MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

Stuck in the dead of what seems to be a real winter for a change (I much prefer our fake winters) and with just three games left in the #NFLTheTVShow season, it won’t be long before we’ll be getting our annual dry-skin itch for baseball.

Well, we’re likely going to have to make it a very long and very comforting scratch, because things are not looking too promising there these days.

Just 22 days from the start of spring training and 66 from Opening Day, it’s quite possible we might not see either one for quite some time. We are in the midst of a lockout, which means it is the owners’ doing, which means it is more likely to last longer than a players’ strike might since the owners are the ones who not only promised they’d do this many months ago, but are the ones who are for once true to their word.

Spring training will not start on time, book that. And once – if – there is a spring training, it is most likely to be an abbreviated rush-job spring training the way it was prior to the 1995 season, a season that followed the first owners-canceled World Series in history, which was slightly abbreviated, but mercifully saved by Cal Ripken Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig’s “unbreakable” consecutive games-played streak in September.

Yes, as we find out each day all of these years later, greed always gets lucky …

What nobody seems to want to talk about here is how lopsided this “negotiation” has long been in favor of the owners. This isn’t two sides trying to fairly handle their differences, this has been a long-promised bushwhack by the guys who hold all of the cards, but who want more cards.

The players are actually the ones who are getting jobbed here, perhaps even in the view of certain fans who continue to view them as spoiled and overpaid.

I have never understood why so many fans instantly side with the owners and against the players, even when it’s not the players’ doing. Players, after all, do not order lockouts. They’re the ones being locked out.

Why do fans bristle at players (the reason we watch) being paid handsomely in their small windows for careers, but not billionaire owners for hording billions of dollars for themselves over the course of decades? Maybe for the same reason too many people support filthy tax cuts for the 1 percent even though it makes their own lives much harder – they’re stupid.

“Why should they make so much money for playing a child’s game?”

Well, if it’s so easy, why aren’t you doing it?

As Jimmy Dugan said to Dottie Hinson, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

Now in Commissioner Rob Manfred we have a dweeby little man who made his name, and got his current job, by negotiating collective bargaining agreements. That Manfred has had his current job for seven years should tell you how long the owners have been planning this lockout – almost from the moment of the last collective-bargaining agreement, which still favored the owners.

Manfred is a sorry little person who hates baseball because he doesn’t get baseball. He doesn’t get the game; he doesn’t understand the game, the rules, the designed timelessness of it, the history or the traditions of it. This is why he changes rules of the game and creates kickball-like new rules “to speed up” the game, likely because he got pushed around at recess a lot when he was a kid and then was chased home from school for being a tattle tale.

Actually, though I truly believe he doesn’t get baseball, the reason he makes these decisions is because the owners – his lords and masters – tell him to. He is a bigger, more pathetic puppet than even Roger Goodell is for #NFLTheTVShow.

Think you’re on the verge of getting your annual itch for the start of a new baseball season? Buckle up for an even longer, colder, more miserable itch than usual. It’s growing increasingly evident there is going to be no Major League Baseball in immediate sight.

In the year the late Marvin Miller, the legendary executive director of the MLB Players Association, under whom the players’ union became one of the strongest unions in the United States, finally was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the owners, maybe not so coincidentally, are going to try once again to break the players’ union.

Well, in the spirit of Miller’s own spirit of solidarity, that is not going to happen. The owners will never break this union.

Which is why we could be a very long time without baseball.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT