A father and son stand in a backyard, tossing a white with red stitching ball back and forth. The smack against the genuine leather glove makes for a sound that brings back memories and moments from when a game became a National Pastime.
As the boy goes to throw the ball back, he chimes up, “What’s this game called, again, dad?” The father replies, “Well, my boy, this game is called catch, and it once was the footstep towards playing baseball!”
Baseball – a grand game of chess on a field with people as the pieces. Whether it be how to pitch around a home run hitter, prepare for a base stealing threat or aligning the defense to take on a pull hitter, you’re calculating against a batter who could take you 450 feet or one who could drop a bunt or lace a single down the line.
Baseball was what we dreamed we could do, as we mimicked our heroes in the backyard. That was, of course, until the ball just laid on the field, the base paths remained empty and the stadiums silent like in 2020.
It was finally greed that would destroy the game, leaving us, the fans, the ones robbed of the glory, the stories and the memories that we built and shared a lifetime with one another.
A lockout couldn’t be anything more than just a sweeping move to help force bargaining chips and bring the union to the table right? It couldn’t destroy the glory of baseball and leave us without a summer of excitement, record pursuits and young phenoms who would be dubbed “The Next…..!”
In fact, as fans we are told it’s only a necessary move to help show urgency to get the game back in time for the following season. Why is it that the owners, and even the players to an extent, think fans are blind and don’t see the truth?
This isn’t about saving or preserving a system or a way of efficiently being fair to one another; this is about what it’s always been about, the almighty dollar.
If Curt Flood benefitted the future generations of players, it was the greed of those unappreciative stars that sealed the fate of a losing game, behind the owner’s monopoly and collusion to control property and players.
Greed – that’s what lockdowns are about. The owners seek to control the course of action and reaction and/or respond by manipulating business laws to behoove their bank accounts and fatten their wallets, while crying poverty to the extent it makes the players look selfish and greedy at the same time.
How else do you describe the November 2021 that saw $1.7 billion in contracts and extensions shelled out by teams, only to start December by saying the players have the best service system at their disposal and are dancing more.
The 2021 offseason saw more lucrative action than baseball fans can remember in recent history. From 10-year, $300+ million contracts to 12-year extensions, from rebuilt rotations to an entirely rebuilt heart of the order, nearly every organization made at least one significant move that would be, at least on paper, a benefit to their team next year.
But how does this end? What band-aid will be placed over this albatross of a labor dispute, the first one in 26 years?
We all know how this ends. The owners still end up making more money, the players end up receiving more money and the fans; well, our pockets get smaller. But we might get to see expanded playoffs and players leaving our favorite teams sooner because of $300+ million contract demands from the Yankees, Dodgers or any high market team.
Do we direct our anger towards those owners, who decided after spending $1.7 billion that the players demand too much money? Do we direct it towards the players, who want to have the ability to decide when and where they want to play on their terms? Who should we point a finger towards, when in the end, the fans are the ones left without?
Of course, pundits will say that it’s the offseason, and no games have been lost or really affected. Yet when you look at it, the truth is, they have been affected.
Players can have no contact with trainers, coaches or managers whatsoever. So players recovering from surgeries or other injuries are left to do so at their own discretion, with no oversight and/or follow-up by their team. Advanced technology at facilities won’t be able to be used, as players aren’t allowed at team facilities either.
So if an owner is complaining of protecting their investments, how is it they would lock the players out from making sure recovery, strength and conditioning and offseason preparations are being done properly and in accordance to team requirements?
Players cannot negotiate or counter off arbitration cases as well; once again, the owners are in control of everything.
As Curt Flood set out to alter the landscape of baseball, he wanted to change a player being treated like a piece of property instead of a person. He did so expecting to advance and improve on the game of baseball to stabilize and prevent the owners from having full control.
Unfortunately, for a game that has survived 150+ years, it seems the owners will always have control, the players will always want more and the fans will end up suffering because of it all.
The little boy holds the ball in his hand, looking at it with a face of curiosity. He looks up to his dad and utters words that hit his father in a way different than before.
“Dad,” the boy said. “Maybe we should forget this game like they forgot about us?”
The dad looks at his son, then to the sky and thinks out loud. “Maybe we should,” he said. “After all, they forgot about us one too many times now!”
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