While We’re Waiting

No baseball.

Yes, I know. We’ve got college ball. We’ll have minor league baseball shortly. Odds are, if MLB doesn’t give us any signs of progress, we’ll get Korean and Japanese baseball on TV.

But for many of us, that’s all methadone. We want the full-on MLB experience.

Maybe not every little bit of it. I, for one, could do without the outrageously expensive tickets, the TV blackouts, or the looming threat of robot umpires. Which probably gives you some idea of which side of the labor strife I’m on.

Not that I think the players are blameless either. But I’m sympathetic to their desire to make the most of their skills.

I had a dream. No, not literally. That was last week.

But I dreamt that Congress found something to unite behind: revoking MLB’s anti-trust exemption. With that and a few other changes, a rival league could rise up. Maybe one of the independent leagues could catch major attention with a retro approach, rolling back all of the oddball experiments MLB has inflicted on us. Or go the other way, trying a bunch of experiments to see what really works–like the original XFL, but with a dose of sanity.

Of course, none of that would work without access to players. So the other half of the dream is to free up the players, which would require additional legislation. The goal would be to break the bonds that tie players to a single team from Day One. So, block the draft and require that MLB contracts be subject to “At Will” requirements.

A software engineer at Google can over to Apple–or go independent with her own startup–without Apple having to send Google two QA Analysts to be named later. So why can’t a ballplayer with, say, the Phillies, send a note to the Orioles–or the Austin Weirdos*–“Hey, I hear you’re looking for a second baseman. I’m having a breakout year; what’s 6 WAR worth to you?”

* Currently in the Pecos independent league. But in a new regulatory regime, who knows?

Obviously, there’d need to be some limitations. But any league could set their own rules: no player hired after such-and-such a date can play in the playoffs, for example. Or in our hypothetical XBL, maybe players hired in the last month of the season or during the playoffs have to wear flat shoes instead of cleats.

None of the above is ever going to happen, of course. MLB is too good at defending its turf. But our current freedom from MLB means we’ve got some freedom to make our own 2022 season.

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