Rob Manfred, man.
Major League Baseball’s resident caudillo has spent the better part of the month of May creating more spin than a Harlem Globetrotter with four basketballs. More spin than a Sonny Gray curveball, even - not that we’re at all close to getting to witness one of those again anytime soon.
Effectively, this is where baseball stands:
- The coronavirus is going to result in, at best, a very shortened season.
- The coronavirus is going to result in, at best, a very shortened season that features no fans buying tickets and attending games.
- No fans buying tickets paired with fewer games means a significant decrease in overall revenue.
- I had a corned beef sandwich for lunch. It was delicious.
- A significant decrease in overall revenue means someone, somewhere is going to lose a lot of expected money this year.
- MLB owners want those losses to be shouldered by the players.
- MLB players want those losses to be shouldered by the owners.
- Baseball won’t happen until MLB owners and players find a middle ground.
- It’s already May 19th.
MLB owners have very publicly made clear that, per their data, they stand to lose more money should they play games with the pre-agreed upon pro-rated salary structure than if they simply cancel things altogether, which is troublesome. MLB players, meanwhile, have very publicly made clear that they signed an agreement to take pro-rated salaries after the season had already been suspended back in March, and that there is no justification for a subsequent round of back and forth, particularly given that MLB owners’ proposed revenue-sharing model will further shaft the players out of their cut, even though it’s the players - not the owners - who are taking the actual risk of co-mingling amid a pandemic.
In reality, what we’re seeing play out between the two sides is a precursor of what we would have seen this time a year from now in an otherwise normal, mundane world. With the current Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire in 2021, the MLBPA and owners were already set to duke it out over the future of finances in the game, and similar lines in the sand are being drawn this year in the 2020-centric slate of negotiations.
Pandemic aside, the next decade-plus of baseball is being bargained right now, and it’s getting ugly quite quickly. And what isn’t happening quite quickly is an urgency to get Major League Baseball games being played again on the field because of it.
It’s a sobering, if not unsurprising development, one that makes clear just how money-driven this multi-billion dollar industry truly is. As profits soared in recent years and overal percent of revenue spent on player salary became a smaller and smaller piece of the pie, this argument was inevitable at some juncture - and the backdrop of trying to figure out how to safely play during a global pandemic is only serving to highlight the underlying friction that already was running hot.
Even if it was a publicity stunt and wholly fabricated for posture, I’d love to see an owner call a Zoom presser and say “Hey, we built a tremendous team for 2020, and I’d love to do anything I can to get them playing as quickly as possible. I want a damn pennant, an World Series trophy, and a flag flying over right field forever. Let’s play some baseball, dammit.”
That hasn’t happened. It won’t, either. Major League Baseball franchises have become business-first, business-second, and in many cases business-only, which means the bottom lines dictate posturing and presentation. That’s not just where we are, but it’s where they’d like to take it through the life of the next CBA, and any statement or movement that dents that end-goal is a no-no on their side of things. So, either the players yield now and dent their next decade (or more) of security and advancement, or we sit idly as baseball gathers dust, too.
I wish I had better news. I wish I had lighter tone for the shit news that befronts us. In lieu of that, I’ll simply leave you with this:
Over the final 81 games of the 2016 season - a full half-slate of games, if you’ll recall how baseball used to work - Joseph Daniel Votto hit .400/.489/.655 in 352 PA.
That’s hitting three-hundred, and then hitting a whole hundred more.
Joe Dan Votto, y’all. I’d vote him as the next Commish.
She got down but she never got tired
She’s gonna make it through the night