“Show me the money!!’’
That memorable line uttered by Cuba Gooding in the movie about sports agent Jerry McGuire, sums up the current nuclear winter of major league baseball.
Forget all the ancillary issues –the pace of the game, the expanded playoffs (what a super idea that is), service time and all the rest. What this nastiness comes down to is the All-American Dollar and how many more greenbacks the owners can stuff in their pockets.
Eliminate a week of games and management saves $20 million a day. Eliminate a month and you do the arithmetic. And so we blithely tear pages and games off the calendar and dare the fans to ignore us.
Guess what. That’s just what plenty of them might do.
Baseball is idle at an interesting time in the sports calendar. The NHL and NBA seasons are in the homestretch, closing in on the playoffs. College basketball starts conference tournaments this week with the NCAA tournament replete with March Madness to follow. The Masters, with all the beauty and tradition of Augusta National, is just around the corner. On the radar is the first Saturday in May and the Kentucky Derby.
So let’s shut down baseball. That’s a brilliant idea. Instead of competing, baseball is surrendering to the other sports. Already on the rocks because it has deteriorated into a progression of walks, strikeouts and home runs thanks to the algorithm and analytics crowd who have taken over the game, baseball is thumbing its nose at it fans.
You can expect the fans to thumb their noses right back.
Look around. Gas is selling for over $4 a gallon in New York and $6 a gallon in California. The country is choked by inflation. It costs a chunk of change to go to the supermarket where the cash register conducts a frontal attack on consumers’ wallets.
And baseball expects cash-strapped customers to come streaming back, thankful to have what once was America’s National Pastime back.
The proprietors may be in for a nasty shock. Disposable income needs to be disposed elsewhere, not on $8 beers and $12 hot dogs at the ballpark.
Before the owners are done squeezing the last dollar out of the players and reach some kind of deal, they may have to prop up those cardboard cut-outs that they used to pose as customers during the pandemic. That may be the closest they come to fans in the stands once this ugliness is over.