2022: Lockout to lucre to ludicrous and back

Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge running out record-setting homer number 62. He didn’t know which of one of the three varying-density balls believed sent forth in 2022 he hit for the record. We don’t know—it should be scandalously— whether anyone will demand a formal investigation into the balls’ inconsistencies.

A year that began with an ongoing owners’ lockout ended with a decent pack of players obtaining long deals for the kind of money that could revive an economy . . . of a small island nation, or even a small American state. Remember that the next time the bulk of baseball’s owners demand the players stop them before they over-spend, mis-spend, or mal-spend again.

One who hasn’t signed such a deal yet remained in limbo when I sat down to write. First, the Giants looked like cheapskates for tendering then balking at thirteen years and $350 million for shortstop Carlos Correa. Especially after swinging and missing at Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge, and Carlos Rodon over the past few years. Something about a difference of opinion about the medicals.

Then the Mets tendered, then hesitated on twelve years and $315 million. Something about being uncertain about the medicals. First the talk was Correa’s back. Then, it was the ankle he had repaired surgically before he made the Show in the first place.

At this writing Correa remains unsigned and in limbo. And it looks indeed as though that ankle might be problematic after all, never mind how long he’s played on it since. One of the Giants’ beat writers thinking at first that the Giants simply freaked and ran, Grant Busbee of The Athletic, said it better than I could in issuing a mea culpa:

If Correa had a plate put in his ankle in 2014, and if the integrity of that plate is looking much worse than it should eight years later, a contract offer as long as the Giants’ 13-year one would instantly become untenable. It would be the kind of problem that would make a gung-ho team like the Mets pause their high fives and offseason victory laps.

If Correa needs to address this ankle again, perhaps through surgery, it could affect his mobility.

If his mobility is affected, his defense could suffer.

A Correa without plus-plus defense is still a fine player, but he’s not a 13-year, $350 million player. He’s not especially close.

Mea culpa, too, say I. At this writing, too, it’s believed there remains a 55 percent chance Correa signs with the Mets in due course. But it’s also believed that Mets owner Steve Cohen, who thought nothing of opening his seemingly bottomless purse this winter, is in a bind: Take a chance on Correa despite the ankle issue, or withstand the usual brands of outrage from Met fans if he decides it’s not worth the risk of the deal cratering under Correa’s ankle before its time. Never mind that this swing and miss would come from Cohen actually trying, not former owners the Wilpons unable/unwilling to try.

Meanwhile, speaking of Aaron Judge, he smashed the American League’s single-season home run record by one, ran away with the league’s Most Valuable Player award, proved too spent from the season to help the Yankees past the early postseason round . . . and doesn’t know whether MLB’s continued monkeying around with the structure of the baseballs themselves meant he was or wasn’t afforded a little extra help—without his knowledge—in chasing, tying, and passing Roger Maris. Ballgate still has no formal investigation in the making. Shamefully.

The Astros finally won a World Series the old fashioned way, straight-no-chaser. They had to beat the upstart Phillies—who’d canned their manager early enough in the season, then picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and slipped into the postseason to snatch the pennant via Bryce Harper’s waist-deep-in-the-big-muddy eighth-inning home run in National League Championship Series Game Five—to do it. It climaxed a slightly convoluted mess the result of the Manfred regime’s insistence that more teams in the postseason equaled more fans in the stands and in front of the flatscreens. Astros outfielder Chas McCormick left the Series’ second-most lasting impression:

Chas McCormick

World Series Game Five: Chas McCormick left his imprint after a spectacular catch.

The Astros’ veteran Hall of Fame-bound pitcher Justin Verlander won the AL Cy Young Award—at Jack Benny’s age. Then he signed as a free agent for two years and $86 million to pitch for the Mets, after the Mets let uber-ace (when healthy) and two-time (back-to-back) Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom walk into the Rangers’ waiting arms and vault. (Five years, $185 million.) Reuniting Verlander with his former Tigers rotation mate Max (the Knife) Scherzer. Fred (The Crime Dog) McGriff, a classic borderline candidate and a class act, was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee. Hall of Famer in waiting Albert Pujols finished his season and his playing career with 703 home runs—after having a mere six before the All-Star break, but hitting thirteen between then and the night he sent former Angel teammate Andrew Heaney’s service almost to the rear end of Dodger Stadium’s left field bleachers to join the 700 club in the first place.

