Bottom Line

By: TJ Hartnett news services

Right now, we should be two months deep into the 2020 Major League Baseball season.

We should all be assessing which teams are overperforming or underperforming and talking about who’s deserving of an All-Star appearance.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. The MLB owners and the MLB Players Association are doing everything they can to ensure that baseball is started safely and reasonably, and as soon as possible. Or maybe they aren’t.

If you scour the internet for baseball news these days, instead of the aforementioned articles and arguments and debates about standings and stats, you’ll be treated to an ongoing back and forth between the billionaires that populate the fraternity of team owners and the millionaires that make up the MLBPA. It’s been contentious, to say the least.

The players agreed to take a pay cut when the season was originally suspended way back in March. Then the owners composed a proposal on how to get the season started and presented it to the players, which asked for a second pay cut. The players were apparently very unhappy about it.

Ever since then it’s been headline after headline about the players being upset about the owners’ various proposals and amendments. Some players, like Tampa Bay Rays pitchers Blake Snell, even going on the record and saying they’d refuse to play for a (further) reduced salary.

Snell’s rationale was that he and the rest of the players would be assuming all of the COVID-19-related risk. Which is, of course, true.

Regardless of how the logistics work, the players would be exposed to each other by necessity. That would come in the game, obviously, but also wherever they’d be holed up to live for however long the season lasts.

Assuming they’d want to see their families, ever, they’d also be adding risk to their wives and children too. The owners, by virtue of not having a role that requires them to attend the ballgames, ever, would not need to change a thing about their socially distanced status quo.

It’s a reasonable concern, and it’s true, the owners assume no risk to their health and the players basically throw what the CDC recommends to the wind.

But in a way it still feels like both parties are being greedy. The world desperately needs sports right now.

The amount of money that the already-very-wealthy make during the season isn’t going to lessen their risk of contracting COVID, so it feels like they’re just squabbling over riches.

For a game that falls further behind football every year in terms of national popularity, this is a bad look.

The last time players and owners had a spat like this was the players’ strike of 94-95, and the vocal members of the union, like the Braves’ own Tom Glavine, were voraciously booed when play finally resumed.

Fans, many of them working class, had no patience for millionaires pinching pennies.

In fact, it took Cal Ripken completing a journey he had started over a decade before as well as two over-juiced sluggers competing for a home run record to earn back the adoration of the fans.

It’s worse now because of the state of the world. We’re starved for something unifying, and MLB has the chance to be that unifier. Regardless of who’s right or wrong in the ongoing battle between owners and players, they’re blowing the chance.

I’m not saying there’s an easy solution, or that the players should just concede to whatever the owners demand. That’s ridiculous and the owners are just as seemingly greedy in this situation.

It’s disappointing, nonetheless, that the two groups of people can’t come together when it would be a huge feather in their cap to do so.