The lockout and the struggle for perspective

A scene from the classic movie Casablanca came to mind as I was reading the most recent news items about the “hostile” meetings between the MLB and the MLBPA. On a side note, I am a charter member of the MPO (Majorly P$#%ed Off) group, but I digress.

Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is talking about the love of his life, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) into leaving Casablanca with her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) in the middle of the Nazi occupation in WWII. Rick says, “….it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”

There is a part of me that wants to go up to both sides in the lockout and say, “In a world where Ukrainian citizens are shooting it out with Russian soldiers, where people are standing in front of tanks, where border guards are telling the officers on a warship aimed at them to go do unspeakable things to themselves, the problems of two sets of idiots arguing over Monopoly money doesn’t amount to a single bean, much less a hill of beans in this crazy world. And somehow I don’t know what it will take for you to understand that.”

But there is the other part of me that tells me that maybe I am the one lacking in perspective. With all these terrible things happening in the world am I the one who should explain why I care at all about when and if the lockout ends? Who is further from reality, the guys who make a living at a kids’ game at millionaire wages or billionaire earnings or the one who foots the bill and then bends over for a swat with a paddle and says please sir can I have another?

I probably don’t care as much as I did when baseball cancelled the 1994 World Series. That pumped up my cynicism levels to unheard-of heights. But I eventually came back to love the game that has a problem with loving me back. I always thought that this could happen again, so I can’t say I am surprised. Oh, the heck with it, yes, I am surprised that after all that their fans have been through with the pandemic and lockdowns and financial insecurity and loss of most of the 2020 season, these dodo birds would not put pride aside and figure this thing out.

Baseball is not life and death. But for me, using my fandom to release the anxieties of my life might be. It is time to be men and not children and figure this mess out.

47 comments on “The lockout and the struggle for perspective

  1. I remain unconcerned about when ML baseball might be played again. I don’t have sympathy for either side. But in the real world, if an employee does not like the employment terms offered by his employer, then the employee typically goes and finds another job. Of course ML baseball players don’t really live in the real world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your key phrase there is the “Real World” because most of the athletes, owners, politicians, and others don’t live there. Theirs is a fantasy world where most of them couldn’t give a happy rat’s ass about the “little people” as Leona Helmsley called them. It would be nice if they could put aside their egos and think of the fans but I wouldn’t count on it.
      Hopes and prayers for those in the Ukraine fighting for their freedom, something that many take for granted these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I left the Astros for 3 years Follow 1994.
    I’m totally disgusted right now and like you said it’s so trivial with what’s going on in the world right now.
    I actually would miss hearing from you guys and Becky on this blog a heck of a lot more that I miss the Astros right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Sandy! It took MLB four years to recover from 1994. And since that time, the pulse of America has changed. Us older baseball fans continue to age, become more cynical, are more distracted by other issues and simply don’t have the patience nor energy to wait on these guys to gets their heads out of their asses. Right now, MLB is already losing the casual fan and the younger fan, those that have a remarkable array of other entertainment options available to them in todays world. And today we have a two year pandemic hangover and the painful Ukraine mess. These guys, none of whom are getting much sympathy from any of us, picked a perfect time for a spat. Maybe corporate America will continue to pay the freight for MLB. But if this thing goes on well into the year, there will be a big hole to dig out of, which will take years, and ultimately I doubt the owners and players will have any more respect for each other.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sandy and Dave, in the Summer of 1994 my father got very, very sick, spent weeks in the hospital, and passed in June. So for the first time since April of 1962, Colts/Astros baseball became the least of my concerns. I could have cared less if there was a world series that year. The circumstances are different this year, but I am getting that same feeling.

      As Rod Stewart wrote [almost]:
      “I don’t wanna … talk about it … how you broke my heart.
      If you stay stupid just a little bit longer …
      if you stay stupid we’ll all go learn … martial ar-ar-ar-art!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I just hope all of these unbelievably rich people (if you make $750,000 you are rich in my neighborhood) realize how far they are falling behind other sports. These antics are just putting it farther behind. Even during baseball season now you can’t get the talk shows to talk about anything other than football or basketball. Their ratings are dwindling. Attendance is down. If they choose to play half a season it won’t get better.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. dave b (uncleknuckle) – Your statements reflect what a lot of people think – baseball does not think they can kill the goose that lays the golden eggs – but they are flirting with disaster. At some point the fall off in fans will tie to a fall off in income and then what do they do.

