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MLB is slowly killing its own sport

Baseball is losing a considerable number of fans thanks to the ongoing lockout and the owners’ unwillingness to come close to players’ demands

MLB: JAN 09 MLB Lockout Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NFL had a relatively normal season. NBA fans are enjoying budding stars making plays night in and night out. MLB fans, well, let’s just hope they don’t turn their back to the sport, but who can blame those who decide to do it, purposely or not?

Comparisons are not pretty, we know, but there always seem to be a problem in baseball, specifically, with MLB. If it’s not the ball, it’s the Hall of Fame election system. If it’s not the sign-stealing scandal, it’s pitchers using foreign substances on the ball. Those, however, are minor issues in comparison with not having baseball to watch. That, my friends, is a big problem.

This is, sadly, not the first work stoppage in baseball, and chances are it won’t be the last. This one, however, is especially harmful for the game because of the growing animosity between the league and its own players, the ones putting on the show. As a reminder, it was the owners who locked out the players on December 2, basically preventing the season from happening. They can lift the lockout if they wanted, but no. They don’t want to.

While the league did make some improvements in its “best and final offer” before Tuesday’s deadline (which wasn’t met, so MLB canceled the first two series of the season), it wasn’t enough because players decided to firmly stand for what they think they are worth, which is totally understandable.

As a result of the players’ resolve, and the owners’ inability (or shall we say unwillingness?) to meet the union’s demands, it may be a while before they reach an agreement. Right now, the owners’ best offer is starting the competitive balance tax (CBT) at $220 million for 2022, 2023, and 2024, then increasing it to $224 million in 2025 and $230 million in 2026. The union wants to start at $230 million this year.

MLB is also offering $30 million for the pre-arbitration bonus pool, and players are at $85 million. The league is also proposing a minimum salary of $700,000 in 2022, while the union wants a minimum of $775,000 in 2022. There is too much of a gap to solve in just a few days. This could take weeks.

The league’s intentions to unilaterally implement rule changes such as the pitch clock and banning the shift, plus their insistence on the expanded playoffs with 14 teams, are also irking the players.

The owners have shown a willingness to ditch the first month of the season, which obviously hurts players because they won’t collect paychecks if they don’t get on the field. They apparently want to break the union, but in the process, they are also breaking merchandise vendors, stadium workers, team staff, coaches, managers, umpires, fans, and many more groups.

The owners, perhaps as a collateral effect, are inflicting enormous damage to their sport. Many people in social media platforms, media members, and outside observers have said that some fans, angry about the situation, won’t watch and consume baseball the way they used to.

A similar thing happened after the 1994 strike: the following season, both attendance to stadiums and TV ratings greatly decreased. Luckily for baseball, the steroids era and the home run chase helped them get back to normal levels.

Additionally, the league has to think about the younger generations. How can they sell the sport to them if they can’t watch it? There hasn’t been too much baseball in the last three years, and there always seems to be some beef between owners and its own players.

In 2020, they missed 102 games in a preview of what we are currently going through. Now, fans are having games taken away from their season by small bits, with a touch of uncertainty, making matters worse.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and owners are slowly taking baseball’s soul. It’s time to stop.

Andrés Chávez loves the game of baseball and writes about it at Beyond the Box Score, Pinstripe Alley, and other sites. He is on Twitter as @andres_chavez13