MLB Lockout: Fans Wait for Signs of Progress

Pitchers and catchers typically file into spring training clubhouses the first Monday right around Valentine’s Day. Although there really isn’t much physical action over the first day or so, it’s a welcoming sign to fans that baseball isn’t far away.

Obviously, that’s not the case this year. Some fans fear another shortened season similar to the 2020 campaign, although it will be for completely different reasons. The players union and owners have had a few chances to discuss matters surrounding a new collective bargaining agreement, but things still seem to be as far apart as they have been since the beginning.

It’s funny, because a lot of us had an idea this sort of impasse would be coming. When the 2021 World Series ended, the general feeling was there was plenty of time to get an agreement hammered out. For no apparent reason, both sides took their respective time with setting meeting dates, and once they did, the frequency of readjourning was extremely far apart.

Believe it or not, we’re already two months into this thing, and there’s still no progress.

In the latest news, the owners proposed that some sort of national mediator be brought in to help resolve the differences. The union declined the request but pointed out that the players stand ready to negotiate and are eager to get back to the table.

Things are so bad that the two sides can’t even agree on the approach they want to use for the negotiations.

I remember some rumblings at the end of 2020 that MLB owners lost somewhere around $3-4 billion when all the smoke cleared from the pandemic-ridden 2020 season. At the time, there were reports circulating that the Cubs, who were probably in a far more precarious situation than most teams, lost somewhere in the vicinity of $150 million.

Chances are at this point that the 2022 season may need to be played with a good chunk of games cancelled. It’s funny that the owners are willing to take a huge risk based on the way things turned out for most franchises in 2020. However, there’s no doubt they are looking at it over the long haul and the principles they’re standing behind.

While the fans are certainly the driving force of all the league’s revenue, there’s no sense for them to feel they deserve special consideration, because they keep coming back year after year regardless of the cost of a game ticket, a beverage or a t-shirt. They even pay increased prices for online viewing plans and special cable television packages to watch their favorite team compete every night.

Chris Cwik at Yahoo Sports put together a story last fall stating the average cost for a family of four to attend an MLB game in 2021 was $253.00, which was a 4.5% increase over the same costs for the previous season. The amount covered tickets, parking for one car, two beers, four sodas, four hot dogs, and two caps.

Many families can’t even think about spending that type of money on recreational activities, conceivably putting an MLB game out of their vacation plans. Should these costs continue to rise, more fans might be in the same predicament.

In the meantime, pitchers like Max Scherzer are signing deals that pay $130 million over three years. Owners may soon find themselves resorting to pay-per-view tactics, driving the costs of watching a game from the comfort of your home even higher.

You’d think that fans would put their feet down sooner or later and unattach themselves from a game that continues to become commercialized, at least to a far lesser degree than the way some are devoted to the game.

I’m not saying that either the players or owners are correct in their stance. But what I am saying is that they probably don’t truly value and appreciate the fan loyalty as much as they claim.

24 thoughts on “MLB Lockout: Fans Wait for Signs of Progress

  1. Owners are meeting Tues-Thurs this week. Maybe one of the more influential owners who doesn’t mind spending money will start the ball rolling on a compromise instead of letting the small market guys control the strategy.

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  2. The Cubs claim a $150 million loss? Well first of all that’s likely b.s., made up for tax avoidance, and secondly who cares what the Ricketts family lost on one bad year with the Cubs? Forbes has their real time net worth at $5.1 billion. They bought the Cubs for $845 million in ‘09 and the club is worth over well over $3 billion now. Owners crying anything about loss is the very definition of crocodile tears.

    An MLB lockout that takes any games away from fans is inexcusable. That said, fans will excuse them. They know it, you know it and the American people know it. Suckers. We fall for the b.s., in so many ways, day after day, year after year. We’ll pay for this. Make no mistake, the fans will pay for all of this.

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    1. The fans always have the option of not attending games.they also have the option of not watching the games on TV if the costs keep escalating. Most fans are not hard core as much as we think they are. If costs keep going up there are less paying fans, less revenues, less tv revenue and the real loser will be the players. Most owners can take a financial hit, and most don’t make a return on their investment anyway until they sell. We are dodger fans. Charmed. But who would pay $250 to watch baltimore, Detroit, padres or Texas? Handful of big market teams have unlimited funds. The majority struggle. I think the majority of teams are probably fed up with it and won’t let the few big market teams push them around any more. Tanking is mostly about reducing costs to make money. Surely nobody is dumb enough to think a few low draft picks will improve your team, but it’s a good excuse to reduce payroll. This is not going to be a win for the players. Now having gotten that off my chest I’m pretty sure they’ll settle tomorrow.

