The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Don't Blow This Baseball!

I'm a child of divorce.

Well, my parents have actually been married for 47 years but as a sports fan, I'm a product of a nasty divorce.

In 1994, MLB owners and the MLBPA couldn't agree on a new CBA and cancelled the season and scrapped the World Series.

I was 12 years old at the time. Baseball was my sports life. Baseball cards, Starting Lineup figurines, collecting every MLB team's pennant to hang around the perimeter of my room's ceiling, wiffle ball battles with my brothers, ghost runners, playing second base for my youth baseball team, family vacations to Cooperstown every summer, weekend trips to watch the local minor league team, the occasional adventure to a big league game and watching baseball highlights every morning during summer vacation on SportsCenter until the last episode of the morning gave way to a billiards tournament or something. Baseball was my world.

Then the strike happened and I didn't really understand it at the time but it would change everything.

My dad basically quit being a baseball fan. My dad's friends and coaches grumbled about the strike and baseball's greed.

Eventually the strike would give way to Bud Selig as commissioner, a tainted HR derby, the Steroid Era and eventually in circuitous fashion, the analytics era.

Baseball has never been the same

But now, amidst all of the awfulness of a global pandemic that has turned day to day life and the sports world upside down, MLB has a chance at some form of reconciliation.

Imagine a 4th of July weekend where the public health opportunity exists to resume playing baseball. Fireworks, apple pie and good, ole fashioned baseball. We'd recite James Earl Jones speech from Field of Dreams, sit down and fall in love with baseball all over again.

All the complaints of baseball that its too long or too analytically driven or has too many games would melt away and we'd just feel the warm, comforting embrace of nostalgia.

Unless baseball blows it.

Unless all the old issues from the past haunt the negotiations of today.

Baseball owners want the players to scrap getting any kind of salary this year and take a revenue split. They want partners in absorbing the financial risk of a season that starts but stops again before its completed. They want players to focus on the chance of a completed half season with an extended playoff that could actually put MORE money in their pockets.

Players think its a trojan horse for a salary cap and rolling back salaries. They don't see the owners as a partner in a shared risk; they view the owners as more of a financial existential threat than the virus is a physical threat. They took a large cut in pay and they want the security that every player has fought for since that fateful day in 1994 when they walked away.

Instead of a triumphant return on the 4th of July this year, we could just have a replay of 1994 when all the world wanted was baseball but mom and dad couldn't stand to be in the same room together and let the kids down.

I think the stakes are too great. I think both sides would lose. I think there's a clear path to playing baseball if the public health risks can be managed or mitigated.

For once, MLB, think of the kids.

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