Major League Baseball is now on the clock, does anyone really care?
Question to the floor: Is there a professional sport more poorly run and publicized than Major League Baseball?
Seriously, it's laughable how badly the flunk basic public relations on even the most mundane and basic level to the point that arguable nobody outside the game knows or really cares that they've been in the middle of a lockout for the past month.
Oh, Spring Training for 2022, yeah, players are allegedly supposed to report to training camp in less than a month from the day I write this (Jan. 17).
Did I mention the lockout?
Both the league and its players let the most recent labor agreement expire at the beginning of December, 2021. Because neither side agreed on much when it came to a new agreement, the league just decided to lock everyone out.
And until MLB came up with a rather flaccid proposal to restart talks this past week, we haven't heard a peep about anything baseball related. Not that tons of news comes out on the game during the holiday season, but this time--nothing. No free agent signings, no trades, no nothing.
And the "no nothing" part continues and its really a shame. Coming off a very successful 2021 season, the potential for growth and momentum had not been much higher. Most teams rebounded from a difficult 2020 where the pandemic shortened the season and kept fans from the ballparks. It caused many to lose money budgeted for that year.
But don't cry for the billionaires who own baseball teams, they aren't losing money. Even if revenues fall short, they just write it off. Since the money never physically existed, no harm, no foul.
The players on the other hand are taking a hit. No signings, no trades technically nothing. Sure, they don't really get paid in the off season per say, but the prospect of not getting paid in February should worry them. Particularly the young guys which in many ways is the crux of the labor dispute.
The players are trying to get a bigger share of profits as a whole and trying to get loopholes teams exploit to not pay young players closed. Most young baseball players are not even eligible to get a big paycheck until 5 or 6 years into their careers. And teams often will manipulate when those players get called up to the big league roster to squeeze an extra season of not having to pay the player if they are very good.
If you're asking at this point if I'm siding with players on this--yup, I sure the heck am. I have no sympathy for any billionaire. I don't care if certain players are getting paid obscene amounts of money. They quite honestly earn it.
Not just based on their statistical performances either. Star players deserve what they get because they generate gate and merchandising revenue for said billionaires. And if they didn't generate that kind of money--then why are we talking about a sky high pay scale. If team owners couldn't afford to pay players what they do, then who's to blame for why we're having this conversation? What player is going to say no if an owner offers to pay them an obscene amount of money?
Here's the other issue. Baseball has a MAJOR image problem. Major. The game is not marketed well and does not reach all of the potential audience it could for a variety of reasons. Most are self inflicted.
The league wants to continue growing their viewing audience yet is the most restrictive of all the professional leagues with granting access to their product. If you are one of the few people still paying obscene prices for cable, yeah, you can watch your team play. But if you live in a town or area near a team and don't have cable, you don't get to watch ANY of the local teams games.
Yep, that's one way to piss off your local fanbase. Don't allow fans access to the games unless they are willing to buy a ticket and attend in person. Not practical for just about anyone.
Here's another problem, continual poor decision making. Why has the league gone radio silent about their current issues? Why not discuss the labor problem to force a quick resolution? The longer it goes on with no publicity, the less people care about what's happening and why it's important. Make your frigging case Rob Manfred, force the issue if you believe in it....
Three, continued tinkering with the rules. Stop messing with little things to try and speed up the pace of play. Just embrace what you do well and promote it. Football games last at least three hours because of all the commercials. The 60 minutes of playing time is more like about 12 of actual action and with all the starting and stopping is maddening to watch in person.
If you want to know why constantly changing your rules is bad, look what it's done to NASCAR. Unless you are a math major or someone who lives, eats and breathes the sport, nobody understands NASCAR's race and playoff points formula anymore.
Why follow a sport if the casual fan can't figure out why or what makes a successful team?
There was a time about 15-20 years ago when NASCAR was on the cusp of being a breakthrough sport, then they started messing with the rules. Now---does anyone pay attention to them any more?
Look, baseball, when done right is an easy sell. Or it should be. It's "America's Game" even with football now taking over that claim. It's about as wholesome as you're going to get when it comes to pro sports.
The game has a ton of marketable talent. So many crazy good athletes who if marketed right can appeal to just about every demographic imaginable. Play to it. Sell it. Put these guys everywhere.
To me, and maybe I'm in the minority, the game is a "love-hate" affair. I hate the way the game is run and the people who own it. It's run by a bunch of old, gray-haired white people making a crap-ton of money while trying to shave dollars off of costs and passing on new costs to customers. They could care less about what fans think as long as the fans send money on their product.
It's a game where the league and its owners thought it was ok to pay minor league players trying to earn a job in peanuts for their labor. It's inexcusable that minor league players were making less than $10K a year to play the game. It's even more inexcusable that the league and its owners immediately said they could not afford to do better.
Baseball has a lot of image cleaning to do before they can change my mind. And to me it's really sad. As much as I LOVE my Atlanta Braves, I'd be all over going to games this coming season and spending my hard-earned money at the ballpark. If they delay the season because of a silly labor dispute again or don't fix their TV viewership issues, it's going to be really hard for them to win people like me back.
And that's the tragic part of this. It all could be fixed. Really, really easily.
But only if someone cared enough to try.