Major League Baseball Owners’ Vote to Start the 2020 Season Make Them Look Like Fools
MLB owners inflicted a lot of damage to their product with their selfish stance over the past few months
After months of contentious back and forth with the Player’s Union, MLB owners have unanimously voted to start the 2020 season under an agreement they had previously reached with them on March 26th. This will permit commissioner Rob Manfred to set the schedule he sees fit, which will likely be 50 to 60 games. As COVID-19 continues to rage, any actual games should be seen as being in serious doubt. However, regardless of how many games are or aren’t played, the owners wound up looking like fools and may have irreparably harmed their business.
Back in March, spring training was shut down across the board, as concerns grew about the impact of COVID-19 and the fact that there was no surefire way to continue operations in a safe manner. Remarkably, the players and owners quickly came to an agreement on March 26th about how to restart the season whenever it was possible; coming to terms on prorated salaries, changes in rules and postseason play among other items. As it rapidly became clear that the pandemic was operating on no one’s timeline other than its own, the owners decided to drag everyone back to the negotiating table in what ultimately became devastating effect.
Wanting further concessions from the players, the owners hammered away at getting a new deal before signing off on restarting the season. They wanted to essentially dictate it all, demanding further salary cuts and setting the number of games they believed best. The players countered and parried but never came close to giving in and allowing the owners to take the upper hand.
The negotiations of the two sides played out their grievances in the media. As the weeks passed, it was clear that each was grating on the other. Simultaneously, the pandemic ripped into the country and through the economy. With millions newly unemployed (many of whom were minor league players and stadium employees), the daily news of the billionaire owners squabbling with millionaire players was seen as tone deaf by many. As other professional sports slowly finalized their own resumptions of play, baseball continued to bicker over percentages and number of games — to the point that it was causing very visceral reactions in some fans.
The goal in business is to obviously make money. Nobody wants to go into the red, yet when world events like a pandemic happen, the name of the game quickly changes to survival. Major League Baseball owners seemed to be stuck in their insistence in making a profit or staving off any significant losses. What they failed to connect with is that if they could get their product successfully back on the field, any short-term losses could have been quite likely been recouped down the road from an appreciative fan base. For a nation starving for entertainment and release, baseball could have had a captive audience in the palm of their hand and had a unique opportunity to attract fans at a rate not seen for them in decades. In addition to current fans, so many sitting at home waiting to go back to work or find employment may have found the game.
The lure of short-term greed was too much for the owners. Unable to have the foresight and fortitude to consider sacrificing immediate profits for future financial success and a larger and more receptive market, they instead acted out a real-life version of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
The players should not be blamed for this mess. They certainly could have capitulated, but they had the most to lose, as they make less money and would be taking all the physical risks. They had previously reached an agreement in good faith, only to see that attempted to be circumvented. This is the owner’s weight alone to carry.
With a number of MLB players and staff recently testing positive for COVID-19, there are no assurances that games will even eventually occur in 2020. Regardless of how many games might be played, the owners only succeeded in making themselves look like fools and devaluing their product to a point that will be a difficult process to recover from. Unfortunately, this gargantuan misstep is another in a series that baseball can’t seem to prevent in recent years. From strikes, to PEDS, to cheating scandals, the biggest stories in the game are often wholly negative. The stubbornness of the owners essentially led to a very non-entertaining theater of greed being played out quite publicly for the past three months. In a vicious bit of irony, it turned out that ultimately their obstinance didn’t move the needle one iota in getting what they wanted.
Even with the deteriorating image, baseball has seen attendance increase most years. However, like an old boxer, they can only take so many hits. The way that the owners handled getting the sport back on its feet was downright criminal and they will be lucky if time doesn’t prove that they inflicted the fatal blow to their own game.