By Andy Singer
I had told myself that I wasn’t going to let a negotiation tactic upset me. I think I even convince myself to believe that idea. I’ve known since at least last April that labor strife was likely to dominate the 2021-2022 offseason. That doesn’t make me any happier about it, though. All of us likely have a variety of hobbies and interests that help us feel fulfilled beyond work, school, families, etc. I almost certainly have too many hobbies, but baseball has always been near the top of my hobby priority list. I fell in love with the game from a very young age, and if you were to give me truth serum, a very real part of me wishes that baseball could be more than something that occupies my free time. I am far from alone on any of these points; in fact, I’d bet that most of you reading this blog are in the same boat…it’s part of what makes SSTN such a great community. Sure, there’s tons of baseball besides Major League Baseball (and I love almost all of it), but the Major League game and the Yankees have always been the object of my (and many others’) eye.
And now that game has been taken away by a greedy group of billionaires who want to cry poverty after one season of partially lost revenues, when we know full well that owners have been making money hand-over-fist for well over a decade. There is little question but that the revenue split between players and owners has tilted in favor of the owners over the last decade, and I do not blame the players for trying to recoup as much as they possibly can. Players have a finite period of time in which they can use their most marketable skill to make money, market forces dictate that people are willing to pay to see them play, and despite the fact that players get paid exorbitant sums to play a game, I think players are within their right to bargain for as much as they can get. We can blame the players for the fact that they were weakly represented over the last few CBA negotiations, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a right to fight for beneficial economic changes to the game now.
MLB and the owners are interested in one thing: making money. That’s fine, and I understand that they are running a business. However, MLB has more at stake than just making money. MLB must be interested in two adversarial and often divergent ideas: MLB must enrich its owners, but it is also supposed to be stewards of the game of baseball through the commissioner’s office. On that front, MLB has failed miserably for years. MLB has been run as a successful business despite the fact that MLB and its commissioner, Rob Manfred, have sullied the integrity of the game on any number of high profile occasions. A couple of examples:
MLB, with the help of outside investment groups, purchased Rawlings, the company who makes the official MLB baseball. Since MLB’s takeover, it has become apparent that corporate meddling in the product that makes it out to games is both variable and detrimental to the consistency of the product on the field. Playing with the ball changes statistics, a sacred institution in baseball history. Statistics both positive and negative impact players’ ultimate livelihood. Playing with the ball has intermittently caused wild swings in power and strikeout numbers since the 2018 season. Even in 2021, after years of coverage, MLB likely instructed Rawlings to produce two different balls for use during the 2021 season.
MLB has turned a blind eye to cheating of numerous forms. Take your pick: performance enhancing drugs, performance enhancing substances on the balls, illegal forms of sign stealing.
More subtly, MLB does more to tell fans what’s wrong with the game than it does to promote the talented players playing the game. We’ve heard more about pace of play, eliminating the shift, and electronic strike zones than we have about witnessing the best start to a career since Willie Mays (Mike Trout) or the crop of young, athletic, powerful, and charismatic shortstops that may be on their way to being more valuable than any crop of shortstops in recent memory.
MLB has a credibility issue, so I’m not really interested in listening to them cry poverty over the plight of small market teams in a labor dispute, particularly when the owner of the team (looking at you, Hal Steinbrenner) with more revenue than any other across baseball votes in favor of LOWERING the luxury tax threshold.
All of this is to say that I think that baseball is perilously close to losing a wide cross-section of fans if they let the lockout drag out too far. Whether I agree with this notion or not, many people will quickly lose interest in an argument between billionaires and millionaires. Even though baseball has run a successful business for the last decade and change, they have caused enough ill will through their actions in recent years, I think that many fans, even the diehards, are close to fed up. I know that there are no games being played right now, so a labor dispute can be palatable for now, but for those that follow the sport 12 months per year, it is really a depressing dispute in context of everything that’s happened around baseball during the last decade.
In this week’s Tuesday Discussion, Paul asked us to write about what we’ll replace baseball with during the lockout. I didn’t respond because I just couldn’t come up with a response that fit. The truth is, nothing fills the baseball role in my life. I’ll still be here, writing for SSTN and coming up with new topics about which we can discuss and enjoy as a community. I’ve got a couple of things coming between this week and next weekend that should be of interest to Yankee fans, so baseball won’t be going anywhere here at SSTN, which gives me some hope.
I know that there’s not a ton of news going on right now, but remember to send in your questions to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. Anything and everything baseball related is fair game – trades, baseball history, questions around the league, prospects, free agents, comparisons, etc. For now, I’ll look forward to seeing some questions come through the SSTN Mailbag.