Shohei Ohtani remained baseball’s unicorn. It would take an entire column to run down how he enhanced that status this year, but ponder this above just about all else: On 11 June, Ohtani threw a third-inning pitch at 101 mph and hit a fifth-inning home run that flew out at 104 mph. In the immortal phrasing of Babe Ruth, “I’d like to see some other sonofabitch do that!” (Most likely, Ruth did only the latter in his career.) But it takes only a few moments and words to remind you of the precedent Austin Hayes (Orioles) set: 0-for-4 on strikeouts one day, hitting for the cycle the next. (21-22 June.) In six innings, yet. Famine never went to feast that swiftly, did it?

Marlins relief pitcher Richard Bleier entered 2022 with no balks in his career but committed three in a single Mets plate appearance in September. Reid Detmers (Angels) pitched a no-hitter despite allowing 25 balls put into play. Pirates pitcher Wil Crowe set the sad precedent of surrendering both Judge’s 60th home run and Giancarlo Stanton’s walkoff grand slam—in the same inning . . . after a reported 20,000 fans left Yankee Stadium following Judge’s blast.

Rockies rookie Brian Serven fouled a pitch off on his first major league swing, and the fan who retrieved it handed it to the couple sitting near her—Serven’s parents. Matthew Acosta of the Fort Wayne TinCaps singled into a triple play against the Great Lakes Loons, the first such professional singling since 1886. (8-6-2-4-5 if you’re scoring at home.) Before he finally made himself persona non grata in Yankee pinstripes, reliever Aroldis Chapman walked the bases loaded in back-to-back appearances and was brought in the following day—with the bases loaded. Some wondered if Yankee manager Aaron Boone was loaded himself.

The sad-sack Reds no-hit the sadder-sack Pirates in mid-May—and still lost. Fourteen times did a team score ten or more runs in the White Sox’s Guaranteed Rate Park. Thirteen times, it was the visitors doing it. The Yankees led the 2022 Show in walk-off wins (sixteen) and walk-off losses (eleven). The Mets collapsed from NL East runaways to wild-card holders . . . and were hit by a record 112 pitches along the way. Royals infielder Whit Merrifield refused to take a COVID vaccination shot before the team traveled to Toronto, said he’d get the shot on condition that the Royals trade him to a contender, and the team accepted the challenge—trading him to the Blue Jays.

The Padres ruled the trade deadline by dealing for Nationals’ superman Juan Soto and the Brewers’ relief star Josh Hader. Half a month later, the Padres’ superman Fernando Tatis, Jr. returned from the injured list . . . and got himself an eighty-game suspension when turning up positive for the banned substance clostebol after using (he insisted) a medication to treat ringworm. Reds president Phil Castellini got fed up with fans hammering him and them over last winter’s talent purge and told them to sit down, shut up, and, ahem, deal with it. Arte Moreno announced he plans to sell the Angels, prompting speculation that the most popular oldie on southern California radio might be “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Maybe.

Clayton Kershaw, Blake Grice

Young Blake Grice got to tell the Dodgers’ All-Star Game starter/future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw how much his grandpa loved the lefthander, and Kershaw gave the boy some deserved appreciation.

Clayton Kershaw picked Ohtani off first, struck Judge out, and made the year for a kid named Blake Grice, who turned up at Kershaw’s post All-Star Game outing presser on behalf his late grandpa. A Blue Jays fan in Rogers Centre, Mike Lanzilotta, made the year in May for Toronto kid Derek Rodriguez, whose idol is Judge, by handing the boy a ball Judge had just clobbered for a home run—and triggering Judge’s own personal meeting with the boy the following day, after video of the gift went viral and caught Judge’s attention. For a second straight season, this time in late June, young southern California fan Abigail Courtney wept over one of her Reds/former Reds heroes’ early ejection—this time, Jesse Winker of the Mariners—and landed herself a signed ball and other swag.

Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax began addressing a gathering at his Dodger Stadium statue unveiling by quipping, “Hello, I must be going.” (That’s a joke, Mr. K.: Koufax actually began by quipping, “I think the film said everything I want to say, so I’ll be leaving now.” On the way out, he spoke for ten minutes.) Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa’s post-retirement assignment managing the White Sox ended when his pacemaker caused alarm and he announced his final retirement, possibly before he could be fired. “Genius playing with mental blocks” was a polite way to describe La Russa’s past two years on the White Sox bridge. Aging, fading Dallas Keuchel, his pitcher left in to withstand an early ten-run beating in an April game, might describe La Russa in terms unsuitable even for a stevedore’s quarters.

“When the One Great Scorer comes/to mark against your name,” sportswriting legend Grantland Rice once wrote, “He writes not that you won or lost/but how you played the game.” The One Great Scorer welcomed a few too many home to the Elysian Fields, as always, this year. Curt Simmons was the last surviving member of the 1950 Phillies’ “Whiz Kids” pennant winners. The military draft kept Simmons from pitching in that World Series (the Yankees swept the upstart Phillies), but the lefthander made up for it on a Series-winning team of Cardinals . . . fourteen years later.

Ralph Terry surrendered a World Series-winning home run (1960) to Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski, then stood the winning Yankee pitcher when Hall of Famer Willie McCovey’s torpedo was snared by Bobby Richardson at second base to end the 1962 Series, then took a post-baseball stab at professional golf. Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter closed out the Series-winning game for the 1982 Cardinals to crown a career in which his split-fingered fastball helped revolutionise the relief pitching craft. Homer was ancient Greece’s Roger Angell and Cicero was ancient Rome’s Vin Scully.

Tom Browning was part of the 1990 Reds’ World Series winner and known as Mr. Perfect for pitching the National League’s first perfecto since Koufax in 1965—but his defense took care of 65 percent of the outs. (Ten ground outs, ten fly outs.) Tommy Davis won the NL’s 1962 batting championship, then had his career compromised by a frightening ankle fracture on a 1965 baserunning play. Dick Ellsworth pitched with some success, much hard luck, and was victimised by the single most grotesque mishap in baseball card history: his 1966 Topps card showed not him but Ken Hubbs, the Cubs’ 1962 Rookie of the Year second baseman killed in a February 1964 plane crash.

Bob Miller was a lefthanded relief pitcher of early promise and not much else—until he turned up as one of two Bob Millers (the other, a righthander) on the 1962 Mets . . . and one of the two Bob Millers who shocked a television audience when To Tell the Truth host Bud Collyer intoned, “Will the real Bob Miller please stand up”—and both rose accordingly. Another brief Met relief pitcher, Ed Bauta, was one of the short-career pre-1980 players frozen out of the 1980 pension realignment . . . and the only player to appear in both the last major league game played in the Polo Grounds and the first played in Shea Stadium. Joe Pignatano ended his playing career as a 1962 Met and hit into a triple play in his final major league plate appearance, then became the Mets’ longtime bullpen coach—remembered for his bullpen vegetable garden and for having one job according to Miracle Mets outfielder Art Shamsky: “to keep control of the pitchers in the bullpen who were out of control.”

Gaylord Perry

Gaylord Perry—putting out the fire with Vaseline?

Mark Littell was a fine 1970s relief pitcher whose unfortunate fate was to serve the ball Yankee first baseman Chris Chambliss belted for a pennant-winning home run in the 1976 American League Championship Series. Pete Ward was a promising third baseman until neck and back injuries in a 1965 auto accident reduced him to journeyman status—but not before he was supposed to be a Sports Illustrated cover boy . . . until he was knocked out of the cover by Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight rematch with Sonny Liston. Lee Thomas was a serviceable outfielder who graduated to become a successful general manager who built the Phillies’ 1993 pennant winner.

Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry lived rent-free in hitters’ and managers’ heads by either greasing his pitches or letting them think he was, or maybe both. Joining such actual or reputed fellow scofflaws as Jim Brosnan, Lew Burdette, Dean Chance, Tony Cloninger, Carl Mays, Preacher Roe, Schoolboy Rowe, Bob Turley, and fellow Hall of Famers Don Drysdale, Whitey Ford, and Don Sutton, it would be mad fun, I repeat, to ponder eavesdropping on such a meeting of the Salivation Army. Look that up in your Gunk & Wagnalls.

Three-ball blues

The Ball

This is the baseball I landed during batting practise before Opening Day at Angel Stadium this year. (I gave it to my son who attended with me.) Who knew if it was juiced or drained?

Signing with the Mets for two years and $86 million was good with and for Justin Verlander. But it may not be the most important thing he did outside pitching the decisive World Series Game Six. The most important thing the future Hall of Famer did this year was buttonhole a baseball official before a game against the Yankees in June and demand, “When are you going to fix the [fornicatin’] baseballs?”

It’s not the first time he complained. In 2017, Verlander was just one of several who noticed and complained that balls used that postseason were a little too smooth for comfort. And it got worse instead of better. By 2021, Major League Baseball had two kinds of baseballs, one slightly heavier than the other, and thus containing a little more life than the other.

With a lot of help from Meredith Wills, an astrophysicist and baseball fan whose passion is examining the makeup of baseballs and who’s discovered the Show can’t get it straight or consistent, Insider exposed 2021’s two-ball tango. The Insider reporter who delivered Dr. Wills’s discoveries and alarms, Bradford William Davis, has now seen and raised: in 2022, baseball played its own version of “Three Ball Blues.”

That vintage blues song discussed pawn shops, the traditional sign for which is three golden balls. The lyrics include the old joke inside the pawn business: “It’s two to one, buddy, you don’t get your things out at all.” Baseball’s three-ball blues may mean it’s two to one on getting its integrity back after engaging its own kind of cheating—still inconsistent and often juiced balls.

Not necessarily in the final game scores. Davis and Wills suggest powerfully that baseball’s government wanted a little more oomph on behalf of a lot more hype, with certain events such as the Home Run Derby, the postseason, and maybe even Aaron Judge’s chasing and passing Roger Maris as the American League’s new single-season home run king.

Verlander was far from the only player to complain. Davis says Giants outfielder Austin Slater fell upon that 2021 Insider story, sought to collect balls to send Wills for analysis, and was ordered by “a top executive in the commissioner’s office” to back off.

“The warning,” Davis says, “sent in the form of text messages that Insider reviewed, came via a [Major League Baseball Players Association] official who was relaying the league executive’s displeasure.” Displeasure over what? Being caught red-handed delivering inconsistently-made baseballs about which the game’s own commissioner seems distinctly under-alarmed?

Rob Manfred told reporters before the All-Star Game that, yup, we had two balls in 2021, but it was the fault of a pandemic-times issue in Rawlings’s Costa Rica manufacturing plant: closues and supply chain issues, as Davis translates, meant MLB’s plan to stay with a new, lighter, deader ball was compromised when it had to “dip into a reserve stock of the older, heavier, livelier balls for some 2021 games.”

MLB claimed random distribution between the two 2021 balls. Davis’s 2021 reporting via Dr. Wills brought forth suspicions that MLB wasn’t just doing it randomly, that at times they were sending balls to certain places for certain series depending on what they thought might be the gate: say, a game between a pair of also-rans might get the deader ball but a game between a pair of big rivals or contenders might get the livelier ball.

Now Manfred told that July conference think nothing of it, we’ve got it knocked, we’re sticking to the deader ball, and every ball made for 2022 will be consistent. Not so fast, Dr. Wills discovered, according to Davis: “Major League Baseball did not settle into using a single, more consistent ball last season, Wills’ research suggests: the league used three.”

