Baseball: The National Past (It’s) Time
With all the problems in the world today, the last thing we need are billionaire team owners squabbling with millionaire ballplayers over money. With Opening Day and the first week of the Major League Baseball season canceled, fans and viewers may not return if and when the owner-player dispute is settled.
With a “minimum wage” of $700,000, the lowest paid Major League ballplayer earns more than 12x what the average American household makes in a year. And that’s for a six month a year job that includes free healthcare, first class travel, generous per diem and a pension. Not good enough the player’s union says.
The owners meanwhile have long enjoyed a special anti-trust exemption from the U.S. government that allows them to collude on wages, territorial monopolies and TV rights etc. under the guise of “competitive” balance. They can also force municipal taxpayers to build them new ballparks or else threaten to take their franchise elsewhere. With these good ole boy provisions in hand, the average Major League Baseball franchise has nearly quadrupled in value over the past 10 year to over $1.9 billion. Not good enough say the owners.
Meanwhile, both sides couldn’t care less about the stadium ushers, locker room staff, food vendors, security guards and parking lot attendants who will be losing their paychecks as the lockout continues. Unlike the wealthy players and owners, those folks can’t afford to skip a year of work and still hope to make ends meet.
Three strikes, you’re out
Baseball’s №1 job right now is to give us something to cheer about as COVID, war in Eastern Europe, sky high inflation, and a host of other worries test the resolve of even the most optimistic among us. STRIKE ONE! Baseball’s secondary job is to give us a sense of normalcy in an increasingly volatile and unstable world. STRIKE TWO! Job №3 is to give those of us in the frigid Northeast and Midwest a sense of hope for springtime and a respite from sky high energy prices and Artic temperatures. STRIKE THREE!
Ring ’em MLB. Yer’ outta here!
For almost a century, baseball was America’s game (aka. “The National Pastime). Despite dwindling attendance, declining youth participation, evaporating minority representation and drug scandals, Major League Baseball continues its entitled ways like a petulant child told it can’t have ice cream right before dinner. The ancient Romans took the survival of their empire and republic for granted. They over-expanded and lost control of the wheel as infighting and hungrier global challengers knocked them off their pedestal. It was a sharp and painful fall. Sound familiar?
Clearly football and basketball have supplanted baseball as America’s past-times at both the professional and collegiate level. And if the owners and commissioner aren’t careful, Major League Soccer — which plays approximately the same March through October schedule — while leave MLB in its dust as well. Soccer has clearly won the youth participation battle, so it’s only a matter of time.
Speaking of attendance, here are two stats that caught my eye:
Average Attendance 2021
- Major League Baseball: 18,900
- Major League Soccer: 15,158
- Atlanta Braves (2021 World Series champions) 29,490
- Atlanta United (Major League Soccer): 43,964
What owners, players and commissioners need to understand is that their days are numbered if they want to remain relevant. While soccer is considered the №1 spectator sport in the world, it is not considered among the four major U.S. sports leagues (yet).
Personally, I’ll miss baseball for a number of reasons:
- Rebirth and renewal. Spring training means another frigid winter in the Northeast or Midwest is fast approaching. Every team has a .500 record and unlimited upside potential.
- In the blood. I played the game reasonably well growing up. My dad played. My father-in-law played. My brothers in law all played. Both my sons played, including my youngest who is still playing in college.
- Community fabric. Our hometown (population 80,000) has sent over half a dozen residents to the Major Leagues. The town’s two high schools finished first and fourth in the statewide baseball tournament last spring, and its youth teams routinely make it to the state, regional and national finals.
- Memories. I still remember my dad taking to my first game at Philadelphia’s crumbling Connie Mack Stadium. Phillies vs. Mets doubleheader. It was the greenest grass, whitest chalk lines and tastiest hot dogs I had ever experienced. Later I was an assistant coach for my son’s Little League team that won the state championship and came within one out of winning the New England Regional. What a ride! More than half of those kids are now playing in college.
- Leisurely pace. In this fast-paced frenetic world, I enjoy having a game on in the background. The players, not the clock, dictate the pace. Players wait patiently for their turn at bat. New pitchers and pinch hitters have all the time they need to warm up properly. The game ends when the game ends.
Let’s face it, even in the best of times, only five or six teams have a reasonable chance of making it to the World Series. The other two dozen teams are grinding through a way-too-long 162 game schedule. They’re going through the motions, entertaining the fans, being role models for the kids and trying to figure out how to rebuild. As entertainers and role models, MLB is failing miserable at a time when we could sure use a distraction.
Without spring training and opening day, I’ll enjoy March Madness college basketball, the NBA and NHL playoffs into June, catch a few soccer games in July and before you know it, it will be late summer, time for NFL training camp and the college football season. Baseball, it’s been a wonderful 40 years together. But I think we all know it’s time to move on. You’ve betrayed too many times.
Don’t agree? Tell me why.
#baseball, #MLB, #baseballstrike, #baseballlockout