It was all there for baseball, a chance to fulfill some of his high-minded ideals, a symbol of renewal and a comforting distraction in times of need. And even if you don’t agree with this vision, you have to admit: It would be nice to have an original live program, rather than the endless parade of old games that are shown on sports channels.
“I have received texts from people:” Hey, you are doing this game, you are doing the game, “said longtime broadcaster Bob Costas recently on the phone.” I had this conversation with Al Michaels. He says: “I only surf the canal and wherever I turn, it̵
Classic programs from Costas or Michaels are always a pleasure. But when MLB Network aired a 64-hour Derek Jeter marathon last weekend, it felt like a cry for help: can the captain plunge across the infield with a desperate squadron change to save the day?
The coronavirus pandemic has, of course, messed everything up, and it’s painful to look at the phantom schedule and imagine what should happen. The Mets would compete against the Nationals, the reigning world champions, in Washington this weekend.
After the sport was stopped, the Nationals made news last week for a sobering reason: They were trying to save money by taking $ 100 a week off their little league’s $ 400 weekly paychecks. The big players came in to cover the losses, and after the reliever Sean Doolittle tweeted her plan, the billionaire owners gave in.
However, it could be worse: Doolittle’s previous team, Oakland Athletics, cut the payment of its small players overall.
Most owners have made their employees happy; The Kansas City Royals vowed to pay their little players all season and not release any of them. However, it is difficult to convey a lot of sympathy to the owners as a group or Commissioner Rob Manfred as their leader.
Take a look at what happens to the proposed 2020 season, which would at least initially take place in the grandstand without fans. In a nutshell: The owners proposed to the union a 82 game schedule that ran counter to a proposal for 114 games – and the owners reportedly rejected the plan on Wednesday. Now the owners are threatening to schedule only 50 games.
In other words, the union and its executive director Tony Clark are proposing more baseball. More games mean more money for players who agreed in March to share their 2020 salaries.
The owners and Manfred have suggested fewer games and essentially say: well, you get your prorated wages – if you play a drastically condensed schedule.
The players have a certain leverage. You must agree to the expanded playoff format, in which 14 of the 30 teams would qualify for the postseason. You also need to agree on the health and safety protocols suggested by baseball.
But the big obstacle is money. The players rejected the owners’ suggestion that the wages be staggered, with the richest players making the biggest cut in wages. The owners haven’t officially submitted the 50-game proposal, but have made it clear that this could be their next step.
A mini season is theoretically better than no season at all. But it seems the players are being dragged back to work for an insane shot at the off-season money tap, even if some of them have health concerns. Under these circumstances, baseball could lose any goodwill it may have received.
This was an opportunity for both sides to see greater well-being and to work together that would have helped them all. If this had been the background to these discussions, they could have agreed on the details by now. Give a little here, take a little there and let’s play ball.
“When the industry as a whole thrives, everyone benefits,” said Costas. “The owners won some concessions in the early 2000s, some. But if the game thrives, we cannot say that the players do not thrive as a group. They did.
“So it can turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory to win certain points at the negotiating table, because if the industry itself starts to falter, everyone has a hit.”
If the season was canceled or only derailed due to viral health problems, fans would understand, Costas said.
“But when it says,” Now it starts again, baseball and its work problems, “people have no patience for it under any circumstances,” he said.
And if these work problems would result in 17 months without baseball, it would be “catastrophic,” said Costas. Even in ideal circumstances, he added, some fans would be reluctant to return to the stands in 2021 – some for fear of large gatherings, others because their income will decline due to the economic destruction the virus has wrought.
“If you add to that: resentment?” Said Costas. “They are turning a potential positive that should come back before everyone else and let this strange fact play to your advantage in a sense – maybe just a small positive, but a positive – into a gigantic negative.”
A mini-season, especially one that is compulsively played by employees who are angry with their bosses, could be seen as a gimmick rather than a legitimate one. How much money would fans invest to find a quickie champion for a sport that is proud of their long journey?
After 50 games last season, the Nationals were 19-31. The 2019 season was marked by its long ascent from below to claim its first title. How could a fan base or a front office correctly rate a team that now plays between 19 and 31 if this is the whole season?
Even an 82 game schedule would be the shortest baseball game has played since the 1870s, but at least more than half of the usual 162 games. Fifty games are offensive across borders – both for fans and for player competitiveness.
Some of us are baseball addicts and would be interested in looking at a two week schedule. But baseball doesn’t need the addicted people. It has to keep casual fans and recruit new ones. The process should now be in full swing.
The longer the players and owners wait, the more chances they miss. You have to understand that, right?
“I’m not an economist and I’m not a labor expert,” said Costas. “But there must be ways to recognize their mutual interest and not to destroy themselves.”