2019 Reds: Five things to know
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Photo: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Marcus Musings: Hey MLB, bring us baseball, figure out the financials later

With baseball having actually been played in our corner of the state already this week, let’s open up the opinion bag. 

  • If you haven’t been following along, MLB owners and players agreed in April to financial terms for when/if they were able to return to play this season. Now of course since it looks like they actually could return to play, they can’t stop arguing about financial terms. The gist is last month players reportedly said they would accept prorated salaries if there were a season, but that was with the condition games were played with fans in the stands. Now that a half-season with no fans to begin with at least is on the table, owners say they can’t afford to pay players that much. 
  • Easy for me to say because it’s not my money, but I feel like the owners need to bite the bullet here. The players agreed to prorated salaries. Pay them prorated salaries and figure out the rest. You’re businessmen, right? That’s the downside of being an owner. Sometimes your investment doesn’t yield like you expected. On the flip side, ownership has many advantages that the owners exploit regularly to maintain the strength of their business, dictating salary and work terms that players aren’t always huge fans of. Take the minor ‘L’ here with knowledge it will likely be good for the game in the long whereas a major ‘W’ would certainly be terrible for the game in the long run. The ultimate Pyrrhic victory. 
  • Saying “baseball is dying” has been chic for years even though local TV ratings, revenues and most attendance figures (including at lower levels) tell us it is not. Pointing out nothing has been the same since the strike in 1994-95 is common, too, and that is dead accurate. With a weaker brand, more competition and (seemingly, at least) a public less interested than ever in feeling sorry for rich people crying poor, I really believe failing to play this season would be the end of MLB as we know it. Not immediately, but eventually a fatal wound. I’m sure baseball will still be played, but the likelihood of MLB being more than a niche sport would seem very low to me because many fans already severed their ties to the game 25 years ago, and I’m sure a higher percentage aren’t willing to forgive again. 
  • On the other hand, playing this summer for a TV audience starved for alternatives could create new fans who experience the game in the ultimate NOW way (i.e., electronically from afar), supplementing the old fashioned fans who learned to love the games in person. Then what do you think would happen when these new fans actually get to go to a game? Maybe the owners should start considering that rather than their short-term bottom lines. (And if owners really can’t afford to have a half season with players getting half their pay, they need to prove it by opening up their books.) READ MORE via USA Today: MLBPA 'disappointed' with Major League Baseball's economic proposal for 2020 season
  • I heard talk on WLW Friday night about whether or not a World Series win after an 82-game season would be as meaningful as any other year or some other ridiculousness. Let me clear that up for you: It would. Particularly if we end up getting half a season, by the time October rolls around things might feel fairly normal anyway even though the playoff field is set to be larger than usual. 
  • This is a much more legitimate talking point for the NHL, though as a Blackhawks fan I am of course all for it. The team of the 2010s is part of the playoff field, though only because it was expanded to 24 teams. If Chicago or another of the teams that would have been left home in a normal year ends up going on a run and claiming the Stanley Cup, then everyone else is justified in grousing about it. Since sports is all about winning and/or complaining these days, though everyone should be happy, right? 
  • Compared to the MLB proposal, this will be more different since the NHL is holding a much larger-than-usual tournament two months after the regular season ended, but the NHL already has pretty much two distinct seasons anyway so it’a an easier jump from accepting one to the other. Of course MLB has been trending that way, too, for better or for worse depending on one’s point of view. (I support it, but I still get the importance of surviving a 162-game grind.)
  • Let’s say the baseball folks get things figure out and there is a season. I will never be a fan of the DH, but in a funky year I am willing to overlook it being used in the National League… especially since this season of all seasons appears to be the right one as far as the Reds are concerned
  • Meanwhile, the NFL keeps chugging toward its normal season, and the Cincinnati Bengals are looking to rebound after a disastrous first season under Zac Taylor that nonetheless yielded potential savior Joe Burrow in the draft. I’ve written before he seems to bring exactly what the team needs from an intangibles standpoint, but ESPN notes Burrow is far from the only 'winner' the team has brought in. This story about the Bengals emphasizing culture could turn out to be your typical offseason fluff but it is interesting anyway. I know it’s a bottom-line league, and it’s easy to be cynical about this type of thing, but it’s worth watching anyway. One really interesting thing I’ve noticed through the course of my career is the growth of the emphasis in self-motivated players. That isn’t all cliche. There is something to it. You can also have guys who learn to win, but you probably have to have some for whom it is natural. Maybe more than coaches realized for a long time? Or maybe players used to be more pliable? At any rate, there is some validity to it. Enough for a tangible impact on the standings? I guess we’ll see.

“Marcus Musings” is a semi-regular feature here at the blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions on various stories permeating the sports world and (hopefully) have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to marcus.hartman@coxinc.com or find us on Twitter or Facebook.  

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About the Author

Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman has been a digital sports columnist and reporter at Cox Media Group Ohio since 2016. 
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