The owner-imposed lockout of the players of Major League Baseball has now resulted in the owners canceling another week of regular season games, and at this point it’s clear that these guys are willing to burn a significant portion of the season to get their way.
Or, rather, it was always clear, but they’ve done a decent job of throwing all but the most dedicated truth-tellers off the scent. They even got me in these very pages two weeks ago, when I actually believed their willingness to simply show up at the negotiating table meant anything whatsoever.
Now they keep revising their deadlines and pulling the football any time the union’s proposals get close, then turn around and blame the players for not kicking said football. It would be embarrassing—it is embarrassing—but, sadly, it seems to work. You don’t have to look very hard on Twitter to find fans who have bought their crap hook, line and sinker, and who blame the players for a lack of baseball that is 100 percent caused by the owners.
For the billionth time: The old Collective Bargaining Agreement did, in fact, expire, but unlike when, say, a driver’s license expires, you can continue to use a CBA until you have a new one unless one of the two parties does something drastic and ill-conceived in a petulant, transparent ploy to increase their already considerable power, as the owners have done now. There’s no baseball right now because they care about money more than baseball, full stop.
I mean, just a few days ago the league announced a new partnership with Apple to stream Friday night games, except there’s no baseball to stream right now. The degree to which this pierces through the league’s patently false money-losing rhetoric is like a worm eating through an actual apple; the whole thing is rotten to the core.
The real story of this lockout is how the players are united, seemingly to a person, in not letting the owners pull this crap anymore. These are the most competitive guys in their fields, and are effectively led, in Max Scherzer, by the most competitive guy in their field, and they’re acting in unison to stop their bosses from screwing the lowest guys on the totem pole around anymore.
It’s pretty inspiring! Of course, pull up Twitter and you’ll find trolls complaining that players make too much money and all the same nonsense people have said for 100 years. And the truth is that some players make too much money. They are usually veterans who signed contracts right at the point their skills started to decline, usually for top dollar, signed because they were trying to make up lost wages on the front-end enabled by MLB’s team-control system.
So that’s what fans think of when they think of bad contracts. And you’d think that’s what the owners are trying to get rid of in this agreement, right? Except they’re not. Those contracts are what the players are trying to eliminate, by opening avenues for younger guys to get paid better. In fact, I’d argue that those terrible contracts act as loss leaders for the owners by poisoning the well so thoroughly that we reach a point like we have now where fans refuse to do the slightest bit of critical thinking over who is truly overpaid and why.
And, of course, those contracts are awarded by the owners, a group of people so entitled and largely used to getting their way that they can impulse-buy a player for $80 million, sour on him three months later, and get sympathy from fans who see the players as eminently replaceable, which they’re not, due to a handful of admittedly grotesque deals.
The bottom line is to stay strong against this tide for one reason: The players are trying to make this system better. They’re trying to get rid of the bad contracts. They’re trying to protect players from an international draft that’s not ready for prime-time. They’re trying to improve the game. The owners just want more money. Choose your fighter; I’ve chosen mine.