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    2. I think the players are looking at franchise appreciation as much as profit and loss. Why would a franchise appreciate? Is there a line of billionaires looking for their next ride into space and will bide their time playing owner of a baseball team or are franchises appreciating because their profits are escalating?

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      1. The Braves are part of a publicly held company and, therefore, their operation should be open to public scrutiny. I’ve never looked into it, but it would probably give a good finance person a rough idea of what kind of profit is viable for an MLB franchise.

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  3. Gorden, after the the last CBA, that the owners pretty much got what they wanted, there is no way the players will sign one that they come up on the short end of the stick again. I personally don’t believe the small market teams are losing any money, they just may not be making as much as the big market teams. When the owners open up their books, then I’ll believe they are losing money. It’s funny how we know what every single player makes, but there is not one bit of information anywhere about the owners profit, and loses. I believe we will have a substantial lockout, and play a reduced schedule. The owners are willing to sacrifice games, or the season, so they can maintain, if not increase, their control of the players.

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    1. Keith you maybe right about small market teams but who knows. But it’s kind of irrelevant if they think they are not making money or enough money they aren’t making enough money. Simple. If they have to TANK to make money they will tank. We all pay to watch these tier two teams. So why would they care about the fans? Until the fans stop showing up. Hard to support the owners or players, but I know that when I invest money I want a return, and don’t want employees setting the rules or wage standards. Do you think there is any business in the world that have given Beli a raise this year? Thats the other half of the problem. I feel for the young guys in the minors because the major league players take money out of their pockets.

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      1. Tanking doesn’t directly correlate to future wins if teams also don’t invest in scouting and player development. History, my guess, would show tanking only results in a lower payroll with no competitive long term upside

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      2. Theoretically, tanking leads to higher picks, which are considered assets, and should make the franchise more valuable in the future. You are of course right about scouting and development. The idea is to put butts in seats, and while winning would do that in most places, there are some cities, most notably Oakland and Tampa, where good teams don’t necessarily draw.

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  4. These idiots, and I’m talking about the owners and the players, have seem to forgotten how much they hurt the attendance, and ratings with the “94” lockout, and cancelation of the playoffs. If not for the PED infused home run races in the following years between Bonds, McGuire, and Sosa, which garnered fan interest, baseball may have crippled themselves.
    If there is a substantial loss of games, not everyone will quit watching and attending, but some will, and it might be enough to hurt the game. How can the MLB work so hard to fight for viewership, and growing the game to a younger audience, then blow it all up with a lockout, and a probable shortened season. I don’t get it.

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  5. Keith Law has his team farm system rankings up at The Athletic this morning and he’s giving us some cheerful news. He has the Dodgers rated #1. That’s substantially higher than most of the other resources who mostly have us in the 8-10 range. Therefore, Keith Law is now the smartest person in baseball.

    He did go out of his way to point out that it might seem strange to rate a team at the top that only had 1 player in his top 40 but he’s just really excited about some of our guys who are farther away from the majors. Anyway, all of these people are just throwing numbers out there anyway, but it’s nice to see one of them (who is well thought of in the baseball community) thinks we’re on top.

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    1. Keith Law rating Jefe mentioned:

      1. Los Angeles Dodgers

      Last year: No. 10

      The Dodgers’ system is just ridiculous. They are hitting on every cylinder right now. They have depth and ceiling, pitching and position players, near-in prospects and long-term Players. I don’t think any other organization can rival their consistent success in drafting, international scouting, player development and pro scouting right now, which is probably the last thing fans of the four other NL West teams want to hear. Every player in their top 10 was in broader consideration for my top 100 – I don’t make a “longlist,” like this was the Booker Prize or something, but if I did one with 200 or so names, the Dodgers’ entire top 10 would make it. The only nitpick I’d offer is that they only put one prospect in my top 40 because the rest of their high-ceiling guys, players who have a chance to be frequent All-Stars or top 10 in baseball at their positions, are higher-variance or just further away from the majors. They make up for it by having so many of those players that they should end up with multiple stars from their current roster of prospects even with typical attrition.

