MLB’s lockout — 87 days in and counting — is testing fans’ patience. Is baseball blowing it?
In this week’s “Polling Place” — your home for Sun-Times sports polls on Twitter — we posed three questions related to the lockout.
Do you know what’s interesting about Major League Baseball’s competitive-balance tax?
No, really, do you? If so, maybe you can explain it to the rest of us.
Or, better yet, don’t.
The luxury-tax threshold. The pre-arbitration bonus pool. Service-time manipulation. For a lot of baseball fans, there is bliss in maintaining a level of ignorance of what these key issues in the current dispute between owners and players are really all about. How they work, the ins and outs, the nuts and bolts of what on Saturday will be an 87-day-old lockout.
When a mechanic says there are problems with the timing belt, water pump, CV boots and axle shafts, most of us don’t want to get under the car with him and get grease in our eyes. We just want our car back on the road so we can get back to worrying about other things.
Fans just want their baseball back.
But a week of negotiations in Jupiter, Fla., have reportedly been unproductive even as an owner-imposed Monday deadline bears down before regular-season games are canceled. No agreement by Monday, no Opening Day on March 31.
And the word “week” is too generous, besides, because the typical negotiating session has lasted no longer than it takes to play two or three innings of a game. Jupiter and Earth are only two planets away from each other. Are the owners and players at least that close?
In this week’s “Polling Place” — your home for Sun-Times sports polls on Twitter — we posed three questions related to the lockout. The first: Will the start of the regular season be delayed? About nine out of 10 respondents said it will be. A happy Monday, this one might not be.
While owners seek to hoard billions in revenue and players try to turn the piggy banks upside-down, fans have nothing to gain and a favorite pastime to lose. With our other questions, we cut to the emotional core of the matter. Such as: Who’s to blame for this mess?
“There’s only one right answer here,” @josh_pransky commented.
Indeed, a large majority of respondents blame the owners and enormously unpopular commissioner Rob Manfred.
“The owners and their lackey Manfred are to blame for pretty much everything wrong with MLB,” @RogersParkMan wrote.
And what’s really at stake in all this? Fan engagement and loyalty is, to some extent, in the balance. Is the lockout driving you away from the sport? Might it? Could it? We asked about that, too.
“Hard-core fans will stay the course,” @CoralModaffari offered. “Casual fans are another story — and many may abandon the sport.”
It’s a sentiment the big cheeses of baseball must not spend too much time worrying about. When it comes to work stoppages in sports, maybe we’re just a bunch of suckers. Like Michael Corleone, trying to get out but inevitably being pulled back in.
As @FatDudeRunning put it: “The fan impact is anger up until it ends. A month after the lockout: ‘Lockout? What lockout?’ They’re fanatics for a reason.”
On to the polls:
Poll No. 1: Will the baseball season begin on March 31 as scheduled?
Time again for our weekly “Polling Place” questions. Let us hear from you! Selected comments will appear in Saturday's paper.— Chicago Sun-Times (@Suntimes) February 24, 2022
Q1: Will the baseball season begin on March 31 as scheduled?
Upshot: An agreement by Monday? In theory, it ought to be doable. But given the acrimony between sides that never simmered down after boiling over heading into the abbreviated 2020 season, this is no simple game of chicken. Got anything fun planned for April?
Poll No. 2: Which side is more to blame for this lockout?
Upshot: How do owners sleep at night with all that cash stuffed under their mattresses? They can cry poor all they want (see: Tom “Biblical Losses” Ricketts), but no one is ever going to believe them.
Poll No. 3: Is the lockout hurting your interest in baseball?
Upshot: That’s a pretty good amount of “yes.” How long of a lockout would it take to lead to real drops in ticket sales, merchandise sales and viewership? You can always count on MLB to self-inflict its wounds.