At 5pm on Monday evening, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred met with the media to confirm that he would indeed be cancelling the first 2 series of the 2022 season. It’s a threat that has been looming for months now, and yet, only over the last 10 days has it seemed it has been taken seriously by both the owners and the MLBPA. I am not writing this to argue the side of either the owners or the players. That is a responsibility that has fallen on two sides that clearly do not care about the argument enough and the consequences of not having it. No, I am writing this because Major League Baseball has failed you, the loyal fan of the sport. America’s Pastime has faced numerous threats over the past couple years; diminishing viewership, pace of play issues, fielding shifts, offensive droughts, and of course the pandemic, have all plagued baseball recently, and yet many loyal fans still remain to the game. It is the dinosaur of the 4 major sports, kept more alive now, it seems, by nostalgia more than excitement about the current state of the game. These negotiations have taken a game already on life support, and hit it over the head with a hammer. The result hurts the owners, the players, and the sport, but more than all of those, it affects you.
When all is said and done, and rest assured, there will be baseball played again at some point, one side of the negotiations will win. Whether that is the owners or the players, the other side that loses will still go back to making significant money. The only true losers in this situation are the everyday fans of the sport of baseball, who will pine for the return of their favorite summer tradition until the day that games are finally played. Some are diehards that will never leave, but some aren’t lifers. After all that the game has already endured, there are many that these negotiations, and the clear apathy that both sides hold towards the actual continuation of the sport that has granted them the opportunity to argue for millions and millions of dollars, will turn away from the game for a long time. It’s not 1900 anymore. Hell, it’s not even 1980. There aren’t 3 channels on the television; there are 3,000, not to mention the 3 million more entertainment options that exist in the modern world. They will all be there when we turn or TVs on for what was supposed to be opening day. Baseball, though, will not be. It begs the question, why should we stay?
The number one asset that the sport of baseball has had over the years is reliability. We all know the old Field Of Dreams line: “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.” But what happens when the people show up to that little field in Iowa and the players don’t show up? The owners don’t pay, the stands don’t open, the game doesn’t occur. How many more people have to get disappointed before they stop coming all together? After all, we all have our breaking points. Fault will be placed on both sides as these negotiations continue, and for good reason. The owners, the commissioner, and the players have all come together to create a hurricane of incompetency and unwillingness to exert the effort to play the game that has given them all so much. They have not failed themselves and they have not failed each other, but make no mistake; Major League Baseball has absolutely failed you. For some, it will be for the last time.