    Sandy – This blog has kept me going through a lot of rough times in the world and with my Astros, whether it was the dark half decade of tanking or mushing through the cheating scandal. I would miss my friends on here a lot more than I would miss baseball this year

    Z – Fans never come first in any of their thoughts, discussions, or negotiations and that is just wrong

    Steven – Yeah having a league minimum of $650-750K is putting them in a very rich neighborhood. I do feel for the guys who might make that league minimum for a short call up after living off starvation wages in the minors for years, especially those that did not get any kind of large signing bonus. But the majority of these guys are making what folks out here might see over a decade or more (or for the Gerrit Coles – making what our whole condo complex might make over a decade).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan, another perspective is that the guys negotiating for the players include Max Scherzer. As he was signing autographs the other day someone asked him about this lockout and he basically said it’s not looking good. Well, the article mentioned that Scherzer stands to lose ~$200k per day the season is delayed. Max Scherzer, if the season is going to be played, will earn more for sitting on the bench between two starts than some players on his team will earn the entire season. The system is broken. Like I said the other day, there’s no reason to give them my money. We’ll attend some college games this spring and some MiLB games if they have a season.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As things stand, fans being ignored by the players and owners feels, at least, genuine to me. I would rather them ignore us, than to give us lip service. Being looked in the eye and lied to about caring what we think would piss me off. So just go ahead and fight over money that comes from people who make a lot less than owners or players do, because we are used to greed, not sympathy.
    If I want a beer, I’ll go to the dollar store and buy a 12-pack and drink it watching something on the DVR and cut out the commercials. That seems like a better alternative than paying $75 for a ticket, $9 for a beer and then watching a bunch of millionaires play a two-hour game in four hours, before fighting my way back to a dangerous parking lot to get in my car and drive home at midnight after paying $25 to park it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Isn’t this true of any sport? When I lived in New Orleans I couldn’t even get tickets to a Saints game, and when the opportunity popped up to get one or two they were $500 each. Businesses act like businesses. Prices in the park were the same. Parking was actually more expensive than a Stros game. That’s not what’s wrong with baseball, because its just as expensive at reliant or the toyota center, and the NBA and NFL are way ahead of MLB. Heck, its even as expensive now to go see the Aggies or Horns.

      They have to make a more palatable product for me to watch.

      MLB is loathe to change. They thought the minimum 3 batter rule would improve time, it didn’t. The average game has increased every year for 3 years straight. I don’t think pitch clocks will work either. I think most of it is caused by the swing and miss mentality of baseball. Pitchers are throwing harder than ever before. Hitters are keyed on the fact that chics dig the long ball – and that the guy hitting the dingers is the guy getting paid. I bemoan LMJ’s inability to get out of the 5th consistently before 100 pitches, but the guy throws 94-95mph heater with a buckling curve to guys that are taking more pitches than ever and swinging out of their shoes more often. That’s the problem baseball has to fix.

      It’s a tough fix. Tighten the zone, hitters are going to tee off. It’s going to take a brain bigger than mine to fix it. Plenty of em out there though.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ilsa Lund dropped by the Cafe’ Americain today. Rick was out, but Sam was there as usual, playing that old piano. Ilsa nursed a drink and shot Sam a coy smile: “Play it!” … for old time’s sake! ….. “Play it, Sam!” …. Play … ‘As Time Goes By’! Oh, those eyes! Reluctantly Sam complies:

    You must remember when; the fans were piling in;
    and all of us were ridin’ high!
    Now all we hear are fans’ sad cries .. as time goes by!

    ‘Cause both sides are so rich, that fans don’t care much which … side caves
    and which throws down high-fives;
    Give us innings pitched and RBIs … as time goes by!

    Rick appears, clearly upset: ‘Sam, I thought I told you never to play …..’

    But this time, Sam sings on:

    Guys if you pay no heed; consumed with all your greed;
    you know who we’re gonna vilify …
    better find a new career to try … as time goes by.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The part of Rick Blaine will now be played by ‘Mad Max’ Scherzer. The part of Ilsa Lund will be played by Alyson Footer. The part of Sam will be played by millions of stand-ins who once truly loved major league baseball, but now “can’t remember, ma’am’ and are ‘a little rusty’.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love baseball. I also love fishing. If I go to Walmart and stock up on new line. Get a few crank baits. Buy some spinner baits. So home and wake up at 4:00 AM to go fishing. And it is a downpour. I won’t go fishing. Still love it, but the trip is not only ruined but the desire is gone for a while. That is where baseball is headed for me. Better not have many cancellations.

