Baseball is locked in another of its public relations nightmare battles of greed. As I put it a couple of weeks ago, Billionaires vs Millionaires. It isn’t quite as catchy as Capulets vs Montagues or Hatfields vs McCoys, but it will do.

But will it do in the sport of baseball? Over at ESPN, esteemed baseball writer Buster Olney sure thinks so.

As baseball is the first sport I fell in love with, I sure hope not. Actually, I think there could be something good come out of this latest nonsensical battle.

Players’ Perspective

Public perception will be hard on the players.

Fueling that fire are players like Blake Snell, who hit us with his now infamous quote, “I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK?” Add guys like always outspoken Trevor Bauer to the mix, and they quickly become public enemy number one.

I get that. During a pandemic that has killed over 100,000 people and put millions out of work, fans who have always supported these players aren’t really interested in how they will survive on $8 million instead of $20 million this year.

The MLB player’s union is by far the strongest union in sports. They rarely lose when it comes to negotiations. This time, if the even greedier owners(more on these weasels in a minute) hold their ground the players may finally take an L.

It would be worth it just to watch greasy agent Scott Boras cry.

The union certainly has some legitimate concerns in terms of player safety. Quarantined for an extended time away from family, testing, and how to distance during a game are all fine examples. Then there is the fact of playing games without fans that every sport may be dealing with for now. Unfortunately the players haven’t done a very good job of framing their concerns. You can almost see the dollar signs in their eyes when they talk.

Owners’ Outlook

Not to be outdone, the owners are truly just as egregious.  For my money they are even more loathsome.

Aside from their own personal wealth, lest we forget how much each of their teams are worth. That number starts with a B. Also, they are the same group that has moved salaries in to a totally ridiculous stratosphere. They are the same group that has never fought for meaningful economic change within the game.

The latest reports seem to indicate that may be about to change.

Now the ultra rich owners are panicking, and in doing so are putting out false numbers. According to Fangraphs, who did a deep dive on the numbers, the owners and MLB have largely inflated the amount of money that would be lost. That goes for both a lost season and a half season without fans. Even if the losses reach $80 million per team, it’s still hard for the common fan to sympathize because the owners all have a personal worth in the billions according to Insider.com and team values that soar even higher.

But, panicking they are. During the current pandemic some owners have started cutting, whether that be pay, benefits, or retirement contributions. Most are creating funds to supplement staff who are now out of work, as they should. Others are not. In fact word came out in the last week that some teams, including the Oakland A’s and Washington Nationals, are going to layoff minor league players who make a paltry $400 per week.

Oh, c’mon.

When you personally are worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars and the team you own is worth in the billions, this is hard to fathom. During times like these, helping those less fortunate becomes even more critical. Baseball owners have the capacity to do that. Some, and I reiterate some, are not acting that way.

Pitcher David Price has stated he will cover the minor league players salaries in the Dodgers’ organization. Just yesterday, Nationals players jumped in with the same pledge for their minor league players. Why? Because they can, and so can the owners. First, this was a generous move. Second, it was a chance to fire a shot across the bow of the owners’ ship.

Summation

Public perception may not fall on the players’ side, but nor should it fall on the owners.

In the end, this lovers’ spat between the Bills and the Mills during a pandemic, in front of fans who have already been heading for the exits will not serve them well.

Unless…

Personally, I hope they keep squabbling. Even though I’m sort of on the players side, I hope the owners stand firm. I don’t even care if this disagreement goes through 2021, the last year of the current CBA. As they say, burn it down. Burn it all down.

Sure,  you will lose fans. What if you gain even more back?

Interest in baseball has been drifting for an entire generation. The list of reasons is long. While baseball has tried to fix some of those issues, it has buried its head in the sand on the biggest issue. Baseball is the only sport without a salary cap. It has created a lopsided playing field.

In sports we often refer to a window of opportunity. Why should that opening in the window be different for New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. Why should I be constantly forced to watch those teams on ESPN every Sunday night.

