Baseball fans yawned on Dec. 1 when Major League Baseball team owners said they were locking out the players until a new collective bargaining agreement was hammered out.
A big yawn, because Dec. 1 was a full three months before the start of spring training for the 2022 season and that would certainly give the two sides plenty of time to work things out, right?
Well, maybe not. Here we are at the end of January, with spring training scheduled to start about three weeks from now, and still no peace being reported from the negotiating rooms.
Fans ask: Why can’t a bunch of billionaires and millionaires come to an agreement? It’s not like anyone’s going to starve, no matter what the final agreement looks like.
Except for baseball fans, of course, who will be starved for entertainment if this labour dispute drags on.
Sticking points like free agency eligibility, minimum pay, expansion of the designated hitter, and luxury tax rules are just a few of the discussion points.
Memories of baseball strikes/lockouts are especially painful to Canadians, who had visions of a World Series title for Montreal Expos in 1994 before the last work stoppage occurred and wiped out the rest of that season.
The Expos never came close again and the franchise was eventually moved to Washington, D.C.
Luckily, one of this column’s spies has been privy to negotiations and some of the points already agreed upon would surprise even the most skeptical fan:
1. Each game to feature a lucky number contest, with the winning fan getting to pinch hit in the ninth inning.
2. If a fan yells ‘Kill the ump,’ the umpire is given the address of the fan’s workplace and is allowed to heckle him for workplace misjudgments at his office the following day.
3. A souped up Corvette brings in a pitcher from the bullpen; a clown car takes him out if he gets rocked.
4. On Babe Ruth’s birthday, the fattest pitcher on the team gets to start.
5. The popcorn and beer vendor has to visit each dugout at least once during the game.
6. Players get Sundays off.
7. The rosin bags are to be filled with peanuts for between-inning snacks.
8. Players get a $20/week bonus if they bring their own bats.
9. A player’s post-career pension to be calculated by dividing OPS plus RBIs minus stolen bases and multiplied by batting average.
10. Mariachi band plays Take Me Out to the Ballgame in every ballpark on May 5, Cinco de Mayo.
11. An MLB franchise for Green Bay, Wis.
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Love how the contestants on ‘Jeopardy’ can answer what was the name of Mozart’s 45th concerto without blinking, but when asked what team Mickey Mantle played for they look like a cow staring at a passing train.”
• Blogger Patti Dawn Swansson: “Marc-André Fleury, Brian Elliott and Dustin Tokarski are the last three NHL goaltenders still using wooden sticks. I hesitate to call them dinosaurs, but today even Pinocchio would be made of carbon fibre and dipped in urethane.”
• Jack Finarelli, writing at sports curmudgeon.com, in his annual review of TV ads: “Subway has an ad where Tom Brady makes a cameo appearance. Given all I have read about Brady’s fanatic focus on his diet and nutrition, I somehow doubt that I might spot him and/or Giselle in line waiting for a 12-inch tuna sub there.”
• RJ. Currie of sportsdeke.com: “If Team Jennifer Jones wins a second Olympic gold medal this year, perhaps they’ll again be invited to present at the Juno Awards for Canadian music. Hey, who better than a curler to recognize rock stars?”
• Bob Molinaro of pilotonline.com (Hampton, Va.): “Sitting in front of my TV the other night, I witnessed the basketball equivalent of a solar eclipse — an NBA player called for travelling.”
• Patti Dawn Swansson again, on the Oilers’ troubles despite having two of the best players in the NHL: “It’s like Steven Spielberg making a movie with Paul Newman and Marlon Brando as the leading men and his producer giving him Larry, Curly, Shemp, Moe and the Marx Brothers as the supporting cast.”
• Another one from theonion.com:“NFL expands Super Bowl to include two additional teams.”
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: The Washington Football Team is revealing its new name on Groundhog Day. Maybe they’re trying to limit themselves to only six more weeks of bad football.”
• Another one from Alex Kaseberg, via Twitter, after Browns QB Baker Mayfield announced his shoulder surgery was a success: “He should be back to pitching products in a couple months.”
• Former Auburn basketball coach Sonny Smith: “I told Charles (Barkley) that he made me what I am today. He said, ‘What is that?’ I said out of coaching.”
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by Bruce Penton