Warning: Baseball's Nuclear Winter Will Have Half-Life

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Beleaguered baseball commissioner Rob Manfred explains why owners locked out players.Arturo Pardavia III, Hoboken, NJ, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

By Dan Schlossberg

My long-time friend Kevin Barnes, a fellow Jersey guy who now lives in Atlanta, sent me the most appropriate holiday card I received this winter.

His hand-written message at the end read, “When the season starts in June, hope to see you again at the World Series in December.”

Say it ain’t so, Kevin.

Unfortunately, he may be on to something.

Not only are the owners and players unable to hammer out a new Basic Agreement, the document that governs the game, but they’re also unable to agree on when, where, or even whether to meet.

With pitchers and catchers due to report in less than six weeks, it’s time, guys.

In fact, it’s time Rob Manfred, Tony Clark, Max Scherzer, and the others with vested financial interests in this situation take a suite in the Tower of London — or some equally dingy place without distrations — and stay there until they reconcile.

The problem is they can’t live with each other or without each other. Kind of reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Or maybe Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Neither side is willing to concede, or even to give an inch.

At least the sale of Topps baseball cards to Fanatics proves that big baseball transactions can indeed take place in January. Fanatics paid $500 million for the sports arm of the former bubble-gum company and got the right to start stamping its own logo on cardboard images of major-league players.

Even Scherzer didn’t get that much from the vault of Steve Cohen, the new owner of the Mets.

Owners don’t want to miss the revenue they derive from spring training games and players don’t want to miss any of the 162-game regular season, since that’s when their checks start.

But the problem is that baseball people never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

With baseball a cash cow again after the Covid crisis, the people who run the game may have milked the game for all it is worth.

Their inflexible, intolerant attitude indicates they care only about lining their pockets and strangling the public they need to provide critical game-day revenue.

How soon they forget what it was like to have cardboard cutouts in the stands and live attendance totals of zero every night.

Fans are already exasperated and are about to show it with their wallets — as they did after the 232-day player strike of 1994-95. If things keep up, this will be a shortened season marked by empty seats and spectator protests.

That’s no way to run America’s national pastime but a great way to ruin it.

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 40 baseball books. He covers the game for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Ball Nine, and many others. E.mail him at ballauthor@gmail.com.

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