In MLB, here's hoping for less off-the-field drama this time around

Once the Major League Baseball season started in late July, the focus shifted away from negotiations between players and owners and back to the field. It was wonderful to discuss wins and losses, player slumps, lineup and rotation decisions, and bullpen matters over money matters.

But in this sport right now, the board room and what will happen there is as important as what happens on the ball field.

The sport's collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players expires on Dec. 1, 2021. So this coming season is the last of the current agreement.

Here is a fervent hope that the sides will handle the upcoming labor talks much, much better than they handled the talks leading up to the 2020 season. If you remember, the sides came to an agreement on a season in late March. Then they could not agree on that agreement. Rather than get their act together for the betterment of the sport, each side fired off nasty letters to the other and then leaked information through the media. It got ugly. It was ugly.

This is a saga to learn from and not repeat.

As the talks toward a new agreement start to take place, it's time to do so out of the media and in face-to-face talks (or at least Zoom sessions) and not through letters. Who negotiates through letters for anything anymore? Good grief.

Camden-Yards-View-from-Behind-Plate-Sidebar.jpgBut the sides have another issue to resolve. How will the 2021 season play out? That is still up for much discussion. When will it start? Will there be 162 games? Will fans be allowed to attend?

These discussions will no doubt be front and center over the next few months as the sport will have to monitor how our country is doing in the battle against the coronavirus. That will dictate everything else that happens.

We'll see if the universal designated hitter returns and if the clubs want to play under the same extra-inning rule with a runner placed at second base. Will doubleheaders continue to be seven innings or return to normal? A lot to still figure out for the season to come.

But as we saw leading up to the 2020 season, the contentious nature of the talks and mistrust of each other was a real problem. A huge problem. Fans were not taking sides between the Orioles and Yankees but between the owners and players. Players were tweeting out their thoughts and some didn't hold much back. It was not good for baseball, in my humble opinion.

For now, MLB still has not announced anything about the 2021 minor league season. We are all anxiously waiting to find out where the O's affiliates will be. It seems to me that MLB has won a power struggle with Minor League Baseball and will make changes it deems necessary for better player development. But there will be some pain with this gain, if it does in fact prove to be a gain. Some communities that have done nothing wrong could lose their affiliations with big league clubs.

So in the sport of baseball, there is no game tonight anywhere, but there is so much to do. Resolve the situation with the minor leagues. Resolve how to handle the 2021 season. Negotiate a new labor agreement and hope to produce some labor peace in a sport which had so much in the last two decades.

Other than that, not much going on.

Here is hoping this time there are no nasty letters to the other side, no media leaks, no taking sides. Just resolving issues behind the scenes and trying to do so in a timely fashion.

In the last year, the pandemic has hurt so many in so many ways. Good people throughout baseball lost jobs. Heck, some great people, I really should say.

But let's not forget before the virus hit, baseball seemed to be thriving financially. There was enough money to go around for players and owners. Plenty of it.

So this time, figure out how to divide it up without putting your fans through the ringer again. The last year has been too rough. Time for less fighting over the control of a very big pie and time for finding more ways to split it up equitably.

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