Top Level Sports
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Top Level Sports

MLB will lose more than just games if a deal doesn’t get done soon

Rob Manfred (© CBS Sports)

Yesterday, March 1st, it was made official — MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the MLB and MLBPA did not come to a deal in the deadline that the MLB owners made up, thus canceling games. Manfred announced the first two series of the season are canceled.

That’s not really the issue. 162 games is a lot. What’s the big deal if they cancel 6 games out of that? It’s all about perspective.

The players have said that they are doing this for the future players of their sport. They rejected the owner’s proposal yesterday unanimously. The thing the players don’t seem to understand is that there might not be baseball for these future players to be playing.

Not in the same way it’s been, at least.

I’m not saying to accept a deal just to accept a deal. I think both sides are to blame. More so the owners than the players. Their greed is the main reason there is a lockout. But the owners mostly all have something else to fall back on. Owning a baseball team is a hobby for most of these guys. The players don’t have that luxury. And I understand that is the reason they are fighting so hard.

But at what cost? The optics of baseball are terrible. This will be the third year in a row that we will miss Opening Day. At least with the fans there. Last year, they didn’t allow fans in the beginning part of the season.

This fight between the owners and the players comes two years after the pathetic 60 game season they played during the COVID year due to similar fighting. They had all the time in the world to work out numbers for that 2020 season, and yet they took so long that they ended up with 60 games. That turned a lot of people off.

That was already after the sport has been in a slow decline. The ratings are down. The attendance is down. Revenue is down. And there are just not as many kids playing baseball anymore. Basketball and football have taken over youth sports.

The problems with baseball all can be fixed but they seem to focus mostly on financials during these meetings. They’ve gotten better in some ways with guys like Fernando Tatis Jr. out there looking like he’s having a ton of fun. And someone like Shohei Ohtani is such a unicorn that it puts eyes on the sport.

But that can all be undone if there is no deal done soon. The more this drags out and becomes public, the more baseball fans will turn on the MLB. Even the hardcore fans. This squabbling that the players and owners do every few years is getting old.

The issues at hand are largely for better pay and conditions for minor-league players and rookie players. Starting salaries, service time manipulation, bonus pools are all things that are being discussed. Yet to the general public, it looks like billionaires are fighting with millionaires. That in itself alienates people. Even if it’s not like that at all. It’s just what the optics are.

Bob Ryan said something very interesting on The Sports Reporters podcast with Mike Lupica and Mitch Albom. Ryan said that if you think back 100 years, what were the most popular sports? Baseball, horse racing, and boxing. All three of which are considered “dead” sports. I don’t think baseball is nearly as bad as horse racing or boxing, but his point was that this could be the tipping point of the sport to join the other two in irrelevancy.

If it’s just the two series being canceled? Cool, no big deal. I think most baseball fans can forgive that. But if it goes into May or later…that’s when there will be irreversible damage to the sport. Because by that point, every detail of every negotiation will be public as it has now. Which only makes people dislike the owners and the players and not want to support them in the future.

There’s still time to avoid all that, but the clock is ticking. For all those like me who are diehard baseball fans, please, for the love of God, get a deal done.

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