The year is 2022. The cost for sports broadcasting rights are through the roof. Athletes are more visible now than ever before thanks to social media, and their ability to generate revenue and tap into previously unforeseen income streams has even reached the amateur ranks with the new name, image, likeness opportunities.
The value of sports is at an all-time high and yet, stories like this are still being written:
Baseball is the one sport that just can’t help itself. All other sports are seeing a boon, an economy land grab in the digital space, with more interest and eyes on sports than ever before, thanks to the ways that social media allows fans to interact during a game. But baseball, given all the tools at its disposal and being the first to stream games online, is doing all it can to piss it all away with a refusal to promote star players and threatening to lock players out to start the regular season.
We should come to expect this from the league that refuses to market its biggest stars. In Southern California, you’d barely know the Angels exist, let alone they employ two of the best talents the game has ever seen. This is the golden age of baseball, with more eyes on it than ever, and Major League Baseball is operating as if we’re still living in a world without TV, stadiums with lights, and numerous other options to turn our attention.
The tweet above was from over a month ago. You’d think this would be the type of “get our asses in gear” motivation the owners would need to realize their grip on the fans is waning. The 1994 player’s strike all but eliminated an entire generation of sports fans that took a scandalous decade of artificially juiced balls, artificially juiced players, and the luck of the invention of Internet streaming to save the game.
This time is different. The owners are playing the same cards they always play like negotiating in bad faith, counting on the players being the ones to give in once they start missing paychecks, and a fanbase that will have their side over a group of employees that get paid to play a game for a living.
But 2022 is different from 1994. The last two years have exposed the financial elite more than any consecutive 24-months in any living person’s lifetime. There’s no longer an anger towards the players there once was – there is however an apathy towards the owners.
Major League Baseball had its opportunity to “ope” its way past the other leagues during the pandemic. We had the Summer of Nothing and baseball delayed. Fans found other things to do.
Two years later as the NFL has continued to dominate television, 54 percent of the general public responded to the Seton Hall poll it had no interest in baseball. You can have your qualms with selection bias and efficacy of polls, but now is not the time for MLB owners to be playing Russian roulette with their business.
Count me amongst the fans that will watch if baseball comes back, but indifferent if it doesn’t. This league that goes out of its way to tell its fans how bad the product is and how much it needs to be fixed on the field, is unwilling to do anything for the players like grant them free agency before six years of team MLB control, and upwards of 12 years of total organizational control. The things MLB has been talking about fixing aren’t the things that will make the game better.
But the point isn’t even about who’s right (it’s the players) or whose side I’m on in this situation (it’s the players), it’s that I’ve moved on with my life and don’t need Major League Baseball anymore. I’m completely indifferent. Come back if you want, don’t if you don’t. Either way I’m fine.
The NHL has a better product on the ice than it has ever had with more and more American talent to follow and root for. ESPN+ is constantly streaming a college softball or baseball game being played somewhere. The only people still glued to their Twitter for the community-producing nights of tweeting along with a baseball game are psychopaths that still enjoy getting sucked into Twitter’s rage algo.
Spring Training has already been delayed.
Only now does it seem talks are substantivate.
After last week they were meeting for just 15 minutes.
It would be nice if it didn’t always have to come down to the last minute. It would be nice if baseball could find itself in a positive news cycle for once. It would be nice for baseball to get everything straightened out, the players to get more control over their careers, and the season to start and be played in full.
If it doesn’t though, I’ll just find something else to do, and a lot of money to save.