By the time Manfred made that statement in July, Wills had already found evidence that at least a handful of those older, livelier, “juiced” balls — the ones that the “new manufacturing process” purportedly replaced — were still in circulation. Though these juiced balls are from 2021 or earlier, according to manufacturing markings, they were in use in 2022; Insider obtained two of them from a June 5 Yankees match against the Tigers.

Over the next few months, Wills and Insider—with whom Wills exclusively shared her research—worked together to collect game balls for her to painstakingly deconstruct, weigh, and analyze. What she found was striking: In addition to that small number of older juiced balls and the newer dead balls, Wills found evidence that a third ball was being used at stadiums across the majors.

Davis says Wills’s data indicates production on the third ball began six months before Manfred promised 2022 as a single-ball season. “This new third ball’s weight,” Davis writes,

centers somewhere between the juiced ball the league phased out last season and the newly announced dead ball: It is, on average, about one-and-a-half grams lighter than the juiced ball and one gram heavier than the dead ball. According to the league’s own research, a heavier ball tends to have more pop off the bat, meaning the third ball would likely travel farther than a dead ball hit with equal force.

Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge had no clue whether he’d be pitched a dead, lead, or Super Ball while chasing Roger Maris this year.

Wills calls it “the Goldilocks ball: not too heavy, not too light—but just right.” But this isn’t the Three Bears we’re talking about here. This is about the possibility that hitters didn’t know going in when one hefty swing would send a ball over the fence but another such hefty swing with the same square, powerful contact might result in a sinking line drive, a dying quail, or a long out.

In other words, Judge—who’s just signed a nine-year/$360 million deal to remain a Yankee, after betting big on himself during his contract walk year—had no clue just what he was going to hit, and I don’t mean fastball, curve ball, slider, cutter, or sinker. Nobody knows for certain whether or how many such Goldilocks balls Judge sent into the Delta Quadrant. And that’s allowing for him being strong enough to hit a clump of seaweed into the second deck.

“But we do know,” Davis writes, “that the league keeps track of information that would permit it—if it wanted—to know which balls get used in each game. According to two sources familiar with MLB’s ball shipment process, the league not only directs where its balls are sent, it also knows which boxes its game compliance monitors–league employees tasked with ensuring each team adheres to league rules–approve and use before each game starts.”

Baseball government people were handed the net results of Dr. Wills’s reseach and all but waved it away with an all but run-along-girlie-you-bother-me statement:

The 2022 MLB season exclusively used a single ball utilizing the manufacturing process change announced prior to the 2021 season, and all baseballs were well within MLB’s specifications. Multiple independent scientific experts have found no evidence of different ball designs. To the contrary, the data show the expected normal manufacturing variation of a handmade natural product.

Rawlings itself, co-owned by MLB since 2018, issued a similar statement:

This research has no basis in fact. There was no ‘3rd ball’ manufactured and the ball manufactured prior to the 2021 process change was fully phased out following the 2021 season. All balls produced for the 2022 season utilized the previously announced process change.

While storage conditions during research can easily impact ball weight measurements, a one-gram difference in ball weight would be within normal process variation. We continue to produce the most consistent baseball in the world despite the variables associated with a handmade product of natural materials.

Davis demurs. “While lighter and less bouncy than the balls used before Rawlings switched up its manufacturing in 2021,” he writes, “the Goldilocks balls have a weight profile that makes them livelier and more batter-friendly than the dead balls that the league says it now uses exclusively.”

To which Manfred says, essentially, Integrity of the game? Shut up and get back to shortening the times of games without even thinking about cutting down the broadcast commercials. Any time Manfred comes up with something reasonable—the universal designated hitter, slightly larger bases, the advent of Robby the Umpbot—he comes up with or allows about five or more unreasonable things to counteract.

Differing baseballs aren’t just “unreasonable.” They strike at the very core (pun intended) of competition at least as profoundly as something like Astrogate did, on both sides of the ball. Pitchers who don’t know whether they’ll be given a grippable ball to pitch have just as much skin in this game as hitters who don’t know whether they’ll square up a dead, lead, or Super Ball.

