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MLB's Return From Pandemic Held Up By Money

Neil R via Flickr (Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0)

All around the sports landscape, signs of a return are sprouting up like spring greenery.

The NHL and NBA have announced their plans to resume their interrupted schedules next month, though there is talk of unrest among some basketball players about playing during times of social unrest.

Meanwhile, the NFL and college football are resolute in their determination to start their seasons on time this fall. And NASCAR and professional golf have made their returns with limited numbers of spectators watching racing.

And the leading mixed martial arts federation looks prepared to conduct fights on its own secret island. You heard correctly: a private fight island.

It seems that all the men’s sports leagues are doing everything in their respective powers to get back to work. And then you have Major League Baseball, which appears hellbent on destroying what’s left of the good name of the great American pastime. 

And while one might hope, in these days of pandemic, that the baseball owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association are fighting over safe playing conditions or the Black Lives Matter movement, you know, something noble. But that’s not what’s driving these two parties apart.

Nope, the only wedge item here is money, specifically, how much the players will get paid for what will be a dramatically shortened season.

Indeed, at a time when the unemployment rate soars to record levels and when the U.S. economy has cratered, not to mention the deaths of more than 110-thousand of our American brothers and sisters to an illness that shows no signs of abatement, we have rich people fighting over money to play a sport.

Sorry to resort to the lowest common denominator of a plague on both their houses, but neither side is especially covered in honor or glory here.

Actually, if one had to choose, the nominal pick would be the players. The union and the owners appeared to have reached a deal in late March on a variety of issues, including on service time, the amateur draft and potential lost salaries.

However, the deal fell through amid charges that the owners want the players, who had already agreed to take a prorated portion of their regular salaries, to take an even bigger cut.

The owners’ demand is based on the premise that their revenues will be reduced by the absence of fans, as stadiums are likely to be empty of spectators. 

The timing of the owners’ request couldn’t have been worse, as news emerged last week that baseball has signed a big money television contract extension with Turner Sports. The deal doesn’t kick in until next year, but it certainly put the lie to any idea that the owners are in financial peril.

The players have told baseball they won’t negotiate any more and that the owners, who have the contractual right to do so,  should pick a number of games to be played and tell them when those games will start, albeit for the full rate. 

Given all we’re facing, the problems of baseball players and owners don’t amount to a hill of beans. But, then, right about now, we sure could use the distraction and those beans.

And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games…whenever they return.




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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.