This baseball lockout sucks. Big time. The MLB and the MLB Players Association failed to reach a deal by their self-imposed deadline of March 1st resulting in the cancellation of the first two series of the 2022 season. I’m not here to talk about the way that the negotiations broke down and what each side did to lead to this point (I’ll leave that to the experts). I’m simply here to talk about how much this sucks from the perspective of a baseball fan.
By no means am I a huge baseball fan. I root for the Mariners so I haven’t been a diehard baseball fan in the past (because, ya know, the Mariners and all). I have started playing fantasy baseball the past few years so that has helped me keep up with the league throughout the long season. But I represent a very important demographic for the MLB: the casual fans. I am a bit less casual than others but I also am not sitting down and watching every nationally televised baseball game. This lockout, and cancellation of games, are really hurting the MLB’s chances of attracting more casual fans. We should be at the point where spring training is starting and discussions are centering around which teams have to win the World Series and which players can make the leap to superstardom. Instead, the conversations are about how the MLB is failing its fanbase due to its inability to accomplish the most important thing to any sports league: get the product on the field.
It is terrible PR for any sports league to be defined by what is happening off the playing surface. It has happened in the NFL with concussions, domestic violence, and the whole National Anthem debacle (I am referring to the way it was handled by the league and covered by the media, not the actual protests by the players which I support). It has also happened already to the MLB with the whole steroids saga and congressional hearing. No league executives want their sport to be in a situation like the ones I listed. Despite that, the MLB is in that exact position, with the way that the league and executives have handled the lockout.
But the damage has already been done in terms of hurting the sport’s marketability. MLB has already had an issue marketing its players recently, so how do they expect to get casual fans to care about a season without any offseason hype? Basketball, both NBA and college, are in full swing right now. The NFL is still dominating headlines despite being months away from any on-field product. Baseball is in danger of becoming much closer in popularity to the NHL and MLS, which is not an indictment on either of those leagues (I am a fan of both of them). We live in a culture where sports are a year-round phenomenon. If a sport isn’t in season then it is still in the news due to trades, free agency, draft, or other noteworthy events. The MLB is losing precious time right now to market itself and its players. If this lockout goes on longer and more games get canceled, that could lead to some very detrimental consequences. The thing that the MLB needs the most right now is the one thing that the owners are ensuring we can’t get: baseball back in the stadiums.