A Red Sox fan’s reaction to MLB’s cancelation of opening week

Oct 26, 2021; Houston, TX, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred before game one of the 2021 World Series between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 26, 2021; Houston, TX, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred before game one of the 2021 World Series between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

One Red Sox fan’s thoughts on MLB canceling opening week

Well, it’s official Red Sox Nation. After months of tense negotiations and stubborn disagreements, the sides were unable to come to an agreement by the MLB’s arbitrary deadline and Commissioner Rob Manfred canceled the first two series of the 2022 season.

Like many baseball fans, I have a lot of different emotions right now: Anger, sadness, and disgust to name a few. I tried to put those feelings into words and give my quick-hit thoughts on what has transpired in this lockout.

I’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember, and this is as embarrassed as I’ve ever been to support the sport. The fact that we are about to get the second shortened season in three years is just terrible, and it could have so easily been prevented. It’s infuriating that the owners’ greed can strongarm the players and prevent the season from starting on time.

It was foolish for anybody to expect a deal last night. Yes, it was hopeful that the sides met so long on Sunday, and there was progress made, but to get a deal done would run counter to everything that has happened in the previous few weeks, months, and years. I blame the man, the myth, the legend Bob Nightengale for getting my hopes up.

This is not the death of baseball. Many non-baseball sports media people are saying that, but it’s so far from the truth. The immense backlash from the fans shows just how powerful the fanbase is. In addition, veteran players fighting for the rights of younger players set a precedent that will improve future CBA negotiations. It just sucks right now.

The main thing I can’t wrap my head around is how long it took to begin negotiations. There is no reason that it should have taken 45 days for the two sides to meet. If they were negotiating in January with the same energy that they did this past week, we would have an agreement by now. That begs the question: Did the MLB really want to get a deal done, or did they just want to delay the season to leverage the players?

I can’t think of a person in power who is more out of touch with the general public than Rob Manfred. He does get an unfair rap by the media and the fans, as he is pretty much handcuffed by the owners he represents, but the fact that he can get up on that podium and laugh is asinine. Thousands of hardworking people are losing their jobs and money, money they need a heck of a lot more than the owners, and all Manfred can do is smile.

For Manfred to stand up there and say that the last five seasons have been “rough” for the MLB in terms of revenue is flat-out stupid. The league has made $43 billion (that’s billion with a b) over that span, and to suggest that they have been anything other than wildly successful is not only idiotic but insensitive to all the players who have created this billion-dollar industry, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck. Believe it or not, not every player is a millionaire.

I do think the amount of progress that has been made over the last week has been lost a little bit. It appears the playoff format, draft lottery, and free-agent qualifying offer elimination have all been agreed to, while the gap between the two sides in minimum salary has closed to just $25,000. As long as no sides backtrack, most of the agreement seems like it is already in place.

That doesn’t mean there still isn’t a lot of work to do. There remains about $55 million remaining between the sides in terms of the brand-new arbitration pool, a substantial difference at this point in the game.

The MLB has argued that the creation of the pool is enough and that what the players are offering is too much for the first year. It feels like in the end, their stubbornness to move off of a $30 million pool will strongarm the players into meeting the owners there.

Then there is the issue of the luxury tax. This has long been viewed as the potential hold up the new CBA, and lo and behold, it was. The MLB is arguing that their proposed CBT (competitive balance tax) is in line with luxury tax increases of the past, while the players are claiming that the massive revenue increase in recent years should garner a much greater CBT.

With that being said, the two sides are $18 million apart in their proposed 2022 luxury tax threshold and $33 million in their 2026 threshold. The owners also have pointed out that lowering the luxury tax penalties, which they agreed to, offsets the modest gains, but the players aren’t having it.

Honestly, I don’t know how this gets solved. Both sides are so stuck in their ways that one side will have to have a significant change in philosophy to come to an agreement. The Red Sox have some big names due for extensions and new contracts in the very near future and I’m sure those players want to maximize their earning potential.

The MLB saying they made their “best and last offer” idea will get a lot of publicity in the coming days, but I don’t think it’s true. I think they were referring to their best and last offer before canceling games, and they have said they are still willing to negotiate.

I hope when this is all said and done, we remember the contributions of Max Scherzer, Andrew Miller, Tony Clark, and the rest of the MLBPA. The MLBPA is unified like never before, and the effort they have put in this week is outstanding.

Scherzer in particular has no reason to fight for the younger players, as he has made his fortune and has only a few years left in his career, but it is commendable that he is doing so anyway. I listened to Tony Clark speak for the first time today and was immediately impressed. The MLBPA is in good hands with him at the helm.

The one positive thing we fans have going is that unlike 2020, there will still be baseball to watch. College baseball is in full swing, and minor league baseball will start up again in May, no matter what. The latter is especially important, as one of the significant lasting effects of the cancellation of the minor league season (an effect that we are still seeing today) is the lost development for prospects.

Fortunately, all affiliates will be back in action this spring, and the minor leaguers will get their much-needed playing time. This is especially huge for the Red Sox as several of their top-ranked prospects have serious shots at making it to the big leagues in 2022.

My hope is that the public outcry against the owners can force them to be more motivated to get a deal done. The owners are trying the “we gave a reasonable offer and the players didn’t accept it” approach, but the fans aren’t buying it. They make act like it, but the owners aren’t stupid. They know that a massive fan revolt would have drastic financial implications. Will that motivate them to come to a deal quicker? We’ll see.

From a Red Sox perspective, the announcement of canceled games is especially difficult because of the games they will miss. All six games Manfred wiped off the slate Tuesday were home games, including three against the Orioles. In a stacked AL East, this could be crucial.

Finally, I just want to reiterate how much this sucks. With the pandemic having a profound effect on each of the last two seasons, all we as baseball fans wanted was a normal season, and we’re not going to get that. Baseball, unfortunately, is not a game but a business. Things like this are going to happen, especially with owners as cheap and greedy as these.

It’s a helpless feeling as fans because the fate of our fandom is in the hands of people who care more about the cash in their pockets than the product on the field. All we can hope for is that we are back watching Red Sox baseball sooner rather than later.

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