They are killing baseball.
Slowly but surely, day by day, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly, this is a concentrated case of murder.
Sometimes it is conducted on the field with the wave of algorithms and analytics squeezing the life out of the best game ever invented and leaving it unrecognizable. Sometimes it is in the meeting rooms where the proprietors spend their time dreaming up ways to alienate the players, like the current lockout.
Make no mistake. In either case, it is unbridled homicide, cooked up by the owners and carried out by their hatchet man, commissioner Rob Manfred.
When he announced the cancellation – not postponement, cancellation—of the season’s first two series, Manfred delivered the news with a great big grin. That’s a real thigh-slapper.
And during a break in that day’s fruitless negotiations, he was photographed practicing his golf swing. We wouldn’t want his stroke to get sidetracked by this baseball unpleasantness.
The lockout was announced on Dec. 2 and it took 43 days of twiddling thumbs before the two sides even met. The ensuing negotiations were few and far between until mid-February when the calendar forced a sense of urgency into the talks.
But that was a temporary condition and the games of the season’s first week became a casualty. It was so sad that Manfred couldn’t stifle a laugh as he announced it.
Soon, more weeks will be sacrificed to the avarice of the owners, who reminded the players that if games are not played, salaries will not be paid. That, of course, is a non-starter for the union.
And why can’t they make up the games that are lost with doubleheaders? Oh, no, that would disrupt our beloved schedule with built in inter-league games, an in-season invention that reduced the final showdown between the leagues in the World Series to a so-what shrug.
Shortly after that, the baseball bigwigs came up with other dandy ideas to complicate what had been a simple pastoral activity that had survived 150 or so years with rules written by Doc Adams and Alexander Cartwright. Oh, there were some dustups but the essence of the game remained unchanged.
We are now in the midst of the second longest stoppage in baseball history, topped only by the 1994-95 affair that wiped out 232 games and torpedoed the World Series.
That bit of nastiness was presided over by Commissioner Bud Selig, later inducted into the Hall of Fame, and left him with a vacant October on his calendar that year. He could have invited Rob Manfred for a round or two of golf.