Reports yesterday said that Rob Manfred and Tony Clark met face-to-face in Phoenix at Manfred’s request and that they may have adopted a joint framework that might lead to an agreement sometime soon to produce a major league baseball season in 2020. Given the proclivities for both sides to self-immolate, it is too soon to say that “the end is in sight”; but that status is a whole lot more optimistic that the one that existed 48 hours ago. What happened?
- We can hope that some adult(s) in the room on either/both sides got the floor and forced everyone to look at the situation rationally asking if the non-negotiations had gotten things to an optimal place.
- We can hope that Rob Manfred and Tony Clark both realize that carrying through on where this situation was as of Monday night would tarnish any positive reputation either of them might have had 6 months ago.
- We can hope that no player and no owner will take to Twitter any time soon to bash “the other side”.
- We do not know what happened; we can hope that whatever it was leads us to a positive end. But in the end, we must sit and wait some more…
One rumor coming out of this session – – and let me stress the word “rumor” – – is that MLB wants the union to agree to expanded playoffs (16 teams) in both 2020 and 2021. I hope that is not the case for two reasons:
- Baseball does not need more than half of its teams in the playoffs this year or next year or in any other year. That is simply a bad idea.
- If the players were to agree to this and then the country faces a major resurgence of the coronavirus in late September this year obviating the 2020 expanded playoffs, that will be a point of friction between MLB and the MLBPA next year as they try to get to a new CBA. Do not try to tell me that “reasonable people” will recognize there was the intervention of an outside event; there are no “reasonable people” here; look at where we are and how we got here!
By the way, I did read one report that said this was the first face-to-face meeting between Manfred and Clark since June 7th. Assuming that is the case, would it not be a good idea for some reporter to ask both men a seemingly obvious question:
- What took you so long?
It has been a while since I wrote about the NFL and its dogged focus on starting its season on time and proceeding as if the coronavirus was merely an historical oddity. You may be certain that my hope is for the NFL to be right on that point; my rational brain says they are overly-optimistic – – but then again, my rational brain would have had MLB starting on July 4th with both sides fully content with the way everyone had dealt with the coronavirus. So much for my rational brain…
Let me assume that the NFL does indeed start on time – the week after Labor Day – having come through a reasonable time in training camps such that half the league is not on the injured list by Week 3. If that happens, this would be my expectation:
- The stands will be empty – – or at the very least socially distanced to make them completely different from what we have come to expect of an NFL game.
- The TV ratings will go through the roof.
The sporting public in the US has been without meaningful live sports since mid-March; the NBA playoffs in empty arenas will have a significant absence of immediacy; people will still be pissed at MLB and/or the MLBPA for all of those shenanigans over the past month or so. And then the NFL – – the 800 lb. gorilla of pro sports in the US – – can ride in to the rescue with real games played when they were supposed to be played by players who are fully prepared to play those games.
Here is the question that I think is interesting. Suppose public health reasons prevent the NFL from starting on time in early September.
- How should the NFL try to play its version of a truncated season?
The date and the place for the Super Bowl are set. Moving the Super Bowl to another venue or to change the date in the same venue by a couple of weeks is not a trivial undertaking. So, what ought to be the NFL contingency plan? [Aside: For the record, the Super Bowl is scheduled for 7 February 2021 in Tampa, FL.]
Presumably, the NFL will have “gone to school” on the mess created in MLB and the natterings associated with the NBA efforts to put its season back together. If the NFL does not have a contingency plan in place that has at a minimum the acquiescence of the NFLPA, then shame on Roger Goodell and everyone else along Mahogany Row in the NFL offices in NYC.
Remember, the NFL playoffs for this year – and presumably for time immemorial – will include 14 teams not just 12. That means two extra playoff games for the league in January and the TV ratings for those games should be very large meaning a nice boost in league revenue which translates into a nice boost in the salary cap for each team.
MLB and the MLBPA showed us that 20 years or so of “Labor Peace” and an agreement to try to “expand the playoffs” to get more TV money into the exchequer is not necessarily a harbinger of a “smooth transition”. The NFL and the NFLPA really do need to “go to school” here to avoid a congruent disaster.
There are reports out there saying that Dr. Anthony Fauci says that MLB should not play games late into October because the combination of a “second wave of coronavirus” combined with playing outdoors in cold weather could be a health hazard. Excuse me, if that is a serious concern and a thinly veiled “recommendation” from the nation’s leading epidemiologist, can someone explain to me how the NFL can possibly finish off a regular season with games in November/December in venues such as New England, Buffalo, NYC, Philly, Pittsburgh, Cleveland … You get the idea.
Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times from a while back:
“Red-faced Target officials apologized after four Twin Cities stores offered ‘Minnesota Badgers’ onesies for sale.
“No word on how the fresh shipment of ‘Green Bay Vikings’ kiddie shirts is selling in Milwaukee.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………