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    • So the basic summary is that nothing happened and the only change going forward will be to have a DH in the National League. This lockout was dumb, but it’s hard to really support anything the MLBPA wants to do either. What we’ve now got is a loss of half or more of Spring Training with opening day still probably remaining on schedule. This will likely result in more early season injuries in my opinion.

      Like

    • If the tax threshold doesn’t move I find it unlikely Correa will be back in Houston. The Astros have right around 25 mil under the cap at the moment. That’s about the only thing I have been paying attention to in all of this.

      Brantley and Gurriel are off the books next year but they will be dealing with Alvarez and Tucker year 1s or arb. I assume the Astros will continue to follow the pattern of all mid market teams and use the CBT as a de facto salary cap.

      If the Astros are willing to deal with one year of being over the cap they could bring back Correa and let Brantley and Gurriel walk next year (not a bad idea given their age). An offense with Bregman, Correa, Altuve, Alvarez and Tucker is going to be good 3-4 years up.

      At the same time, is Correa really worth 35 million a year individually? Probably not.

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      • Steven, the tax threshold is gonna go up, because MLB has made an offer that is $220 million. Even I am smart enough to know that, if there is a CBA, the threshold will not be lower than MLB’s lowest offer. So the minimum is going to be at least $220 million and there is a chance it will be higher than that.

        Like

      • Correct! 220 is higher than 210.

        So Correa fans there is hope, but it will still have to be a slightly creative contract. Again though, is he worth a franchise changing contract?

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  8. The Original Caste of ‘The Legend of Billy Jack’ just sent this message in song to the MLB – owners and players alike:

    Listen people to a story, from years gone by, so long ago;
    men once played a kids’s game on a diamond;
    oh, how those folks put on a show!
    But in their fan’s hearts was a passion … for a hero to adore;
    not greedy men with egos flashing turned a game into a war.

    So … go ahead and show your rear ends; go ahead and whine and pout;
    do it all for fame and money, and just leave the fans who’ve fed you out.
    There won’t be any tickets purchased, or logo-ed merchandise to sell;
    on the bloody mornin’ after – you can all go straight to … [Kyiv?]

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I typed a reply about the lockout. I explained my opinion of both sides. Realizing this is a family site, I went back and deleted all the swear words. This is what I ended up with finally.

    ” “

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    • You’re right, it’s not an automatic, but if he can keep his legs healthy and the Astros want him to reach 3000 it should be within his grasp. I think Jose would rather hit 30HR than collect 200 hits per year. At this point in time I fully support the Astros giving Jose the same treatment they gave Craig Biggio though.

      FWIW, this is also the argument I’d make against signing Correa. He clearly wants in the $35M+ range per season, but hasn’t done anything offensively at such an elite level to warrant it. He’s probably worth a fair bit more than Brandon Crawford (based on age), but his consistency would make me lean towards that as more of a comparison than what Boras is putting in his binders.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. The first two series of the 2022 season – 4 games against the Angels on the road and 2 vs Arizona on the road, have been officially ‘cancelled’. If a deal was somehow reached tomorrow, therefore, i guss our season opener would be on ‘Tax Day’, and would be played in Seattle.

    Question #1: Does anyone really expect that Seattle series to happen?

    Question #2: Does anybody really care any more?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Maybe we should temporarily refocus away from the bantering of hopelessly deadlocked MLB millionaires to NCAA baseball. The state of Texas has three teams ranked in the early-season top 25: Univ. of Texas at 8-0 is #1; TCU at 6-1 is #16, and Texas Tech at 5-2 is #19.

    Dan – what say you about those 5-3 and undefeated-at-home Coogs?

    Liked by 2 people

      • I may pull for the OSU cowboys in the future if one of my grandkids ends up there.
        I have been a Houston Cougar fan since the night my bride-to-be and I went to the Cougar/UCLA game of the century in the dome.

        Liked by 1 person

      • There will be some quality baseball played at Minute Maid this weekend even despite the lockout – the Shriners’ Hospitals for Children Classic, which starts Friday, will feature #1 Texas, #7 LSU, Oklahoma (unranked, 5-2 record), #17 Tennesee, Baylor (unranked, 3-4 record), and UCLA (unranked, 6-3 record). If I was in town, I’d go watch!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh – Mr. Bill the first two series of the season that were cancelled were the Phillies and Yanks at home – the Angels and D’Back road series will be next

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  13. If you didn’t catch the LMJ interview on SXM yesterday it was mostly about the negotiations and how the players aren’t going to budge until the pre-arb guys are taken care of more.

