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You know it’s a mixed-up, topsy-turvy world when we agree with New York Yankees management. At least partially.
On Monday, Yankees President Randy Levine was on ESPN radio talking about the Major League Baseball lockout, which had already resulted in several games being canceled ahead of what was supposed to be opening day in late March. More games were canceled Wednesday. Owners and players had struggled to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with unresolved issues like minimum salary, where to set the league’s luxury tax that penalizes teams when their combined annual player salaries exceed a certain limit (essentially a salary cap) and whether to create a draft for international players.
“Everyone on the Yankees, everyone in Major League Baseball shares the blame — players, owners, executives for where we are,” Levine said. “It’s a really bad look, especially with what’s going on in the world. We all have to try, really a lot harder, to try and fix this, because we all look pretty bad.”
This bad look seems to be getting much better, with news Thursday that the owners and players association have reached a tentative agreement to end the lockout and start the season on April 7.
Levine was right, this situation has been “embarrassing.” Nobody has looked good, especially given the backdrop. Russia has invaded Ukraine, more than 6 million people globally have died in the COVID-19 pandemic, American families are being stretched thin with soaring inflation, and people making millions and billions of dollars from a game can’t agree how to split all the money. That was an obvious recipe for people tuning out and the MLB losing fans.
None of the parties involved have been blameless, surely. But let’s not forget who has looked the worst: Billionaire owners and the league commissioner who initiated this fight over who gets a bigger piece of a massive pie.
When the owners implemented the lockout in December, Commissioner Rob Manfred said it was to “jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time.” That clearly didn’t work out well.
Owners and executives have pointed to lost revenue during the pandemic, and there is no doubt that an abridged 2020 season and empty stadiums hit the league hard. However, none of these owners can claim poverty. The MLB is not an open book when it comes to team finances, but if the record revenues for the World Series champions in Atlanta are even the slightest indication, the owners are doing just fine.
Thankfully, minor league baseball’s schedule wasn’t affected by the lockout. The Portland Sea Dogs are set to start their season on April 8.
“We invite you to come enjoy a nine-inning vacation where you’ll find fun, family entertainment at an affordable price,” the team said in a recent statement. “We look forward to seeing you at the ballpark. Play ball!”
It appears that Major League Baseball is adopting a similar mindset, as it rounds the bases toward an official lockout resolution.
“I think there’s a deal there,” Levine, the Yankees president, added Monday. “This is doable. It’s doable, especially our fans want it, the public wants it, what’s going on in this world, baseball is important, but not as important as some of the events going on all over the world. We’re coming off of COVID. We need to get this done.”
Encouragingly, it seems everyone involved has finally agreed with that perspective. It’s time to play ball, already.