MLB Lockout Is Billionaires Versus Multimillionaires

MLB Lockout Is Billionaires Versus Multimillionaires

By Joe Guzzardi

Major League Baseball’s player lockout had no sooner begun than commissioner Rob Manfred sent a letter to fans attempting to assuage ire about the possibility of another partial season – the sixth in 50 years – or even no season at all.

Fans can read through Manfred’s letter, but cutting through its tedious gobbledygook, the bottom line is that the billionaire owners, who preside over a multibillion-dollar industry, want to keep as much of their fortune as possible. The players, many of them already multi-millionaires, want to earn oodles more even sooner. MLB has at least ten billionaire owners; four of them have a net worth that exceeds $2 billion. The New York Yankees are the wealthiest team; it’s valued at $5.25 billion.

From a list of the 20 richest players that includes the active, the retired and the disgraced, their net worth ranges from a low of $80 million – CC Sabathia – to the highest – Alex Rodriguez – $350 million. In 2021, the average player’s salary was $4.2 million, nearly a two-fold increase since 2003, while the 2019 median household income was $69,000. The minimum MLB salary for an eight-month work schedule is $570,000. Fans have no rooting interest in the confrontation between owners and players; a pox on both their houses is a commonly heard rebuttal to clashes between the billionaires and the millionaires.

MLB Lockout Is Billionaires Versus Multimillionaires

Baseball is in trouble, not a news flash, but an indisputable fact that should grow more worrisome to the commissioner, the owners and the players. On the field, a single game illustrates baseball’s woes: the World Series, 1960, game seven, Pittsburgh Pirates against the New York Yankees: a day game, played on grass, that the Pirates won, 10-9. Even though the teams scored 19 runs, and combined for 26 hits, the game wrapped up in a tidy 2:36.

Today’s fans, especially the younger ones that baseball desperately needs as it plods forward, find the games too long and too boring. The average length of nine-inning games in 2021 was a record 3:10, compared to about 2 hours and 30 minutes in the 1970s. Games in the 2021 postseason were even longer. The average length of a nine-inning game was 3 hours and 37 minutes with nine of the 36 games grinding endlessly on four hours or longer.

The major culprit is the number of pitchers used in a game. The 2020 rule which requires that, barring injury, a pitcher must face a minimum of three batters or complete an inning before he can be removed is ineffective. In the 2021 regular season teams used a record 3.4 relief pitchers per game. In the postseason, nearly half the starting pitchers were yanked before the sixth inning which boosted the average number of relievers summoned in a nine-inning game to 4.3. No surprise then that last 30 World Series games have all ended past 11 p.m. EDT. Back in 1960, the Pirates finished off the Yankees at 3:36 p.m.

Today, MLB has more in common with Apple than it does with what was once reverently referred to as the national pastime. Immediately endangered is Spring Training which, in the dead of winter, fans eagerly anticipate – sunny skies, swaying palm trees, green grass and fastballs. Assuming the games are played, bring your wallet. The well-heeled Yankees charge $100 for standing room tickets.

Dinosaur fans remember a happier era when the months leading up to Spring Training were about baseball, not lockouts. No fans had the months between February and April better than Brooklyn Dodgers’ rooters who visited Dodgertown, in Vero Beach, Fla.

In his book, “Dodgertown,” author Mark Langill described how the camp became the fruition of team executive Branch Rickey’s long-time dream to bring his players together in a single, top-notch training facility so that all the Dodgers – regulars and minor leaguers – could be evaluated at the same time. Vero Beach, with its vacant, post-World War II Naval facility, was the perfect place. Dodgertown provided dozens of batting cages, two mechanical pitchers, an electric eye umpire that also measured the velocity of each pitch, a sliding pit and a track coach. Some of those baseball-oriented features were Rickey’s innovations. Off the field, the Dodgers kept their players occupied and happy by providing jukeboxes, shuffleboard, horseshoes, croquet and pinball machines. Food was readily and abundantly available. “Take all you want, but eat all you take,” read the cafeteria sign.

But just as the Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1957 for Los Angeles’ lucre, they abandoned Vero Beach in 2009 for the more profitable Camelback Ranch. The Arizona facility offers tourists more than 150 Dodgers caps for sums that range up to $65.00. Those lordly prices help explain why the Dodgers franchise has $3.6 billion value, and why baseball fans are turned off.

Joe Guzzardi is a Society for American Baseball Research and an Internet Baseball Writers Association member. Contact him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

MLB Lockout Is Billionaires Versus Multimillionaires MLB Lockout Is Billionaires Versus Multimillionaires

2 thoughts on “MLB Lockout Is Billionaires Versus Multimillionaires”

  1. “The major culprit is the number of pitchers used in a game.”
    No, Joe, that’s a symptom. The culprit is the umpires and how they call the strike zone. And the way they call the strike zone is inconsistently, for both teams, throughout a game. It starts in the minors, and those umpires who get promoted to the major league crews take their bad habits with them.

    Not one of the steps MLB has taken to address the length of games has addressed this. All of the steps are political; that is, they are things MLB has done, to be able to say, “Look! We’re doing something!” Not the pitch clock, not the rule limiting pitching changes, not the “ghost man” rule (which is particularly stupid), have helped shorten the length of time it takes to play a game.

    If umpires would call the strike zone, as defined, and consistently, hitters wouldn’t swing at questionable pitches 4, 5, 6 or more time, fouling balls off till they finally get a pitch they can hit or draw the walk.

    Personally, I would prefer now to see MLB employ technology to call balls and strikes, and just have umpires in the field. That would serve the umpires and their union right, too, since they refuse to do anything about it. I would not be surprised if the components for such technology exist already, and just that no one has thought yet about putting them together for this purpose.

    I also think that baseball should implement the third-strike foul: if a batter with 2 strikes fouls off a pitch, that’s strike 3, and he’s out. The American Softball Association rules allow for this, and games played according to ASA rules are much shorter, more like baseball games were up to around 15 years ago. Most fans wouldn’t go for that, but it definitely would speed up games.

    (Pop thinks baserunners shouldn’t be allowed to take leads, too, but I don’t. I don’t think pickoff throws have caused game times to explode.)

    I’ve always found it amusing, too, that people complain that baseball is boring, that there’s no action. And they compare it to football. But they overlook the fact that football is an hour-long game that takes three-and-a-half hours or more to play.

  2. I used to love going to baseball and hockey games, football was OK, when I was young many years ago.
    For many years now I cannot tolerate them. They have too much interference from big money control. I then many years ago switched to going to college and even high school games as they actually played what I considered real sports, but even that soon changed, so I no longer watch or play any of it. The most interesting “sport” I like watching now are the children in the neighborhood on skate boards playing on the street or even a few roller skaters going by sadly being stopped. So I just stick to doing my gardening. Really fun, great fun “real sportsmanship” seems to be gone, it is all just way too expensive, way too controlled and has now even become way too political, sadly it is not even “sports” anymore to me the heart is gone from the games.

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