So now that 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1 has come and gone, the next date for baseball fans to watch out for is Feb. 15. If the Major League Baseball lockout that began late Wednesday isn’t resolved by then, it’s time to panic.
Right now, though, not so much. Spring training traditionally begins the second week in February, when — fingers crossed! — players will be back on the field. Between now and then, however, players and owners have a lot of work to do to reach a collective-bargaining agreement and unstop this work stoppage.
The League called the lockout as the latest and, it seemed, inevitable step after years of tense labor relations.
Money, of course, is at the root. Players want younger — and less expensive — team members to be better compensated earlier in their careers, making them eligible for free agency sooner than the six years now required.
Which, brings us to the Miami Marlins. It’s a team with a lot of young talent. It’s also a team that plays to lot of empty seats in fair-weather-friends Miami. The players need to be on the field, honing their skills, dazzling fans and filling stadium seats. In 2019, the Marlins had the lowest attendance in the entire league — about 10,000 fans a night — and that was pre-COVID. And the knowledge that attendance was sliding throughout the League’s clubs made the Marlins “ouch!” hurt even more.
We cannot afford for these athletes to be idle for too long. The broader community can’t afford to miss the economic benefits that baseball can bring, especially jobs, in this income-unequal region.
Florida, too, needs baseball in there pitching. The state hosts 15 teams during spring training, bringing in, over two months, more than 1.5 million attendees, plus the money they and teams spend.
So that’s why Feb. 15 is the date to watch. It’ll be here in a minute — and the holidays are intervening. Until then, though, don’ t panic. Just keep your fingers crossed for some good cheer to infuse MLB negotiations.