Major League Baseball’s owners and players need to stop squabbling and get the season started already
I am not happy. My husband is not happy. Our 10-year-old daughter is not happy.
We want baseball.
It doesn’t even have to be “official” games. We’ll take Brett Gardner banging on the dugout ceiling for three hours. Just give us something.
Before this horrible Covid-19 situation began, my family had big plans. We were going to continue our nationwide tour of Major League ballparks, take our third annual trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and go to as many Yankee games as possible in between. (Shout out to Section 106. We miss you guys.)
Now we’re stuck at home watching Korean baseball, rebroadcasts of classic games, and YouTube videos of guys pulling pranks.
Commissioner Manfred, you need to stop all this nonsense and come to an agreement with the players’ union already because we can’t take it anymore. (Though the video of Corey Kluber trying to do an interview with Fox Sports while his teammates pelt him with sunflower seeds from off-camera is stellar.)
I was feeling so hopeful on June 10th when you said you were “100 percent” sure there would be a 2020 season. But a few days later you expressed doubts.
My hopes rose again when I heard that you called union head Tony Clark and offered to fly from New York to Arizona to meet with him for the first time in three months.
On June 17th, you said in a statement issued by M.L.B., “We left that meeting with a jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement.”
But according to a New York Times story from that same day, “A union official, who requested anonymity to discuss continuing negotiations, disagreed with Manfred’s depiction of the meeting, emphasizing that there had been no agreement and instead characterizing the structure as only a proposal.”
Look, Commish, I get it. Negotiating blows. But it’s your specialty, right? I understand that you and the owners want to save money and don’t want to deal with any legal action. I want those things, too. I hate getting sued. But I hate the idea of not having baseball more.
Think about it. The joy you’d feel seeing guys take the field after all this time. The crack of the bat. The pop of the ball in the catcher’s glove. The soft buzzing sound of signs being stolen.
I know, I know, how is it your fault that the players won’t budge? And why should you pay them their full pro-rated salaries if there are no fans in the seats? Legit concerns, no doubt. But you have to be bigger than that now.
All this squabbling is setting a terrible example for children like my daughter, who are the fans of the future. You don’t want to lose them.
Lest you think I’m just playing the kid card and she’s not really nuts for the game, FaceTime us. I’ll show you the posters of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton on her walls. The baseballs she’s collected during BP, the bobbleheads, the binders and shoeboxes filled with Topps cards, the full set of Major League pennants hung from fishing wire.
Last week she took an online course in baseball scorekeeping. And spent two days doing an 18-round mock M.L.B. draft with her fellow Yankee fanatic friend. They’re figuring out how to play fantasy games, which is great.
But we’d also like to have some real games.
The clock is ticking, dude. It’s already mid-June. You need to make this happen, like, now.
Tell me how I can help. I’ll do whatever you want. Except wear a Red Sox cap.
You want me to talk to Tony Clark? Done. I’ll tell him I covered baseball for Sports Illustrated, was a reporter and editor there for almost 10 years. We’ll bond.
I’ll tell him I know he never made it to the World Series, but that’s cool because he’s a big-shot now. The first former player to be appointed Executive Director of the players’ union. Not too shabby.
I’ll remind him that in 2019 he said, “We believe we have a system that is being used now to suggest that teams either go all-in or go all-out, that there’s no middle ground anymore. That middle ground will need to be addressed in any number of ways at the bargaining table.”
Fantastic. Get back to that table and find a way to meet in the middle. Not just debate revenue and salaries, but other elements of value.
Joy is in short supply these days. Baseball has the power to change that. Maybe not in the way a vaccine or no longer having to disinfect takeout containers could, but getting the season started would bring a lot of happiness to a lot of people who need it right now.
Jackie Robinson once said, “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”
When baseball historians study the summer of 2020, reflect upon and record what the game’s commissioner did during this dark time, you will want them to respect you.
You will want them to say you did the right thing. The generous thing. Took the higher path.
You’re definitely not powerless to do so. Only 10 men in history have ever held the position you do now. Fewer than have ever been President of the United States, served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or walked on the moon.
You do have an obligation to think about profit. But you also have an obligation to think about the bigger picture. After all, baseball belongs not to the owners or the players, but to all of us.
Let’s play ball.