Baseball Becomes Afterthought If Season Gets Cancelled
Yesterday, the MLB owners agreed to baseball’s new season outlining 82 games, a universal DH, a regional schedule, a revenue split of 52/48. The last one was the big one. Tony Clark, the head of the player’s union, immediately came out against such a plan. No word on if Clark will present this to the players. I assume that Clark will provide a counteroffer, and the MLB owners will find a middle ground. These are special times and compromises are needed. Clark should do whatever he can to ensure this is a one-time thing versus the precedent. But baseball should know this: A lost season hurts them way more than the NBA canceling the last part of their season.
Baseball and basketball are on two different paths. For the MLB, they’re trying to get a younger generation to watch their spot. That’s why Rob Manfred tried coming up with new rules and different ideas that made every traditional cringe. For the NBA, they’re marketed by star appeal. Players like LeBron James, Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounnmpo, James Harden. People follow the players, not the team. Baseball has always been localized, but it has a star problem.
The LeBron or Giannis of their sport, Mike Trout, plays for a Los Angeles Angels team that no one cares about. And he is a boring personality. Trout spends limited time on social media and doesn’t want to be a star. That’s not his fault, but Trout does a poor job at growing the game. The MLB doesn’t help that either. The Christian Yelich versus Cody Bellinger MVP race commercial last All-Star Break was the first time in my memory the MLB marketed players, not teams.
The lack of star power also hurts when debating this topic. Many baseball writers, bloggers, and pundits are on the players’ side. But the common fan who spends little time on Twitter, they’re siding with the owners. They want sports back. And with no star athlete coming out in unison with Clark, it falls short. Does the same thing happen in the NBA if LeBron pushes back on something? No, the narrative changes and most of the time LeBron gets his way. The impact of star players affects public opinion too.
If baseball leaves us for a season, the gap of people who know the likes of Trout, Yelich, Bellinger will widen and more will drift away from baseball. The players union cannot like the plan, that’s allowed. But to come up so strongly against it sends the wrong message. Players union might not care how this will damage the star power of Yelich, Trout, Bellinger, and others, but they will when their endorsements dry up in the years to come.
Find a way to make this work, Mr. Clark.