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The holidays are over, COVID slogs on, it’s far below freezing—and I’m getting worried about baseball

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For those who lived through them, how did you reconcile work stoppages with your fandom?

Minnesota Winter Weather John Autey / MediaNews Group / St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images

When Major League Baseball’s owners locked out the players on December 2, 2021, I made a vow to not get into the weeds of the disagreement. Not because such topics aren’t useful—they very much are and I’m sure will be covered in excruciating detail by numerous outlets. I just don’t have the energy, at this time, to give to the “millionaires vs. billionaires” back-and-forth. Truly all I care about is having baseball return on March 31, 2022. Full stop. I don’t care what compromises (or lack thereof) need to happen to make that a reality. Maybe this is the right way to think about these things, maybe it’s not. But I’d rather have a full season of a flawed product than no season or a partial season of a theoretically better one. Either way, in the words of Michael Keaton’s Caped Crusader: “Now I’m a little worried”.

Maybe I’m in a bad mood. The holidays are over, COVID’s third wave—Omicron—is running rampant, and the outdoor thermometer reads similar to Matt Shoemaker’s Runs Above Average score last year (ba dum tss—I’ll be here all night). I know there’s still time on the docket to get a deal hammered out, but as of this writing (January 10) neither side has met with the other and no talks are on the books. Not a great sign for quick resolution.

I’ve never experienced a prolonged baseball lockout. The last such occurrence—1994—was a few years before my Twins fandom began to flourish. The pandemic-shortened 2020 has been the closest to a “lost season” I’ve had to endure, and at least that can be pinned on a major global health event. But a cancellation simply because MLB & the MLBPA can’t hammer out a deal? Hasn’t happened “on my watch”.

Oakland Athletics Fan
The 1994 strike is little more than a vague memory for me (then a 9-year old)
SetNumber: X46737

From 1972-1981, there was seemingly a work stoppage every couple of years—the biggest being the ‘81 June 11-August 10 standstill that produced an awkward two-halves playoff format. Then, the ‘94 occlusion wiped out August 11 through the World Series, and even delayed the ‘95 campaign. It took Cal Ripken’s Iron Man streak and the McGwire/Sosa steroid circus to jump-start fan interest after that one.

All of this is to say that I’m quite inexperienced when it comes to dealing with collective bargaining dustups. For those of you who lived through them, how did you cope—especially during times when scheduled games were not being played?

Like I said, right now I care little about the actual issues on the table. Probably short-sighted, but in a world so weary from so many other issues, I’m in a frame of mind where “I want my baseball” (not unlike the old MTV ad campaign). Perhaps this will change if/when actual negotiating—and not just stonewalling—begins.

Fortunately, I’m not much of an off-season—or even Spring Training—hound to begin with. I have the NFL playoffs, my love of literature, and my passion for film to get me through the cold weeks ahead. But with every day that goes by without baseball’s labor issues ironed out, my stomach sinks a little further. Because if baseball isn’t cranked up by mid-March when the temps rise and the snow dissipates, I’m not going to be a happy camper.

Division Series - Chicago White Sox v Houston Astros - Game One
Every time I have myself convinced that the owners won’t sacrifice any portion of a full season in 2022, I remember that this guy is Commissioner and start worrying all over again.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images