The 2022 Detroit Tigers regular season has been officially delayed, marking the first time in 27 years a season has been delayed because of a work stoppage.
The worst nightmare of all Detroit Tigers baseball fans and all fans alike has now become a reality, as it has been announced that Opening Day has been delayed until further notice due to the inability of the MLB and MLBPA to reach a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement.
This delay marks the second time in three years where Opening Day has been delayed, but whereas a global pandemic that was out of everyone’s control stood in the way in 2020, greed and money turn out to be the factors that has led to this predicament.
The predicament the sport finds itself in is nothing short of catastrophic and is yet another blow to the sport of baseball that is losing popularity season by season, day by day. The main culprits in this situation are Rob Manfred and the owners, who have demonstrated that they do not care about the integrity of the game and only care about getting what they want, and squeezing every last dollar out of the players.
Let us start with a discussion on Rob Manfred, whom I believe is not only the worst commissioner out of all four major sports, but quite possibly one of the worst commissioners in sports history. Throughout his tenure as commissioner, Manfred has done everything in his power to become the villain in the eyes of baseball fans and players, including calling the world series trophy “a piece of metal” and allowing two delayed seasons to occur under his watch. It just goes to show that having a law degree from Harvard does not automatically qualify you as a smart individual.
Manfred has allowed this situation to spiral out of control, first by instituting a lockout when the previous CBA expired on December 1st, not having contact with the Player’s Association for over a month after the lockout was instituted, and when they finally came together at the bargaining table, the offers presented were so insulting that real negotiations could not take place. In my opinion, Manfred has also conducted himself with extreme arrogance, as illustrated in his lone press conference since the lockout occurred. “Phones work both ways” was his response when asked why talks did not initiate immediately after the lockout ended. In addition, his constant dishonesty towards the public has been nauseating, stating that the offers the league has presented were “fair” for the players when anyone with a brain could tell that the offers were nothing short of pathetic.
Now let us discuss the other culprits in this situation, the owners. As I mentioned earlier, the main factor behind this lockout is essentially greed, and that greed comes from the owners who Rob Manfred aimlessly answers to because he knows without them he would be out of a job. The owners, who are worth billions of dollars, have reaped the benefits of the last CBA which was extremely one-sided on their behalf, and are unwilling to make fair concessions to the players, which has led to this predicament.
Now, is it unfair for me to say that every owner does not care about the game and just about the money? Possibly. But how can that not be the reaction of some people after seeing what has transpired over the last couple of months? If the owners truly cared about the players and the integrity of the game, I believe a deal would be in place and we would be playing baseball right now, however, too many of these owners look at owning a team as an investment and do not care about the game itself. This lack of compassion and care for the game has been illustrated throughout this lockout, and I am of the opinion that the owners had no intention of getting a deal done to play a full 162 game season.
Bad faith negotiating tactics have been a main characteristic of the owners thus far, as they are refusing to give up even the slightest concessions towards the players. An example of this came from Saturday’s meeting, where the players made a significant concession where they lowered the percentage of players eligible for arbitration before reaching three years of service time from 75% to 35%, and the owners essentially told the players to get lost and that they were not moving from their proposed 22% as it was deemed a “non starter”.
This should be infuriating to every baseball fan, as it proves that the owners have no interest in negotiating, who are they to say that a topic is a non-starter? The players have made genuine efforts to move this process forward, and every owner should hang their head in shame due to their poor behavior and tactics during these negotiations. In addition, the proposals on minimum salaries, the pre-arbitration bonus pool and the competitive balance tax are extremely one-sided and a part of this is because the owners do not want to give up ground from the previous CBA.
Tony Clark, the president of the MLBPA, is also to blame for this situation, as he was bullied into a pro-owner agreement back in 2016. And because the agreement was so bad for the players, massive overhauls are needed to make it fair, and those concessions will not be made by the owners.
I applaud the players for standing up for themselves and fighting for what is fair, I am disgusted by the owners and Manfred for trying to again bully the players into an unfair deal and this delay is just the icing on the cake for what has been a failure of a tenure for the commissioner. It would almost be better if Manfred came out and expressed his incompetence, but the fact that he spews arrogance every time he speaks to the media is another insult, illustrated by when he said that if anyone can make a deal it is him due to his role in past negotiations.
The overarching message is that this whole situation could have been avoided through good faith negotiations on behalf of the owners and an actual sense of urgency from the beginning of the lockout, but now we are in a catastrophic situation that will be hard for baseball to recover from. Last time something of this nature happened, it took two guys juiced up on rocket fuel to peak the fans interest again, and as the increasing number of fans are already becoming ostracized from the game, I do not know how the game will recover.
It is an absolute shame that the owners are willing to sit back and watch baseball fade off into irrelevance, and it begs the question that if they do not care, why should us fans? Baseball is a game that should celebrate and focus on the amazing talents we get to watch night in and night out, not about the greedy owners who could not be bothered about the sport. This lockout may serve as a tipping point in this sports history, us diehards will come back, we always do, but the casual fan will be hard pressed to come back, and the alienation of the younger demographic will continue to be extremely hard for the sport to overcome.
It is sickening and saddening to see my favorite sport shoot itself in the foot like this, as I want young kids to enjoy going to the ballpark and have great memories like I have had throughout my childhood. One of my favorite baseball quotes is from the movie Mr. Baseball, when Tom Selleck’s character said “baseball is a game, and games are supposed to be fun.”
What is occurring right now is not fun by any means, and I long for the day where we can all enjoy and have fun again watching this great game. Baseball is loved by so many, and it is a shame that it does not love us back.