The new year approaches rapidly, which means we’ll finally get some negotiating activity from the owners and the players on baseball’s lockout. Of course, that doesn’t mean the negotiations will begin as soon as the calendar flips this weekend. I’m so beaten down that I’d be tickled pink if there were ANY meetings next week.
Meanwhile, Gordon Wittenmyer surveys the Omicron-ravaged sports landscape of the last few weeks, considers what baseball has been through (has elected to put its fans through) the last couple years, and comes up with all the more reason for the owners and players to make sure they come to terms quickly on a new CBA. It’s not a connection I’d made previously, but it’s a heckuva good point from Wittenmyer. Among his thoughts:
(T)he powers that be on both sides of the negotiating table would be well served to consider that in the context of the real-life economic and fatigue factor for the world — at least the part of the world that still cares at all about paying to watch a sport that has become less entertaining to watch in recent years.
Because there isn’t a Cal Ripken history watch or a steroid-fueled summer of home runs to pull their Astros (or Cubs, Mariners, et al) out of the fire if owners and players screw this one up and bicker into February over fairly basic, fixable economic issues — or worse, delay spring training and the season fighting over a WINO (win in name only) ….
But there’s more at stake now than ever for a sport whose very pace of play and competition for America’s attention — especially among young people — has reached enough of a crisis stage that the likes of Theo Epstein and Ken Griffey Jr. have been enlisted by MLB in an effort to solve the problem.
Add a deadly pandemic entering its third year of economic, health and stress impact on people of every community, and it’s not hard to imagine fans’ patience finally running dry enough to cause lasting harm if MLB allows next month’s resumption of negotiations to fester into a public spectacle (see: 2020 negotiations over pay and season length during the COVID-shortened season).
He’s right. About so much of that – and much more in his article – he’s right. Given the exasperation of the current moment, not to mention the continuing health risks, nobody wants to have to stretch to feel good about sports. They don’t want to have to talk themselves into being happy and excited about something that used to bring them so much joy. We don’t have the energy right now. We don’t have the attention.
Not that I expect this kind of plea to land with the parties who matter. There is too much hostility and mistrust – and, admittedly, too much importance to the players – to come together to focus, primarily, on the fans. Fine. But is anyone in the room even thinking about this stuff? Even just from an economic perspective, you’d think you would want the revenue hose to stay strong, right?
Meanwhile, Chris Rose hosted three actively-involved players on his show – Lucas Giolito, Marcus Semien, and Zack Britton – for an extensive talk on everything that’s going on right now (or not).
There is a united front going on for now from the players, who feel they made the last set of offers, and the owners wouldn’t engage in serious talks before initiating the lockout after the CBA expired on December 1. “We’re not going to negotiate against ourselves” seems to be something of an anthem, and it makes sense. From all we know, the players’ latest offers were not so egregious that they didn’t merit a response from the owners, who reportedly wouldn’t even TALK unless certain core issues were taken off the table.
It feels like the owners are the ones who’ll have to step forward with the next offer, and I don’t love the odds of them doing so until they get really, really close to Spring Training. Not only will the sides need to feel that urgent time pressure, but also, the owners probably wouldn’t hate if the rest of free agency got so condensed that players could be pushed into signing under-market deals because they have so little time.
It would be nice if some adults stepped up as stewards of the game, and made a real effort to get talks going in early January. We’ll see. Recent history gives us no real reason to be optimistic on that particular front.