No fan of professional baseball fell in love with the game for its collective bargaining history.
No one covering the league chose that career path because they so enjoyed talking or writing about labor negotiations.
No talented young ballplayer with big-league dreams worked tirelessly at his craft to sit out an entire spring in his prime working out mathematical formulas of prorated pay.
This is all so stupid. It's not stupid for the players to want full prorated pay, or for the league to focus on the financial health of the sport's future beyond this year. What is stupid is that it's June 9, that other leagues have their return-to-play plans in place, that social distancing guidelines are softening, and MLB is still in this position. Weeks of leaks, weeks of public animosity, zero movement.
Baseball fans are beyond sick of reading about the pay dispute. No matter how you frame it, people just do not care at this point. When does the season start? How many games? How big are the rosters? How many teams are in the playoffs? Those are the questions fans want answers to. Those are the topics they want to discuss. Each day lost to ongoing negotiations is another day when almost all of the publicity baseball gets is bad publicity.
The casual baseball fan really doesn't care which side is right and which side is wrong. The sport cares deeply about the casual baseball fan for many reasons, most of all because increasing casual viewership grows the game. Go a year without playing and tens of thousands of those casuals will check out. For the most part, the die-hards will always be there, even when they talk a big game about never coming back. But the casuals who check out have less incentive to come back next year, to care next year, to spend money on tickets next year, to buy merchandise next year.
Everyone even loosely affiliated with the game realizes that it would be an epic failure to cancel the season because of a financial dispute. Having a season derailed by health protocols is totally different than not being able to agree on how hundreds of millions of dollars will be dispersed.
Both sides know they have to give in. The owners are seemingly unwilling to pay full prorated salaries if the season is longer than 50 games. Last week, we explored the idea of full prorated pay over a 62-game season. A 62-game season would be 75% of an 82-game season, so instead of players making 75% of their prorated pay in 82 games, players could earn full prorated pay over a shorter length. The owners favor playing fewer games anyway. That number doesn't need to be 62 — there's plenty of room for compromise between 50 games and 82.
Obviously, there are more factors than just length of season. There is postseason revenue, the potential for deferred money, and altered free agency rules. It's not as simple as picking a number of games and a percentage of prorated pay and saying, 'Go play.'
Unfortunately, though ... nobody really cares about those complexities. Life in 2020 is complex enough.