Commentary: Baseball's missed opportunity
|Monday, July 6, 2020, 12:06 PM- -|
Generally, the 4th of July represents a chance to celebrate America and marks the middle of summer. The patriotic holiday typically brings barbecues, hot dogs, fireworks, and, of course, baseball.
The holiday screams America, and so does baseball — which is why the two have made a perfect match over the years.
The Cubs skipper David Ross expresses his feelings on the holiday being without baseball in a zoom session with reporters.
“It’s strange, it’s definitely strange,” Ross said. “You wake up and this is kind of one of those days, it just screams America's Pastime and it's a different, unique day.”
However, this Fourth of July looked different. A baseball season delayed by the spread of Covid-19 and further stalled by labor negotiations between the MLB and the player’s association has yet to get going, making this Fourth of July feel different than usual.
Not only were those labor negotiations ugly and potentially detrimental to the sport, but they were also especially tone-deaf as the rest of the country battles a global pandemic and the self-realization and commitment to fight social injustice and system racism. The league and its players squandered a golden opportunity to help the sport and instead may have permanently damaged it.
Bringing back baseball on the 4th of July would have been huge for the sport. Not only would it have been a major opportunity to entertain and occupy the American people, but also help the nation heal amidst the COVID-19 crisis and social injustice movements. On top of all of that, with a country craving sports, and something to root for, baseball had the chance to return to action before any other sport and be the only sport on for a month or longer.
The golden opportunity that baseball missed was the chance to grow the game. Baseball is coming off of a stretch of record revenues but declined attendance. The MLB has tried to shorten, speed up and even spice up the game to draw the younger generation, but the easiest way to gain fans is to have the sport on for people to see — and what better way than to air it nationally as the only sport on when most people are unable or fearful to leave their house.
Instead, baseball may have actually hurt and even shrunk the game. First and foremost, there are 42 minor league baseball teams on the chopping block — meaning nearly a thousand minor leaguers losing their job. In addition to that, a regularly 40 round MLB draft was cut to just five rounds this year — meaning over a thousand MLB careers didn’t even get the chance to begin. That all on top of the fact baseball’s season has been shortened by 63 percent and the minor league season has been canceled altogether.
Take into account the way the game is literally shrinking, mixed with the way the tone-deaf financial arguments between the league and its players rubbed fans the wrong way — baseball is not currently in good shape, at all.
The only thing that could possibly save baseball, is baseball. Getting these athletes, these heroes, back on the field and on television screens and into our lives is the best way to market and grow the sport. But that is not as easy as it seems with COVID-19 not slowing down at all.
“Literally, we just take this thing day to day,” Ross said. “We’re all to some extent worried what the next day may bring. So, this is an added stress to the season.”
And the Cubs manager expressed how much he and others have missed the game.
“We’ve missed baseball,” he said. “You guys have missed it, I’ve missed it and people around here have really missed just the atmosphere.”
So as long as all safety measures can be met, baseball should be officially back in about three weeks.
And it can’t come soon enough.