Baseball's worst nightmare: Anger is being replaced by apathy

Rob Bradford
May 27, 2020 - 11:44 am
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So I was scrolling through the dictionary -- because why not? -- and before I could get to the second chapter these couple of words jumped out and grabbed me ...

Anger: a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.

Apathy: lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

The combination of the two was a perfect fit for what I felt after soaking in the fallout from the latest baseball back-and-forth. The rainbows and lollipops that had been emanating from those trying to get Major League Baseball back once again dissolved into a pool of acid.

The owners' financial proposal for the 2020 season -- where the richest players get hit the hardest when it comes payouts -- had elicited the kind of reaction few wanted this all-important week to begin with.

There was anger, for sure. People were annoyed, displeased and, in some cases, downright hostile toward the game that is supposed to be defining summers right about now.

But here is the bad news: It sure seemed, perhaps more than ever, there was equal parts apathy.

The intricacies of who would get what for this three-month season was starting to sound like Charlie Brown's unintelligible teacher. The enthusiasm that bubbled up a week or so ago for a return had fallen off a cliff. More and more there was the vibe of a concerned parent who simply throws their hands up and yells, "They're going to do what they want to do" as the unruly kid jets off for another helmet-less motorcycle ride to the quarry.

Anger vs. apathy. This is the battle baseball should be truly monitoring. And after Tuesday the word that comes in second alphabetically every time was starting to take the lead when it comes to sports fans' perception.

The narrative from those in the know was that this latest salvo between the sides was all part of negotiating. As Jayson Stark so eloquently stated in a tweet Tuesday night: "I’ve covered a lot of labor negotiations. One thing I’ve learned is not to overreact to the play-by-play. These things always look bad ... until they don’t. Having said that, these two sides couldn’t possibly be farther apart"

But here's the problem: Perception.

Normally it's a word that really doesn't matter all that much when it comes to disputes because ultimately things get settled and the reality of what happens wins out. But these days it does matter. People are sitting in seclusion without the usual patience that comes with letting things playing out. 

Feelings are being defined more than ever these days, making days like Tuesday more damaging than the normal routine of jockeying for position. For some, the kid is getting on the motorcycle and he's never coming back.

Simply looking away, lowering the heart rate, and moving on to what is next is easier now than ever for baseball fans. We have plans and momentum from three other major sports, who are trucking down the highway toward a return while passing by the bickering couple on the side of the road (that being baseball).

Over the years we have become accustomed to the arguing between players and owners. That isn't anything new. But the difference is that people seemed to genuinely care about the ins and outs when it came to that sort of drama. It paved the way for the always popular exercise of team-building while offering debates regarding the future of our most notable players.

This is different.

In short, baseball has become exhausting and nobody wants that right now.

The wrong "A" word is winning, which is the one thing both sides can agree can't continue.