This week I learned that the New Hampshire Press Association named me as one of the 2019 Sports Columnists of the Year. In addition to thinking “woo hoo!”, I thought to myself, “ut-oh, almost all of my sports columns in 2019 were about Fisher Cats games. I’d better start writing about other sports on a regular basis again if I want to repeat in 2020 just in case there aren’t any Fisher Cats games this year.”
Still, I don’t think I’m alone in hoping that I can watch at least a few Fisher Cats games in 2020, which seems to be unfortunately tied to the seemingly endless quibbling between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association.
Sure, there is added risk in doing most things now in the Age of COVID-19, but one would think with all the money Major League Baseball makes, there is some way to keep players, umpires, coaches and other necessary staff safe. Professional sports leagues, including other baseball leagues, across the world are figuring out ways to make it work.
Instead, people seem to be a bigger problem.
The owners didn’t want to pay what they promised to pay to players, want the players to waive their rights to file union grievances and I suppose in 20 or 30 years replace the players with robots.
The players don’t want expanded playoffs since….um….apparently playing too much baseball isn’t healthy? Sure, pitching can be rough on the tendons, but this is the profession they’ve chosen voluntarily, they’re getting compensated at rates regular people can only dream of and they’ve already had a few months to rest. Is that not the reason they don’t want expanded playoffs? In the cloud of this labor war, it’s hard to really see too much of anything.
If there isn’t an agreement, neither side will lose immediately. The real losers will be fans, the non-player employees of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball’s teams and Minor leaguers who generally only get paid a fraction of the salaries given to their big-league counterparts.
That’s in the short term though.
While there wasn’t any pandemic going on in 1994 when greed left America without a World Series for the first time in 91 years, a lot of other things have changed too.
Entertainment, let’s remind ourselves that the Red Sox’ and Yankees’ real rivals aren’t each other but other sports’ leagues and Netflix and video games and other things people will spend disposable income on, is far more robust and complex than it was in 1994. Baseball fans will move on to something else if baseball doesn’t want their money.
Those employees will eventually find other jobs. The players will take the Kyler Murray route and seek other athletic opportunities.
Even look locally here at the Fisher Cats. One thing folks may not understand is that the Fisher Cats aren’t actually a baseball team, they are an entertainment company that has entered into an agreement to train inexperienced members of Toronto Blue Jays’ baseball team. It would certainly be tough for them to survive without Major League affiliation, but there are independent leagues out there and with the amount of events hosted at the stadium both now in the pandemic and previous years not related to baseball, I would not count them out.
Again, I think we all hope the nightmare scenario of a summer or even a future without professional baseball doesn’t come to pass. But to paraphrase Rick Pitino, if baseball can’t get its act together now, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire aren’t walking through that door to save it again.
P.S. – If John Henry and Chaim Bloom are reading this and baseball has not completely dissolved by the off-season: pay Mookie Betts what he is worth and bring him back in 2021. Build him a bowling alley, send him a fruit basket, whatever. Just get it done. That, or lower ticket prices at Fenway Park.
Andrew Sylvia is Assistant Editor for Manchester Ink Link. He can be reached at email@example.com.