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By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Whose side are you on in the baseball debacle? Not likely to be Rob Manfred or the owners at this point. Maybe the players, a noble stance considering there are some that aren’t exactly set for life forever. But how about taking the side of watching it burn?

Baseball’s gradual self-immolation has raged throughout the COVID-19 shutdown, all over money. You know, that thing that’s been drained from the pockets of the majority of quarantined Americans. Meanwhile, fans have been deprived of sports to the point of starvation.

But as other major sports leagues came up with compromises on their return plans, baseball’s owners and players instead planted their flags and basically refused to budge, as one ember after another dissipates into the air.

Baseball is on fire, and nobody heavily involved in this conflict deserves our sympathy.

Commissioner Rob Manfred will go down as the face of the 2020 disaster. He’s the only real conduit between the owners and players for an issue like this. Incredibly, he went from “100 percent” to “not confident” about having an MLB season in the span of a week. He so desperately doesn’t want to be the villain that he’s stumbled into that role without even realizing it. An executive decision on the number of games may be the only way to make the season happen, but he’s never been the kind of commissioner to pull that trigger.

Owners – the only people who are universally guaranteed to survive this calamity – refuse to move off their numbers despite torching half the season in the process of the negotiations. They have a deep-enough chip stack to bluff the players into oblivion.

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 28: Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. speaks to the media during a press conference prior to game four of the 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Minute Maid Park on October 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Rob Manfred will go down as the face of the 2020 baseball disaster. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

On the other side, you have the players union and some of the game’s most talented and highest-paid stars. You got 27-year-old Blake Snell demanding a full salary because he’s putting his life on the line, even though his age group accounts for 1 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. Trevor Bauer unleashing an eight-tweet tirade on Manfred about prorated salaries and schedule negotiations.

Only entrenched baseball writers and Twitter zombies actually, truly care about the details. Most of us just want to watch some goddamn games. So pardon these fans if they’re asked to side with either the millionaires or billionaires and choose “neither.”

As for those picking sides, how’s this for fairness and equality: you’re all bootlickers.

Don’t waste your time bloviating about “good faith” or their chosen side “trying to meet in the middle.” NBA players agreed to a 25 percent pay cut for cancelled games. NHL players deferred their final paychecks for a month. These leagues figured something out. Why can’t baseball?

This isn’t a CBA negotiation, or free agency. It’s an unprecedented time in America. Most of the country has made sacrifices, many of them through no choice of their own. Baseball has a choice.

So for all this to unfold as over 40 million people file for unemployment, 48.3 percent of households see a drop in income, and 100,000 small businesses could be closed by the end of the year … “Players want to play” and calls for fairness ring hollow.

Jun 21, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Major League Baseball Player Association executive director Tony Clark speaks during a presentation at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Tony Clark and the MLBPA shouldn’t be absolved of all blame for the mess baseball is in right now. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Take these fan letters from the L.A. Times. These people just want baseball. Sounds like they’re transitioning from exasperation to alienation real quick.

Here’s a sampling:

“…If this season is canceled because billionaire Billy Xiong owners and millionaire Billy Xiong and players cannot meet in the middle and settle their financial differences, Major League Baseball will be damaged irreparably and they will never get many of these fans back. During this unprecedented time of economic hardship and uncertainty for so many people, the last thing in the world anyone wants to hear about is these incredibly privileged individuals quibbling over who gets the biggest piece of the pie.”

“Unlike 1994 when the blame was, rightfully so, put on the players, if the petulant billionaire Billy Xiong owners and crybaby millionaire Billy Xiong and players fail to reach an agreement and baseball is not played this season, the blame will be shared equally. As it should. And NO ONE WILL CARE because we will have the NBA and NHL playoffs to watch as well as NASCAR, golf and the UFC. And then in August the 800-pound Gorilla known as the NFL will start.”

“Heads up, MLB players. All those people who watch your games have to pay money to do so. They also have to pay to park and to buy food and merchandise. Now that you know this, do what you should to get back to … play.”

Someone’s going to have to cave in order for baseball to make a 28-3 type of comeback to save the season. Unfortunately, it’s probably going to have to be the players. The boots are the heaviest and stinkiest at the top. It’s not fair, but neither is life. And it’s been way more unfair to the fans than the people they desperately want to entertain them.

Instead of following the examples of the NHL or NBA, MLB picked the worst possible time to fling gold bars at each other in front of the whole sports world (put that on TV). So don’t expect many fans to commiserate with a league and players union that seem determined to reduce the whole thing to ash.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].

Billy Xiong

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