MLB lockout: Who cares if owners or players win negotiation. Fans are the biggest losers

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — You have every reason to be mad and disgusted at Major League Baseball — why in the world couldn’t they figure this out?

You have every reason to sickened and infuriated that Opening Day has been delayed and games are being canceled — MLB just turned its back on its fans.

You have every reason to come to the conclusion: MLB doesn’t care about you, the fans, the people who pay for tickets and watch games on TV and buy beer and munch on peanuts and pour your heart and soul into these teams. It is disgusting and depressing, how they mess with you.

Opening Day has been lost. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced Tuesday afternoon that the season’s first two series have been canceled, but in effect, the major league season has been delayed indefinitely, and there is little hope that this season will come back anytime soon.

Which is infuriating.

And incredibly sad.

Because all MLB cares about is money.

The players and owners have argued over all kinds of issues — free agency and service time and salary arbitration and an expanded playoffs and luxury taxes. They have talked about trying to eliminate tanking and service manipulation.

But when you boil it all down, they are fighting over money.

Over small percentages of the pie.

Player pay has decreased for four consecutive years, according to the Associated Press, while the value of the teams has soared. So I understand what the players are fighting for.

[ Detroit City FC offers free tickets to Detroit Tigers fans with Opening Day/season tickets ]

But you know what you don’t hear in all these negotiations: What would be best for the fans? How can we grow this game? How can we make it better? How can we make it a more enjoyable experience? How can it become the national pastime again? How can we get more inner city kids playing this amazing game? How can we be relevant? How can make it more fun to watch?

Blame all this on whichever side you want. But realize this: baseball fans are the real victim here.

“The concerns of our fans are at the very top of our consideration list,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday.

Yeah right.

So what is being lost?

They are losing the excitement that builds around Opening Day.

They are losing eyeballs, in a day and age when everybody has so many more entertainment options, and baseball is taking another step toward becoming irrelevant.

MLB is taking the fans for granted. Because it thinks it can.

Even if this disgusts you and you swear them off, they know you will come back.

Even if this makes you sick to your stomach, they know you will watch the playoffs.

They have fans over a barrel, and they are dunking the player’s heads in it.

It’s disgusting and reckless.

And this sport will be damaged incalculably.

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The worse-case scenario

MLB owners view this sport as a giant ATM machine, and they are trying to suck it dry.

These owners don’t care about the players, even though it’s a player’s game.

These owners don’t care about you — the fans.

They don’t care if they hurt the game — and make no mistake, this delay will hurt tremendously.

“I see missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry,”  Manfred said back in February.

Well, welcome to a disaster.

Maybe, we should have seen this coming. Shoot, the owners don’t care if they lose the entire month of April.

Because they don’t make money early in the season. The gate receipts are small early in the season. This was the ace up their sleeve: they can stop playing games, not pay those big paychecks and still break even.

Listen, MLB owners have every right to try to make as much money as possible.  But they don’t seem to realize how they are hurting the game.

Come on, read the room. We are coming out of COVID. Fans are still figuring out it is fun to go to games again.

And you can’t figure out how to solve this?

Now, here is the scary part.

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If they couldn’t reach a deal after talking for the last few days under an owner-imposed deadline that moved from Monday to Tuesday, what makes you think they will come together anytime soon?

There is no incentive for the owners to budge until they start losing money.

What is going to make them come back to the bargaining table?

Personally, I believe this entire scenario was set up months ago by MLB, starting a lockout and then not getting serious in negotiations until the last few days. MLB made a proposal that would increase the minimum salary to $700,000 this year, up from $570,500 in 2021.

But MLB wouldn’t meet the players on other issues that effectively killed the negotiations.

It was a brilliant PR strategy, all the while knowing they were going to miss April.

In essence, these owners are willing to hurt the game now to make even more money later.

It’s all about money.

About that ATM machine that keeps cranking money.

The roar has been silenced

This hurts the Detroit Tigers immeasurably.

This organization, which has been horrible for years, is on the cusp of playing good baseball. They are poised to have a fantastic season. There should be so much excitement about this team and Miguel Cabrera going for his 3,000th hit.

Instead, everything is in limbo.

When will they start playing games? Nobody knows.

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Should the pitchers continue to ramp up? Nobody knows.

Will they eventually start training in Lakeland? Nobody knows.

Will they miss more than a month? Nobody knows.

If there is a tiny bright side for the Tigers, it’s that Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene are not on the 40-man roster. These two young prospects can continue to train in minor league minicamp. And if the lockout continues, they could continue to grow in Triple-A Toledo.

But this situation is horrible for somebody like infielder Kody Clemens, who joined the Tigers’ active 40-man roster in November, to keep him from being available to other teams in the Rule-5 draft.

Clemens would benefit greatly from being in camp right now. He would have the chance to grow by playing in minor league games in April.

But he can’t because of a technicality.

Does MLB care about players like him?

Of course not.

The MLB owners don’t care about the players. And they don’t care about the fans. And they don’t care about the tradition of Opening Day. And they don’t care about the countless people working in and around the stadium. And they don’t care about the game.

Yes, you have reason to be ticked and frustrated and sad.

Because it feels like baseball just died.

Yet, those owners stand in front of that ATM, waiting their time, knowing it will start spitting out cash soon enough, for years to come. That’s what this is about. Future money. Risking the short term for the long-term payout.

But we have lost more than Opening Day. It seems likely that we have lost April. Maybe May.

Because these owners will still break even, even as they break the game.

MORE FROM SEIDEL: This Tigers prospect no longer under the radar after homering over it

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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