To MLB: The Clock. Is. Ticking.
Today, there is far too much going on to be thinking completely about baseball. That being said, the return of Major League Baseball could provide a nice distraction. At this moment, the main parties involved in the labor negotiations are nowhere near ready to make a deal.
This week, the NHL and the NBA announced arrangements to restart their seasons. Meanwhile, MLB seems to be stuck in a feud of pride and vanity. With millions of unemployed Americans because of COVID-19 and protestors fighting to make a difference, Major League Baseball is stuck in a metaphorical war room of attrition.
According to the Associated Press, MLB says they would lose $640,000 per game playing in empty stadiums – a number questioned by MLB Player’s Association representatives. This one point of discussion is an example of the main reason why the owners and player’s talks have stalled.
The players have already taken salary cuts and do not want to risk losing more of their salaries and causing a potential ripple effect for future deliberations. Meanwhile, the owners do not want to take more losses after already losing games because of COVID-19. Keep in mind, MLB has seen 17 consecutive years of revenue growth, via Forbes.
Yes, losing money during this year, and maybe the start of next year, because of the lack of fans is probably. That being said, MLB would still make money from sponsorships and media rights if games are played. Yes, there would be losses if they lose the playoffs because of the coronavirus, according to Craig Edwards of FanGraphs, but still making an effort to play some games would alleviate some of the losses that would make.
At this point, playing around 80 games would be a luxury and a long shot. The players proposed an 82-game season with salaries pro-rata, while the owners proposed a 48-game season, via Jeff Passan of ESPN. An 82-game season would be preferred because that would mean more games and a closer resemblance to a regular-season grind.
That being said, with everything that has gone on this year, any baseball is better than no baseball. A 48-game season would not have the same grind as a typical 162-game season. And yes, the Washington Nationals, last year’s eventual World Champions, would have missed the playoffs by a wide margin.
A 48-game season would also show fans that baseball is willing to make an agreement and move forward with its season. It would show some semblance of unity between the owners and players after showing the disarray and disagreement between the two that has been displayed. It would allow the players to showcase their talents and remind fans why they spend 162 days and nights during year watching this sport for three-to-four hours a day to watch their favorite teams.
This would be a shorter season, yes, but it is still a baseball season and an attempt to play games and provide people jobs during a global crisis. Look at the goodwill created by the Korean Baseball League through the start of their season.
As long as MLB would be able to have some form of a playoffs, a 48-game season and the losses that come with it are better than the tremendous losses that would come from not playing baseball at all. Given everything that has happened this year, any form of a baseball season played this year would have an asterisk because of COVID-19 and the owners and players were fighting over financial reasons.
However, the clock is ticking. As Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic articulated, there is a slim chance that we will get baseball back by the Fourth of July. The owners and players need to stop fighting and make a deal. Given that the average franchise is valued at $1.85 billion, via Forbes, MLB should be able to make a deal with the Players Association that would be fair to both sides.
Bottom line, MLB needs to stop thinking about the bottom line and focus on getting players onto the field. Playing baseball this season without fans will be jarring but playing broadcasted games will help alleviate some of the losses. A shortened season of baseball is still a season that fans can enjoy in some capacity. They just need to know when MLB will be willing to realize this fact.