MLB's dwindling popularity could reach a point of no return thanks to a crisis that should be easily-averted, given the struggles of millions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A group of the richest men and women in American life cannot agree on how to split a couple billion dollars.
Safety should be the paramount concern for all involved in MLB's negotiation of a potential 2020 season plan. How will MLB ensure the COVID-free livelihoods of players and stadium workers, including their families? How can we ensure proper testing, and a stadium site, for baseball's employees? While all questions are under consideration, they do not trump the main hurdle remaining for the return of America's pastime.
Morality has exited stage left, leaving financial obligations as the most important roadblock to a much-needed distraction.
Rob Manfred and Tony Clark have traded verbal shots through the media rather than locking themselves in a room for the benefit of millions. Both parties need not look further than baseball's last, perhaps greatest strike, which limited the growth and popularity of the game for decades. Were it not for the steroid era, MLB would be the fourth tier in the United States' designated 'Core Four' sports leagues. Thankfully, for their sake, the NHL made the same mistake.
Such an error in the social media age would have the same impact, tenfold. Passing on an opportunity to bring back baseball for any non-safety reasons would stick with MLB for years to come, and would surely lose them fans in the process.
MLB already struggles to market their greatest stars (most Americans couldn't pick Mike Trout out of a lineup). To entrust them with fixing this PR mess, with another labor dispute looming after 2021, is unthinkable.
Not to mention, MLB would be missing out on a great opportunity to grow the game as one of the only professional sports leagues in operation.
In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt implored upon then-commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to continue playing despite losing a number of stars to the armed forces in World War 2. It was a needed diversion from the atrocities occurring overseas on a daily basis.
Assuming MLB can ensure the safety of players and team employees, a return to action would be a great public service, and one fans wouldn't soon forget.