Thoughts on a Lost Baseball Season (to this Point)
In a lost summer, COVID-19 concerns and hubris might cause 2020 to be the year of the lost baseball season, as well. Playing baseball in Florida or Arizona right now does not seem plausible, given that coronavirus cases are rising in both states. Still, Major League Baseball has not been a source of comfort during over the past few months.
Earlier this month, I said that I did not believe that we would have a baseball season. Today, I am still flip-flopping on this issue like a fish pulled onto dry land. My thoughts on the manner change as the owners and players change their minds on the same issues. This inconsistency has led me to the conclusion that baseball may not come for a while. And that’s a shame.
Our own Andy Singer just wrote a fantastic piece about what he misses most right now without baseball. We share a lot of the same sentiments on the subject (including the longing for a new rally meme. Maybe the Yankees should bring back the mustaches?).
Still, a lost baseball season is a lot to fathom for the sport. Even with revenues on the rise, what would no baseball mean for the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations in 2021? Will MLB continue to downsize minor league baseball? Will the draft return to a respectable number (I understand 40 rounds being a lot, but going from that to just five rounds is ridiculous)?
Most importantly, how will MLB recover from the public relations disaster that has occurred as a result of the current negotiations?
I do not have concrete answers to any of these questions. I will say this: Sports are a powerful beast. MLB can win over a lot of fans if they can find a way to safely get players on the field at some point this year. Where they will play is another question; given Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent announcement, I would consider looking into playing in the northeast over the summer.
In terms of the CBA…that was always going to be a mess. The current negotiations have just added more fuel to the growing fire that is the relationship between the owners and the Player’s Association. Okay, these harsh deliberations have most likely eliminated any chance of MLB avoiding a strike in 2021.
There’s no way nice to articulate that last paragraph. MLB has serious, serious labor issues, stemming from several factors. The largest issue has to be franchises using analytics to devalue veteran players. This has incentivized owners to offer worse contracts to either average or aging players. This is not the only cause of the growing resentment between owners and players, but it is a massive reason why the two sides are at odds.
Feeding into this is MLB’s urge to cut Minor League Baseball teams. Teams cut more minor leaguers than usual at the end of May. This comes after baseball shrunk the draft from 40 rounds to just five, meaning fewer young players would have the opportunity to play in the show. Major League Baseball is reportedly making attempts to cut down MiLB. These steps show a gradual removal of Minor League teams.
The owners and the players association need to repair their relationship. Somehow. Maybe this comes from the owners giving players better contracts and giving them more shares of revenue. Maybe MLB completely restructures their system and imposes a league-wide salary cap. Maybe some heads will roll in the MLB executive branch.
Whatever happens, MLB is going to change in some capacity. How? Well, that is up to the people involved with the game.
I hope that you all are safe, happy, and healthy right now.