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When MLB, MLBPA argue over money, the fans lose

A broken system could have MLB heading toward irreparable damage.
Target Field

One of the rites of summer in Minnesota is sitting outside and listening to a Twins game on the radio. Whether it be at the lake or even sitting down inside to throw on FSN after enjoying the six weeks of enjoyable weather we get in this state, the Twins are a key staple of the summer months.

Of course, this is a different summer in many regards thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But for baseball, it didn't have to be this way.

As Major League Baseball and its players association have gone back and forth on how to split revenue, the fans have lost the most. With the MLBPA rejecting a final offer from MLB on Saturday night, baseball has effectively blown its chance at becoming its own show during the sports-starved pandemic.

Even more so, baseball is heading toward a system that could create a lockout following the 2021 season and create the possibility for more summers without Twins baseball.

Why the owners are to blame

The system in baseball has been broken for a long time and was amplified with the rise of the Houston Astros. While their sign-stealing scandal was enough of a black eye for baseball, its residual effect has carried all the way up to the front office as teams altered their way to build a team.

Instead of forking out big, free-agent contracts to build a competitive roster, teams opted to tank to build the same high-upside roster that the Astros built prior to any sign-stealing antics. With hopes of landing their own versions of George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman, teams decided to say "No thanks" to competitiveness and loaded up in the loss column.

The result was four teams with 100 losses -- the most since 2002 -- and the four teams with 100 wins -- the most since MLB went to a 162-game schedule in 1961. With the league so top-heavy, fans around the league probably checked out long before September and that's not including the role the front offices have played in this.

The case of Mike Moustakas' free agency following the 2017 season is a prime example. After crushing 38 home runs for the Kansas City Royals, Moustakas hit the free-agent market to not find anyone willing to pay him. In the end, Moustakas settled to return to Kansas City for a one-year, $5.5 million deal.

By comparison, Josh Donaldson signed a four-year, $92 million contract worth $23 million per season with virtually the same stats. While Donaldson has Gold Glove defense, it's probably not worth a $17.5 million gap in salary.

2019 Josh Donaldson2017 Mike Moustakas

AVG

.259

.272

HR

37

38

RBI

94

85

OPS

.900

.835

Outs Above Average

8

-4

How the players are to blame

This is a tough sell considering the players and owners agreed to a 100 percent prorated salary for the 2020 season back in March, but the owners backed out once they realized fans were not going to be in attendance.

While I've had enough $10 beers at Target Field to tell you that they're going to lose a good chunk of money without fans, the billion-dollar deal that MLB struck with Turner to broadcast the postseason over the next two years should be enough to offset that loss.

Mix in the recent contract events which also included teams waiting to sign super free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper until spring training prior to last season and the players have a pretty good grievance toward the owners. But that's in the way the message has been relayed.

While fans have pounded on the door of the players to get out there and play baseball, the first voice of reason was Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell and it was...interesting?

Through the "Bros" and "I gotta get mine's," it's not a good look, especially for a fan base that held up Joe Mauer's contract in disgust every time he went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk.

How the fans lose

For us in Minnesota, the labor disputes have been increasingly frustrating. After years of begging the Twins to act like an actual contender, they actually did things to do just that by signing off on the richest free-agent contract in franchise history and trading away a top prospect (Brusdar Graterol) to land a "win-now" piece in Kenta Maeda.

But things have been this way for years thanks to the way baseball has been marketed. After hearing the comments that Snell made, I came to the realization that I have never seen him pitch. In fact, there's a good chance that I haven't seen most of the top players in baseball play.

Mike Trout, who is probably the most generational player since Willie Mays, is an afterthought in the mind of a casual baseball fan because they have all 19 Red Sox/Yankees regular-season matchups rammed down their throat in primetime.

Instead of solving these issues, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has declared that marketability is the players' issue, which didn't seem to be one when the West Coast housed stars like Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. in the late 90s and early 2000s. 

While the commissioner works on ways to make games last 90 minutes, the fans have suffered up to the point where a major labor stoppage looms for the 2022 season, which would really cause fans to go somewhere else.

Locally, a team like the Twins needs baseball to happen. It still might as Manfred has threatened to mandate a reporting date for players without an agreement, but the risk of alienating fans altogether is tenfold in a market such as Minnesota.

With no real connection to the sport, baseball could be its own worst enemy and if the labor stoppage extends, this current squabble of money could result in the beginning of the end for MLB.

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