Two entities with wholly different priorities, pitted both with and against one another for existence.
It’s a sentence that can describe so much about the world in which we live at the moment, polarized and incensed as it is. We are living in a moment in which each and every event somehow prompts us to end up taking distinct sides, a Butter Battle Book animated in 21st century attire.
We have witnessed a pandemic somehow create opposing factions, with protests over shutdowns and health-safety measures for some reason becoming an alternate human rights question. The last week has seen cities across the nation play host to near constant protests, with thousands upon thousands of citizens disgusted by yet another senseless killing at the hands of a police force convinced it has the right to flex at any point it so chooses.
On the list of things that are, and should be, important to us at this juncture, the sport of baseball ranks behind dozens of other more pertinent issues, as well it should. That we have officially reached the month of June with no Major League Baseball games having been played this year is absolutely a product of the pandemic we continue to endure, but the path forward for the game as we knew it has been clouded by, again, a seemingly polarized set of factions attempting to determine its fate.
Team owners, on one side, have very obviously - and very publicly - made clear that money and their bottom line is their top priority in negotiations. Players - the ones actually putting themselves out there to interact with one another on a day to day basis during the pandemic - have made clear that they are unwilling to be the ones disproportionately impacted financially to help soften the owners’ bottom lines, particularly since owners haven’t exactly been considerate of that symbiotic relationship when profits were soaring.
As a result, we’ve been privy to proposals for a 2020 season organized by both sides, neither of which seems to have placated the other. Team owners want further salary sacrifices from players despite an already-negotiated March agreement on how to proceed, with an ~80ish game schedule and expanded playoffs - meaning more playoff games, which are the real revenue producers. Players countered over the weekend with a plan for a 114 game schedule and fewer salary reductions, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan relayed, with a plan that includes a season that would last long enough to pit playoff games against the potent draw of NFL games as well as including concessions and opt-out clauses for players concerned with the health hazards of conducting games under the threat of coronavirus spread.
So far, any sense of cohesion has been tepid, at best. There was once an informal ‘deadline’ of sorts set for June 1st to get any sort of agreement ready - given the target return date of early July, that makes logical sense - and as of today, June 1st, that’s obviously been missed. Still, there is a general sense that starting an MLB regular season at some point in mid-July can happen if things progress in the coming week, despite zero real leaning from either side towards a resolution, to date.
To be honest, the half-hour I’ve spent slogging through this post is the most I’ve thought about baseball in a week. To be fair, when all baseball is at the moment is a Butter Battle Book about money, it’s very obvious why that’s taken up a less prominent spot in my brain than the tragically captivating events we’re seeing play out across the globe. The clock is ticking for the two sides to reach any sort of agreement for 2020, but the reality is that the looming Collective Bargaining Agreement expiration in 2021 is effectively making these negotiations the grounds for baseball for the next decade, and neither side is willing to give any bit of leverage just to get a modified 2020 season going.
So, we’re going to watch these two scowl at one another for a bit longer.