As the baseball world came to a screeching halt this week, the MLB owners, led by Commissioner Rob Manfred, quickly put out a statement to control the narrative.
In the letter, Manfred directly addresses MLB’s fans and states that the lockout is their best attempt to protect the competitiveness of the league and that it’s the Players Association’s fault for the lockout.
Meanwhile, the Players Association, led by Executive Director Tony Clark, released their own statement, and unsurprisingly placed the blame on the owners and the commissioner.
No Way for Fans to Win
While both sides have legitimate gripes with one another, trying to win over the support of fans while failing to take any blame or responsibility comes across as pretty weak. While the two sides continue to wage war against one another, most fans sadly saw this coming. The two sides struggled in negotiations to return to play during the COVID-19 pandemic and the relationship between the Commissioner’s Office and Players Association has deteriorated since Manfred’s 2015 appointment.
And even when the two sides finally agree on a deal, little to no concessions will be made for fans. Blackouts will likely remain forcing fans to purchase cable packages to watch their local teams. The cost to bring a family to a baseball game will continue to increase (up 4.5% since 2019) and other issues including changes to the game, safety and long concession lines will still cause frustrations.
Sadly, the best case for fans will simply be the MLB season starting on time and playing 162 games, however, a delayed start to the season seems like a decent possibility.
Can Fans do Anything?
In the fight between millionaires and billionaires, fans are left on the sideline. However, some fans have started rallying together to express their frustrations. One Twitter account, The Major League Fan Association, was created with the goal of getting fans an opportunity to come together to express their frustrations to the two warring factions.
The Major League Baseball Fan Association has been trying to build support by forming a similar structure to that of a non-profit board, where fans representing all teams will be able to meet to discuss the major issues impacting the game. Ideally, the organization would be able to go to MLB and the Players Association with these concerns with the goal to help build a better fan experience in and around the sport.
While the odds that a Fan Association will actually grow to the point to be taken seriously by MLB are slim to none, it points to a larger problem with the sport. At some point, fans will turn away for good. And if/when fans do start to leave, MLB can look back and realize these labor issues were the most likely culprit.
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