosphere.
The number of games proposed by the owners varies from 50 to 55 or 60, but the optimum number appears always to be 50.
However, the problem the owners faced in the fake negotiations was having to fend off the players’ counter-proposals offering a schedule ranging from 79 to 114 games, with a regular-season stretching into October, a threat to the owner’s postseason windfall if the coronavirus interrupted the playoffs.
Baseball For The Sake Of Baseball Is Not Baseball
If there is baseball at all, and that has once again become questionable since Manfred’s one-eighty on his guarantee there would be a 2020 MLB season, the owners will get their way with a (probable) 50-game schedule beginning on July 14.
For baseball, that is a huge mistake, which will be realized with a watered-down regular-season fraught with illusions and skewed results. A previously published column delineated the real possibility of effects that would threaten the integrity of the game.
With owners’ attention focused solely on their bottom line, and players standing in front waiting for the call to report for duty to play the game they’ve loved since childhood, the 2020 MLB season now hangs on yet another hurdle – purposively held in abeyance by MLB.
As reported by the L.A. Times, the league now insists that players agree to sign a wavier releasing all legal rights for a grievance in the event a player is afflicted or affected by the coronavirus – before – they are permitted to play in a 2020 MLB game.
This would seem to be a non-starter with the MLBPA, assuming the risks players (not the owners safely ensconced in their beach homes) will be exposing themselves to, as well as their families and everyone associated with the game of baseball.
2020 MLB: It’s Raining, It’s Pouring – Call The Game
The 2020 MLB season comes down (a word used purposively) to this. Do we want baseball for the sake of baseball with a watered-down season – the equivalent of one-third of a typical season?
Like many of you, I’ve tossed this question over and over. But in the end, for me, it shakes out to this: I want the real thing or nothing at all.
What remains of the 2020 MLB season when there is no All-Star Game, no Field Of Dreams game in Davenport Iowa, no Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, and no pre-scheduled games in Mexico, London, and Puerto Rico?
Already, the Dallas Cowboys are under the gun as Pro-Bowl running back, Ezekiel Elliott, some teammates, and members of Houston’s NFL squad have tested positive during the preliminary stages of the NFL season.
When do we draw a line to say – you know what? – this isn’t worth the medical risks for players, and the cultural risks on the game of baseball for assuming any number of acrobatic twists to make the 2020 MLB season “work.”
2020 MLB: It’s Like Trying To Put A Square Peg In A Round Hole
In 1994, a work stoppage resulted in the cancellation of that season’s World Series. The world did not end, and today baseball continues to grow to new heights among fans and ever-increasing revenues ($10.2 billion in 2019).
There is work to be done, especially with regards to capturing a younger audience that seemingly remains resistant as a “boring” (and may I say one of the few non-violent) sports to watch.
Cancel the 2020 MLB season now – so both parties in the dispute can avoid any further embarrassment to the sport they presumably love and represent.
I’ll wait for the real thing in 2021, God willing.
This self-authored column is the one-thousandth published under the auspices of my blog Reflections On Baseball.
A hobby runs wild, some might say – but this an opportunity to thank readers like yourself for joining me in a journey with a singular goal.
Look for the third rail, be bold, argumentative, instructive, but above all, be sure to relay the passion you have for baseball – as a fan for more than a half-century.
Hopefully, I’ve reached that bar. (email: steve firstname.lastname@example.org).