The people that fuck with baseball around these parts—and by these parts I mean the Complex universe—aren’t exactly plentiful. And frankly, you don’t need a PhD to get why basketball and football are way more popular these days than the national pastime. But for those of us who still cape hard for hardball, and so desperately miss its presence in our everyday lives, we'd like to issue a massive fuck off to the players and, most especially, to the owners for putting the 2020 season, and sport’s future, in peril.
Maybe that was a little harsh and slightly Russ Bengtson-y of me—if you follow him on Twitter, you know. But as players and owners bitterly bicker about money knowing MLB is the American sports league best positioned to return the quickest and can own the sports spotlight like it hasn't in decades, I want to pull a Beyoncé and bash a parked car to pieces since my blood won't stop boiling.
So, with that being said, I have a brief message for the billionaire owners and the millionaire players from Complex's small contingent of baseball fans…
FIGURE SHIT OUT AND START THE SEASON.
Baseball’s on the verge of giving itself another ugly black eye. Screw up 2020 and the players and owners could screw up baseball for a generation.
But baseball’s gonna baseball since labor disputes are sadly part of the sport's culture just like hot dogs, hit-and-runs, and the Mets missing the playoffs. This latest drama, brought on by these unprecedented times, couldn’t come off as more tone-deaf as baseball tries to carve out a financially prudent path toward resuming play. And as these negotiations drag on, with no deadline to agree on the terms required to start the most unique season in MLB history, expect things to get real petty, real quick.
If you haven’t been paying attention and are wondering what’s holding up baseball’s return—ideally around July 4th—here’s a brief overview.
The owners and players are at odds over splitting revenue during the 2020 season that will assuredly feature fewer games than usual and few, if any, fans at the ballpark. And considering baseball derives roughly 40 percent of its revenue from fans in the stands you get there have to be some concessions from the players. But the players already agreed to reduced salaries in March when the season’s start was initially delayed and the owners’ proposal earlier this week of an 82-game season with severe salary reductions was garish and rightfully ridiculed by the players. Under it, the game’s best and highest-paid, like Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole who make in excess of $35 million a year each, would take home as little as 22 percent of their salaries. Meanwhile, players making much less, like say $1 million, would take home a greater portion of their pay. In what capitalistic society will superstars ever gladly accept getting paid only slightly more than reserves and relief pitchers?
Negotiations, of course, have to start somewhere. But the owners pulled that offer straight out of the dumpster. It was garbage, unfairly and unnecessarily penalizing baseball’s best players in the severest of fashions. One could easily argue it was a cheap ploy to recoup the astronomical sums of money you know the owners hate forking over. The players had every right to be royally pissed. They’ve accused the owners of refusing to be transparent about their finances as they take on all the risk of playing games and traveling from city to city, exposing themselves and potentially their families to COVID-19. And the owners want to pay the players a fraction of what they were supposed to get?
That’s why it’s so easy to side with the players who, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported, will officially counter with a proposal to earn their prorated salaries over a 100-game schedule. Buckle up for a nauseating battle between billionaires and millionaires over the next few days and possibly weeks. There will be accusations of dishonesty and duplicity. There will be plenty of animosity. But god damnit, there better be baseball in 2020.
The worst-case scenario—intentionally walking away from the 2020 season entirely—scarily isn’t that far-fetched. You know that if you know anything about the MLB Players Association’s relationship with the owners. It’s never been good and it’s reportedly deteriorated further in recent years. But for economic and therapeutic reasons, you would think cooler heads prevail and we get baseball back because we need it. With a massive incentive to reap all the goodwill of being the first big sports league to return in the States, well before the NBA and NHL, plus the ability to attract tens of millions of sports-starved fans, and the chance to earn the attention of a younger and more diverse demographic like never before, you’d think these negotiations wouldn’t be so dramatic.
Yet, here we are. Once upon a time in 1994, baseball shot itself in the foot when it canceled the World Series because of a dispute between the owners and players. Fans didn’t return in 1995. It took years, and, real talk, steroids for crowds and good vibes to fill up ballparks again. Baseball’s on the verge of giving itself another ugly black eye. Screw up 2020 and the players and owners could screw up baseball for a generation.
So please, please, please baseball, do not fuck this up. Do the right thing and get the games going. Owners negotiate in good faith and stop being shady. Players—like Blake Snell and Bryce Harper—don’t insult fans making less per year than you do in one game complaining about not getting every dime you were originally owed. Smarten up, conduct business like adults and not a bunch of babies, get a deal done, and let’s play ball.
But if rationality ultimately loses out to acrimony, and the games aren’t back by the Fourth of July—or worse—this hardcore baseball fan is ready to watch Major League Baseball burn to the ground.