Having a winning organization should be based on, well…having a winning organization, and not being able to spend more than everyone else. Fans in Oakland, Pittsburgh, Tampa, and Milwaukee, just to name a few, would like to know their team doesn’t have to constantly pull a rabbit out of the hat just to compete. Tampa is as well run as any team in baseball, but they constantly must be creative with their roster just to compete. Rarely do they get to keep a player long term, and often their “down cycle” gets extended until they can rebuild. For teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers, they just buy more top free agents each year to minimize their own “down cycle”.

Enacting a salary cap, along with some other long overdue changes, could give baseball a much needed jolt. It could potentially bring a whole new generation of fans to the sport.

As unseemly as the “Bills vs Mills” squabble is, this could be the silver lining baseball actually needs. So, owners, go right ahead and be greedy. Dig your toes in the sand and stand firm. For once don’t cower from the players’ union. And small market owners, grow a set. Make your voice heard. A salary cap would be the best thing to happen to your sport.

Now about removing Mr. Nutting in Pittsburgh. Baby steps, Tim, baby steps…

Two Cent Takes

NBA/NHL

~Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers star, indicated that he wouldn’t be taking the floor for games if his team was out of the playoffs. Of course, he got skewered by fans and media alike. Im not sure why, because this whole notion of having four months off and then “finishing” the season is ludicrous. Lillard, and other NBA and NHL players that have expressed similar concerns, are spot on. We all get the reason($$$$$), so just admit it. Stop saying things like, “we must hand out the championship trophy.”

~I’m sure once the puck is dropped and the ball is tipped that players’ athletic mindset will take over. Most, not all, athletes are wired to play hard once the game starts.

~It will be a much needed diversion for sports(and non-sports) fans. It still doesn’t change the fact that it is silly. The champions will have one gigantic asterisk beside their name.

~I’ve ridiculed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in this very space numerous times before. This time he deserves credit for being proactive with his league’s plan for restarting. I may think it is silly, but from his standpoint it was a must have scenario. Good for him.

College Football

~Last week I wrote about the what-ifs of restarting sports, and focused on college football.

A few days ago Iowa AD Gary Barca indicated that Hawkeye athletes will sign a pledge to “live right and not take risks in public”. Say what? He does know he is talking about 18-22 year olds. Did any of us “live right” at that age? And does taking risks in public include playing football with 80 other sweating, coughing, bleeding other guys?

Tone deaf must be a requirement for the position of athletics director. Have the players sign the pledge, but please tell me that is only step one on a list of ideas that will be implemented to keep players and staff safe.

~Teams start workouts on June 8 or 15, depending on conference affiliation. Only Oklahoma is waiting until July 1. Lincoln Riley has been a proponent of caution since day one of this pandemic.

~The above comment on Riley is why pulling off a season will be no small feat. Everyone has a different opinion, and everyone will have a different reaction when there is a positive test.

~I’ve got to get myself one of these sets!

Twitter

~Rex Chapman is still undefeated on Twitter. Enjoy.

NFL

~Shocked was I to see the outrage that the onside kick will remain in the game. On the table before the rules committee was a proposal to replace the onside kick with a 4th and 15 play from your own 25 yard line. The argument being that onside kicks are almost never recovered, and the scrimmage play would add excitement and better opportunity for the team using it.

Remind me, please. Isn’t the onside kick used by the trailing team at the end of games to have one last ditch effort to get the ball back. If you are losing, maybe something should have been done better throughout the game to prevent that from happening. A last ditch effort, such as the onside kick, is supposed to have a low percentage of success. If you want to have a higher percentage of winning the game, take care of that in the first 59 minutes.

I don’t want a 4th and 15 play where the odds in today’s game are probably pretty close to 50-50. When you trail a game late, your percentages are supposed to be low on winning. Let’s hope we keep it that way. What’s next? A coin flip? How about rock, paper, scissors?

A Penny For My Final Thought…

Remember when NFL players took a knee during the National Anthem to protest inequality in America? Rather than hear their message, many lost their minds over them “disrespecting” military veterans by kneeling during the Anthem. They were called punks and thugs for simply exercising their constitutional rights.

