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OPINION: The MLB is Devoid of Leadership

Where is the leadership on both sides of this stalemate?

Photo: Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

2020 is shaping up to be one for the books. We are in the midst of an international pandemic that has led to depressing levels of unemployment and economic activity; coupled with social unrest that is gripping the nation from coast-to-coast engulfing large metropolitan areas, affluent suburbs, and rural areas alike. With all of this going on we are devoid of leadership from all levels of government national, state, and local. The game of baseball is facing its own crisis of leadership as the Commissioner can’t seem to make any progress with the MLBPA on how to return the game to the field in 2020.

The two sides have been taking their sweet time exchanging proposals on how the game will return. This has, in turn, wasted weeks of valuable negotiating time that could’ve brought about resolutions to the issues at hand. Instead, neither side thought it was important enough to have real, serious discussions like adults.

The owners are having to schedule a conference call to discuss whether they want to restart negotiations with the MLBPA. What planet are we on right now? I dare someone in the Commissioner’s office to wake up Manfred and inform him that, yes, you should restart negotiations.

With everything outside the game of baseball that has taken place in the first half of this year, Major League Baseball had a golden opportunity to be the first professional sport back in action giving it a stage all to itself and exposure it typically never receives. For a sport that is already staring some horrendous demographics in the face, this is not what it needs. MLB had an opportunity to try and make inroads with younger generations that have turned away from the game, but they can’t get out of their own way. Instead we will continue to be overwhelmed by erectile dysfunction ads during games, symbolic of the aging demographic of the sport.

Hell, I think ESPN might have even had to acknowledge the sport without any other form of live team sports available for programming. But baseball being baseball, it has squandered this opportunity.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic is reporting that any hopes of the game returning for the 4th of July weekend and all the symbolism that could’ve been gleaned from it are essentially dead and gone. Baseball, like the country itself, has leadership that can’t get out of its own way. The Commissioner’s Office (and by extension the 30 ownership groups) and MLBPA, led by the inept Tony Clark, seem to be interested in delivering a death nail into the coffin of the sport.

It is apparent right now, that the Rob Manfred and the ownership groups are hellbent on playing as short of a season as possible while providing players with their prorated salaries or requiring the players to take additional salary concessions in exchange for more games. From my perspective, this is an asinine position to take. They’ve made their financial bed (and millions of dollars in the last decade with at least 2/3 of the league’s teams actively “tanking” for 3-5 years). The tweets below from Joe Sheehan, sum up my thoughts:

The idea that Rob Manfred and his constituents are unwilling to budge off a season that will range anywhere from 45-60 games at pro-rated salaries is just ludicrous. If MLB owners are really cash strapped they have options on how they can fund the pro-rated salaries this year. Two pieces written by Roger Ehrenberg detail what these owners (one of whom happens to reside in Chicago) can do and they are must reads.

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Now, don’t for one minute think that the MLBPA and their dunce of a leader, Tony Clark, are free of blame in all of this. According to a recent piece from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Clark knew the March 26th agreement left open the possibility of further discussions on pay:

However, even some player agents believe the language in the deal favors the MLB’s position. And last Sunday, in a digital meeting between the parties, Clark acknowledged the agreement left open the possibility of another negotiation if the season could not be played in front of fans, according to a comment Halem made to the New York Post. No matter, Clark later said publicly the union’s position was effectively unchanged – the players wanted their prorated salaries.

So, Clark either didn’t read the March 26th proposal, or he was just willfully ignorant in disregarding it and I’m not sure which is worse. Clark appeared to be more interested in guaranteeing full service time for the 2020 season all the while ignoring how payment would be provided for games played and selling future constituents of the MLBPA down the river with the ridiculous changes to the draft in 2020. This most recent debacle shows how in over his head Clark truly is and illustrates the need for someone who actually understands labor relations in the MLBPA.

So where does all of this leave us? It leaves us with a standoff between a Commissioner that is more interested in being a lawyer, and one that doesn’t really appear to give a damn about the game of baseball, and an MLBPA head that can’t negotiate the sale of water to a dehydrated man.

With each passing day and the passivity of these “negotiations” we will be left with fewer and fewer games of baseball. Since there aren’t any adults in the room capable of comprehending what’s at stake and how to negotiate with each other in good faith, I fear that if we do indeed get baseball it will be an absolute shell of what the game is supposed to be. Add an increased level of animosity to an already strained relationship between ownership and the MLBPA heading into the next CBA negotiation following the 2021 season, and the sport is left with one foot dangling over the cliff.

There is an abundance of blame to go around for the failures of baseball to get its act together and give us a 2020 season that could be representative of a true season, in some capacity. Rob Manfred, the 30 owners, Tony Clark and the MLBPA all deserve to be ridiculed for how this has been handled. In the end, it is the small percentage of sports viewing fans that profess our love for the game of baseball that will get screwed.

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Former scrub JUCO pitcher

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