As the Baltimore Orioles carry on training down in Sarasota, the clock continues to tick when it comes to free agents. And not just for the Birds – there are lots of free agents that need homes, and time is running shorter and shorter. Grapefruit and Cactus League play begins at the end of next week. Heck, the MLBPA is holding it’s own training camp which is closed to the public and to scouts in Bradenton, FL.
Whether teams are colluding not to sign anyone or the Players Association is colluding not to have anyone sign is another story. The big story is that lots of guys aren’t signed. This of course has to do with payrolls, and more broadly with the business of the game. But…do fans really want to hear about that? Do they really care?
The savvy ones do for sure. In fact the savviest of the savvy are actually fascinated by it. However that doesn’t attest for Johnny Fan Boy sitting in the bleachers who just wants to watch baseball. All he sees is a bunch of rich millionaires who may well be good players, but who are holding out and splitting hairs over whether they’re going to make $15 or $17 million.
That type of attitude tends to turn people off. And while there are a lot of other types of factors involved as well, don’t be so sure that the same isn’t true in the NFL. Have ratings not gone down the past two seasons or so? So what does this all mean? That everyone should just play ball and not worry about the rest of it?
That’s a tough sell to players and coaches. All the public sees and knows is that these guys make a heck of a lot more money than most people. They travel on charter flights which in terms of amenities is probably leaps and bounds ahead of flying first class on a commercial airline. They stay in the nicest hotels in every city, and eat at the best restaurants.
But there are other things that the public doesn’t see or chooses not to see. The travel schedule is grueling, especially when you finish up with a night game in one city and have another one in another city the next night. In terms of money, players also pay fees to their union, which comes out of their pockets. That and they all pay clubhouse fees towards the services they get in the locker room.
I suspect that the pros far outweigh the cons. But even still, the general public doesn’t want to hear about the cons. All they know is that millionaires are squabbling over pennies. However the fact is that if your attitude is I don’t care about the money I just want to play, you’re going to get exactly what you asked for. You’ll play, and make no money. Why should a team pay you the big bucks when you just said they didn’t have to?
So there has to be a happy medium somewhere. Because the same fate that’s befalling the NFL right now could happen to baseball as well. People could stop showing up or stop watching. That would be hard for me to imagine, but stranger things have happened.