(with apologies to Judy Tenuta)
By: Holly Horning
BioDome Baseball. The theory being kicked around that baseball would resume by concentrating play in Arizona and Florida (and now, potentially Texas) in domed stadiums to help mitigate the intense heat of the summer.
Someone call Pauly Shore. Maybe he could make a guest appearance.
Players who would be sequestered and away from the their families (more than a couple with pregnant wives) for months. Managers, coaches and all support staff (clubhouse guys, drivers, Front Offices, scouts, etc.) joining them in daily routines of driving to the stadium and then to the hotel with lockdown. Not even a lousy coffee run.
Masks to be worn on the buses and in the clubhouse. But not in the dugout. And that’s because MLB would implement the 6-foot distance policy that would take a number of players out of the dugout and put them into the stands.
Time to buy stock in walkie-talkies.
The Wall Street Journal, in one cartoon picture, summarized the silliness of it all. The catcher behind the plate. The umpire calling balls and strikes from his position back by the netting. Three distanced players sitting in the stands behind home plate. And the batter? Six feet away from the plate, attempting to swing at the incoming pitch.
Silly. Surreal. Even stupid.
But it really could happen.
In fact, sources within MLB say it is going to happen.
Because baseball, just by itself, is an $11 billion business.
No one is going to walk away from that money until they have exhausted all possibilities.
And in 9 days, the first of many hard decisions will have to be made by 12 teams.
It is written into MLB law that the Commissioner has the ability to allow franchises to lay off or cut the pay of managers, coaches, trainers, scouts and even some GMs and their Front Offices due to a “national emergency.” And Rob Manfred is doing this because “the absence of games will kill revenue streams and teams will not have sufficient funds to meet their financial obligations.”
It is up to each club to determine what to do.
As of this blog’s publishing, 18 out of 30 teams have promised to continue to pay their employees through May 31st. One team said that they will pay beyond May. The Tigers. (Bravo, Mr. Ilitch!)
Sadly, the two richest teams in baseball, the Yankees and the Dodgers, have not yet joined the promise in taking care of their employees. And neither have the World Series Champions, the Washington Nationals. Oh, how ownership forgets about that trophy so quickly…..
The lack of revenue stream has already impacted team owners. Several teams are asking their minority owners to step up and infuse more cash into their franchise. One even had the audacity to file suit against several minority owners to force them to cough up more cash.
Not having baseball creates a domino effect upon every single industry connected to the game. Of course, you’ve got the seasonal stadium workers as well as the food and beverage companies. Then the sports gear manufacturers are now shutting down with no orders or demand for their products.
You’ve also got the huge sports betting industry and casinos that are also closed. The list goes on…..
Then you’ve got all the media-related industries that are impacted. No advertising, of course, which fuels the existence of both tv and radio, but most importantly, the lifeline for newspapers and magazines. Which is why we are now seeing the beat reporters for the Tigers being “furloughed.”
MLB TV has fired, furloughed, laid off or put all their tv people on some form of “hiatus.” Meaning that they aren’t being paid. MLB Radio has started to do some of the same, replacing live voices and regular programming with reruns of old shows and interviews. There’s only so many times you can listen to the Town Hall meeting with Chipper Jones.
MLB is currently getting zippo revenue with the pandemic conveniently shutting down the large cash influx of those tv game subscriptions they bill in March. It’s still on my to do list to call and get my refund for the charge back in February for the games that never took place.
ESPN has fired over 1,000 employees including such notable names as Jayson Stark.
And those dominos keep tipping over from the biggest corporations down to the college ranks. Scouts who don’t have jobs and players who can’t play and aren’t receiving their sports scholarships as a result. Future careers in jeopardy or to go down the rabbit hole. Some players will simply drop out of the game because they will have no-to-little income. At best, some players will be a year older and competing with a double batch of prospects for limited openings with teams’ farm systems.
On the major league level, you’ve gotta believe that players will be pushing to “play ball!” because it means that their regular salaries will kick back in albeit at a pro-rated scale. (At print, there is now an impasse between MLBPA and MLB about how each interprets what salaries will be if the game resumes without fans.)
Do you think that Miguel Cabrera, who was supposed to earn $30 million this year is going to be happy with the allotted $143,000 per month he’s now getting? There will be hundreds of players, each losing millions this year, if they don’t play.
Then there are the soon-to-be free agents. What will a year not playing baseball do to their negotiations with other teams? The end of 2020 was supposed to yield a bumper crop of highly-prized free agents. They’ll be a year older with a 1-year layoff. Not exactly a great bargaining position, especially when the interested teams no longer have the money they had pre-pandemic.
And finally, there’s the Players’ Association. The longer this layoff goes, the less bargaining power they will have as the current CBA expires later this year. Just a couple months ago, there were rumors of them using the threat of a strike as leverage. But if there is no or little baseball this year, that argument goes away. They would be committing suicide if they threatened a strike that could put baseball into a 2-year hiatus.
And fans? Of course, we want to see the games. Even if it’s just on tv. And if MLB is smart, they will see that baseball is literally the only game in town. People who never watched a game will tune it simply because they are desperate for sports. And many of them may just stick. It would help in turning around those 12 straight years of declining viewership.
So maybe this Biodome Baseball isn’t so bad afterall. Especially if you are a fan of Detroit or either of the 2 NY teams. It’s been reported that MLB sources are leery of bringing baseball back to these 2 cities because they carry the highest risk of fans catching Covid-19. There are rumors that alternate sites, further south, would have to be substituted for Comerica, Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.
And in these crazy times, it just could happen.
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With MLB on hold, we are mixing it up a little bit. Three new interactive blogs that allow you, dear readers, to have more input. Which means, we need your ideas and questions for several of them.
1. Send us your questions that you’d like to see addressed about baseball and we’ll pick at least 2 each week to answer.
2. What questions do you have specifically for Kurt and Holly? They can be on anything (nothing political or religious though) so you can get a more complete picture about baseball’s infamous (mostly) odd couple.