The men who play the game, the fans who pay to see them play, the team builders  tasked with putting the teams on the field, and the managers who have to run the games and make the moves that mean distinction or disaster, deserve as level a field as possible.

The era of actual/alleged performance-enhancing substances was considered criminal for undermining the level playing field. Tanking teams are considered criminally negligent for providing something less than truly competitive product. Likewise, when it comes to honest competition, inconsistently-made baseballs should be considered weapons of mash  destruction.

Baseball’s death wish?

Rob Manfred

Rob Manfred announcing the cancellation of the 2022 regular season’s first two weeks. He has made clear his vision for the good of the game is making money for the owners and too little more.

I’ve quoted it often but it all but screams now. “We try every way we can think of to kill this game,” said Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson once upon a time, “but for some reason nothing nobody does never hurts it.”

That’s Anderson’s body among many now performing imitations of washing machine spin cycles in their graves, while their beings in the Elysian Fields pray today’s baseball owners haven’t pushed the game closer to its own.

“I had hoped against hope,” commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday evening, “I wouldn’t have to have this press conference where I am going to cancel some regular season games. I want to assure [baseball] fans that our failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort by either party.”

It was to laugh that you might not wish to commit manslaughter.

That was the man whom we are, as one Twitter denizen tweeted, “old enough to remember [saying] cancelling regular season games over his MLB #Lockout would be a disaster.” The disaster is of Manfred’s own and his bosses’s making.

That was the man whose bosses, the owners, compelled him to impose a lockout, just after midnight 1 December, when baseball’s previous collective bargaining agreement expired, rather than allow themselves and the Major League Baseball Players Association to continue operating the game under the former agreement while negotiating a new one.

That was the man who presided over 43 days’ worth of absolute dead silence from the owners’ side to follow. Dead silence, including nothing in the way of an offer from the owners to the players. Dead silence, but not oblivion.

Eyes unclouded by either cataracts or selectivity saw this was not dismissable as mere  billionaires versus millionaires. Eyes thus unclouded saw that Manfred claiming major league baseball franchises return less on what is invested to buy and run them was a shameless and shabby lie.

Eyes at full strength see that only 31.4 percent of the players’ union’s active major league membership earns more than a million dollars in a season, that 28.2 percent of that membership are minor league players on teams’ forty-man rosters who earn no more than $40,500.

“Player pay has decreased for four consecutive years, even as industry revenues grew and franchise values soared and the would-be stewards of the game pleaded to anyone who would listen that owning a baseball team isn’t a particularly profitable venture,” wrote ESPN analyst Jeff Passan on the day of Manfred’s first deadline for a deal without cancelling games.

Players’ service time has been manipulated to keep them from free agency and salary arbitration. The luxury tax, instituted to discourage runaway spending, has morphed into a de facto salary cap, and too many teams are nowhere near it anyway, instead gutting their rosters and slashing their payrolls because the game’s rules incentivize losing. The commissioner has called the World Series trophy a “piece of metal,” and the league has awarded the team that did the best job curtailing arbitration salaries a replica championship belt.

Eyes open wide saw that Manfred and his bosses are the (lack of) class attempting nothing short of its level best to push players further back toward what they were prior to 1975-76.

That was then: Curt Flood, in his courageous but failed bid to break the ancient abused reserve clause, proclaimed, “A $90,000 a year slave is still a slave.” And, Andy Messersmith, who finished what Flood started: “I was tired of players having no power and no rights.” This is now: Owners and their administrators, enough of whom originate in the corporate world, refer to baseball players as assets, commodities, elements, liabilities, pieces.

They wish you to forget that baseball is unlike the typical industry in which the worker bees make the products sold, because in baseball the worker bees are the product sold.

They also wish you to forget that a small market is in the eye and the adjusted ledger of the beholder. “There is no such thing as a ‘small market’,” tweeted Ben Verlander, an actor and the brother of future Hall of Fame pitcher Justin Verlander. “If you want a bigger market. Put more money into your team and make them competitive.” (The “small market” Pirates, believed among baseball’s premiere tankers, are worth $1.2 billion.)

