DETROIT — Just stop. Please, stop all this madness right now.
There isn’t going to be a baseball season this summer. Honestly, between the pandemic and the pent-up animus between the players and owners, there never was going to BE a baseball season — not a real one, anyway.
What are we talking about here? A farcical 50-plus-game season to set up an $800 million postseason payday for the owners? You could see this coming the last two weeks as both sides dug in.
The players’ association, which has been licking its wounds since the owners gutted them on financial issues in the 2016 collective bargaining talks, isn’t likely to accept commissioner Rob Manfred’s recent proposal of 60 games at full pro-rated pay.
Instead, they are more likely to force Manfred to implement a shorter season without the union’s consent, which he has the power to do. The union, then, would file a grievance and the war will officially be on.
There is a logical path through this mess, but it doesn’t seem like either side presently has access to it.
COVID doesn't care
The virus doesn’t give a damn about the baseball season. Or the college and pro football seasons, for that matter. And, whether you want to believe the numbers or not, the virus isn’t done wreaking havoc.
You saw the news yesterday. Major League Baseball again had to shut down all spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona after positive tests in Clearwater, Dunedin, West Palm Beach and Scottsdale. I talked to some people Friday and there have been no positive tests at the Tigers’ complex in Lakeland, but odds are it was just a matter of time — especially if spring training reopened in a week or two.
More likely now, if there is a spring training to be had, it will be here. The Tigers would likely use their facilities at Comerica Park and possibly Wayne State University. But again, you would be crowding a lot of people into relatively small spaces.
Why even risk it? To what end? To play a truncated regular season, with embittered or disillusioned players and no fans, with gimmicky, adulterated rules — a runner on second base to start extra innings, players can re-enter the game — just to hasten the game’s end.
Because it’s safe to play nine innings in three-plus hours, but the virus is coming for you in the 10th?
It’s all too stupid and pointless. Especially with health experts predicting a second wave of the virus in the fall. That $800 million postseason payday is in jeopardy any way.
Owners and players both need to do what the rest of the country has done during this crisis — endure the hit. Look at the unemployment rate. Look at all the small businesses failing. Certainly, the billionaire owners can absorb the financial losses better than most. Even the players, the majority of whom have already been paid six-figure salaries, will be OK.
The bigger concern should be the future of the game and making sure that when (if) things ever get back to normal, the industry comes back healthy. And for that to happen, the owners and union need to stay locked in a hermetically-sealed room, without media leaks, without access to public opinion or posturing until the framework for a new collective bargaining agreement is in place.
Not for a clown-show season like this one would be but so there is no risk of another shutdown. The emphasis right now, for both sides, needs to be the avoidance of a labor strike after the 2021 season, when the current CBA expires.
To have this money squabble within a billion-dollar industry play out so publicly during these horrific times, when the nation is so badly fractured socially and politically is odious and unconscionable. So stop. Shut it down.
Write this summer off to the pandemic and use the down time to get your damn house in order. Baseball, the game, has always been self-healing. It can survive this summer, just like other industries and businesses will ultimately survive this.
But if the labor strife continues into 2021 and the game has to shut its doors again — this time not for a uncontrollable virus but controllable human greed — then all bets are off.