Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and how baseball bungled its best offseason

As the free agency status of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado nears a merciful end, it serves as further proof of how MLB just doesn’t get the marketing game.

Leave it to Major League Baseball to turn something great into something boring.

The league that brought you the four-hour game featuring 12 pitching changes has turned a free agent class with two of the best young hitters in the game into a bore-a-thon.

At some point, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will sign. Based on what we know, they will sign with the Dodgers, White Sox, Phillies, Yankees or Cubs. We know this because it has been discussed for more than two months. When these two players sign, the sports world will react with a collective ho-hum and move on to something really exciting.

Such the ACL Cornhole Championship (yeah, that’s really a thing).

Everything about the Harper and Machado signings has been talked to death. No one cares anymore. If this were the NFL, this would be the equivalent of Travis Kelce and Todd Gurley hitting the market at the same time. That’s the kind of news that should dominate.

Instead, it’s been turned into white noise.

That’s a damning statement about the state of baseball. The NFL and NBA have turned free agency and the draft into versions of Christmas for their fans. Baseball has turned free agency into something akin to Yom Kippur or Passover.

Yeah, I said it. I’m Jewish. I’m allowed.

For those who don’t get the reference, Yom Kippur is “celebrated” by fasting and spending most of the day in a synagogue praying. That’s not celebrating. Likewise, if you’ve eaten a Passover meal, you know from what I speak.

Oh, how we suffer.

I feel the same way reading about baseball free agency. Can we just get it over with already? I’m in hour 23 of a fast and I don’t care anymore.

What should have been excitement has been turned into pure boredom. My Dinner With Andre would classify as an action movie in baseball’s world.

Baseball simply doesn’t get it. Commissioner Rob Manfred and the generation of middle-aged men who run baseball are so out of touch with the entertainment business that they think MySpace is still a thing.

And yes, I’m a baseball fan. I still play in five fantasy leagues and I love the artistry of the game. But after decades of watching men like Tony La Russa ruin a great game by over-managing and taking the ball out of the hands of the players (you know, the people fans actually pay to watch), I barely watch the game. I read about it. I watch some selected highlights.

But I can’t watch anymore. It’s not exciting. The people who run the game have drained all the excitement from it. Baseball attendance numbers and TV ratings are well known and inarguable.

Now, however, those people have also drained the excitement out of what should be a great sweepstakes for the services of two of the best young players in the game. Harper and Machado are generational talents hitting the open market in the middle of their prime.

Sadly, it seems as if a generation will pass before they sign.

At this point, baseball actually has to hope this waits a little. With the NFL playoffs in full swing, any chance to dominate the news cycle is pretty much gone for MLB until the maybe a two-day window after the conference championship games. For a couple of days, baseball will be able to take center stage.

At least until the Senior Bowl and Pro Bowl get played the following weekend.

That is how low baseball has sunk in relevance and its ability to market itself: Unless the league is wise about how it handles the news, its biggest news of the offseason will get trumped by a pair of all-star games that are both terrible and meaningless.

As my people would say, oy vey.

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