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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

How did MLB, players union let it get this far in the first place?

Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer didn't hold back his

Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer didn't hold back his disdain for the state of baseball in a tweet Monday.  Credit: AP/John Bazemore

Remember the outrage Rob Manfred sparked earlier this year when he referred to the Commissioner’s Trophy, presented annually to the World Series winner, as a “piece of metal?”

That’s actually too good for baseball now. This year’s champion should be handed a rusty muffler stamped with the MLB logo. In serving up five weeks of this garbage to the fans, the owners and players reduced their loyal customers to collateral damage while squandering a golden opportunity to be something bigger than the game during this pandemic.

Instead, everyone involved just behaved a little bit smaller with each passing day, too blinded by hate for each other to do the right thing. What they ultimately managed to do Monday was force everyone into what will be a Manfred-stamped 60-game season, according to multiple reports, after the Players Association turned down a chance at a deal by a 33-5 vote. The proposal also included a universal DH for two years and what MLB said was additional earnings that would push the players’ prorated salaries to 104% total.

“Needless to say, we are disappointed by this development,” MLB said Monday night in a statement. “The framework provided an opportunity for MLB and its players to work together to confront the difficulties and challenges presented by the pandemic.”

Work together. That’s funny. After nearly three months, and five weeks of intense bickering, all they did was end up moving forward under the terms of the March 26 agreement. Expanded playoffs would have been cool. But now that ain’t happening.

Let’s just be glad it appears to be over. If this was December, they’d still be fighting, trading insults, showing way more enthusiasm for labor warfare than the game of baseball itself.

Fortunately, we’re not in the middle of winter. Between typing out those vicious emails to each other, somebody finally looked up at the calendar and realized we were getting toward the end of June. So the Players Association got together Monday afternoon to vote on Manfred’s 60-game proposal. Anyone paying attention this whole time already knew the answer.

Ultimately, the players got what they wanted most -- those 100% pro-rata salaries. But to what end? The owners just kept chopping down the season until the number of games matched their bottom line, and the players were powerless to stop it. They can seek retribution later, in the form of a $1 billion grievance, but that doesn’t really do baseball any good. The fans don’t have much use for revenge. They actually love the game, and all the owners and players did was deprive them of that one thing -- during a pandemic, with record unemployment and civil unrest due to racial injustice. That’s a mind-boggling sentence to write.

“It’s absolute death for this industry to keep acting as it has been,” the Reds’ Trevor Bauer tweeted Monday. “Both sides. We’re driving the bus straight off a cliff. How is this good for anyone involved? COVID-19 already presented a lose-lose situation and we’ve somehow found way to make it worse. Incredible.”

Bauer punctuated his tweet with a facepalm emoji, but that’s putting it mildly. He should have went with the puking face or mushroom cloud. Because this has got to be making fans either sick or furious, to have their hopes repeatedly smashed, on almost an everyday basis for the past five weeks.

To think there was a time we actually entertained the notion of baseball returning on July 4, the national pastime coming to the rescue on the country’s birthday as the first sport to help in the recovery process. It was too perfect.

And now? We feel ridiculous for even buying in to such a noble idea. What evidence was there to suggest that either side had any interest in doing something for the greater good? Both MLB and the Players Association make sure to mention the fans in practically every press release, but their actions speak louder.

Do you believe for a second that any of this is being done for the fans’ benefit? At this point, the merciful thing would be to call off the season right now so the fans can redirect their attention somewhere else, like golf or the Premier League or NASCAR.

“While we had hoped to reach a revised back to work agreement with the league, the players remain fully committed to proceeding under our current agreement,” the union said Monday in a statement, “and getting back on the field for the fans, for the game, and for each other.”

Did they mean this summer? Or 2021? It’s hard to tell anymore. Manfred gave the players until 5 p.m. Tuesday to inform him if they could report by July 1 for spring training. He also seeks their approval for the league’s health/safety protocols.

Finally, Manfred was forced into putting on a season. You know, anything for the fans.

New York Sports