Cleveland Indians: MLB better figure out labor deal, or fear the worst

Ranting about the state of baseball and wondering if there will be Cleveland Indians games in 2020 as owners and players fight about their labor agreement.

Fans have been demanding that the Cleveland Indians “open up the books” for years. For many, many seasons, Tribe fans have heard their team cry “poor” as some of franchise’s biggest names leave town early via trade, or via free agency.

Ownership always gives the shame reasoning: Mid-size market, lackluster attendance, if we pay this player, we won’t be able to sign other players.

With Francisco Lindor approaching free agency, Tribe fans are going through it all again, as we prepare ourselves to watch one of the best players in the organization’s 100 plus-year history walk away.

Rinse. wash. repeat.

A kid’s game played by adults is somehow always sullied by money. Naive of me? Perhaps, but don’t deny it’s not true.

Now, in devastating economic times for this country, baseball seems to be on the cusp of getting back on the field in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of looking forward to a possible return, fighting between millionaires and billionaires is what’s taking the headlines.

In short, the owners want to renegotiate the labor agreement agreed upon March 26, which agrees to pay players a prorated salary. Now, the bosses want to re-do this deal, as no one expects fans to be in the stadium at all in 2020.

The players aren’t having this, arguing a deal’s a deal.

Both sides have a point, but being right could be disastrous in the long run. The owners made the deal assuming fans would be back. It was a bad assumption. Both sides seem ready to bunker down in the trenches defending their respective points of view.

And who loses? Us, the fans. We’re dying for live sports to help us pass the time during these unprecedented times, and while the safety measures look to be in place for the grand ole’ game to be played, Baseball might say No thanks.” It boggles the mind.

It sounds crazy, but this IS Major League Baseball, a major sports league that already cancelled one World Series due to a labor dispute back in 1994.

Back then, fans were irritated and did not come back, at least right away. To spark fan interest, baseball needed two historic events to catapult itself back into the national consciousness, as Cal Ripken Jr. tracked down Lou Gehrig‘s consecutive games streak, while Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa tracked down Roger Maris in 1998.

Baseball better be careful, though, because the players and owners can lose big, too.

Baseball knows it has a growing disconnect with its fans. It’s why teams, like our beloved Indians, have built bars in their right field stands. It’s why the powers-that-be are constantly trying to figure out how to shorten games as everyone with an iPhone’s attention span shrinks by the second. It’s like, baseball has resorted to figure out ways to pull in fans without making them aware they’re at a baseball game. Ugh.

Listen, they’ve got me. I love the game, as well as the history. I can sit in my chair and watch an entire game. I try to instill the same love in my kids, but I worry I’m a dying breed.

The game of baseball just seems intent on shooting itself in the foot.

Before the pandemic, baseball was dead set on trying to eliminate minor league teams. Why would owners want to do this after the commissioner publicly touted how many people attended baseball games in 2019?

Always follow the money. Owners don’t want to to pay their employees in the low levels of the minors. Scouting has come far enough, they argue, that they can weed these players out.

Ok, baseball, well the kid who would’ve gone to see the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, or the Charleston Power of the Class A South Atlantic League will find something else to do, and it probably won’t involve baseball.

Baseball’s better use of time would be trying to figure out how to get a season played, as millions stay at home, waiting for live sports on their TV. Think of all the new fans the game could attract, as someone who might not normally watches baseball decides to give it a chance.

Surely, they might wonder what the point is when they watch an entire defense  huddle around the first base line in a shift driven by sabermetrics, but that’s an argument for another day.

Next: Baker Mayfield questionable decision making during COVID-19 pandemic?

Just don’t blow it baseball, because I fear you don’t know what kind of damage you’ll do by not playing in 2020.

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