Labor of Frustration

Are we there yet? Even though I’m a parent and my soon-t0-be four year old is a curious kid, he hasn’t quite gotten to that stage. According to my wife, he dropped it once in the car with her and my mother-in-law, but not since. Granted, he’s been in the car exactly one time since this lockdown started. Given his nature, though, I’m sure he’ll be asking this question soon enough once things get rolling again. But I’ll be prepared for it because I keep asking myself that question about our current predicament.

Are we there yet? When can I see my students, family, and friends again? Is it safe? How safe is it? And, selfishly, when will baseball be back? This last question is the least important one there is, but given that this is a baseball blog, it’s okay to ask. With the owners having given a proposal to the players, we may have a destination in sight: baseball in early July.

I’m not an expert on the proposal and won’t claim to be. I don’t know what about it is feasible regarding testing, traveling, isolating, all that. As such, I won’t speak to is merits or flaws as a proposal, as a destination for baseball in 2020. I will, however, speak of the journey, much in the manner I did on the most recent podcast episode (p.s. don’t forget to download, listen, subscribe, rate, all that fun stuff).

There is a chance all of this is for naught and things go smoothly, but if the last week is any indication, there’s going to be tension between the owners and the players regarding starting back up. And if that happens, I want to urge you–as I did on the podcast–to back the players in this.

While the owners are taking a financial risk in owning teams and stewarding them through this time, they players are the ones who are going to be at the most physical risk. Aside from the obvious possible exposure to COVID itself given the tight quarters necessary for baseball, this season will be unlike anything the players have ever trained for; who knows what the effects on their bodies will be?

The owners are, as mentioned, taking a financial hit. But so are the players. A big one. They’ve already agreed to reduced salaries and, unlike the owners, their alternative revenue streams may not be nearly as robust. And there’s the difference of starting points, so to speak. To paraphrase an old Chris Rock comment about Shaq, the players are rich, but the owners are wealthy.

It’s all a bit abstract, of course, because most (all?) of us reading this are not millionaires or billionaires. It can seem silly for there to even be an argument over this. I suppose I understand that sentiment and get how people can turn on the players in this case, but, again, please resist the urge to do that.

The players are the ones we watch and pay to watch. The players are the ones who create the enjoyment and passion we feel when we watch baseball. Their health and safety should be paramount in this endeavor (relatively speaking, of course, as our own personal health and safety and those of our loved ones…you know what I mean). The players are the ones who are being asked to take the brunt of a physical and financial risk for our entertainment. The players, like us, are the workers, even if their work is unique from ours in so many ways from the job itself to the compensation and benefits. Regardless of that, they are labor, not capital, and it behooves us to be on the side of labor, even when it looks way different from our labor.

You might be tempted to say it’s their job and they should just go out and do it. But what about you? Would you run back to your job if you weren’t sure of its safety and if your bosses asked you to take another cut to your pay rather than honoring what was already negotiated?

And I understand that some of you may not have that luxury, that you may have to go back when you’re not ready or at a reduced salary, and that’s unfair. It would be understandable to take the ‘they should, too, if I have to’ attitude. But the players belong to a union and their workplace is determined by collective bargaining. That’s their right and it’s a damn good thing they have that right. All of us should, regardless of profession.

I want to see Major League Baseball played in 2020. I miss it and the Yankees terribly. I’m interested to see how a new league format and playoff style shake out. But I’m interested in seeing those things only if the situation is as safe as possible for the players and staff needed to make games happen.

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1 Comment

  1. MikeD

    I support the players on this, as do many fans. I think the idea that the fans always side with the owners is not quite correct.There’s a diversity of views including a large segment of fans who are very supportive of the players. I know that because I’m part of that group. Twitter and social media outlets in general are not platforms that encourage reasoned thought; it’s the home for the loud and the extreme and obnoxious views in general, and thus is not necessarily a fair representation. The media hypes that.

    The push back against the players that many sense is also partly circumstantial. The owners have made an offer so they simply see the players as the obstacle to games being played at this time. If the players initially submitted the plan to open up the game and it was the owners pushing back, you’d probably see more fans arguing against the owners at the point.

    I do believe we will have baseball. As Mr. A. last week when the owners submitted their proposal, this is inning one. Expect a lot of back and forth in the coming weeks, and then eventually there will be a deal. I’m not paying much attention to the specifics, or what’s leaked by either side until then.

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