Chronicle: Don’t come back until the baseball gets better
The talks are over, at least for now. Opening day has also passed, and now we are forced to wait to see if we get any baseball.
If there was any good news coming out of baseball’s Florida union negotiations, it was this: At least now we know who to blame.
Here’s a hint: it’s not someone who wears a uniform.
No, baseball players are not harmless in any of this, far from it. They always want more when they have always had the best offers in all professional sports.
But this one is mostly about the 30 miserable, conniving owners who have always cared more about getting every dollar out of the game than they ever cared about the game itself.
Once again they have robbed baseball fans. This time they were successful on opening day and at least six regular season games.
Unfortunately, this may just be the start. Temperatures could easily reach 100 degrees in Arizona by the time spring training begins, if that ever happens.
For what purpose, difficult to know. Yes, the Players Union can be demanding and tends to ask for a lot more than the owners are willing to give.
But the issues weren’t so complex that they couldn’t be resolved with more time at the table. And the truth is, there was nothing on that table that would rock the playing field so badly that franchises across the country would start bleeding money.
It’s almost as if the owners don’t want the season to start on time — and maybe they really don’t. Outside of opening day, early-season games typically don’t bring owners money, despite commissioner Rob Manfred’s assertion that missing games would be a tragedy for baseball.
For weeks, the owners refused to negotiate. When they finally did, it was with game and salary warnings and, finally, an ultimatum that opening day would be canceled unless the players accepted a last, best offer.
Afterwards, they cried poor, as if someone believed them.
“The last five years have been very difficult years from a revenue perspective for the industry given the pandemic,” Manfred said.
They’ve also been tough on baseball fans, though that’s another story. Fans running away from the game isn’t entirely economical, but they’re certainly sick of paying $75 for a mediocre seat, $25 for parking, and $18 plus tip every time the beer guy gets off the driveway.
Nor should anyone feel sorry for baseball players, who earn an average of $4 million a year for playing a snap. Indeed, the union’s argument that they are negotiating for a system where all teams are competitive is just a smokescreen for higher wage bills at clubs in the smaller market.
But salaries that once seemed to have no ceiling in the past have fallen slightly in recent years – a trend the players want to reverse. This is largely because front offices now use analysis to determine value and teams know that, with the exception of a few superstars, players are virtually tradable.
No reason to pay a veteran reliever $15 million a year when teams can bring in young fireballs at a fraction of the price to replace them on the fly.
“The game has been damaged for a while now. … The game has been manipulated,” union leader Tony Clark said. “The inherent value and the way players are respected and perceived has changed. Players have been commoditized, monetized in a way that’s really hard to explain.
What neither side seems to realize is that the fans don’t really care. Not on revenue sharing, not on how many players can go to arbitration and not on whether each club has a personal chef in the clubhouse.
They just want to go to the ballpark, drink their $18 beer and watch some baseball.
Unfortunately, there is nothing in the negotiations that will make this baseball better. As players and owners argue over the economy, the game is slowly dying as it simply becomes unreachable.
So here is a thought. Return to the negotiating table and figure out what to do with years of arbitration and luxury taxes. Go ahead and expand the playoffs, put ads on uniforms, and embrace DH in the National League because it’s already done business anyway.
So stay at the table. Determine what to do about the change. Limit the number of pitchers in any game. Find a way to speed up the game and reintroduce the strategies – bunt, hit-and-run, and sacrifice – that once made it so interesting.
Do something for the fans for once instead of chasing the last dollar they have in their pockets.
Or, failing that, don’t play at all.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at [email protected] or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
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