I’m making no promises that I won’t watch any Major League Baseball.
I just can’t.
Tuesday at 5 p.m. was supposed to be the deadline for the Players Union to accept conditions to return to play for what looks to be a 60-game season as set forth by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred after both sides failed to come away with an agreement.
An absence of an agreement gave Manfred the power to move forward, with Spring Training 2 starting as early as July 1.
Many fans have decried both sides as being greedy and stupid and unable to see the damage they are doing to the sport when it can at least afford for that to happen. They’re not wrong.
It’s been very frustrating watching both sides go through the public negotiations, but really, why are we surprised? As independent thinker Trevor Bauer of the Cincinnati Reds said in as many words, there’s probably going to be a big fight after 2021 with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement up for renewal, and this is an awful time to start that big fight.
He’s right too.
I have no interest in taking sides on any of this, but from a Pirates fan perspective, what do we really want to come out of this? Media colleague DeJan Kovacevic has been very, very clear on what the Pirates and their loyal fanbase should want:
A salary cap.
We can bark all we want — and be correct in doing so — about how pathetic the Pirates are when it has come to … well, anything, regarding running a Major League Baseball team on personnel and player development. Cheap? Yeah, probably that too.
But here’s the deal about the money. One cannot criticize the supposed ineptitude of the Pirates front office without acknowledging a percentage of the problem is beyond their control. They simply cannot outspend most teams, nor can they make any mistakes with a big contract.
The Los Angeles Angels had four players scheduled to make — in a normal season — over $21 million this year with Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton totaling about $113 million. Four players. The Pirates projected payroll this year? Around $60 million. For the whole roster.
You can call the Pirates cheap and probably be right. But where’s the line that separates cheap from stupid or even not cheap? And does it even matter?
A salary cap not only limits how much money teams are allowed to spend, but forces teams to spend a minimum of a certain about that isn’t much less, in the scheme of things, than the upper limit of the cap.
So with a salary cap, you could reason that Pirates fans might not have ever known who Bob Nutting really is. Ineptitude is always possible despite a salary cap as certain NFL or NBA teams have proven. A salary cap was something that many felt wouldn’t come unless the league, or any league, was in financial trouble. Well, the NBA and NHL got to that point in their histories and they have caps, and are somewhat better for it.
A salary cap, isn’t communism or socialism, it’s leveling the playing field and, get this, might usher in a relationship where both sides work together for the greater good to promote the game in places where it needs promoted, like smaller markets whose payrolls rival some big market teams’ double-play combo.
Well, here we are baseball. What’s next? I’m not convinced the owners are sold out for a salary cap initiative. There are a handful of teams who benefit greatly from having a huge margin of error advantage. They can afford a bad signing or three.
The Pirates cannot, even when a 100 percent capable front-office is running the show. This one might be, but we don’t know. They haven’t played yet!
Thankfully, I have 150 previous years of baseball to fall back on when I look for baseball entertainment.
And please read the Ossee Shrecongost (or Shreckengost) story in this edition. It’s a fascinating look at the turn of the 20th century and how baseball was played. And next week, make sure you read about one of the greatest games ever played. And yes, Mr. Shreckengost was right in the middle of it.
Rich Rhoades is the sports editor of the Leader-Vindicator and the Jeffersonian Democrat in Brookville. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @TheSkinny1969.