The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
We can't blame global warming for messing with the Hot Stove Season

The only persons who showed up for the opening of major-league training camps in Florida and Arizona last week were the mail carriers. MLB owners ordered a lockout of the players on December 2, after initial talks between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association stalled, and the training sites have been dormant since then. There are probably some people who would want to blame global warming for the situation, but unfortunately it doesn’t apply to this man-made disaster.

MLB and the MLBPA have been stuck in the mud on agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). And it’s looking like they will need something drastic to happen to pull them out of the muck. But this was predictable back in mid-November when the two sides held their first bargaining sessions. They were miles apart.

From the outset, there didn’t seem to be genuine effort on either side then to gain agreement quickly. The result has been a Hot Stove Season that barely got off the ground before the MLB owners ordered the lockout, which has put a damper on the off-season.

Both sides have put forward proposals, the latest by MLB on February 12 and a counter proposal by the union on February 17. Representatives of the two sides are scheduled to meet every day this week to continue the negotiations.

How much longer it will take to hammer out an agreement is anyone’s guess. The current situation has already put the baseball season out of whack. Minimally, the spring training season will be shortened. MLB has already cancelled spring games through March 4. How many more will be affected? The undesirable case is Opening Day of the regular season on March 29 has to be delayed. MLB has declared the CBA must be agreed to by February 28 in order to not affect the regular season. Worst case is games have to be eliminated from the regular season schedule. If that happens, everyone loses—the owners, the players, and the fans (yeah, remember them?).

One of the downsides of the lockout has been the absence of a buildup of the upcoming season. Building the anticipation for the new season is one of the main features of the Hot Stove Season. This off-season, fans got cheated out of most of the usual back-and-forth debates on sports talk shows and social media about which teams would be contenders and which would be pretenders.  With the uncertainties of the upcoming season, there just didn’t seem to be the same intensity of anticipation.

A few key free-agent signings, including Max Scherzer, Corey Seager, Javier Baez, Robbie Ray, and Marcus Semien, occurred before everything shut down. But the majority of the other free agents were left in the lurch, including highly sought-after Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Kris Bryant, and Freddie Freeman. The lockout caused baseball’s winter meetings to be cancelled. That’s usually when many player transactions occur, both trades and free-agent signings. In a normal Hot Stove Season, baseball enthusiasts would have been conjuring up all kinds of fantasy trades to improve their favorite teams.

Major League Baseball does a relatively poor job of marketing its product, even in the best of times. I imagine advance ticket sales for this season have been negatively impacted. That can’t be good for the owners, some of whom are still reeling from the shortened 2020 season when revenues took a nosedive. The owners are in control over whether the season starts on time, and they don’t want to go down that road of cancelling any games. But the lockout is their main leverage over the players’ union.

So, fans are playing the waiting game for the negotiations to be completed. They are tired of watching last year’s games on the MLB Network and reading articles historical games and players from past years.

It’s been a rather quiet time over the winter because the lockout curbed most of the normal off-season activities. The end of the Hot Stove Season is usually marked by the first players arriving at spring training camps.  Ironically, it is being extended this year due to the lockout.

Some would say the current state of negotiations is caused by the greediness of the owners. Some would argue it’s the players wanting to get revenge for the previous CBA. Others would say it’s the stubbornness of both sides in not looking at the long term. In any case, one thing it can’t be attributed to is global warming. Not this time.

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