Hi there, friends!
Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are doing well. It’s been a hot minute since I last dumped my baseball thoughts into your eyeballs. But it’s that time of year where we are still decompressing after the baseball season, wrapped up in holiday hustle and bustle, and our real day jobs that pay us our real salaries are on the front burner. (I mean, being a baseball blogger may seem glamorous, but it ain’t paying the mortgage. Or.. really more than a cup of coffee once or twice a week).
The last week or two had seen a flurry of player transactions - arbitrations, signings, dumpings, all the things. BTW, I’m so freaking excited about the early Christmas gift of seven more years of Buxton, but that’s another post that has yet to be written. Ok, you know what? I probs won’t write about it so here is the TL;DR version of what I’d say: YAAAAAASSSSSSSS BUXTON! DID YOU SEE HOW CUTE HE WAS AT HIS CONTRACT SIGNING? IF he can stay healthy, he’ll have a Kirby-esque legacy here. Please don’t shatter any bones or my dreams, ok Buck?
And now back to the real reason I’m here today. The stupid lockout. For those that don’t care to look into the specifics, here’s a bit of a rundown of the situation. (TBH I’m one of the people that don’t really care to look into said specifics, but for the sake of this post, I did read up a bit more, just for you, dear readers.) Among the major sticking points: players getting a bigger piece of the MLB revenue pie, manipulating service time to keep young players under team control for longer, frustration over teams purposely tanking and going through those painful rebuilding years. But all the fans really hear is a bunch of billionaire owners, a bunch of millionaire players, and that spawn of Satan himself Rob Manfred squabbling over a child’s game. Yes, we love that game. We love watching that game. We love the players playing that game. We love cramming into the ballpark and overpaying for beer and hotdogs to root root root for the home team. But while the world is a dumpster fire, these squabbles seem utterly ridiculous.
MLB has formally locked the players out of all things MLB. For the time being, there will be no contract negotiations, no player access to team facilities, and potentially no Spring Training or regular season games. Here’s the thing MLB fails to realize: this really doesn’t hurt anyone.. yet. Players aren’t receiving paychecks or playing anywhere during the offseason, so their cash flow isn’t cut off. There are plenty of gyms available for a guy to get his training in elsewhere (I mean, they might not be MLB training specific, but considering the players pre-1990 trained or even played with cigars and cigarettes hanging from their mustached mouths, the current players will probably be ok).
And the fans really don’t care either. We aren’t missing potential games right now. Spring Training is still a few months away. Many of us can’t afford to go to Florida or Arizona to catch a live game. Even if we could afford to travel, there’s still a raging pandemic and some of us don’t want to hop on a plane right now we are worried about the next Covid variant. So that leaves us with waiting until end of March/early April to have to wait to head to the ballpark... Just like we do pretty much every year.
And you know what else? We recently got through 2020 and a shortened season where we couldn’t go to the ballpark, and we lived! We made it through the winter and then end of March, April, May, and June of 2020 with no baseball. Yes, it sucked for those of us that love the game, but it turned out there were a lot of other things with which we could occupy our time. And guess what? If this lockout rages on past Spring Training, we, the fans (both casual and rabid) have now learned that we have plenty of other options to occupy our time come April.
Kids, sit back and let me tell you about the baseball strike of 1994. Yes, my middle aged ass was old enough to have some memory of what happened. Here’s what I remember (but you can look up specifics if you want): The players were not cool with the league trying to impose a salary cap, the league was trying to make more money, we missed out on the last half of Kent Hrbek’s last season, and Dave Winfield was sold to the Indians for a nice dinner. For real. Per Wikipedia:
The strike also led to an absurdity. The Minnesota Twins traded Dave Winfield to the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later. Since the strike led to the season being cancelled, no further transactions could be made until it was settled. The Twins would officially be listed as having sold Winfield to the Indians, but the actual transaction was conducted much differently. Instead of the Indians buying the contract outright, team management went out for a meal with Twins management and the Indians paid the tab; this essentially meant that Winfield had been traded for dinner.
I was 15 years old during this strike, so I was already kind of less interested in baseball due to being more into music, drivers ed, boys, friends, getting my first job, and all the other teenage distractions from the 1990’s. By the time the strike ended, I kind of didn’t care about baseball for a while. If I, a mega-fan didn’t care? Well then, the casual fan gave less than zero effs about baseball. I went to ONE game between 1995 and 1999 (I think in 1996?), and it was so empty in the stands that you could clearly hear what people were saying on the first base line from our seats in left field. Following the strike, Hrbek was gone, Kirby was forced into early retirement, the team had losing records consistently through the end of the decade, and it wasn’t until the Get to know em! campaign in 2001 that most fans came back to the cement garbage bag known as the Metrodome (also to try to keep the team from being contracted along with the Expos.. Goddamn Bud Selig). And the Twins weren’t the only team that struggled to make it back from the strike. Said Expos never found their stride again and eventually moved to D.C. It wasn’t until the players found steroids and engaged in home run races that MLB bounced back from the strike.
Interest in baseball is already waning among the younger fans. MLB has been trying to engage fans with games on the Ballpark App, speeding up the game with things like less pitching changes or the ghost runner in extra innings (Goddamn Rob Manfred). The players might be locked out right now, but MLB can’t afford to lose more fans right now. The fans have found too many other things to spend 3+ hours a night watching/spending their money on. The fans are too worried about their real lives to worry about the squabbles between billionaires and millionaires playing a child’s game, so this lockout could potentially cause more damage to the game than the 1994 strike did.
The only people that stand to be hurt here if it lasts for a while? The non-splashy free agents. If the lockout lasts for a long time, the guys that are looking for a new team (or even trying to stay with their current teams) but aren’t big household names commanding multi-year, multi-bajillion dollar contracts might have to find a side hustle for a while. And you know who that would ultimately hurt? Major League M-Fin’ Baseball. Because if the lockout lasts long enough to cut into when games need to start, and teams don’t fill their gaps, and teams kind of suck, and fans aren’t watching their crappy teams? Who loses? Oh yes. The owners trying to make their money.
So there you have it my friends. This is why this lockout is nothing (at least for me) to worry about. Ask me again if this shit lasts into June though, because all lockout and no baseball will probably make Marea a dull (and very angsty) girl and I might be changing my tune completely.