It’s an issue of trust.
For three months, baseball owners and players tried to negotiate a deal for a shortened 2020 season. The sides never were able to come to an agreement, and baseball is returning only because commissioner Rob Manfred imposed a 60-game season that will begin July 24.
So, what happened?
“The biggest thing is they don’t have the trust in each other that the other sports seemingly have figured out,” Dan Loney, host of Wharton Business Daily (10 a.m., Sirius/XM Channel 132) and former professional baseball broadcaster, told Bracy Sports Media. “From a revenue generating standpoint, they obviously do very well. They get billion dollar (TV) contracts. But there is just a flat-out belief, and it’s a little bit historical, that the owners don’t trust the players and the players don’t trust the owners.”
The sides are going to have to sit down at the negotiating table again after the 2021 season when the collective bargaining agreement expires. Loney doesn’t expect things to change for the better.
“I am firmly in belief right now that we’ll have a work stoppage before the 2022 season,” he said.
What could happen to Major League Baseball in 2022 already is being experienced at the minor-league level this season. While no official announcement has been made, it’s unlikely there will be affiliated minor league baseball this season.
As for the impact of a lost season on minor league baseball, Loney doesn’t expect it will have a catastrophic effect.
“I think it’s dark for this year, I think it recovers next year,” said Loney, a former Trenton Thunder broadcaster who has called more than 2,100 baseball games on the radio and 500 on television. “The nice thing about minor league baseball because of the nature of the game and where it’s played, in smaller towns in many places, I think the fans will bring it back. I think a lot of fans will differentiate what’s going on at the major league level to what they know is minor league baseball.”
Another factor in the potential return of minor league baseball is the reported contraction of 40 or more farm teams in 2021. If this comes to fruition, it will have a far-reaching effect on many levels – something that disappoints Loney.
“(The owners are) trying to keep their numbers low,” he said. “They want to pare back their expenses. I understand it’s a business, but I’m so frustrated by this. First, it does cut away the opportunity for some players that want to be in professional baseball. But, two, this takes away entertainment value for those 40 cities from anywhere from 35 to 70 nights. Third, you’re taking away potential future job opportunities for youth who are coming out of college and looking for a career in baseball. This is sickening to me on a lot of fronts.”
Eventually, fans will be allowed to return to ballparks. Whether they flock back, Loney believes, largely will be dependent on the economy.
“If the economy reacts well and we see a continued bounceback, then I think from a financial perspective people will come back,” he said. “If you have the money, you’re willing to spend it. We always will want our sports. The economy in general is going to play a big role. It gives people pause to really think about how they are going to spend their dollars moving forward.”