With a truncated season coming, followed by an expiring CBA, baseball may need a hero like Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa very soon.
As other sports leagues are trying to solidify plans to return, MLB and the MLBPA remain caught up in finances. A shortened 2020 season is certain, but when the optimist of all baseball optimists Tim Kurkjian has pointed to the possibility of no season, that’s a red flag.
On the Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney this week, here’s part of what Kurkjian had to say.
“When you see what the union wrote yesterday — and I’ve seen so many times over the years when something comes out and writes something like that … It makes me believe more than ever — and I’m not sure — that we aren’t going to play this year, and I hope I’m wrong.”
Hanging in the background of the current back-and-forth between MLB and the MLBPA is a collective bargaining agreement that is set to expire after the 2021 season (Dec. 1, 2021 specifically).
Baseball’s last work stoppage came in 1994, and the start of the 1995 season was delayed. Fans did not come back to the game quickly. Then the summer of 1998 happened.
Roger Maris’ single-season record of 61 home runs had stood since 1961. St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire and Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa chased the record, and ultimately topped it with 70 and 66 home runs, respectively. Sosa’s 20 home runs in June 1998 stands as the single-month record.
McGwire hit 65 home runs in 1999, while Sosa topped 60 homers in 1999 and 2001. Of course, Barry Bonds set a new single-season home run record with 73 in 2001, but 1998 was baseball’s comeback summer with two home run-bashing heroes.
To help fill the sports void, ESPN has changed up their schedule of 30 for 30 film releases. On June 14, “Long Gone Summer”, which looks back on McGwire and Sosa’s home run chase in 1998, will premiere.
Here’s the trailer for the film:
The legacies of McGwire and Sosa have since been tarnished by the cloud of steroid use, admitted or otherwise. But for one summer run in 1998, ignorance was bliss for fans and the league as a whole. Two quotes from the trailer sum it up well: “People were desperate for a feel-good story,” and Bob Costas saying, “In retrospect, there was a price to pay for it.”
With what’s going on now and looming down the road, baseball is probably going to need another hero to revive it soon. Who will it be?