Remember in “Breaking Bad” when Walt rehired Jesse at the lab just so Jesse meets Hank for assaulting him?
The arrangement met everyone’s short-term needs. It also produced considerably more agita long-term.
Which brings to mind the 50ish-game Major League Baseball regular-season schedule that Rob Manfred, on behalf of his owners, threatened to impose upon Tony Clark and his players. It would represent a grudging reboot, the opposite of genuine collaboration, and it certainly wouldn’t bode well for the game’s future, especially with the current Basic Agreement expiring next year.
It would stain Manfred’s legacy and could imperil Clark’s job security.
The pain and risk to this potential plan extends well beyond the commissioner and the MLB Players Association executive director. How about a list of five people besides Manfred and Clark with the most to lose from this mini-menu of a campaign? You know you love lists:
1. Mark Lerner
As the managing director of the Nationals, the defending champions, Lerner has already missed out on the sweetest plum from prevailing: the ticket-sale and TV-rating bounce for the year after. Lerner spent $ 245 million last December to retain stud pitcher Stephen Strasburg and maintain the club’s stellar starting rotation, its secret to success.
As the Nats appreciate better than anyone, however, a 50-game season has revealed much. Washington hit its 2019 nadir at the 50-game mark, dropping a Mets decision to fall to 19-31 before rising. This talented, fun group deserves a legitimate chance to repeat and further build its brand. It might not get it.
2. James Paxton
The entire 2020-21 free-agent group will take a beating because of the losses clubs will sustain this year regardless of how many games get played. Nevertheless, top guys in their year walk like Mookie Betts, J.T. Realmuto and the Mets’ Marcus Stroman can take some comfort in the notion that, if they get as much as they anticipate for the coronavirus shutdown, they need not sweat having to excel in the reduced schedule. Baseball people know who they are and what they can do.
Paxton’s platform year with the Yankees feels different. He has established his ceiling as a frontline starting pitcher. He has not, however, proven his durability, with last innings 163 ² / ₃ innings pitched (including 13 postseason innings) setting a career high. The ability to stay upright and above average for less than one-third your regular season standard significantly alleviate such concerns, though you know Paxton’s agent Scott Boras would try to do just that. And if Paxton does sustain another injury, he’ll probably look at a contract pillow for 2021.
3. Dusty Baker
He signed a one-year contract to manage the Astros, replacing the dismissed A.J. Hinch in the wake of Houston’s sign-stealing scandal. If we had no season at all, the Astros would surely bring back the revered Baker to give him a shot in ’21. What if a 50-game run by the Astros goes sideways for whatever reason, though? The Astros could easily decide to move on with a different skipper.
4. Brodie Van Wagenen
Fifty games would be better than zero for the Mets general manager, who built a win-now roster for a sell-now owner. And hey, maybe these Mets can benefit from the shorter schedule now that Noah Syndergaard is out, not to mention the multiple strong candidates they have to start at designated hitter. Still, any sports executive with his or her job in question – who’s to say the next Mets owner wants to install someone new in the GM’s office? – would want as long a season as possible to not only tell the truth on a team’s quality but also to give the executive room to maneuver. This looks like the wrong year for that.
5. Bill Marriott
A two-month regular season, as opposed to the 82-game calendar that would make the most sense, means less months of travel for clubs and less money to infuse into hotels (OK, few teams stay at the Marriotts nowadays, but you get the idea), airlines, restaurants and the like. It would represent just another case of baseball not acting like a social institution it professes to be. Which is a reality to which we are all becoming accustomed, right?