I’ve been holding off writing this article for a while in the hopes I would be corrected by the actions of Major League Baseball, but with today marking the 87th day since the stoppage of professional sports in America, and the day in which major details begin to emerge on the return to play formats for the NHL and NBA, it can wait no longer. Baseball has for years seen a steady decline in viewership and fan interaction as the games continue to get longer, slower, and increase in price. The ageing demographic of Baseball fans has long painted a dismal picture of the future, and yet never have things looked so bleak for what was once America’s most beloved pastime.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to roar, and 40 million Americans find themselves out of work, Major League Baseball owners and players are arguing over percentage points on millions of dollars. On March 26th, the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), announced its players would agree to prorated salaries for however many games are played in the 2020 season. Three weeks later the Owners proposed additional cuts, and players began speaking out against further reductions. It was the tone of these comments that has us so concerned for the future of the sport. The tone-deaf nature of Baseball can be seen in a recent statement from Tampa Bay Ray’s ace Blake Snell, who said via Twitch stream “I’m risking my life.” Owners’, meanwhile, have begun to cut many minor leaguers off from their $400/Month Stipend, and shown they are willing to cancel the season altogether if players do not make additional concessions. That brings us to today.
Baseball has had work stoppages before, and they are treating this one like all the others. The big difference? This is not 1994. Baseball is no longer king in the sports world in America. The NBA and NFL far surpassed MLB in almost every meaningful metric, and Baseball isn’t getting the message. People in America do not care about baseball the way they once did. It is no longer America’s pastime, and they have no one to blame for that but themselves. A poll this past week from the “Felger and Mazz” show on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, showed that of the 13,000 voters in one of Baseball’s biggest markets, 58% said they no longer cared if Baseball returned in 2020. People aren’t outraged, angry, or disappointed anymore. They are apathetic.
People have no interest in the arguments between millionaires while the country is going through a pandemic. They are right to feel insulted. Baseball is showing its fans that the bigger picture is not as important to them as turning a profit, and its fans are turning their backs. If the owners and players do not agree to a deal in 2020, it could spell the end of Baseball as we know it.