Photo courtesy of a Getty Images. No copyright infringement intended.

The same people that condemned these football players for protesting for equality in that manner thought these types of scenes were perfectly fine over the past few weeks. These were people protesting that their constitutional rights were being violated by their state governments trying to keep them safe and healthy.

So, taking a knee during the National Anthem…bad. Showing up at your state capital with AR-15’s, bazookas, and other various assault weapons…just fine. Got it.

Now the country is being turned upside down from protests gone awry for the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white police officer.

We’ve all seen the video. It’s brutal. Back in February we watched as Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, was gunned down by two white supremacists while going for a jog. They were “protecting” the neighborhood. Neither Floyd nor Arbery had a spotless record, but neither was a violent criminal. Both clearly died at the hands of people that didn’t like the color of their skin.

I’ve never been accused of having a lot of common sense, but I have always felt like I take a common sense approach to treating others. It’s simple. I don’t care for a**holes. Pompous, self centered, hateful, ignorant, mean spirited, and yes racist people make my list. I don’t like black, white, brown, or any other shade of a**holes. I never give a thought to skin color, gender, or sexual orientation. Just don’t be an a**hole.

Shouldn’t it be that simple?

Considering Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves more than 150 years ago, it is amazing that we, as a nation, haven’t advanced our mindset further. It’s 2020 for goodness sakes. Racism still runs rampant, women are still fighting for equal pay for equal work, and which bathroom you use really sends some people over the top.

Philosopher George Santayana stated the following around the turn of the 20th century, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” How true that seems today.

How many times do we have to watch this before we “get it”. George Floyd and Ahmed Arbery are just the latest in a list of examples that clearly show we haven’t learned from history yet.

I couldn’t be a police officer. That job isn’t for everyone. Respect should be given to the men and women who put on that uniform each day. I wouldn’t have the stomach for risking my life each day I went to work. Just like any other profession, some police officers aren’t very good. One thing is for sure, if you have predetermined bias against certain groups of people then that job isn’t meant for you either.

Some statements from around social media addressing all that is going on:

Here is Louisville basketball coach Chris Mack’s statement. A white coach of predominantly African-American players.

James Franklin is on record as saying he wants to be the first African-American coach to win a championship in college football. He had some very powerful words.

Finally, here is rapper and activist Killer Mike getting to the heart of the matter as he usually does. His words carry some serious weight in the African American community, and they should everywhere else, too.

We now find our country in a true mess. Riots and looting overshadowing peaceful protests. Much of the trouble seems to be coming from outside right wing and left wing groups including ANTIFA. These anarchist groups have been denounced in the past by all political parties. They are simply showing up to cause trouble. These groups only hinder the message true protestors are trying to get across.

No logical person I know thinks resisting arrest is appropriate. No logical person I know thinks police officers should have to take unnecessary risks to arrest an offender. No logical person I know thinks rioting and looting is acceptable behavior.

However, if your first thought is something from that list above, then you are completely missing what is going on. It also could mean you are part of the problem. There is a huge gap between using some force to get an offender to comply and killing a man. It’s happened too many times for far too long.

Police brutality mixed with racism is a toxic combination that is, once again, spilling over into our streets. It’s dangerous, ugly, and quite frankly embarrassing.

So the next time an athlete, or anyone for that fact, protests peacefully the inequality that still exists in 2020 how about we listen rather than complain about their timing or methods.

Both of the images above were protests.  In the first photo protesters were called disgusting, disrespectful, and SOB’s by the President, Vice President, and many others. In the second photo protesters were given a hearty thumbs up. Hmm, I wonder what the difference is?

This guy gets it. Sheriff Chris Swanson from Flint, Michigan.

Nobody wants to see what has been going on the last few days in America.

It is 2020, not 1820, not 1920, 1950, or 1970.

It is 2020.

Let’s get past judging people on race, religion, gender, and ethnicity. Listen to people’s concerns that are different than you. Show love and respect to all.

Well, except a**holes. They are on their own.

Just my two cents…