There’s an old African proverb that says, “when two elephants fight, the grass suffers.” This seems to be the case within Major League Baseball lately. Owners and players have failed to come to terms on a collective bargaining agreement that would end an ongoing lockout.
As expected, fans are paying the biggest price for this debacle.
The cost of discord
The past two years have seen significant disruptions in baseball’s familiar cycles as a result of COVID–19. However, this situation with the lockout does nothing but complicate matters further. Unfortunately, it postpones the start of spring training for at least a week.
These practices and exhibition games generally take place before the regular season. Here, new players can try out for roster and position spots while the more established players fine–tune their game.
Lockout hinders the “good times”
Spring training has traditionally drawn a lot of fan attention. Crowds traditionally travel in droves down to the warmer climates of Florida and Arizona to watch their favorite team. This is typically a happy time when photos are taken, autographs are signed, and lasting memories are forged.
Now fans and sports analysts alike have been robbed of the delight of listening to the day-to-day spring training progress of the best teams in the league. While access to players and personnel would have remained limited due to the pandemic, at least a few fans could have watched. Now, even that is now off the table until the lockout is resolved.
The butterfly effect strikes MLB
February 15th should have been the day MLB officials saw pitchers and catchers report for duty. This is an indication that opening day is merely weeks away.
On the contrary, now the advent of spring training’s been pushed back. This makes it all the more difficult to salvage the start of the MLB season, scheduled on March 31. For three straight seasons, baseball just isn’t what it used to be.
In an organizational statement, Cincinnati Reds president Bob Castellini expressed profound “disappointment” at the work stoppage. He went on to clarify though that “this did not mean the games will be canceled.”
Like every major league baseball team, the Reds haven’t had a typical spring training since 2019. In 2020, COVID-19 threw a wrench into the works by stopping spring training in the middle of March. The next year saw the pandemic have a lingering impact on workouts and overall camp attendance.
Practice makes perfect
This year, the Reds training period has been put off. Consequently, the town of Goodyear, Arizona, will keep its facilities closed until further notice. By contrast, it would usually be a bustling hub of baseball activity.
Reports from the Cincinnati Enquirer suggest the Reds 40-man roster will be practicing at Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio.
Still, for a team not to be able to practice in its familiar surroundings could harm a player’s game during the regular season. This is a reality that veteran players like Luis Castillo and Joey Votto know all too well.
The fans aren’t excited about it
Nothing frustrates a fan base more than watching rich owners and wealthy players squabble over money.
During a press conference last December, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred admitted that the lockout was “bad for business.”
However, he was quick to point out that the fault for the impasse didn’t lie with him. This comes as little solace for the fans who lost money on game tickets, tv subscriptions, and possible betting opportunities.
The lockout that went into effect on Dec. 2, 2021, was initially implemented to force both sides to settle their disputes. If anything, however, it’s had an adverse effect. Both parties have made this an opportunity to dig in their heels further and refuse to budge.
The last MLB work stoppage came 26 years ago. A strike by the players resulted in a season with more games being canceled than played.
Something has to give
Last Tuesday, representatives from the players association convened for the seventh time to try and hammer out a deal. It marked the second day of intense negotiations, a hopeful sign that both sides are no longer dragging their feet.
Most regrettable is the fact that the lockout might coincide with the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American to join the big leagues.
What a crying shame it would be if baseball stadiums across the nation remained closed on April 15, baseball’s official national holiday. This would be a catastrophic mistake, and it must be avoided at all costs.
Thankfully, minor league spring training hasn’t been affected by the lockout. Fans are able to trickle into those stadiums in dribs and drabs.
But overall, there is a general feeling that things just aren’t the same with America’s national pastime. Passion for the once-so-loved game has been deteriorating for some time now, and issues like the lockout are bringing continued apathy to the sport.
A favorite pass time is dwindling
Although there’s nothing like going to the stadium, smelling the popcorn and the peanuts, the time when people splurged a week’s paychecks on game tickets is pretty much over. In today’s world with so many distractions vying for our attention, the MLB could easily lose a large chunk of its fanbase if it’s not careful.
It’s almost criminal the level to which owners don’t seem to care about the dwindling popularity of the sport. If the MLB truly wants any chance at preserving the integrity of the coming 162-game season, it needs to smarten up and make the game exciting and appealing to its fans again.
Fortunately, all is not lost just yet. There is still time for all parties involved to snap out of it. Should a deal be struck in the coming week, it would allow for at least 30 frenzied days of practice before the grind of the regular season begins.
Owners and the players need to wake up to the fact that fans don’t care who’s right or wrong. They just want to hear the crack of the bat, the snap of the pitcher’s mitt, and the umpire’s call, “play ball!”