    Interesting stat – they accounted for 8% of salary last year, but accounted for 40% of all WAR. Crazy.

    I’m sure those stats are really amplified by the Miami’s, Oaklands, and Pittsburghs of the world that intentionally try and have a roster full of 24 year olds making 575k.

    I don’t spend time studying the economics of it all, I’m a baseball fan not a business professor. Seems to me the NFL figured out how to make Kansas City and New York compete on a nearly equal ground, they can do the same for baseball. League collection of all TV money and equal redistribution would be a start. I get it, the Chiefs play 8 or 9 home games a year, so they all sell out as well, but lets be honest the Yanks and Sox aren’t making the mass of their revenue from the 45k a night that show up they are making it from the TV contract.

    Nothing will make them equal for baseball, but getting the A’s back to within 50-60 million gap of the Yankees or Red Sox is good for baseball. Right now they are 400 million behind in revenue.

    He also said he is behind the power curve on his rehab because he doesn’t have access to the staff that he was working with. Didn’t sound like he thought he would be ready for the start of the season.

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    • You know Steven even fairly high payroll teams like the Astros, 5th highest in baseball in 2021 according to Spotrac.com, get significant contributions from the pre-arb guys. Picture the Astros without Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier and Blake Taylor.

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    • Steven, I may be wrong, but I think the TV contracts in NFL all go to a central coffer and then out to the teams. The MLB are by each team which skews it a bunch on available monies per team. (Again, nothing stops the MLB owners from doing a contract where ALL TV monies are split equally.)

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    • The owners won’t open your books, so you can’t study it with as much accuracy as the problems deserve. The owners want a salary cap and the players are countering asking for a salary floor. Quite frankly, I’m content with both sides getting what they want. Require teams to spend X million dollars per year on salary. I’ve suggested schemes where dollars not allocated in contracts could be payable to players as bonuses working from the bottom earners up to meet that level. There are tax implications there, but no one has time to unravel the US tax code for this. Add a salary cap…but make it a soft cap with reasonable penalties. Lock in for the cap should be opening day. Any transactions after opening day should not count against the cap, but should require approval by Chairman Manfred if they would add some excessive value to the overall cap. Finally, place hard caps on ticket and concession prices at venues. I know neither the owners nor players cares about that…but I do.

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  14. If the players want communism, I say give it to them. Here is the scheme: Everybody gets the same base pay of $1,000 apiece per game as long as they show up to the stadium, dress out, and are eligible to play. This is payable whether the player actually plays or he sits on the bench. Years of service do not matter. Position does not matter. Stats, from past years or the current year, do not matter. As long as the player is on the active roster, is eligible to play, comes to the stadium and dresses out, he earn $1,000.00/game. For minor leagues, the base rate could be $300 per game. And then, there is a performance-based ‘bonus pool’.

    If the players want to make more money, all they have to do is perform. The ‘bonus pool’ for performance comes from a fund made up of 25% of net Team revenues each game won by the team from gate, concessions, authorized merchandise sales, and media contracts, or made up of 17.50% of net Team revenues for game lost by the team). For offense (to which 40 % of the aforesaid 25%/17.50% of net Team revenues for the game is ), hits, BBs drawn, DBLs, TPLs, HRs, SBs, and RBIs, and ‘advance a runner’ at bats actually recorded in the game would result inb bonus money paid out on a sliding scale. For pitching (40% of the aforesaid 25%/17.50%), each IP, each K, each pick-off, and each WHIP point under 1.00 for the outing pays on a sliding scale. For defense (20 % of the aforesaid 25%/17.5%), ‘outs’ for which the player was on the field at a defensive position, assists, put-outs other than at 1B, caught stealings, and runs saved by web gem would earn bonuses on a sliding scale.

    This would be the exact same pay system for all MLB teams, so players on well-managed teams with winning records could earn more bonus money, while players on poorly-managed teams with losing records would earn less bonus money. But all would get the same base salary.

    Like

    • Can we do something similar with team profits – pool them and the teams that win the most games / $$ spent on payroll would get the biggest chunk of profits?
      No – this will never happen as you know. Communism is always good to be applied to others but not ourselves.

      Like

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