Curses! We’re all foiled again as baseball nears the glitching hour

Unless MLB and the players’ union do something about an expiring collective bargaining agreement by 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, it’s lockout time.

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World Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game One

Commissioner Rob Manfred at the World Series.

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

As the Cubs’ 2020 season came to a fruitless end, Kris Bryant had five words left in the emotional tank: “I don’t give a [blank].”

He was done with outside criticism of his play and, more to the point, done caring about the Cubs more than they cared about him. His service time had been manipulated. He clearly would have to wait to get paid, likely by another team as a free agent, and only then if everything worked out with a much-speculated-about work stoppage looming on . . . whoa.

Here we are, practically: 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. It got here so fast. Unless Major League Baseball and the players’ union do something about an expiring collective bargaining agreement by then, it’s lockout time — the first work stoppage since the players’ strike of 1994 wiped out a World Series that, oh, by the way, the White Sox had a real chance to be a part of.

So here’s the question now: Does anybody give a blank?

The players do: about tanking, service-time manipulation and, with league revenues having soared about $10 billion a year, salary suppression.

The owners do: about slicing the pie as greedily as possible for themselves, of course, while fast-tracking negotiations because, as conventional wisdom goes, the MLBPA gains an edge the closer things get to the scheduled start of the 2022 season.

But who’s giving a blank about what matters most? From where some of us rubes sit, that’s still — today and always — the fans.

“I don’t think there’s anybody who understands any better than I do that from the perspective of the fans, they don’t want a labor dispute,” commissioner Rob Manfred recently told reporters. “And that’s why our No. 1 priority is to make a deal.”

The cringey Manfred can continue to bloviate about that all he wants, but a lockout means free agency and the trade market stop cold as roster freezes take effect Thursday. Might as well scrap the Winter Meetings now. As for the start of spring training, well, we’ll see. After Manfred worked overtime to portray the players as the bad guys throughout bitter negotiations leading to a 60-game pandemic season in 2020, payback could be a real blank.

And what about the Cubs and Sox? As other teams have rushed to sign top free agents before the CBA expires, the Chicago teams have mostly sat on their hands. It’s unsurprising with the Cubs, who blew things up without conscience, but the Sox? They’ve watched one potential target after another get away. Who’s minding the supposed championship window anyway?

Maybe Cubs fans are in a collective daze — who could blame them? — but Sox fans seem beyond frustrated. At least they give a you-know-what.


Notre Dame v Virginia Tech

Brian Kelly

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Why did Brian Kelly leave Notre Dame? Five reasons:

1. Money. Nobody is going to outspend LSU on football over the long haul.

2. Recruits. He can get any of ’em into school in Baton Rouge. In South Bend? For Kelly, that was an ongoing aggravation.

3. A national title. He knows he can’t beat Alabama, Georgia or Clemson in a playoff unless he’s on equal footing. He now has a chance to get there.

4. Unchecked power. Kelly will be king of the ranch, like Kevin Costner’s John Dutton character in “Yellowstone.” No one above him will pester or question him. He’ll be able to do whatever the hell he wants — just like predecessor Ed Orgeron, who apparently barely bothered to work anymore after the 2019 championship season.

5. Also, money. Cha-ching!

—- Even after 12 seasons at Notre Dame, Kelly is portrayed by some as a coach who always has a bag packed and one foot out the door. In other words, a leaver. It’s not really fair. He gave three good years each to Central Michigan and Cincinnati on his way up and then put in more time with the Irish than most successful coaches have at any one stop.

But he should be ashamed and embarrassed by how he left. Everyone in power in college football should be ashamed and embarrassed. Leaving a team on the doorstep of the playoff? Letting players find out via social media? Meeting with them — all too briefly — after the fact? Kelly didn’t invent these sordid moves, but they’re fundamentally wrong. Somebody, anybody, have some integrity and insist on waiting until the season is over.

Temple v Cincinnati

Luke Fickell or Adam Sandler?

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

—- It’s still too early to know if Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell will be the next coach at Notre Dame, but we can confirm Adam Sandler will be playing him in the movie. Holy doppelgangers, people.

Iowa State’s Matt Campbell and Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman also make sense — Freeman, 35, would be an inspired hire — but there are others. By law, Pat Fitzgerald’s name is being included by some in initial speculation.

—- My latest college basketball AP Top 25 ballot: 1. Duke, 2. Gonzaga, 3. Purdue, 4. Baylor, 5. UCLA, 6. Kansas, 7. Kentucky, 8. Villanova, 9. Arkansas, 10. Arizona, 11. Iowa State, 12. Florida, 13. Tennessee, 14. USC, 15. Connecticut, 16. Houston, 17. Auburn, 18. Memphis, 19. BYU, 20. Texas, 21. Xavier, 22. Michigan State, 23. Alabama, 24. LSU, 25. Louisville.

—- Illinois center Kofi Cockburn has 89 points in his last three games and leads the nation in scoring at 26.8 points per game. Guess we can take him off the list of the Illini’s early-season problems.

—- Still searching high and low for a way — any way — Iowa can beat Michigan in the Big Ten title game. It’s not going well.

—- Wait, what about Matt Nagy to

Notre Dame?

But seriously, folks.

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