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The MLB lockout is as much about owner vs. owner as it is owner vs. player, says onetime player agent Barry Axelrod, a Cardiff resident, noting the divide between big market and small market teams. Courtesy photo
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Eager Padres fans must wait, hope

Those pledging allegiance to the Padres have done their part: rinse, spit and get fired up for the season.

Padres fans survived last year’s carnival ride and are hyped about this year. They persevered that emotional roller-coaster of the local nine looking like champions for the first half of season, which only led to an epic face-plant for the second part of it.

That resulted in a distant and familiar third-place finish in the NL West as yet again the Padres required binoculars to find the first-place San Francisco Giants.

But that’s baseball and just when do we get to see it again?

Padres diehards, and their casual followers, need help and in a hurry. It’s past time for our national pastime to quit stranding negotiators and bring home a solution.

The owners and the players remain knotted in a contract dispute, with the parties seeking a way to divide a financial pie that seems to be large enough for everybody.

Then again, as this owner-driven lockout threatens to erase more spring training games and, gasp, opening day, the two sides so far are keen at pointing fingers.

The dust-up is mostly about money and that’s as surprising as the Padres pointing manager Jayce Tingler toward the exit following their most recent flop.

Other issues are about service time, arbitration eligibility and the philosophy that has helped derailed the game — teams tanking to soften their bottom line with labor costs while securing draft picks for a potential better day.

That’s a lot for anyone to digest, which is why we spoke with Cardiff’s Barry Axelrod.

Few baseball folks are as tuned in as Axelrod, a celebrated player agent before switching to the management side late in his career to assist the late Kevin Towers, when he was running the Arizona Diamondbacks. Axelrod has the scars from six baseball work stoppages through his life spent in the sport.

“I know as much as anyone else knows and it’s difficult because no one knows anything,” Axelrod, 75, said. “But I do have a historical perspective and these things are the most ‘un-fun’ things that can happen in so many ways.

“It’s not only the players not being able to be in camp and get ready for the baseball season. Those guys have such a routine for where they do things on a certain day, at a certain hour, and they are lost right now.”

Some of those in uniform have a nest egg to soften the financial blow. Countless more are trying to earn their major league stripes with pockets filled with more lint than cash.

The owners, as well, are missing revenue streams that were knee-capped during the 2020 season that was compromised by COVID-19.

“But it’s so much more far-reaching than that,” said Axelrod, whose clients included former Padres Jake Peavy and Phil Nevin and Baseball Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. “What about these spring training towns with their economical well-being being connected to baseball?”

The ball is in the owners’ court as Axelrod stressed that a work stoppage that was fueled by a lockout has never resulted in a lost regular season game. That wasn’t the case when the players went on strike in 1981 and 1994-95.

Axelrod notes that this stoppage is as much about owner vs. owner as it is owner vs. player. The big-market teams are reluctant to keep sharing their revenues with the smaller markets, especially those that decline to field competitive teams.

“It seems like the owners are way different than before,” Axelrod said. “In this case it’s billionaires vs. billionaires with large egos and many of those teams are run by corporations that don’t have the same sensibilities as the owners before, back when many were family operations.”

Axelrod isn’t all doom-and-gloom. Optimism peeks through with the parties meeting in person and the history lessons Axelrod hopes that others absorbed.

“The 1994-95 strike really eroded the fan base” he said. “I believe the only reason it came back was the show Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa (home run chase) put on and Cal Ripken Jr. chasing Lou Gehrig’s record.”

Round-and-round these negotiators go, with the Padres’ Ron Fowler, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, having a seat at the table.

Hopefully a Padre is soon circling the bases for a season whose start is in jeopardy.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him at jparis_sports