• Alexander Heller

Is a return to baseball even worth it?

| By Jaiden Campana |

With states beginning to ease restrictions on certain sports venues, baseball players have a few concerns of their own as they become less eager to start off the season.

Debating whether or not baseball will be played this season seems like the least of today’s worries. At least it should be. But, nonetheless, Major League Baseball is sandwiched in between its other three major sports leagues now, all of which have made progressive movements towards either resuming or assuring a season being played. The NHL announced its Return To Play Plan earlier this week, seizing the regular season and heading straight to the postseason, with seeding to be determined via Round Robin style. The NBA has been in conversation with the Walt Disney Company “on a single-site scenario for a resumption of play in late July at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Central Florida.” The NFL has shown an immense sense of optimism for the season throughout the offseason, especially as states begin to slowly open back up, allowing players and teams to head back to facilities in limited capacity.

But for baseball, there’s a very ominous standstill that seems to be getting worse as time goes on. Players are hesitant on the latest salary proposals for a shortened season, safety is of obvious concern, and the legitimacy that a season of such change would hold is in the air.

Show them the money

Baseball has already seen plenty of player-driven strikes in its history, with the most notable being the infamous 1994 player strike that ended the season on August 14 of that year. What that strike based itself on was the fact that owners wanted to initiate a salary cap. If you know baseball, you know that “salary” and “cap” don’t mix well, hence the reason it’s the only one of the four major sports not to have one. Instead, teams pay a luxury tax penalty.

Anyway, money is quite possibly the most important thing slapped on the debate stage between the MLBPA and the league’s owners. The owners’ recent proposal -- one that has every player, not just the highest paid in the league -- has everyone getting significant salary cuts. The cuts are based on a sliding scale and would cut some players’ salary up to almost 80 percent. An agreement had already been made in March that had said that, if a season was to be played, “salaries for 2020 will be prorated. If teams play an 81-game schedule, players will get 50% of their full, agreed-upon money. If they play 120 games, they will receive 74%. Performance-bonus clauses will be prorated too.” That’s simply not the case anymore. In the latest proposal, owners proposed cutting the salary AFTER it’s already been hit at 50 percent.

So, if I agreed to a $10 contract, I would have agreed to making $5 back in the March agreement. Now, owners want to take a cut of my $5, even after having a mutual agreement almost three months ago.Here’s a graph for scale, based on Mike Trout’s salary agreed upon (full contract), based on the March deal (50 percent if 81 games played) and the current deal proposed by owners (cut of the already 50 percent if 81 games are played).

Some fans have said through social media that players should just take the deal, that they are already making millions of dollars and that they need to play. We’ve seen that addressed by Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays. You can find plenty of higher-quality videos than this one, but the comments completely back up my prior statement, as does the like-to-dislike ratio.

Is it worth having a season:

  1. Quite possibly with no fans in attendance for its entire duration?

  2. Filled with players that aren’t making nearly what they agreed upon salary-wise?

  3. Team staff risking safety during a pandemic all while being away from family and friends?

It’s more than just the money, here. You’re still in a pandemic.

Legitimacy of a title

Okay. Let’s say the MLB goes forward with its proposed 82-game season, would a title even be considered legitimate or does it fall into some scratchy, second-hand category next to that of the Houston Astros’ 2017 championship? The feedback after it was found that Houston had cheated its way to a World Series title in 2017 is still being buzzed around, so much so that New Jersey brewery Departed Soles just recently released an India Pale Ale titled “Trash Can Banger,” filled with “2,017 grams per parallel of Glacy and Strata Hops” (yes, I am ordering when they restock. You should too, you know. Support local).

Is this what the MLB wants its championships to be viewed as, especially in a span of just four years? One of the most exciting factors of baseball is the almost improbable run that teams will go on after the All-Star break in early July. The obvious example is last year’s Washington Nationals, once stuck at 19-31, who clawed back and eventually won the World Series. But my favorite has to be the Oakland Athletics the past two seasons. They are a combined 106-83 pre-break and 88-47 post-break.

They average 11.5 games over .500 pre-break and 20.5 games over .500 post-break. It’s the jolt that has given them second-half life to make a playoff push. Now, if you’re initiating an 82-game campaign, you’re squeezing all of that in a span of a bit over two months, assuming the season would start on the proposed Fourth of July weekend.

Another puzzle piece in this mess, is the fact that teams would essentially be playing a geographical schedule, which ESPN’s Jeff Passan explains “in which teams play only in-division opponents and interleague opponents in a similar area (i.e., American League Central teams play AL Central and National League Central teams).”

So we’d have, for instance, the Yankees playing the AL East and NL East exclusively. It’s also a revolving door in the sense that, if a location isn’t deemed safe by its local government, then that respective team would be moved by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred into another location that is safe. What if New York isn’t safe to play, then where would you put the Mets and Yankees? Would they go down to Florida and have to take bus trips up to Boston, D.C, Baltimore, etc.?

All of this, along with the expansion of playoff teams from 10 to 14, as well as adding a universal designated hitter (so much yes) makes the legitimacy of a shortened-season title up in the air. In more ways than less, my feeling is that the general reception of an 82-game title would be like that of the 2017 Astros’. It should, without a doubt, have an asterisk next to it in the record book.

So is baseball worth it? Is it worth having a shortened season knowing that these players and staff are already putting injury on the line, but are making a lick of what they would be making money-wise, all while being in a pandemic that has killed over 100,000 in the country alone?

American League and National League divisions merged into one, some teams playing on home ground while others play hundreds of miles away from family. It’s like a season with game sliders on. Nobody likes playing The Show against someone with game sliders on 99 for them and 10 for you.

Why should baseball be played as such?


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