Detroit Tigers: Rob Manfred isn’t man enough to kill baseball
Baseball is tougher than Commissioner Rob Manfred and the cabal of owners he represents.
MLB and the Grand Ol’ Game will eventually soldier forward at some point and will likely keep the vast majority of its audience over time.
There. I said it. I know it’s very fashionable these days to declare baseball has created its own existential threat. Many are saying “I’m out” or words to that effect. Fans will flee the sport. “Greed is rampant and I’m sick of it!” Every one means it too. Emotions are high. Anger is real. But baseball is a survivor. It may take some time to regenerate, but it assuredly will.
The Hook in You
I simply believe this because we’re very forgiving. We’re also susceptible to new toys and winning. If the Detroit Tigers have a young star like Riley Greene or Spencer Torkelson making a drive to the Rookie of the Year award (or…be still my heart…both of them dueling for it! Can you freaking imagine?!?) fans will wander by again to check it out. Sorry…you won’t be able to resist it.
At the end of the day, there are few long-lasting problems for a club that won’t be solved by sexy new stars, a 5-game winning streak, or meaningful games in September.
“Baseball is dying” has been a clarion call going around the sport for literally decades. It’s practically a mini-religion for some of the gloomier folks who follow the game. I’m sorry…the Black Sox Scandal didn’t kill the game. The shame of color barriers didn’t kill the league. Two World Wars didn’t slow it down. The attacks on 9/11 didn’t stop it. Rob Manfred isn’t strong enough to do what these other things couldn’t do.
Just the Facts
As noted on Tigers Radio Podcast a couple of weeks ago, one of baseball’s biggest assets is the fact that Americans simply need stuff to do. Families need outdoor activities in the summer. A ball game makes the list. A few beers for mom and dad…hot dogs and ice cream for the kids. Hug the mascot. Post to InstaGram from your seats. Watch a few innings. It’s easy. It becomes a tradition, and if your parents took you…you’ll likely take your crew. These folks will come back when the game comes to its senses.
Older folks like a daily activity. Something they can count on. A ballgame. Even if it’s due to a dearth of other options in the summer, seniors will come back for baseball on their TV set.
The hardcore seamheads will come back. The fantasy baseball people will come back. Don’t lie to me.
Those who don’t return initially might simply just need some time or a reason to find the sport again. Baseball tends to find these reasons over time however.
We simply like our year set to the baseball calendar. We like hearing “The Voice of the Turtle” in Spring. The daily check in of the happenings at Lakeland as we count down winter’s icy grip in the Northwoods.
Which Detroit Tigers player is in “the best shape of his life” this year? Who looked good on the mound for three innings? Which youngster is turning AJ Hinch’s head? Who is lined up for the utility job? It’s how we spend our March.
That is being sorely missed right now. It is a problem for MLB in the short run. But if they can get an agreement in the next two weeks they can still salvage a mini-portion of the Spring.
How long is the Rob Manfred war?
Certainly much will come down to how long the standoff lasts. Baseball chucked a World Series away in 1994 and there is no doubt it hurt. But the game came back. It just took longer.
This current labor strife always looked to be a war brewing. The players had been beaten by the owners in the court of public opinion the last two rounds of CBA talks. You know they aim to turn that around. The owners have the money to wait it out.
The hope is cooler heads prevail. Two seasons mucked up by COVID to different extents were hopefully going to be the reason to avoid a long stoppage. That can still happen. MLB said on Monday that 162 games is still possible if an agreement can happen.
If there is an agreement in March, I truly believe almost no harm has come to the sport. One work stoppage in 28 years ain’t bad. The comeback from this will be easy.
If the regular season starts getting cleaved into mid-summer however, expect a very lively baseball with homers flying and offense juiced up for fans. New rules in play to add to run scoring as well. The lure of the long ball and run scoring has worked in the past.
If things get worse than I anticipate you’ll start to hear about expansion soon after any future agreement. MLB always runs home to papa when it’s in trouble…and that has meant expansion and the fees that come with it.
Certainly outside factors could come into play. We can hope the word “variant” isn’t heard soon. Or general economic issues related to inflation, fuel costs, and Russian skullduggery could cause things MLB can only wait out.
In the end, the game will survive. They generated $11B in revenue in 2019 running at full strength. That’s not drying up overnight unless things get so bad in our country that baseball simply isn’t discussed at all.
Sit back. Watch the machinations of the negotiations. Curse at Rob Manfred…it’s stress relieving. Read the experts you enjoy. Doomscroll away on Twitter hoping for a morsel of good news. Just don’t worry.
Baseball will be back. It’ll be the old friend it’s always been to you. Remember you don’t root for the owners often. You’re in it for your love of the game, your geography, your colors, your history, your heroes, your dad, and the optimistic hope that this will be the year. It’s about a ground-rule double, cussing about umpires, walk off wins, a strike ‘em out/throw ‘em out, a diving grab, and a laser over the centerfield wall. It’ll all be back. Eventually.