As I sit here and watch other sports – particularly the NBA – amicably come to agreements on plans to restart their seasons, I’m saddened and frustrated about MLB’s inability to find common ground with their players. Mind you, the NBA didn’t figure out their details after a long and public battle … they did their work behind the scenes, out of the public’s eye, compromised with the union, proposed a solution, and got buy-in from 29 of their 30 teams.
That’s how it’s supposed to go. But for MLB, we’re not even close.
And that this very ugly and public battle comes so near the next round of CBA negotiations only makes things even more tense. For the first time since 1994, there’s a very real chance that we can go a summer without baseball (2020) … and that might be followed up another stoppage in a couple years. Sigh.
In any case, with the 1994-1995 strike on the mind – and far enough in the past – previously unshared stories are starting to come to light. One of the most interesting is a proposal that would’ve effectively created a real life fantasy baseball league, with striking stars from different teams playing together across the country:
The owners hired replacements. The striking players needed a forceful response. So, 25 years ago, they revived an old idea, one that would bring fantasy baseball to real life.
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) June 4, 2020
The intro does a good job of hooking you in:
The players, weary from striking but eager to upstage their replacements, would arrive in the middle of the week. There would be workouts, youth clinics, autograph sessions, home run derbies, all for free. Then on Friday night the main event would begin, a weekend slate of games featuring teams stocked from a pool of perennial All-Stars and a dozen future Hall of Famers. In one city one weekend, Barry Bonds, Kirby Puckett and Paul O’Neill might share the same outfield, while squaring off against Roger Clemens. In another town on another weekend, it might be Pedro Martinez’s turn to stare down a lineup anchored by Frank Thomas, Larry Walker and Cal Ripken Jr.
It was fantasy baseball brought to life.
How. Freakin’. Cool.
This idea was very close to happening – Reebok was a sponsor, CBS was a broadcast partner, stadiums across the country were prepared – but it never happened: “Just days before the replacements were to start the regular season, and the players were to begin training for their renegade tour, future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor effectively ended the work stoppage with an injunction issued by the U.S. District Court.”
Hopefully, we/the players never have to consider an alternative like this again. But if the league doesn’t find a way to start this season, a little barnstorming with hybrid teams could be a lot of fun. But again … no, thanks. Let’s just do MLB, mmk?