GOING OUT OF BUSINESS?

Here's why there's so much at stake for MLB, Astros with lockout in full swing

Here's why there's so much at stake for MLB, Astros with lockout in full swing
Get ready to wait. Composite image by Jack Brame.

By locking out their players, Major League Baseball owners may not just kill their golden goose, they risk wiping out the whole gaggle. And, yes, I had to ask Siri, “What do you call a group of geese?”

Baseball’s lockout started precisely at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. Until team owners and the players’ union knock out a new collective bargaining agreement, there will be no free agent signings, no trades, no workouts or medical treatment at team facilities …

Essentially, America’s national pastime shut down tight. And like so often when multimillionaires get into a spat, it’s the little guy, the poor shnook who buys tickets and T-shirts, who roots roots roots for the home team, who gets screwed.

This is a tough one – whose side are we on? The players who make oil baron money for playing a kids’ game, who stay in 5-star hotels on the road, who get $100-a-day meal money even though stadium clubhouses put out a spread worthy of a Beverly Hills bat mitzvah, (the visitors clubhouse at Yankee Stadium serves steak and lobster), make a fortune scribbling their name at autograph shows and still leave 10-percent tips at Hooters?

If the visitors clubhouse at Yankee Stadium serves steak and lobster, what’s going on in the home clubhouse – wenches in togas feeding grapes by hand? Tough life these players lead.

Or the owners, even the skinflints who field last-place teams, who make millions by selling beer and hot dogs at six times what they pay at wholesale even on Dollar Dog Night. Jim Crane and his buddies bought the Houston Astros for $680 million in 2011. The team is valued at $1.8 billion today.

As usual, it’s all about money. Money can’t buy you love, but it can keep a Cy Young winner in Houston. Major League Baseball is a $10 billion-a-year industry. Players want to make more. Owners want to keep more. There you have it. Meanwhile Francisco Lindor, making $341 million, makes “thumbs down” gestures at his hometown Mets fans?

Poor Carlos Correa now has to wait for the players and owners to reach a new agreement before he can sign with another team … or the Astros. In the meantime, perhaps he should wear a Hazmat suit everywhere he goes and boil himself at night to keep from incurring an injury. And stay off the massage table, we know how dangerous a rubdown can be.

Analysts are saying it could be a long lockout, like the last baseball stoppage in 1994-95, when they canceled the 1994 World Series. Which brings up the question, how stupid is baseball? The game’s popularity is waning, young people don’t seem to care anymore, attendance is dwindling … and the owners and players, the two sides that benefit the most from baseball slap a “Closed for Business” on the locked front door. Keep it up and that sign may read “Going Out of Business.”

It took several years and a home run battle between two steroid freaks to revive baseball after the ’94-’95 players strike. That’s not going to happen next year. They hand out Dixie Cups now.

The hope is a settlement in by Feb. 1 so spring training can start on time, or at least by March 1 so teams can play their completely unnecessary 30-game spring schedule. Funny how NBA teams need only four preseason games, the NFL only three games and college football zero games. And those teams actually require players to be in shape from the get-go.

Baseball players are among the most pampered humans short of Halle Berry getting ready for the Academy Awards. Team owners make millions, in some cases billions, for sitting behind home plate and watching their team flop come crunch time. The New York Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2009. The Yanks are worth $5.25 billion. The Chicago Cubs have won one World Series in Betty White’s lifetime …$3.36 billion.

It’s time for the players and owners to get this lockout over real fast. At some point fans won’t care when and if it’s time to “Play Ball.”

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Following Houston's 6-4 road trip, the Astros returned home to finish the first "half" of the season before the All Star break hosting Florida and Texas. Houston's road trip was filled with clutch performances in New York, dominance in taking 3 of 4 in Toronto, and a dose of close calls and tough realities with a short-handed team against Minnesota.

Now the Astros hope to take care of business against the lowly Marlins and division rival Rangers. The Texas series, in particular gives Houston the opportunity to reassert their hold on the #2 spot ahead of the Rangers who have won their last 5 games in a row (as of the time this was published). Both teams have won 7 of their last 10 games and hope to catch a free-falling Seattle team to overtake the division lead.

Dana Brown told the media last week he expects both Justin Verlander and Kyle Tucker to be reactivated following the All-Star break but Tucker's updates continue to be more promising than Verlander's and MUCH more promising than Lance McCullers. Astros manager informed the media this week that McCullers has been shut down from throwing after his arm did not respond well to his recent bullpen sessions and the team is formulating the plan for what's next for the embattled pitcher. McCullers hasn't pitched since the 2022 postseason and underwent season-ending flexor tendon surgery last June. McCullers is under contract with Houston until 2026.

An eventual return for Kyle Tucker would spur a juggling act from Joe Espada to find a proper balance of time for all his outfielders, none of which have separated themselves offensively. Chas McCormick had a great month of June recording an .804 OPS but that run looks more like an anomaly as his scuffles have continued over the past 2.5 weeks, recording just 4 hits over his last 32 plate appearances.

While Jake Meyers has wowed fans and teammates with his glove this season, his offense has hit a skid, hitting just .184 with a .565 OPS over the past month. After rookie Joey Loperfido's torrid debut, he too has struggled with the bat, hitting just .216 with .599 OPS over the same time period.

An unexpected bright spot has been the recent play of first baseman Jon Singleton. Over the last 4 weeks, "Big Jon" is batting .302 with an .802 OPS. It's worth mentioning that Singleton's season numbers are better than Florida's Josh Bell, who drew interest from Astros fans over the past several seasons as a potential answer at first base. Bell has 135 more ABs this season so its not quite an apples-to-apples comparison but there's no doubt Singleton's contributions were sorely needed following the release of Jose Abreu.

To watch part 1 of this week's episode of Stone Cold StrosStone Cold Stros, just click the video above or to listen to the entire episode on podcast, search "Stone Cold Stros" in your favorite podcast app or click one of the following links.

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