Commentary: Baseball is still our national pastime right now – but for all the wrong reasons

If the last couple months are any indication, baseball deserves to still be our national pastime – but for all the wrong reasons.

All I’ve seen is polarization between two sides (MLB owners and players). All I’ve seen is greed. All I’ve seen is total and complete unwillingness to compromise. It’s sad – but tell me that’s not a reflection of our country right now.

If you’ve missed the futile back-and-forth between baseball’s owners and its players association, consider yourself lucky. Because we’re basically back at square one, after an embarrassing display between billionaires and millionaires in a time when they had a chance to set the standard for all other sports, and return to play sooner than anyone else.

Instead, like a parent fed up with two petulant 4-year-olds bickering about who’s getting more sprinkles on an ice cream cone, commissioner Rob Manfred now has to step in and tell both sides when to start and how many games they’re playing.

Frankly, it’s shameful.

Now, I’m not saying each side doesn’t have a case, although I sympathize more with the players, who’ve argued for full salaries, based on an agreement reached in March, while the owners contend that agreement was only based on fans being in attendance. Then again, why should the players take a pay cut when they’re the ones assuming higher health risks, and when the owners refuse to provide specific details about the league’s financials?

It was a horrible look when news came out this week that the league had reached a new billion-dollar deal with Turner Sports to continue airing playoff games – even more money in the owners pockets.

And it’s hard to feel bad for any owner in baseball, when 10 years ago, the average team was worth $490 million dollars according to Forbes, and now, the lowest valuation for any team in baseball is twice that, at close to a billion dollars! To the owners: don’t give me a sob story about losing revenue when your franchise’s worth continues to improve significantly over time.

To make things worse, the owners said they were only willing to pay full prorated salaries for a 50-game season. But their final offer to the players was a 72-game season with 70 percent of their salaries guaranteed.

That’s like me asking: Would you rather work for ten months for only 70 percent of your salary, or work just seven months for all of it? The players aren’t dumb. It’s an insult to their intelligence.

Then again, it’s hard for many people to comprehend any athlete getting paid a significant sum of money to trot out on a field to play a game. And to watch this ridiculous back-and-forth play out while so many Americans have lost their jobs, can’t pay their rents, are facing evictions and other hardships related to COVID-19, has been a huge blow to the way we view a sport that is supposed to be a beacon for our country.

Instead, this season will be a shadow of itself, with owners and players begrudgingly returning after a shameful display of dismissiveness and selfishness.

Whoever is more at fault is less relevant to the overall shadow it casts on the game itself.

Yes, baseball is still our national pastime – but, in my opinion, for wrong reasons right now. Because what we’ve seen in these negotiations is simply a reflection of the division in America today.