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If There Was Ever A Time...

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros
“I can’t watch this. No seriously, I can’t — it’s blacked out in my home town.”
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

You often hear about “organized labor” but rarely are the virtues of “disorganized labor” extolled. This is unfortunate for baseball fans because we are, collectively, a very powerful group incapable of organizing as we are scattered around the country with no means by which to act as “one”.

And so we sit on the sidelines as MLB and MLBPA posture and play games of chicken. I haven’t made any plans to attend spring training, because I don’t know if or when there will be one, but I did buy tickets for a trip to Philadelphia to see the A’s and Phillies in April — on the hope that the first 2 weeks of the season will play out as drafted in the current schedule.

As you can see I have little leverage here. I am a pawn contributing to a huge pot that MLB and MLBPA are arguing about how to split. But what if...

...What if the fans collectively stood up to MLB and MLBPA and we did our own pre-emptive strike/lockout? What if we systematically made the pot smaller so that each side lost even if it won?

Imagine if across the country, fans canceled their season ticket packages, telling sales reps to “call me back when there’s a CBA reached”. What if baseball’s most ardent fans stopped buying merchandise, and “took a break” from reupping their TV/streaming packages.

One reason MLB/MLBPA don’t focus more on fan attendance is that more and more of the pot is made up of money from merchandise and TV revenues, but both are also controlled by fans. Using extreme numbers to illustrate the point, how would it change a battle on how to split a pot of $1B if the pot dwindled to $1M? Would you rather “win” 90% of $1M or get “only” 40% of $1B? Fans actually control this math.

Ironically, MLB/MLBPA are so incompetent and dumb that unwittingly they are making some of this happen. Regional blackouts have forced fans to find other ways to entertain themselves, and logic-defying rules like “we can’t wait for an intentional walk but you can adjust your batting gloves after every pitch” have left the fan demographic smaller and older with every time a pitcher is allowed to step off the rubber for no reason. Now, following a pandemic that shortened the 2020 season and decreased 2021 attendance, MLB/MLBPA have given fans an off-season in which baseball news is relegated to a blurb on page 6 of the sports section.

Trouble is, baseball has already lost its most casual fans and the rest of us have too much love for the game to abandon it entirely on principle. But what we could do, if we were organized like MLB and MLBPA, is to abandon it temporarily as leverage and an important statement to MLB/MLBPA: you work for us, so work for us.

I think an organized “fan strike” would be amazing to see and would actually be incredibly good for the game of baseball. Our voices are, frankly, the only ones full of sanity and absent greed. We just want what’s best for baseball and we just want baseball, and sadly that makes us stand out in the crowd. If only we could have our own union, we could save this great sport from itself. If only.