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New baseball labor deal only postpones next fight

A grounds crew member mowed in right field as work continued to keep the Seattle Mariners' field this May. Now the MLB's season may be in jeopardy.
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A grounds crew member mowed in right field as work continued to keep the Seattle Mariners' field this May. Now the MLB's season may be in jeopardy.

So, our long national nightmare is over. We will have baseball after all in 2022.

The two sides, the owners and the players, put aside their differences, saw the folly of their ways and found a way to divide the multi-billion-dollar pool of revenues.

As such, they managed to avert the disaster of having the train of mutually assured destruction they were riding in careen off the cliff, taking scheduled games and the public’s respect with them.

That’s the storyline that a lot of otherwise well-intentioned people would have you buy into, all in the name of gratitude for having the national pastime back.

But that kind of palaver only avoids the truth or, more accurately, only kicks the truth down the road a piece like a can, a can that’s going to have to be dealt with later on.

Indeed, we all thought that baseball had learned a lesson from the crippling work stoppage of 1994, the one that stripped us of a World Series.

It was the first and only time in American history that a major professional sport had failed to complete a season for economic reasons.

The 2005 Stanley Cup was canceled because of labor strife, but that season never got started. Besides, hockey doesn’t have the same tug on the American heartstrings that baseball does.

That emotional tie was severely damaged, only partially repaired by Cal Ripken’s consecutive games chase in 1995 and the Great Home Run Chase of 1998.

Even those events weren’t enough to keep football from completing its inexorable march to becoming the nation’s most popular sport.

And baseball only has itself to blame. Between player-initiated strikes and owner-imposed lockouts, the sport has shut itself down nine times in the past 50 years.

The stoppages have been for varying lengths, but they all left the same result: a public wearied of the fighting and all too willing to confer a plague on both their houses treatment on both sides.

It’s an easy declaration that American people have done in practically all of these squabbles along with the lazy narrative that these battles are fights between millionaire players and billionaire owners, as if both sides deserve equal scorn.

The truth is that in this recent struggle and all the previous ones, there was a right side and a wrong one.

Don’t forget it was the owners who with the world still reeling from nearly two years of the worst pandemic to hit the planet in recent history locked out the players, then sat on their hands for 43 days before getting back to the bargaining table.

Once they got there, the owners, through their chief representative, Commissioner Rob Manfred, largely refused to present an offer the players could live with, then imposed artificial deadlines to place pressure on the union.

The owners essentially expected the players to accept what amounts to a salary cap without a salary floor, to keep clubs from lowering their payrolls to the bare minimum, with the resulting drain on talent.

Sound familiar?

The sides did eventually reach a truce that gets the game started April 7. But if past is prologue, we’ll be back here again when this truce ends five years from now.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.