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MLB Should Get Its Affairs in Order

Maybe I’m a get-off-my-lawn, crotchety old guy, but I’m getting kind of tired of what I’m seeing in respect to this current Major League baseball lockout.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what the issues are, except it involves lots and lots of money.

Big surprise, eh?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a capitalist. When people tell me that Elon Musk, with a net worth of $300 billion, makes too much money, I applaud him and anyone else who has that kind of acumen. Oh, by the way, he’ll personally pay nearly $10 billion in taxes this year, so don’t tell me he doesn’t pay his fair share.

Oops, did I get on a rant?

MLB and the players’ union seem to be quibbling over a fairness tax that punishes owners who can pay the big bucks, the league minimum and revenue sharing. While I agree that maybe the players have a point and want the league and its owners to turn loose of the purse strings, I still think it’s a load of crap.

But, as the overused saying goes, it is what it is.

The union complains that MLB isn’t bargaining at all, let alone in good faith. Who knows? I know both sides tend to be angry. There are representatives from both sides assembled in Orlando, Florida, this week, but no negotiations are planned. I suppose they’ll enjoy a nice golf outing at the fans’ expense.

A couple of things that have come out of this debacle have the old-school guy in me howling. For starters, they are introducing a universal designated hitter for both leagues. Keep in mind, the DH was adopted in 1973 to help boost fading attendance in the American League. The NL has resisted the change. I don’t like the universal rule. I like the managerial chess match, the double switches, the pinch hitters and the bullpen decisions. Now, managers will be more like spectators. Frankly, I don’t think the NL game has suffered because of the lack of a DH.

Second, MLB is going to expand the playoffs from 10 teams to 12. Once again, we’re falling into that give-everyone-a-trophy trap. With the expanded playoff, are we finally going to play the World Series on Thanksgiving? Does MLB really think it can compete with college and pro football? Do we really need to make baseball like the NFL, NBA and the NHL, where nearly half the teams in those leagues, or more, go to the post-season? Consider the Super Bowl will be creeping up on Valentine’s Day this year. The NBA playoffs edge perilously close to the Fourth. It’s nuts.

Baseball, like Republicans, doesn’t ever seem to learn from its mistakes. The last significant work stoppage was the dreadful strike of 1994. MLB alienated thousands and thousands of fans, some of whom never came back.

The state of the sport has changed. MLB is not a national sport anymore. It’s a confederation of regional allegiances loosely tied to a league. People in Idaho might tune in to watch the Patriots play the Steelers, but probably won’t watch the Pirates play the Mets. Thanks to localized TV networks (Braves and Cubs come to mind), baseball is a regional sport, largely.

Baseball needs to get its act in order, demonstrate some forward thinking (and not the DH), or the sport, on the professional level, will make what happened in ’94 pale in comparison.

Editor’s note: Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox, which airs from 4-6 p.m. CT, Monday-Thursday on WRJB, 95.9 FM, Camden, Tenn.

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