O’Neil: NASCAR didn’t have to steal baseball’s thunder — baseball dropped the ball

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I couldn’t help but think of baseball as I watched the finish to Monday’s NASCAR race.

MLB season update: Where we are and how we got here

The race was won in a photo finish by a driver I’ve never heard of – Ryan Blaney – who edged another driver I’ve never heard of – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – while a third driver I’ve never heard of – Aric Almirola – spun at the end and actually crossed the finish line pointed backward. THAT is what a lack of sports will do to you. It will cause me – on a Monday afternoon – to shout at the finish of a NASCAR race where the driver I was cheering for lost a chance to win because he needed to refuel.

And that’s why baseball screwed up. Because baseball had that opportunity. And it blew it.

And now baseball is going to impose a 60-game regular season and we see just how much of a charade the previous seven weeks have been. Baseball didn’t want to pay for as much baseball as it could play. Baseball wanted to pay about $1.5 billion in salary and so it spent the last month and a half trying to finagle the players into playing MORE baseball games for that price before saying, “Fine, we’ll just go with the rules we agreed to back in late March.”

I can’t say the baseball owners were wrong to dial back their spending. They’re looking at an entirely disrupted economy without having live attendance. I do think that the owners are being short-sighted, though, because they just looked at an opportunity in which they could have been the first sport to get back on the field at a time in which this country is famished for sports, and they decided, “Man, it’s too expensive.”

And while that decision may be economically defensible from a business perspective, the comically unproductive negotiations with the players were detrimental to everyone involved. Given an opportunity to have the stage to itself, MLB owners took part in the negotiating equivalent of “The Jerry Springer Show.”

Everyone looked terrible, though on a positive note: It did give me an opportunity catch a heck of a stock car race.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

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