Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez discusses the MLB labor dispute.
The fate of the Major League Baseball season hangs in the balance as owners and players continue to squabble over money. Neither side wins in the event that the season in canceled and former Boston Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez serves a reminder that the fans would lose as well.
In an appearance on NBC Sports Network’s “Lunch Talk Live” on Monday, Martinez expressed his frustration with the current labor dispute.
"“I’m hoping that both sides actually stop thinking about their own good and start thinking about the fans,” Martinez said. “I think this is a perfect time to have their baseball teams out there and try to have the people forget a little bit about what’s going on. It’s not only the pandemic, it’s everything that’s going on. People need something to actually do and find a way to relax. I hope that the Players’ Association and MLB realize how important it is to bring some sort of relief to people.”"
Baseball returning to our lives would be a welcome distraction from the tragedies that have engulfed our daily news cycle. This sport is known as America’s pastime for a reason. MLB played a significant role in the nation recovering from World War II. The city of Boston rallied around the Red Sox in the wake of the Marathon bombing in 2013. Sports have a way of uniting people and we need that now more than ever.
Owners initially proposed an 82-game schedule that would force players to take steep pay cuts in addition to prorated salaries. The MLBPA adamantly objected to any further salary reductions and countered with a 114-game proposal. While the player’s union provided a plan that included some creative ideas to alleviate some of the owner’s concerns, it wasn’t enough to satisfy the league. Now MLB is considering giving the players their full prorated pay in exchange for a shorter 50-game season, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Pedro referred to economics as the “dark part of baseball.” The business side of the game can get messy but it’s time for MLB to clean it up. The owners and players are in a battle fueled by greed but they can never forget where the money comes from – the fans.
The other major professional sports in this country are moving toward a return to action in the near future. Baseball has outlined a way to feasibly play games in a safe environment amidst the pandemic that continues to plague the nation but they remain hung up over money. It’s a bad look for MLB if other sports figure out a way to return while baseball remains in limbo during a billionaire vs millionaire labor dispute.
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The longer these negotiations go without an agreement, the slimmer the odds of salvaging the season become. We’ll soon reach the point where every day without a deal trims a potential game off the schedule unless the league intends to extend the season into November or beyond.
Fans are getting fed up with this labor dispute and a canceled season could be the last straw for many of them. Casual fans will pivot their attention to another sport or other forms of entertainment. Even a portion of the die-hard fans might be turned away out of disgust.
Failing to reach an agreement would have damaging ramifications that could devastate the league for years. Agreeing to terms that may limit profits or even result in a temporary loss for some clubs is better than risking the long-term success of the league.
If teams are drawing less revenue as fan interest dwindles, that leaves less money for the players. Teams will slash payroll at their expense if ticket sales decrease and declining ratings have negative consequences on future television negotiations. Fighting for every last dollar may seem noble in the interest of what’s “fair” but they don’t get paid this year if there’s no season and the fallout would hinder their future earnings.
There is no baseball without paying customers and both sides are putting the league at risk with this dispute. They need to find a middle ground in these negotiations and hash out a deal quickly or the fans will ultimately make the decision for them by tuning out.