For the Washington Nationals, the 2020 Major League Baseball season was supposed to be a 162-game parade and a “job well done” after reaching the precipice of baseball the year before. Instead, it’s been rife with uncertainty about the season and fighting between MLB and the MLBPA.
As well all know, baseball in the United States has been on hiatus since March, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, which swept over the globe and ultimately took hold in the country.
As such, everything else was put on the back burner.
We received continuous news coverage about the virus and everything shut down, which included all of the major sports leagues.
Since then, the country has started to achieve some semblance of normalcy. Whether you’re in camp “We’re opening too early” or camp “Let’s get this show on the road,” it doesn’t quite matter for the purposes of this article. The point of this article is to say: The Nationals would be well on their way to defending their World Series title; and, MLB and the MLBPA have bungled a massive opportunity to bring baseball front-and-center in the nation’s collective sports mind.
With a largely senior fanbase, baseball has needed ways to bring in new and younger fans. This has to be done for obvious reasons. If the sport fails to attract young fans, fails to continue to draw people to games and buy merchandise, and fails to attract exciting potential baseball talent, with those players instead opting to play sports like basketball and football, then the game could be put in a dire situation.
As of this writing, MLB and the MLBPA continue to air out their disagreements, wedging fans in the middle.
For all that either side has to theoretically gain or lose, it may be the fans who end up as the ultimate losers. In a bit of a misnomer, these battles have been given the title of “Millionaires versus Billionaires.” Both entities battling it out are hoping fans will choose their side, the “correct” side, in each of their respective opinions.
Now, after months of failing to reach a plan and provide a product, the sport has also failed to give itself the national stage within the country. Players are tired of arguing, and have instead simply insisted the that league tells them when, where, and for how long, and they’ll be there. In return, Major League Baseball is insisting that the players’ union waive their rights to file a grievance – a step that the union would likely take next.
Instead of the players filing a grievance against the league, and instead of the league acting as though they’re the aggrieved party, I am proposing that the fans file a grievance of sorts against all of baseball. No, we won’t be taking any legal action. There also won’t be any financial fallout from our decision. But if the players are going to continue to lobby for themselves, and if the league is going to continue to be the “boy who screams financial near-insolvency,” and the fans are left to fend for themselves, then perhaps we should inject ourselves into the conversation.
I recognize that at the middle of these disputes there is a real chance that the beginning of the end of baseball as we know it is being catalyzed. Mix in these problems with the looming expiration of the CBA in December 2021 and baseball may be squarely on its back foot. If the players strike – an action that is seemingly increasingly more likely by the day – and as long as the owners and league act as though they’re the underprivileged party, even going so far as to accuse the players’ union of “not acting in good faith,” then the days of large contracts for players and massive television deals may be nearing the end.
Perhaps then it is incumbent upon the fanbases to become indifferent and disinterested in the sport altogether. When social unrest and a virus is dominating the country, and when many major leagues have made commitments to when they’ll return (NHL on July 10 and NBA on July 31), then it’s hard for even diehard baseball fans to remain attentive to the back and forth goings-on in the world of Major League Baseball.
It seems as though many have already explored this route, while some have even committed to it.
By the time it’s all said and done, MLB will have alienated some of its fans from the game. Of course, many will also return. The real detrimental impact will come from the missed opportunity that Major League Baseball had to recruit young ambassadors for the sport.
In an industry already struggling to garner attention from younger audiences, they’ve only compounded their problems throughout the course of this pandemic. And now, if tried-and-true fans of the game also decide to turn their backs on the sport, then baseball could be in for a calamitous end – one that was avoidable from the start, if only both parties hadn’t acted with such a short-term analysis of the situation.