Elephant in the room

I should have spent the weekend getting updates Major League Baseball training sites as I prepare for my draft next week in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. Instead, the players remained locked out in Major League Baseball and we now get reports on fifteen-minute meeting between the Player’s Association and the owners.

So, instead of writing a column this week about outfielders with an ADP above 200, I am going to shift gears from fantasy to reality. I’m going to write about the elephant in the room. Let’s pull our heads out of our a—-, I mean sand, and face reality. Unless things change quickly and dramatically, the 2022 MLB regular season will be delayed.

As labor negotiations resume this week between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), both parties know they have a deadline. A new collective bargaining agreement must be ratified by February 28th for the regular season to start on time. I  hope it happens, but you can color me skeptical.

As everyone who cares about professional baseball knows, the collective bargaining agreement between the Major League Baseball Players Association and the MLB expired twelve weeks ago. It is the sport’s first work stoppage since the infamous players’ strike that began on August 12, 1994 and resulted in the remainder of that seasoned being cancelled.

As I read my Twitter feed each day, looking for nuggets of information relevant to fantasy baseball, I read snippets of commentary from analysts and pundits about the lockout, and it seems as though there is widespread support for the players against these rich owners who run sweatshops exploiting their overworked, underpaid employees.

Without taking sides, let me offers the contrarian view which you probably haven’t heard. The average salary of an MLB player today is $4.7 million. The minimum salary being proposed by the owners is $630,000 for the 2022 season, and clubs would be allowed to give raises until players become eligible for salary arbitration. Let that sink in.

In the United States of America, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, a family must earn $597,815 to be in the top 1% of earners, according to a study by Smart Asset published last month in USA Today. That means every single major league baseball player is in the top 1% of earners. Mike Trout, #37.12 million is in the top 1% of that 1%.

Let’s put this MLB labor dispute in perspective. People have lost their jobs, their businesses and the lives of loved ones in the ongoing COVID pandemic, while receiving updates on a disagreement between millionaires and billionaires. Contrary to what Gordon Gekko says, greed is not good. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the seven deadly sins. 

The players feel that they are not getting enough money. Yes, a group of ballplayers who average over $4 million a year are underpaid. But the minimum MLB salary in 1995, when the last work stoppage was resolved, was $109,000. If you factor in inflation, that’s $212,000. In other words, the minimum salary has almost tripled in the last 27 years.

Now let’s consider the words of Blake Snell. Back in 2020, when Americans were locked in their homes by decree as COVID spread across the land, Snell, who was in the middle of a five-year, $50 million contract, balked at the idea of accepting a prorated reduction of his $7 million salary.  “For me to take a pay cut is not happening,” Snell said to a reporter.

“I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, Okay? And that’s just the way it is for me. Like, I’m sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher, and the amount of money I’m making is way lower, why would I think about doing that? Like you know, I’m just, I’m sorry, but a pay cut is not happening. No way.”

When I read this quote, I thought about a similar response from Mary Antoinette. “Let them eat cake,” was the famous quote attributed to the queen of France back in 1789 when she was told that her starving peasant subjects were protesting because they had no bread. A few days later, the revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, and Proud Mary lost her head.

Once the most popular sport in the country, America’s pastime is dying. In a high-speed era where immediate gratification is expected, fewer and fewer people are willing to invest three hours to watch a baseball game. My wife loves me, but she will not sit down and watch more than an inning of a baseball game with me. It’s a crying shame.

As TV ratings continue to decline and less people fill the stands, fewer youngsters are playing little league. When I was a kid, no one played soccer but everyone played baseball. Now, there’s more youth soccer participants than baseball players. And the current generation of greedy players is only helping the sport die faster with their attitudes.

But what about those greedy owners? Those fat-cat billionaires that rake in all this money, and they simply don’t want to share the wealth with the players? I’ve heard this repeatedly, and frankly it’s a broken record.  Commissioner Rob Manfred reported an operational loss of between $2.8 billion and $3 billion in the shortened 2020 season.

And, yes, that figure included the reduced salaries that players were paid. Keep in mind that neither the players nor owners went hungry that year, but the reality is that people in business can’t stay in business if they are bleeding red ink. Too many people forget that it was our economic system called capitalism that made this country what it is.

But even in the days before the pandemic, most MLB owners didn’t make money on their clubs.
“Most baseball owners don’t take money out of their team. They raise all the revenue they can from tickets and media rights, take out expenses and give all the money that’s left to their GM to spend,” Chicago Cubs owner told ESPN two years ago.

So, as the deadline looms, the lockout continues. Spring Training is already definitely delayed.

A week from now, if no deal is in place (and we should not expect one), MLB will almost certainly be looking at missed regular season games. Opening Day is scheduled for March 31st. The optimist in me wants to believe that there will be a solution found this week.

“Come now and let us reason together,” says the Lord to his backsliding people a few thousand years ago. “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” After quoting the Bible, let me add this: For the love of God (and baseball), let’s end this and have a regular season. We all need it. 

 Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

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