Say this for Rob Manfred, he’s a master of mixed messages.
In a span of six days, the commissioner of Major League Baseball stated that “unequivocally” there will be a baseball season this year — 100%, he noted — before backtracking Monday in telling ESPN that he’s “not confident” a season will be played.
In related news, I’m unequivocally 100% going on a diet today unless I decide to scarf down two cheeseburgers and vanilla shake for lunch.
Is there any remaining doubt why MLB’s house is in disarray? Failed leadership and greed are a killer combo.
Reports surfaced over the weekend that Manfred would mandate an abbreviated season of 50 games because billionaire owners and millionaire players reached a stalemate over money. His “not confident” comment is being viewed as a stall tactic to ensure that owners get their way by only having to pay players for a small number of games.
Fifty games? That’s not a credible season. Might as well set the playoff field by hosting one of those dizzy bat races where contestants put their forehead on the bat, spin in circles and then run down the baseline like someone leaving the bar at 2 a.m.
A schedule whittled to 50 games says the importance of staging a legitimate season takes a back seat to the owners’ thirst for a money grab of playoff revenue.
The most incredible aspect of baseball’s standstill is that it has nothing to do with health concerns related to the coronavirus. It’s all about money and ingrained distrust between players and owners that has received fresh examination with this latest labor dispute.
It requires a special kind of hubris and tone-deafness to engage in a money dispute in the midst of a pandemic that has left millions unemployed and worried about how they will pay the mortgage.
But, hey, congratulations baseball. You did it! Take a bow Manfred, the befuddled leader who continues to step in one mess after another.
Months of back-and-forth bickering over revenue distribution squandered a golden opportunity for a feel-good story, a chance for MLB to become a pleasant distraction. Rather than lead the way in sports return, baseball self-sabotaged every attempt at compromise.
Baseball games should have started July 4th in a national celebration. Instead, it’s mid-June and still nothing. Manfred has enabled owners to submit similar proposals packaged differently under the pretense of good-faith negotiations.
Some fans will blame players for not accepting a deal, but it’s insulting to hear owners cry poor at the same time that news leaks of MLB’s new billion-dollar agreement with Turner Sports to broadcast postseason games. Oh, the irony.
We can point fingers all day, but the end result doesn’t change. Baseball blew it.
Sports leagues pre-pandemic were forced to work harder than ever to get fans to show up to games. MLB should recognize that as much as anyone. The league’s attendance has declined six consecutive seasons, which isn’t a coincidence.
Sloths play at a quicker pace. The sticker shock of a $12 beer isn’t exactly appealing, either. Fans have discovered that it’s a lot cheaper and less of a hassle to stay home and watch from the comfort of the couch. Or to do something else.
This pandemic has opened some fans’ eyes to other diversions in life besides sports. A league fighting over money at a seminal moment in our nation’s history presents terrible optics that likely will turn some fans off for good.
Of course, if we’re being honest, many of us will come running back when games resume, even at our angriest. COVID-19 will prevent fans from attending games initially, meaning TV ratings will soar. Fans will tune in because the country is starved for sports viewing and some sense of normalcy.
That is what makes the infighting that has derailed baseball’s return so darn infuriating. The pandemic didn’t cause this holdup. It was money. Greed. The refusal to compromise.
They should just rename it the grand old shame.