• Gabriel Donio

Frustrating: How life imitates the baseball lockout


The baseball lockout began on December 2, 2021 and, as of this writing, it is still ongoing. (Courtesy Photo)

The Super Bowl is behind us. The NFL season is behind us. The NBA and college basketball seasons are filled with promise.


So is the hockey season, unless you’re a Flyers fan.


Then there is baseball.


Mired in a lockout with no end in sight.


Maybe longtime Washington Post baseball columnist Thomas Boswell, who also wrote books on the sport, including a book of essays titled How Life Imitates the World Series, had the right idea in 2021.


He retired from the Post.


Will there be a baseball season this year? First, a brief recap. The lockout began on December 2, 2021 and, as of this writing, it is still ongoing. It is the ninth labor stoppage in Major League Baseball (MLB) history. Baseball’s owners voted unanimously for the lockout after the 2016 collective bargaining agreement expired, according to published reports.


Now you’re filled in with what happened.


What does it mean?


Possibly, it means no Major League Baseball or Minor League Baseball this season. For players, it means it is an impediment to advancing to the big leagues because unless this lockout mess is straightened out, there won’t be any big league teams playing in 2022.


The last big announcement regarding the lockout was made by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on February 10 at a press conference, which was widely reported on by the media. There doesn’t appear to be any end in sight, but according to Sports Illustrated, Manfred did reveal that the league would have a universal designated hitter.


So, that’s settled.


I believe that moments like this one are perfect for the phrase “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”


The league may not have a season at all, but it’s announcing the introduction of the DH in the National League? What sense does that make?


I did a little research. Since 1989, every single major league team has received a new stadium, except for Tampa Bay’s hideous dome, Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City (1973), Angel Stadium of Anaheim (1966), Oakland Coliseum (1966), Dodger Stadium (1962), Wrigley Field (1914) and of course, the oldest major league ballpark of them all, Fenway Park, which opened the same week as the Titanic sank in April of 1912.


In the last 33 years, every other team has received a new ballpark.


Don’t even ask me how much the cable and streaming deals are worth.


Then there are the ticket sales, the concessions, the apparel and the souvenirs.


Of course, it’s harder to make money on all that when your product—actual baseball games being played—is not happening.


During the last work stoppage, back in 1994, I worked across from Fenway Park in Boston in a 15,000-square-foot souvenir store. When the games ended the impact was immediate, and terrible.


It might as well have been the dead of winter.


The whole point of having a huge souvenir store across from the baseball park was the influx of thousands of people a night, 81 nights a year (more in a playoff year).


Cooler heads did not prevail.


The entire rest of the 1994 season, including the World Series, was canceled.


Can you imagine the NFL making that kind of rockheaded decision with the Super Bowl?


No, they wouldn’t—and how you know that they wouldn’t is that history tells us they never have. Even in 1987, when the NFL used replacement players and cut the season down to 15 games, they still figured out a way to play most of the season, the playoffs and the Super Bowl.


It’s smart business to treat your product with respect.


When you don’t, people tend to lose respect in your product. Unfortunately for baseball, which for my money is still the best game out there, that respect was lost a long time ago. People moved on to other sports that, you know, actually held entire seasons and championships.


They never really came back—and yet the new ballparks, the new cable and streaming contracts, the new advertising and sponsorships and enough fans to matter kept coming. It wasn’t the same as the old days, but what is? Besides, the teams kept increasing in value, according to published reports.


Which leads us to the current situation. It remains to be seen if the lockout ends, and baseball begins with Spring Training followed by a season.


In the meantime, enjoy the Sixers.



Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.