Baseball is broken: Why lockout only one problem MLB is facing

Before making a grim announcement at the podium Tuesday afternoon, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred walked up to the microphone and was laughing … about something.

Bad look.

Given the overall state of the game — from the diminishing action on the field, marathon time of play, tanking teams, bickering over money — nothing about it is even remotely funny.

Baseball is broken.

I'm always optimistic and believe anything can be fixed, but MLB is as far beyond repair as I can ever remember.

I have a pretty solid frame of reference for making a statement like that. For most of my first 30 years, I was a big fan fortunate enough to see Roberto Clemente play live on a regular basis.

For much of the past 30 years, I've been fortunate enough to cover the White Sox, Cubs and baseball in general for the Daily Herald.

The 1994 season was the low bar — a work stoppage that wiped out the World Series and extended into ‘95.

Baseball was badly damaged when it did come back, but fans were slow to return and many never did.

Compared to now, those were good times.

Manfred and the owners are really getting carved up over this stoppage, which has caused the first two series of the upcoming regular season to be canceled.

It started on an ominous note at the beginning of December, when the owners locked the players out minutes after the Collective Bargaining Agreement expired.

“Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season,” Manfred wrote in a letter to fans. “We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time.”

The season is not going to start on time, and given the understandable anger on the players' side, don't be surprised if there is no baseball all year.

“Manfred gotta go,” tweeted starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who signed a three-year, $71 million contract with the Cubs right before the lockout.

Stroman and the rest of the MLBPA are quick to point out that instead of jump-starting negotiations after the lockout, owners waited 43 days until returning to the negotiating table.

And when they did get back to talking, owners pushed expanding the current playoff format from 10 teams to 14. One of the great things about major-league baseball has been rewarding only deserving teams postseason play, so this is an obvious money grab.

There is the universal designated hitter mess, the shift, pitch clocks, service time issues, a scaled back minor-league system.

Major league baseball is still the grand old game, but it's stale. There aren't nearly as many young fans as there were when I fit that profile.

“MLB is trash at growing the game and marketing their players,” Stroman tweeted. “It's pretty obvious. GM's and front office individuals always tried to get me to deactivate my socials. Too many dinosaurs controlling the game of baseball. Manfred has to go. We need a new commissioner asap!”

The CBA expired at the worst time possible. Owners have taken a major financial hit the past two years due to the pandemic, so it's not a shock they are trying to hold the line.

Manfred has been a disaster at presenting the owners' side to the public and MLBPA, so most baseball fans that haven't tuned out are favoring the players.

Staying optimistic, maybe the two sides start working together instead of pulling apart, a deal gets done and a fairly normal season gets played.

If this drags on, major-league baseball is in danger of suffering the worst fate possible. Becoming irrelevant.

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