Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Ugly Fight and the Road Ahead

It was just about a month ago that I started writing about the beginning of the negotiations between MLB and the Players. At the time, although I knew there were significant differences between the two parties, I really bought into the hope that both sides would be able to put aside their differences and bring baseball back to the fans in early July. The last month has only proven to me how foolish and naïve my initial hopes were. Even the people who cover the game for a living, presumably much less naïve then I am, seem surprised and disappointed at how little sense of urgency has been displayed by both parties so far.

I was thinking this morning how much fun it would be right now if training camps were opening up and baseball was preparing for ballgames on the July 4 weekend. I would really enjoy sharing my thoughts on that, rather than commenting on these sad ongoing squabbles between the two parties. It reminds me of a couple that just can't help having the same argument over and over again in public, while their friends grow tired of watching it and wonder why both parties are so incapable of learning anything from past arguments.

Looking from the outside in at the incessant squabbling between MLB and the Union, I get the same uncomfortable feeling of resentment that I have when I'm forced to watch a couple air their private, petty grievances out in front of others. I also can't help but resent the fact that MLB's ugly month of non-negotiations has stolen all of the joy out of contemplating baseball's return. I started off reading new articles about the negotiations with hope and anticipation, now I just feel as if I'm getting the same bad news over and over.

It seems almost quaint at this point to remember back to me reassuring myself that baseball would still be satisfying even if it looked and sounded different than the game that I have been watching for so many years. Nothing has been less satisfying for a lifelong baseball fan to watch than this ongoing soap opera. Could someone please move this plot along a little? Can the people who own the clubs and control the game at least pretend that their responsibility to preserve a century-and-a-half of baseball tradition was at least as important to them as the possibility of finishing a few bucks in the red this season?

Joel Sherman has a piece in the New York Post today where he makes the point that there is still time for MLB and the Players to redeem the damage they've done to their respective reputations and to the game itself during this ugly public spat. Sherman notes that Rob Manfred has promised a new proposal coming that he characterizes as moving "MLB substantially toward the player position." It remains to be seen once the details emerge what MLB considers a substantial move, but considering the only offers they made so far have been egregiously non-starters, any real offer would be a welcome sight. One that led to real negotiations would be a joyous thing of beauty.

I thought this was an important point that Sherman made about the Club Owners:
There is a long runway for owners to make their money back. Forget collusion, if you pay more in salary than you want to for the good of the game in 2020, just cut payrolls in future years to make it back. Players do not have the same runway.
I mean, seriously, if the owners lose money in 2020, it's not as if they have no way of recouping those losses. There has never been a player contract handed out in baseball history that was unilaterally imposed on the club by the player. It's always under management's control to set a budget and make offers to players accordingly. Yeah, maybe the fans will grouse a little if they perceive their team as overly stingy, but the fans can't force a team's owner to spend a single nickel.

If MLB really does make an offer that starts up a true negotiation, it wouldn't surprise me if the momentum shifted quickly into getting a deal done and playing some baseball. Maybe the pointless bickering of the last few weeks will mercifully disappear into the rearview as I find myself writing about baseball again.


Speaking of things that are way more fun to write about than contract negotiations, how cool was it to read about the Mets first round draft pick? There was a time, back when I first became a baseball fan, when almost no attention was paid to the Amateur Draft. Unlike the other sports, drafted players had zero chance of making the team right away. Most of them drifted off into obscurity before you ever heard of them.

Nowadays, not only is the draft covered extensively, but it's so much easier to keep an eye on these drafted players as they try to work their way up through the system. Hopefully by next year there is Minor League ball again and we can start to watch the progress of Pete Crow-Armstrong.


I was going to make the main part of my post today about some concerns I have about potential Mets buyers Joshua Harris and David Blitzer. My friend John from Albany at Mack's Mets beat me to it, and made all of the points that I would have, so I'll refer you there instead. When I look at their record with the Sixers and Devils, I really do question whether I want that same philosophy running the Mets.

Everyone already seems to be writing off Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez' bid to buy the team, I guess because they were unable to put a team of investors together in the 10 days since it was reported that they were back in the picture. I might be inclined to give them a bit more time than that. I really was impressed by their plan, and think it has a real good chance of succeeding if they can get the financing together. Having the ballclub as the centerpiece in a larger vision that includes Citi Field and the surrounding area as an entertainment mecca with shopping and food options makes a lot of sense to me. You're not just at the mercy of the cyclic nature of a baseball club.

Now, they still need to secure enough investors, and succeed where the Wilpons were unable to as far as developing the area around the park. Still, I thought their vision was solid, and I wouldn't just write them off just yet.


One last thing. It's the 15th Anniversary of one of my favorite Mets games of all time. I wrote about the game as part of my series on the 2005 season. If you haven't had the chance yet, please check it out.

That's it for me today. Thanks for giving me some of your time today. Please stay safe, stay well and take care. See you back here soon.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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