The Clock Is Ticking: Will There Ever Be A Baseball Season?

It’s June, and we should be almost two and a half months into the 2020 baseball season, yet here we are, still watching classic games and wondering if/when we’ll get the news of an actual start date. What started with a pandemic-induced shutdown has now turned into a seemingly never-ending battle between players and owners, and we might not even get a season. Even I, one of the biggest Twins fans you know, have grown tired of watching the replays of the 1991 World Series. How did we get here?

Back on March 12, MLB suspended Spring Training amid Coronavirus concerns across the globe. At that time, there was no timetable for a return, other than the season would be delayed by at least two weeks. By the end of March, the MLBPA and the owners had come to an agreement on pay during the months of April and May while we all waited things out. Players were advanced payment through May, and everyone hoped that play would resume by June. By early May, we even started hearing leaks on potential start dates, things were looking sort of up for the first time in months.

But then, the excitement quickly faded as the owners and players couldn’t get their shit together come to an agreement over pay, amount of games played, safety protocols, revenue sharing, blah blah blah. Long story short: Owners want games to start but because of the amount of money they claim that they’d lose, they want to play less games and pay the players less. The players are rejecting the offers from owners because they want to play more games and get paid as close to the full amount they’re owed as they can be.

There have been a few rounds of offers and counteroffers from the owners and players, with the latest counteroffer coming from the owners yesterday. This offer is for a 76 game season, offering players either 50% or 75% of their salaries: 50% if a post season cannot be played due to a second Covid-related cancellation, and 75% if a post season happens.

Now I’m going to be honest here – for as much of a die-hard baseball fan as I am, I have tried not to pay much attention to the back and forth between the owners and the players while they hammer out the details of a shortened season. I couldn’t care less about percentages of salaries of players that are making millions of dollars a year or that the owners might lose millions. Why? MLB did this to themselves. Contracts have gotten ridiculously large – this past offseason saw record deals for guys like Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Josh Donaldson, and more. MLB has allowed massive deals with astronomical amounts of money and time given to players, and the luxury tax doesn’t seem to deter teams with money to burn. These types of contracts have negatively impacted smaller market teams – when one or two guys eat up half of the payroll on their own, there’s not much wiggle room to sign guys to help the big names win championships. And now, these contracts have come back to bite them all in the collective ass.

When Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell came out a couple of weeks ago saying he’s not going to play for a reduced amount of money, many people thought he sounded greedy and tone-deaf, while others realize that the players are going to be risking their health by playing/being around clubhouses and other baseball personnel all in the name of entertaining us by playing a game. No matter how you look at his comments, the 2018 Cy Young winner is in the middle of a five year, $50 million contract. Before Covid-19 hit, he was slated to make $7.6 million this season, $11.1 million in 2021, $13.1 in 2022, $16.6 million in 2023, in addition to what he made in 2019, plus any bonuses he’d receive for performance/Cy Young voting. Even by making a percentage of his contracted rate this year, Snell’s still going to be making a few million dollars this year, plus almost another $41 million over the next few years. On the other hand, the owners will also still make boat loads of money from MLB licensed apparel, advertising, tv deals, and whatever other income generating ideas they might be able to come up with. The players and the owners will be just fine.

Can we just skip to the part where both sides inevitably agree to half a season and half of their contracts (plus bonuses for post season), and get this season underway? Because that’s what we all assume will happen. All of this back and forth is souring a lot of fans, especially when this country has been hit with far bigger issues. Both sides sound completely out of touch with reality when you think about the bigger picture here. Over the last few months alone we’ve seen a global pandemic, hundreds of thousands of pandemic related deaths, countries in lockdown, schools closing, youth and professional sports shut down, unemployment numbers rising, mental health crises, opioid overdoses, a new civil rights movement, cities on actual fire, murder hornets, and God only knows what else is on the horizon.

Baseball fans are getting tired of grown ass men on both sides trying to keep a few extra million dollars in each of their pockets, and if they don’t come to an agreement soon, they won’t have many fans left to buy tickets when the time comes to get back into the ballparks. For those too young to remember 1994, let me remind you that even rabid baseball fans like myself lost interest in the game for a few years because of the strike. I went to just one game between 1995 and 2000, and there were so few fans in the seats you could hear a conversation halfway around the Metrodome. It took home run races between Maguire and Sosa and steroids to get our attention again. In this era of cancel-culture, Major League Baseball can’t afford to keep us waiting for much longer.

What say you, readers? Leave a comment below.