MLB does not need to play this summer and fans will still return in 2021.
I keep hearing it. We neeed MLB back. We must have the game to distract us from the coronavirus pandemic and social unrest we are living in today.
No, we don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see games being played. It would be grand. Give me a 114-game schedule, 50-game schedule, any schedule will do. Players and owners battling it out at the negotiating table is definitely not a good look for baseball. But, it’s not new. And whether everyone figures out the economics of baseball in 2020 or not, baseball will be back.
Admit it, we, fans, are addicted. We love the summer experience of hot dogs, beers, tailgating, and Take Me out to the Ballgame. The diehard fan is glossing over stats right now on wOBA (weighted On-base average) and UZR, (Ultimate Zone Rating) and how that plays in a reduced season, while the rest of us can’t wait to have a beer at a ballgame.
Steve Stone, who broadcasts Chicago White Sox TV alongside Jason Benetti, wants baseball back, probably more than the rest of us. But, he doesn’t think the game is about to become extinct.
“Baseball will not go away if they don’t play baseball this year,” Stone said. “I think that baseball still survives, but I think that if you give people a chance to number one, spend their entertainment dollars someplace else, number two, find a diversion one place or another. I think it would be detrimental to baseball to abdicate the playing field to hockey, basketball and then eventually football.”
Detrimental to baseball, yes. There would in all likelihood be less fans consuming the game in 2021 and maybe for a considerable period of time going forward. There would then be less money to split up for the owners and the players. Remind me how that is bad for the fans?
Ticket prices might go down. Stadiums will be less crowded. The time spent going to the bathroom and concession stand, reduced. Unless your team turns into the Montreal Expos who never came back after the 1994 strike, most fans will see an improved experience with less money spent. How is this bad for the fans?
And as for 2020, the fan experience of going to a baseball game will not happen, whether a deal is reached or not. That means, according to Major League Baseball, roughly 68.5 million people who attended a baseball game in 2019, will not have the same experience in 2020.
Fans will find different things to do this summer, just like they did at the end of the 1994 summer. We will survive. The money that was spent at the ballpark will be spent elsewhere. Many, unfortunately, do not have entertainment dollars to spend and have much bigger concerns.
So, will there be baseball?
“I’d say if we don’t have a deal by the end of the week, I’d be concerned,” MLB writer Russ Dorsey told Da Windy City podcast. “You are running out of time, it’s June 1. Guys want 100 games? I don’t know how you do that without putting players at risk of getting injured.”
How many fans come back and how soon depends on baseball. If baseball wants to maintain close to the same economics, get a deal done.
That is a problem for baseball, not the fans.