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  6. I have ZERO sympathy for either side. They all make money, the fans spend money. Owners can cry all they want. Guggenheim spent 2.2 Billion buying the Dodgers. They did not buy them to lose money. The franchise is supposedly worth over 4 billion now. Gordon, you keep bringing up Bellinger’s lost season. But you and everyone else has no clue how much his injuries affected his performance. He is in probably the strongest union in the country. They quit reducing players pay for bad years many moons ago. Bellinger got paid in 2020 for what he did in 2019. Prior to that, he was making barely over the minimum. He was arbitration eligible. The raise he got was not all that much considering had he gone to arbitration, he might have recieved a bit more, but the Dodgers would have had to submit a number higher than the 16.1 he got in 2021. They actually saved money giving him 17 mil for this season. Which right now it looks like they won’t be paying anytime soon. Keith, attendance last season was down. There was one team that averaged more than 30,000 fans a night at home and 25,000 on the road. The Dodgers. The Braves were second with 29,000 at home. The Giants, with a 107 win team barely managed 20,000 a night 12th in the league. So all teams had a drop off in attendance last year from 2019. Over all, the Dodgers averaged 29,894 at home and on the road, Atlanta, 23,729. The Giants? 21,595. Only 6 teams drew 2 million or more at home. Besides the Dodgers they were the Braves, Padres, Cardinals, Rangers and Astros. Yankees, Cubs and Rockies all came in just under 2 million. Over all, MLB attendance is down almost 7% since 2015.

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      1. I look for him to be more like his rookie season, than what he was last year. Getting back to the MVP type stuff will take some adjustments. Rich Hill blasted Manfred on the Dodger talk show. He really zeroed in on him. One of the questions he asked was, show me one thing the guy has done for the game. I see nothing.

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  7. Gorden, when you bring up overpaying Bellinger, which may, or may not be true because we don’t know what numbers he will put up this year, you also have to factor in that the dodgers only paid Cody around 500 grand for his rookie season, and less than a million for his MVP season. I’m sure scoop could tell us what that season was worth using WAR, and the price per WAR, but whatever the season was worth, I’m sure it was a LOT more than the Dodgers payed Belly. You never see an owner offer to give a great young player extra money on a great season when he is under team control, so I don’t feel sorry for any of the owners when they can’t control their profits like they want. If the owners don’t like the way things are they can always sell.

    Gorden, please don’t take any of my posts as an attack on you or your opinion I’m just having what I hope is a friendly discussion, I’m pro player because I don’t think the owners give a crap about us fans or the game they have been I entrusted to take care of. Players just want to play ball, and make some money for the short time their body will allow the to play. So I kind of hold the owners to a higher standard, that’s why I’m so tough on them.

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    1. Keith Law is a very smart guy and I really enjoy his stuff, but unlike you Keith, he hates it when people don’t agree with him and is always quick to throw out an insult. That annoys me, but then I’m easily annoyed.

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  8. It’s official – Pasadena D.A. will not be charging Bauer. Now it’s up to MLB. Considering how quickly Manfred normally acts on issues of discipline, I would expect his decision sometime in mid 2027.

    MLB absolutely needs to make a decision on Bauer by the time the CBA is settled so that the Dodgers can do what they have decided they plan to do about his spot on the team. Keep him, trade him, release him. They need to be able to do that on day 1 after the lockout ends.

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    1. I’m not a particular fan of Trevor Bauer, the human being, although I am a fan of Bauer the pitcher.

      My first impulse in cases such as this is to believe the person who claims to have been assaulted but in this case I decided to wait until Bauer had his say. I thought his video was clear and to the point and I now am at least neutral if not leaning toward Bauer’s version.

      What had me doubting her story in the first place is that she came back a second time and then, after claiming to have been badly assaulted, she stayed the night with him and only left in the morning. Yes, when she went to the hospital she was badly bruised, but Bauer claims she was fine when she left.

      Three possibilities that I can see:
      1) Bauer is lying
      2) She was OK when she left and had someone bruise her so she could get some money out of him.
      3) Someone else assaulted her (non voluntary on her part) but she realized that Bauer would be a much bigger payday than the guy who did it so went after him.

      We may never know the true story, but Bauer says there are texts out there which further his case. At this point, if the Dodgers decide to keep him and MLB doesn’t suspend him for the year, I’ll go along with it.

      Andy, you are the only female who comments here on a regular basis. I’d love to get some feedback from you on this.

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