Baseball just can’t seem to get out of its own way

Protracted labor dispute, other issues threaten to send the sport the way of the dinosaurs.

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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions during an owner’s meeting Feb. 10 in Orlando, Florida.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions during an owner’s meeting Feb. 10 in Orlando, Florida.

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

If you’re old enough to recall the last Major League Baseball work stoppage — the big one in 1994-95 — you’re old enough to remember what purportedly saved the game from itself.


Yes, sir, baby!

Shoot ’em up like the big boys!

Get swollen, strong and huge like Sammy, Mark and Barry because, as we all know, chicks dig the long ball! And dudes will follow chicks!

I’m out of exclamation points at this juncture, but you see where I’m going. I’m trying for emphasis. Like hitting a donkey with a two-by-four.

Baseball has a career stupidity gene, and some kind of intervention from outside forces seems to be the only thing that can save it from its Darwinian self-extinction march.

Remember brontosauruses and T-Rexes? Well, not in the flesh. Maybe you saw ‘‘Jurassic Park’’ or visited Sue at the Field Museum. There they are.

Those gigantic creatures once reigned supreme on our planet, then came that disrupter thing called an asteroid. The big lizards didn’t adapt well to the ensuing Ice Age.

MLB seems to be in the same place as those pea-brained, cold-blooded creatures once were. There’s no asteroid in sight, but there are lots of little shock waves building strength.

Memo to MLB: We have the internet, streaming services, movies galore, new games to play and watch, tons of other distractions to keep us from caring about your boring follies.

The owners’ lockout of the players was in its 89th day Monday, threatening Opening Day. We already have missed a lot of spring training, which is the casual, fun part of the game, good for vacationers, diehard fans and leather-skinned old geezers languishing — like dinosaurs? — in the Southern sun.

The players have valid beefs. Their share of revenue hasn’t gone up recently. In fact, it has gone down for four years, dropping 4.6% from a record-high payroll of $4.25 billion in 2017.

And there are other unfairnesses, such as the way management can mess with a player’s call-ups and overall career earnings. Remember when the Cubs didn’t call up rookie sensation Kris Bryant from the minors for 12 days in 2015, just to keep him from getting a full year’s worth of credit toward free agency?

Then again, it’s hard to get upset about millionaires’ paychecks from billionaires.

According to the Associated Press, the players would lose around $20.5 million each day the season is delayed. That’s grim. And Mets pitcher Max Scherzer, a leader on the union’s executive committee, would lose almost $232,000 per game missed.

But then you think: How in the hell can any human being get paid nearly a quarter-million dollars each time he plays a freaking game? When you see Padres 23-year old shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. with a 14-year, $340 million deal, you kind of lose interest in labor disputes for these guys.

Those big deals are the outliers, true. But baseball is supposed to be entertainment for us, not economics class.

Kids don’t care as much about the game these days, and TV ratings are dipping. Four-hour games are becoming the norm, which is ridiculous.

Me, I can’t bear watching pitchers looking all around, studying their gloves, nodding to their catchers, pondering their first basemen, doing everything but throwing the damn ball.

And batters stepping out of the box, calling time, scratching, spitting, tightening their Velcro straps, doing practice swings, adjusting their cups. My God, it’s like being forced to watch a camera feed into an obsessive-compulsive treatment ward.

Hence, steroids!

Bring back the days of juicing, of former singles hitters suddenly developing ‘‘mature power.’’ Let’s have the ‘‘country-strong,’’ performance-enhancing-drug-using big ol’ farm boys kissing their biceps and blowing kisses to the outfield wall once again. More Jose Cansecos. Some Rafael Palmeiros. Maybe a Ken Caminiti or two. And lots of Sammy Sosas and Mark McGwires dressed in togas on the cover of sports magazines. (Or on websites because these are post-literacy times.)

The heck with weaklings. The two league leaders in home runs last season hit 48 and 42. Let’s get back to the 70, 65 and 73 homers from 1998 to 2001, when McGwire, Sosa and Bonds did their freak show.

Sure, it’s illegal to juice. Using stuff such as defunct BALCO’s ‘‘the clear’’ and ‘‘the cream’’ might get you a prison term. But MLB needs something that’s big and risky from the outside to save it.

It’s obviously too dumb to save itself.

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