Well, it appears we’re (maybe) on the verge of (potentially) receiving some much-needed (but not guaranteed) clarity on the 2020 baseball season.
Sorry, you really have no choice but to use as many caveats as possible any time we’re talking about a conclusion to this mess. That’s especially true after this week, when a brief moment of positivity arrived in the form of a potential agreement between MLB and the players union, only to be snuffed out by the rage and anger that have become the trademark of these negotiations.
Regardless, we’re now approaching two potential outcomes. Either everyone agrees on the 60-game season MLB proposed this week, or commissioner Rob Manfred mandates a campaign about 50 games in length. The former seems lofty, the latter will likely be followed by a grievance from the players.
A decision is expected Monday, which should hopefully bring an end to a bitter and lengthy fight, one between two sides hellbent on beating each other.
Here’s the thing, though — nobody won.
No matter what outcome we land on, neither the owners nor players can truly claim victory here. Each party was so eager to overcome the other, so determined to come out on the winning end that they became blinded to the fact they’ve effectively dragged their sport through the mud.
Simply put, this battle has brought the state of baseball to an unfathomable low, and everyone involved should be ashamed of this.
Let’s start with the owners, who certainly deserve the lion’s share of the blame here.
They originally hoped to have spring training back up and running on June 10, and waited until a week after this date to finally accept the idea of paying players full prorated salaries.
League owners spent the past few weeks attempting to enforce further pay cuts on those who’d be assuming the most risk during a pandemic. When faced with criticism about this, they responded by crying poor, attempting to earn sympathy by pointing to baseball’s supposed lack of profitability.
Ownership constantly tried to make players look greedy, all while refusing to prove their financial losses were as severe as they claimed.
However, they eventually conceded. It came unnecessarily late in the game, but owners finally offered players a proposal which included full prorated pay.
The players responded to this victory by pushing their luck.
They told MLB to let them know “when and where” this season was going to take place, didn’t like the answer and tried to up the campaign length to 70 games. This was soundly rejected, bringing the possibility of a mandated season back on the table.
As a result, the players are once again preparing to file a grievance over what might be the difference of no more than ten contests. This should ensure the acrimony hovering over the sport like a storm cloud won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
The players made this worse by trying to gamble with house money.
The owners made this worse by reacting to the idea of ten more baseball games as if they were asked to give up their homes and personal belongings.
Manfred and union chief Tony Clark made this worse after leaving their second — second! — face-to-face meeting without being able to agree on what they actually agreed upon.
All of it has brought us here, where a conclusion appears to be on the horizon at a time when many fans have soured on the sport.
That’s the irony here. Both owners and players continually claimed they stuck to their stance with fans in mind, which is a blatant lie.
If that were true, the face-to-face negotiations which took place this week would’ve occurred before Memorial Day. The efforts to land a deal would’ve been more concerted than pairing email proposals with notes soaked in vitriol.
But no. Both sides, right down to the buzzer, have made it clear they care more about winning this fight than they do about fans they were actively pushing away.
Instead of watching spring training restart, fans were peppered with nasty dialogue about prorated salaries. Instead of breaking down box scores, fans sifted through constant usage of words like “non-starter” and “economic feasibility.” They’ve heard the phrase “the March agreement” so often they’ve probably developed a facial tick any time it’s mentioned.
Players and owners both acted as if baseball fans mattered in all this. If that were true, we wouldn’t be here right now.
Perhaps we do see a conclusion Monday. Perhaps an agreement somehow comes to fruition in the coming hours.
Even if it did, the damage is already done. Everyone involved with this mess has egg on their face, so much that any celebratory “play ball!” announcement will ring hollow.
In the end, it’s truly ironic how badly both sides sought a victory in this battle, especially considering the fact everyone involved is coming out on the losing end.
The owners lost by displaying their greed in desperate times. The players lost by overplaying their winning hand.
Together, they collectively poured more salt in the wound by alienating baseball fans — at least those who haven’t responded to this disaster by walking away from the sport for good.