Last weekend, negotiations dragged before Monday’s marathon sessions deep into the night enabled exactly what the players thought would occur, the owners refusing to budge more than milliliters if that far on any concessions the Players Association wanted to sign on the proverbial dotted line—and then propagating as Manfred ultimately did that by God they’d gone to the mattresses trying to get a deal.

This time, however, the players had an invaluable weapon in the PR wars. They weren’t shy about taking it to social media, any more than serious fans were shy about hitting the Internet running to fact-check any and just about every one of Manfred’s claims about the owners in serious binds. Finding them very wanting.

“If times are so tough for these clubs financially over the last five years,” tweeted Giants third baseman Evan Longoria Tuesday afternoon, “show us the financials. Be transparent.”

From the moment the lockout began through the moment Commissioner Nero announced the first two series of the regular season were cancelled—if not for his entire commissionership—he’s been very transparent about his view of the good of the game: making money for the owners, and precious little else.

Another future Hall of Fame pitcher, Max Scherzer, whose plainspokenness and willingness to put in sixteen-hour days at the bargaining table has impressed as much as he impresses on the mound, makes plain he’s not thinking purely of himself or the considerable dollars he’ll lose for every regular season day with an unplayed game.

“It’s about everybody else. I’m in a position to fight for those guys and sacrifice my salary to make this game better,” Max the Knife insisted to USA Today baseball columnist Bob Nightengale.

We all want to make the game better for the next generation behind us, and we’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen. The former players that fought for the game and fought for the players, I realized the benefits from that. I had an unbelievable career for all of the rights that everybody fought for, going back to Curt Flood. Now I have the opportunity to do that for the next generation.

“Scherzer and the union are fighting for pay for the young players who aren’t eligible for salary arbitration, seeking large raises in minimum salary and bonus pools,” Nightengale continued.

They are fighting to make sure that teams are actually trying to win and not to collect draft picks with a draft lottery. They are fighting to make sure that every team can freely sign free agents without a restrictive luxury tax, pointing out the absurdity of the San Diego Padres having a larger payroll than the New York Yankees. They are fighting to make sure the integrity of the regular season is not compromised, willing to accept a twelve-team playoff system, but not fourteen teams.

It would be even better if Scherzer and his fellows, and Nightengale and his fellows in the baseball press, also remembered a particular group among the former players who fought for their brethren and for the game itself and who deserve considerably more attention than either the Players Association or the owners have paid.

There remain 525 former major leaguers, playing prior to 1980 but whose careers were short for assorted reasons, frozen out of that year’s pension re-alignment, but who were gained $625 per 43 days’ major league service time in a 2011 deal between the late Players Association director Michael Weiner and then-commissioner Bud Selig, worth up to $10,000 a year for them depending on their actual major league time.

Those players—including 1969 Miracle Mets Rod Gaspar and Bobby Pfeil and former Rangers fresh-from-high-school pitching phenom turned mishandled David Clyde—didn’t receive those annual stipends as they should have in February, also thanks to the owners’ apparent baseball death wish.

“The owners . . . still they couldn’t help themselves, couldn’t resist going for the throat,” writes The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal. “They, too, could end up net losers, depending upon how much [baseball’s] place in the entertainment landscape is diminished. But they seemingly would rather take that risk than satisfy the players who pitch and hit and make teams so valuable.”

The day you see baseball fans walking about wearing jerseys with names on the back such as Angelos, Crane, Lerner, Liberty, Monfort, Moreno, Nutting, Guggenheim, Reinsdorf, Ricketts, or Steinbrenner, among others, is the day you should see swine in the colours of American Airlines.

“They may not break the union,” writes Rosenthal’s fellow Athletic scribe Andy McCullough of Manfred and his bosses. “But they will break something.” They already have. They’ve broken the heart of a nation starved for the sort of post pan-damn-ic normalcy that baseball alone might provide.