That doesn't necessarily mean the players will report. We're still in a pandemic, and it's unclear if any level of isolation/testing can manage that with so many humans, not to mention planes and buses and hotels, are involved. (Tucked into a story by ESPN's Jeff Passan over the weekend was this: "Multiple players on 40-man rosters have tested positive for the virus recently, according to sources.")
COVID-19 has done no one any favors. (There’s your understatement of the millennium.) Baseball being baseball, it’s fully capable of making the absolute worst of the absolute worst, for which the year 2020 qualifies. Players and owners aren’t just bickering over games and pay for this year — they’re warming the bile that will be loosed when the sport’s collective bargaining agreement lapses in 2021. Insiders have long believed there’d be a strike/lockout at some point before opening day in 2022. The virus brought the rancor sooner than anyone could have imagined.
Why do owners hate the players? They make roughly $5 billion in aggregate salary and keep wanting more. Why do players hate the owners? Because no MLB entity except your Braves — who as a subsidiary of publicly traded Liberty Media are required to do so — will open its books so the players can see how much revenue there really is.
Last week brought another of those juicy juxtapositions at which baseball excels. No sooner had Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. proclaimed, "The industry isn't very profitable, to be honest," Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported that MLB and Turner Sports "had consummated a new billion-dollar deal."
For all the haggling, it remains possible to ask: Does baseball really want to play? Nobody profits if there are no games, but this sport has proved it’s not above excising its nose to spite its face. It wasn’t so long ago that baseball was envisioning a semi-triumphant return on the Fourth of July. There’s no way that can happen now.
Indeed, the first realistic date a season might begin — Aug. 1, after a month-long non-spring training — is perilously close to the last possible date anybody would care to see baseball commence. If you’re only going to play two months of an irregular season and maybe a month of playoffs, what’s the point? To remind us that this is the only sport that despises itself so much it couldn’t set aside differences during a pandemic?
We’re halfway through June. MLB hasn’t set a date. The players asked for one. They’re still waiting. We’re all still waiting. Conventional wisdom holds that it would be devastating for baseball to be the one sport that doesn’t at least try to play, but we’re drawing near that moment when the masses will stop caring. With an NFL fantasy draft just around the corner, who needs this clown show?