Perspectives: The Lockout Continues (I’m Down) – UPDATE
The Lockout Continues (I’m Down)
by Paul Semendinger
March 2, 2022
The handwriting was on the wall. The moment the players were locked out and no negotiations took place for about a month, it should have been clear. And now it is.
Baseball, well, Major League Baseball at least, won’t be returning on time.
The Winter Meetings were cancelled.
Spring Training has been delayed.
Now it has been announced that the first two series of the season will be cancelled. The Yankees were going to open the 2022 season at home against the Red Sox. No longer. The Yankees were then going to play four more home games against the Blue Jays. Those games, too, are now cancelled.
When asked why he gave his all on every play, Joe DiMaggio once said, “There might be a little kid watching me for the first time or for the last time. I owe that kid my best.”
Major League Baseball just deprived thousands of little kids, would-be fans of the game for their lifetimes, the opportunity to see their favorite players that first time or last time.
There will be fewer games in 2022 for them to see. Kids won’t see Aaron Judge at his best, or his worst, or anything in-between. They won’t see Aaron Judge, or any baseball players at all. At the best, if this whole thing is settled today, or soon, there will be seven fewer Yankees games for the fans to see in 2022.
That’s not a good thing. It’s not a good thing for kids. It’s not a good thing for fans. And it’s not a good thing for the sport itself.
A sport cannot create interest and stories and wonder and excitement, a sport cannot win fans, if that sport doesn’t play its games.
A sport can equally not keep the interest or loyalty of the fans it has if the product is taken away from the people who love it.
And, I’m not sure if the caretakers of the sport even understand, or care about, the damage they are creating. That damage is vast.
People are moving on. I see fewer people talking about the game. I see fewer people reading about the game. Interest in baseball is plummeting. If they don’t play the games, it will only get worse. Fans who cared are walking away. They have enough stress in their lives. They don’t need to get more stress from a part of their life, a hobby, or an interest, that was supposed to bring them joy.
These have not been great times for millions of people with concerns over a pandemic, the economy, rising prices, a war in Europe, and so much more. On one hand, clear thinking people can argue that there are much bigger problems in the country and the world right now than whether or not a bunch of guys play baseball. And they are correct. That is true.
There are big concerns that we are all dealing with. Big concerns. But, it’s because of those concerns that we need baseball.
There was a time when baseball was the thing that helped bring people together. Major League Baseball was played during World War II for the good of the country. People need things, like baseball, to give them a respite, a break, a distraction, if only for a pitch, an at bat, an inning, or even for a few hours, from the daily travails and struggles and realities they are confronting daily.
Baseball used to bring peace and contentment. Baseball used to be the thing that brought some sense of normalcy. It used to be the thing that gave people who otherwise wouldn’t agree something to invest in together. We could all root for the home team and be brought together as fans in friendship and solidarity.
Who do we root for now?
Because Major League Baseball couldn’t get a deal done, and I think it is fair to wonder if getting a fair deal done was ever the primary objective, we, the fans, the people who actually care about the game, the ones who actually pay the bills that allows the sport to even function and survive, lose out.
This isn’t the way to build a sport. It’s a way to crush it.
Why root for a team or a sport that doesn’t play any games? Why even care?
And, by the day, former fans (and future fans) are not caring. Irreparable harm is being done to the sport. And these are self-inflicted wounds. Baseball is hurting itself. It might even be killing itself.
Of note, what Major League Baseball may not understand is that they have now already put the legitimacy of the 2022 season in question. The playing field is no longer going to be equal. And it is likely that this discrepancy will impact pennant races across the league.
A team is supposed to play 81 games at home and 81 games on the road. That will no longer be the case. It is supposed to be equal and fair across all teams. No team should have an advantage, but some do now. The Yankees will now have just 74 home games. Other teams in the American League East will have more. The Blue Jays will have 78 home games. The Red Sox were to begin their season with six road games. They will now still have their full slot of 81 home games, but they’ll only have to play 75 games on the road. The competitive balance is now a competitive imbalance. There will be inconsistencies like this all across baseball. And these inconsistencies will impact pennant races and division winners and the wild cards. That’s just a given now. People will never be able to see the 2022 season as one that was arranged fairly. It is no longer fair.
UPDATE – When I wrote this article, before 4:00 a.m. yesterday, I went to the MLB sites to see the various team schedules. MLB had already deleted the first two series of the season from all the team websites. As such, the games missed above are incorrect. The Yankees were going to open the season on the road.
The bigger point remains though, the schedules will now be unbalanced. Teams will all not have the same amount of home and away games.
Also, the fact that MLB took the games off the schedules so quickly, to me, at least, is troubling. It seems that MLB was only too eager to eliminate these games. The negotiations did not have a settlement and that quickly the games were gone. That does not feel good to me as someone who cares, deeply and passionately, about the sport.
The one thing that all sports need is legitimacy. Some of the legitimacy, the fact that the teams are all playing on a level playing field, is already lost for 2022.
That’s not the way to grow a fanbase or a sport.
This is how sports are ruined.
Fans cannot be created if the games aren’t played.
People can’t turn to a game for respite from their daily concerns if there is no game.
Kids can’t fall in love with a player or a team, or the sport itself, if there is no sport.
And those who care can’t truly believe in the end product if the entire entity, the 2022 season, if it is played, will played on an unequal playing field.
The people in charge of caring for the game, aren’t caring. They’re not building the sport up – the great American pastime. They’re taking it down, piece by piece.
This lockout has already hurt millions of people in untold ways that can never be known. When the Winter Meetings were cancelled, when Spring Training was delayed, and now with the cancellation of up to seven games in a season, millions of people who rely on baseball to support their families have already been hurt. These people include the hotel workers, car service people, shop owners, restaurant workers, the people who take care of the stadiums, and the ones who sell concessions, and so many more. That damage has already been done. It seems more is to come. People who relied on baseball being their for jobs and income have lost all of those things because the people who run the sport took those opportunities from them.
The players have a war chest to get them through this. Who is supporting the million impacted because the sport which was supposed to arrive stayed home?
The thing baseball should be very concerned about is whether or not those people, the ones directly hurt by this labor dispute, will ever come back to the game.
At the same time, millions of other people will realize that as the games are taken away that they don’t actually miss it. A new series will come on Netflix. Other sports will be having their playoffs. The weather will turn warm and people will go outside rather than sitting in front of their television sets watching others play. Once people move on, once they realize that they don’t need the game, or even care about the game, they can (and will) be lost forever.
This is where we are.
At a time in history when baseball could have once again been a beacon, a ray of hope, the one thing to bring some peace and togetherness, it is taken from all of us.
And that’s a shame.
None of this had to be this way.
They are taking the sport we love away from us.
I had such hopes that a deal could be made. It wasn’t.
I hope they settle soon.
Hopefully the people who run the game don’t continue to ruin it. Soon, and probably sooner than many realize, there won’t be a sport that is even worth saving