Saturday, May 18, 2024

THE CHEAP SEATS WITH STEVE CAMERON: ‘Fools’ screwing up return of major league baseball

| May 15, 2020 1:15 AM

Let’s start with the obvious.

Hall of Fame first baseman Bill Terry of the New York Giants spotted the issue 79 years ago.

Indeed, it was Terry who said: “Baseball must be a great game to survive the fools that run it.”

No kidding.

The fools that run major league baseball — Commissioner Rob Manfred and his 30 greedy but clueless owners — are screwing around again, just as they did in Terry’s day.

Or any day, come to think of it.

Here we are, in the midst of a brutal pandemic that has killed more than 85,000 Americans, and appears capable of burning mercilessly through the population.

People have been quarantined and many have lost income.

The nation is desperate for good news, or anything that will make this endless stream of crappy days, weeks and months seem just a little brighter.

LIKE BASEBALL, for instance.

Fans of the “National Pastime” have gotten glimpses of our sport via ESPN telecasts of games from Korea.

They know that it’s too dangerous to invite crowds through the turnstiles, but they’ll happily take TV broadcasts of the Mariners and their MLB brethren playing in empty stadiums.

For now, it’s better than nothing.

Hell, almost ANYTHING is better than a summer with no baseball.

It’s only been a few weeks, and I’m already becoming a fan of the Lotte Giants.

I think they have a chance to sneak into the Korean Series and maybe win a title this year.

Given that nugget of information…

Imagine how exciting it would be — while we’re still wearing masks and wondering how and when this coronavirus evil might ever be banished — to have major league baseball day after day.

Who cares about the empty seats?

On another day, I’ll tell you why I believe the slow and serene pace of baseball is perfect for this particular sport — and how it allows you to savor each minute, maybe even more than just a sweet double play that could pass for world-class ballet.

Me, I’m going to keep watching Korean ball, even as I begin working my schedule around to see the major leagues come back.

Yes, Seattle, because I think the Mariners are truly building something special — along with the Kansas City Royals, whom I’ve watched and covered up close for so many years.

I can’t wait.

SADLY, the owners seem intent on screwing this up.

The one thing that MLB didn’t need in this time of the coronavirus was a squabble pitting millionaires against billionaires.

Baseball fans are everyday Americans, which means that many are losing jobs or fighting to live as incomes shrink with the economy on a long pause.

The public will NOT be sympathetic to a fight over money, not when both owners and players already have more than enough to feed several small cities.

And yet, here we are…

With the season cut in half — they hope to start play around the Fourth of July — it was agreed back in March that players would get a prorated portion of their salaries.

No problem, except…

Now the owners want a different deal, scrapping signed salary agreements for just this year and, instead, splitting revenues 50-50.

It’s an obvious attempt to increase revenue for the clubs, who will be dealing with no ticket sales, concessions, parking, etc.

The whole idea, to use a phrase from players union boss Tony Clark, is a “non-starter.”

BESIDES losing some money, it would be even more troubling to see the players and fans completely losing faith in the 30 owners.

This 50-50 thing looks like the ol’ bait-and-switch, and the players aren’t going to accept it under any circumstances.

You know, there are so many new and precise things that have to be done correctly just to play part of a season safely — testing for the virus, tracing contacts of anyone who tests positive, handling the logistics of family, travel and the games themselves.

The challenges go on and on.

There’s never a good time to display greed, but that sort of thing looks even worse in the shadow of COVID-19.

We’ve hit a moment that calls for compromise, and a realization that just playing games is critical for the sport and the folks who love it.

Owners should back off their demands and just get this done.

For so many reasons, watching baseball — even if it’s only on the tube — would be a blessing for a weary nation this summer.

Give us a reminder of normal life.

Even a little slice.



Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns appear in The Press on Wednesdays and Fridays. “Moments, Memories and Madness,” his reminiscences from several decades as a sports journalist, runs each Sunday.

Steve also writes Zags Tracker, a commentary on Gonzaga basketball, once per month during the offseason.