It always begins with the purchase of a new notebook — and then the almost maddening chore of creating what will become another season’s day-by-day and week-by-week chronicle of a baseball season.
The 2022 season will mark the 11th different notebook. I think you’ll see that as my notebooks have evolved, so has my workmanship. Seriously, I take a lot of pride in what I do each season, and the amount of work I put into this enterprise.
With the news that MLB’s 99-day lockout was over, I had to spring into action this weekend and work on getting the book ready. The next step is the usually simple task of working on creating one or two mock power rankings.
I say usually simple because with more than 250 free agents still floating around and 15-25 transactions occurring a day, there will be nothing easy or simple about getting the initial mocks right on the money.
Just being able to chronicle all the changes has led me to start a much smaller pad to jot down every transaction I see. Writing each one down is one level of discipline, but digesting how this many moves in this short a time will impact rankings is just crazy.
At the same time, I am trying to take in all of this information to get ready for a fantasy draft at a yet-to-be-determined date.
While I didn’t intend to take to this platform to again haul off on commissioner Rob Manfred, I just can’t help it. Here’s a man, who, yes, works for and at the behest of the 30 owners, but is supposed to be on guard for the best interests of the game he runs.
But after those acrimonious negotiations with MLBPA executive director Tony Clark back in 2020 about how to get the game started coming out of the initial pandemic stupor, all Manfred and the owners did this time around was wait, wait … and wait some more to negotiate.
Now gone was the ability to have an offseason in which fans could, at long last, look forward to a season free of pandemic interference. Instead, we had a 99-day freeze on any offseason action that fans could get wrapped up in and worked up about. We had basically 99 days of non-promotion for a business that as of 2019 was making more than $10 billion a season.
Arizona and Florida have spent millions and millions of dollars to build stadiums for the 30 teams that house them for about 15 home games per year. That has been laid to waste. All the hotel rooms that are empty, all the rental cars not driven and all the restaurants unfilled are greatly affecting the economies of those two states. While we are at it, let’s not leave out all the ushers, concession folks and parking attendants who work at the 30 stadiums.
So, now that that’s all over with, the powers that be in the game fully expect the cash registers to start ringing briskly again. We’ll see.
My friend and sports business guru Marty Conway, who worked for the Orioles and Rangers and now teaches sports business at Georgetown, is of the opinion that baseball should be doing something for the fans. His simple suggestion is creating a website — call it freebaseball.com — and make special offers that would allow fans to get free tickets to games in the first couple of months, which are historically not as well-attended as the games that take place once the weather warms up and kids are out of school.
So far, crickets as to how the league will try to win back fans. In 2021, there were six teams (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Oakland and Miami) that drew fewer than 1 million fans, though some of that had to do with pandemic-related restrictions early on in the year. Now the commissioner and the owners have essentially stuck a middle finger out to the fans.
For those of us that are lifers, we’ll be back doing what we do — showing up with our credentials to cover the sport. But even for us — the dinosaurs who still love this game with a lifelong passion — something has again been stripped away from the essence of the game.
Maybe, with the rancor of the negotiations behind the league and union, some cooler heads will prevail to try and work on how to evolve the game in a way that might actually attract more interest in the game.
For now, I’ll click on mlbtraderumors.com and jot down any new moves made. How I’ll finish my first mock is anybody’s guess, but I’ll put my head down and start the work of another season.
And I’ll hope that the game can come back from another punch to the gut.