Baseball fans are all too familiar with being betrayed, deceived, lied to, and dragged through a whirlwind of emotion in regards to their beloved sport. The glorious highs and devastating lows are truly part of the game itself; this truth is just one of the myriad reasons why baseball means so much to so many.
In a year that has seen chaos, turmoil, death, and destruction on a global scale, the potential return of sports may seem like it is of little importance to the well being of our nation. Nonetheless, millions of Americans eagerly await the day that sports welcome themselves back into their lives – whether it be next month or next year.
It is yet to be seen whether many professional sports leagues’ efforts will actually work, but at least the vast majority are making sound and coordinated plans aimed at bringing sports back. The NBA’s bold Disney World Plan, which looks solid on paper but still has a plethora of unanswered questions, is a resounding example of how a competent sports league operates. Commissioner Adam Silver has long been widely-respected by players, fans, and owners alike, and thus was able to ensure that the NBA would do everything in its power to complete its 2019-20 season.
The NHL has stated its intentions of initiating a similar return-to-play plan, albeit perhaps less radical than that of the NBA. The NFL adapted with an entirely virtual draft, which was a resounding success.
Baseball, on the other hand … holy crap, man. I mean, baseball fans had extremely low expectations for how MLB’s useless commissioner Rob Manfred and discombobulated Players Union would handle the unique circumstances at hand, but this is egregiously bad.
After baseball announced on March 12th that the start to its season would be delayed, Major League Baseball went mostly silent on when, how, where, or if they would play in 2020. In recent weeks, however, the internal happenings of the league’s labor war with its players has been anything but quiet. A vicious series of back-and-forth, passive-aggressive statements and confusing and misleading tweets has pushed baseball to the brink of losing the public’s respect entirely.
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The most depressing aspect of baseball’s comically atrocious and embarrassing inability to do anything right in regards to the current circumstances is that what has happened has not been at all surprising. Rob Manfred has made utterly clear that his only motives lie in the best interests of the owners’ pocket books; he has shown an absolute lack of desire to improve the sport and its national standing since he was appointed commissioner in 2015. Manfred has only further aligned himself with the owners in recent weeks and months, as he has enabled their obvious stall tactics in the name of not playing baseball in order to avoid paying players.
The roller coaster of the heated and hateful labor battle seems to have reached a tipping point this weekend, as most of the trustworthy outlets are reporting that MLB has declined to counter the MLBPA’s offer of a 70-game season. The players now will allegedly vote on whether to accept the league’s previous proposal of 60 games and fully prorated salaries and an expanded playoff field, or whether to wait and allow Manfred to force a season of around 50 games with a traditional playoff bracket.
If MLB had handled the present challenges correctly and elegantly, without a public labor dispute and without the true colors of many of its owners and players coming to light, the possibilities would truly have been extraordinary. The league had the chance to seize the national stage in a way that it has not in at least two decades, and to become the first major American sport to return amidst COVID-19. Baseball had an opportunity to take advantage of a captive audience of Americans who were desperate to watch live professional sports. Major League Baseball could have set itself up to prosper and bring in a new generation of fans that would have propelled the league back to near the top of America’s sports consciousness.
Instead, the uncomfortably public and animosity-laced spats between MLB and the Player’s Union have left a stain on the league’s public perception that may never heal. The league has taken a large step backward rather than launching itself in a promising future. Many, including die hard baseball fans, now feel ashamed to support a league whose owners and players alike are driven by greed rather than a love for the sport.
It remains to be seen if there will be a 2020 Major League Baseball season. Either way, the league has set itself back in ways we will not fully understand until the dust finally settles.