I’m sure a lot of y’all have probably heard of the old parable involving The Scorpion and The Frog, but I’ll go ahead and retell it real quick for those of you who might be unaware. Anyways, the story goes that a scorpion and a frog both find themselves in a spot where they need to get across a body of water in order to reach their destination on the other side. The scorpion suggests to the frog that the best way to do this is to have the scorpion ride on the frog’s back while the frog swims, since the scorpion can’t swim on its own. The frog is concerned because it thinks that the scorpion is going to sting them while they’re swimming. The scorpion reassures the frog that it would never sting the frog because if it did, they would both drown.
The frog is reassured and decides to let the scorpion on its back and they attempt to cross the water. The attempt falls short because despite knowing what would happen if it gave in to its worst impulses, the scorpion couldn’t help itself and stung the frog anyways. Right before they’re both submerged, the frog asks the scorpion “Dude, why? You knew we were both going to drown if you did this!” The scorpion simply replied “Sorry, bro. I’m a scorpion. It’s just what I do.”
Following this most recent round of negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA, I’ve been thinking a lot about that old parable. It really does feel like after this past week of negotiations, the owners have decided to brandish their stingers and send everybody involved to a watery grave. It truly seems like the owners have decided that losing games is worth it if it means that they can effectively bust the players’ union and pick up a huge victory in these negotiations. Meanwhile, it appears like the players were actually trying to come a little closer to what the owners wanted. You could even argue that ownership would come out ahead when it comes to the concessions that the players have been reported to have made.
Instead, it has now become clear that simply coming out ahead is not the ultimate goal for MLB here. MLB wants a knockout shot in these negotiations and if that means waiting over 40 days after initiating a lockout and acting in obvious bad faith and cancelling as many games in 2022 as it takes, then so be it. It’s completely understandable to be extremely frustrated with how the negotiations have been going and if you’re going to point a finger then point it squarely at the ones behind the curtain.
The league went up $1 million on the CBT threshold for 2023 and didn't move at all on the rest of the CBT $.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 26, 2022
Two days before MLB cancels opening day and loses games -- something the commissioner said would be "disastrous" for the game he runs -- the league moved a million bucks.
I’ve always been someone who has seen any type of “baseball is dying”-type criticisms of MLB as being overblown, tired, and cliche. People have been regularly talking about baseball dying since the 1800s. That type of talk is about as traditional as PECOTA believing that the New York Mets are going to win 90 games in any given year. With that being said, baseball is going to be in some real trouble if a significant portion of the season is cut out.
As I mentioned in my last piece, the sports landscape has changed drastically since 1994 and sports fans will not have to look far to find some more entertainment and excitement elsewhere. All types of leagues and sports are becoming more accessible than ever. If we’re being completely honest, MLB has been behind the NFL and the NBA for a long time, now. Fans have been drifting away from MLB and losing a large portion of the season would be enough to push those fans away for good — even when the next season eventually begins.
This is a very frustrating time to be a fan of Major League Baseball and it should’ve never come to this point. With that being said, I do get that the players should wait as long as it takes for a fair deal. Unfortunately, they may be waiting for a long time with the way ownership has treated these negotiations. As long as the owners have it in their mind that they need to deal an even bigger blow to the players than what they did in the last few rounds of Collective Bargaining talks over the years, then we’re not going to be seeing regular season baseball being played any time soon.
I honestly wish it was more complicated than that. It would make sense if the owners were bleeding money and needed to find a way to stem the tide, but they aren’t. You don’t have to look too far to see that owning a baseball team is a really good gig nowadays. So while the owners are raking in money as baseball continues to be a very lucrative business, the best that they have for the players is stuff like giving each league’s Rookie of the Year a full year of service time — as opposed to the usual service time shenanigans that we’re used to seeing (which would likely result in even more shenanigans, but I digress). But this isn’t really complicated. It’s really as simple as knowing that the owners have no goals in these talks other than crushing the union. It really seems as if nothing other than a complete and utter capitulation on the part of the players will do for MLB at this point. That’s it and that’s all.
Again, it really doesn’t make much sense for ownership to behave in such bad faith considering the really good financial shape that baseball is in right now. It’s a truly disastrous choice on the part of the owners to make and nobody’s going to benefit from this except for other sports and leagues who want more eyes on their product. It really and truly feels like the scorpion has decided to sting the frog here. Baseball is at risk of drowning and it’s mostly because it’s hard-wired in the nature of a cabal of rich people to keep on going for as much money and as much power as possible. Hardcore fans like you and I will likely be back when/if the season gets underway, but what will this sport look like when it returns? Not everybody is going to be returning to see what it’s like on the other side of the river, as they’ve had enough of the scorpion.