Op-Ed: Baseball is back, but it was never really gone


The headlines tell us that baseball is back, that warm summer nights, mustard-covered hot dogs and life threats against umpires are back with us.

The thing is, there was never a chance they wouldn’t be.

Baseball bats, lockouts, industrial action – whatever you want to call it – are the most inappropriate things in sports next to soccer injuries. You would never not play. April was approaching. The money was held in trust in the fans’ pockets and in the bank accounts of the television stations. Owners could feign anger and players could plead poverty, but neither deserved our serious attention.

The best line that’s been written about these disputes—always written because every time there’s this type of baseball dispute, the same things are always written—is that it’s a “Millionaire vs. Billionaire Dispute.” .

This line should encourage us not to take sides because it is impossible to relate to both. The best response is to nod consciously and ignore the shouting. When it comes time for the games to start, they will. There will be some adjustments, some even worthy of note, like this year’s increase in playoff teams from 10 to 12 and the addition of the batsman-designate to the National League.

New stuff, mostly good stuff. Play ball.

Perhaps the next time the players and owners pretend to fight, the media could take a new tack: just ask them to roar when it’s over, then write the headline. The media is in the news business. “Baseball labor disputes” are less news than group insults from overstuffed businessmen and overindulged athletes. After all, this is the sport where many second basemen hit .240 and make $5 million.

There have been eight such disputes since the first baseball working soap opera in 1972. In six of the nine, including this year, no games were canceled. The only real damage was in 1994 when 938 games and the postseason were wiped out.

Baseball work situations have tended to create a cottage industry for the media. As reporters’ guaranteed days of laid-back spring training hanging out in Florida or Arizona get violated along with some great expense-report dinners, the temptation to write and broadcast outrage is hard to resist. Rarely is so much made from so little.

A popular topic is the potential impact on baseball attendance. Headlines Screaming: Will This Labor Action Kill Baseball? Can a sport that was once considered America’s pastime survive? Will the fans rebel and leave multi-million dollar stadiums full of empty seats?

Ah no.

When multimillion-dollar stadiums sit empty, it’s because the teams suck, not because some attorneys got mad at each other in a baseball labor dispute.

Then there are the claims that action-packed NFL games are stealing the thunder from boring, slow-paced baseball. These stories, of course, fail to take into account that part of baseball’s appeal may lie in its slow rhythm, intriguing moments of fasts and what-would-have-been. Slow doesn’t automatically mean boring.

On comment pages and sad Facebook posts, we hear from lifelong fans getting poetic about how they went to their first game as 10-year-olds with their now-dead fathers, fell in love with the sport, but decided in 2022 never to watch it again because of greed in the game. Oh please. Greed isn’t unique to baseball.

Of course, the NFL is an exciting and fast-paced entertainment that’s hard to beat. But maybe we need a summer of baseball to calm down and catch our breath. Contrary to much that is written, the success of one does not automatically mean the failure of the other. There’s room for fans who love bat cracking and fans who love cracking skulls.

The dumb industrial action in baseball always seems like a quick chance to kick something when it’s down. Aside from not being down, baseball is just waking up grumpy from a long hibernation and recalibrating as usual.

As good and well-known a baseball commentator as there is today, none other than Buster Olney took a look at recent events and what was still on the negotiating table, and announced he could “raise storm clouds” over the game. see.

Not at the moment. Probably never. Like every year, hot dogs are ordered, beer is chilled and seats are cleaned. As Vin Scully used to say, “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”

Let’s make it all inclusive and just take out his fourth word.

Bill Dwyre is a former Times sports editor. Op-Ed: Baseball is back, but it was never really gone

Andrew Schnitker

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