The Super Bowl is in the rearview mirror, and Spring Training is less than two weeks away.
But instead of getting excited for the upcoming baseball season, we have more owner/player/agent/union/league fighting to address, and a frozen market sitting idly behind it all, threatening to make everything that much more tense with each passing day.
Yo, 2018, what’s going on?
- At Yahoo Sports, Jeff Passan writes about those rising tensions from a player’s perspective and how, despite legitimate arguments, there’s a distinct lack of leadership, unanimity, and education (in terms of what, specifically and legally, the players can and cannot do – not in terms of intelligence or anything like that).
"We're all going to walk right off the cliff together."
The battle inside the MLBPA to establish a strategy and find unity as its labor fight against Major League Baseball threatens to turn into a war. News at Yahoo Sports: https://t.co/uA1S9dmZTH pic.twitter.com/jmTgUsaPgO
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 4, 2018
- Apparently, at one point, there were talks about not reporting to camp until the mandatory reporting date (February 24th) as a show of solidarity and seriousness (that’s ten days after most players typically arrive), but as Passan points out, that might be at risk of being deemed an illegal strike – and there’s plenty of evidence of intent. From where I sit, something along those lines might be the right idea for the players, but they clearly need to calculate their next move carefully. And to do so, they need cohesive, determined leadership, with clear set of goals and an even clearer plan. You can’t have some players (or their agents) calling for a strike, while others and the union say there’s no such plan. Otherwise you look as weak and feckless as – I’m sorry to say – the players and union look right now.
- Through a series of older, but still legal (and not unheard of in the sports labor world) loopholes, Nathaniel Grow (FanGraphs) discusses a very interesting path forward for the players: disbanding the MLBPA. Although it may seem like a crazy move on its face, it’s been done in other sports, and disbanding the union would essentially leave the 30 MLB teams open to antitrust litigation. Basically, if there’s a union involved and they negotiate for certain items (like, say, the luxury tax threshold) on behalf of the players, then the teams are immune/exempt from those items being declared illegal under antitrust challenges. If the union goes away, however, those are no longer exempt and the players gain some leverage in upcoming negotiations (Give us this, that, and the other thing, and we’ll drop the lawsuit). There are other factors at play (including the Supreme Court’s antitrust exemption for baseball, which may or may not apply), but it’s a very interesting read.
- At Baseball America, J.J. Cooper goes through a few options to address the tanking problem in baseball. And after throwing out the idea of a draft lottery (NBA has one and it hasn’t really addressed the problem) and a spending floor (doesn’t inherently disincentive losing at all), he lands on something he calls the “Tank Tax.” Here’s how it would work, in Cooper’s own words: “The same draft system continues to exist. The worst team picks first, the second worst picks second, etc., with one caveat: any team that fails to win 70 games in back-to-back seasons faces a 10-spot draft penalty.” Cooper goes on to explain that this penalty could worsen after three years (15 spot loss) and so on. We can argue about whether that number should be more or less than 70 wins (Cooper acknowledges that it’s merely a suggestion), but I think it’s generally one of a few good ideas.
- If you recall, Brett recently proposed his own anti-tanking draft procedure wherein the teams that lose the Wild Card games would get the top picks in the draft. The idea gets even more interesting when you consider the potential for MLB team (and playoff) expansion: “If the league is expanded to 32 teams, and you increase to four Wild Card Teams in each league (with either four or two division winners, depending on alignment), you’d have two teams in each league losing a Wild Card Game, and thus heading into the pool of the top four picks. That means, by virtue of tanking alone, the very best pick – and bonus pool slot – you could get yourself is fifth.” This would help incentivize winning and dis-incentivize losing all at the same time. I like it.
- I absolutely love this piece from Travis Sawchik (FanGraphs), wherein he explores the moral and civic differences of owning a baseball team versus any other business. Sure, a team might be a business at the end of the day, but there’s a very big difference between the Cubs and, say, Microsoft: “Baseball owners are not selling widgets. They are selling a product that has the city’s name scripted across the chest of road jerseys. They own an institution that represents tribal and emotional interests.” And more to Sawchik’s point, the hope and promise of a better, more efficient tomorrow has conditioned baseball fans to expect so much less out of their cities and teams than they might out of another business.
- The bit in there from Rob Mains’ article at BP, about why owners buy baseball teams instead of investing their money in more “normal” ventures struck a cord with me. Perhaps fans don’t need to “fundamentally redesign the economics of baseball,” the fans in some markets just need to get their expectations back in check and then hold owners accountable.
- Speaking of which …. Back in 2008, Marlins owner Jeffery Loria secured public funding for the bulk of the $515M new Marlins stadium. Part of the deal, however, included the fact that if Loria sold the team within ten years (which he did), the county/city would have the right to 5% of the profits. Well, despite selling the team for *literally* $1 BILLION (with a “B”) more than he bought it for, Loria is claiming that after deducting team debt and certain other expenses and taxes … it was a losing venture and the city should expect a check for a big fat $0.00. The mayor is apparently weighing the decision to sue, because he rejects Loria’s suggestion that there are no profits to share, claiming that Lora’s probably walking away “with hundreds of millions of dollars in his pocket.” Even after leaving MLB, Loria is still creating hostility.
- Last year, the New York Yankees hit 241 home runs, which led the Major Leagues, and was one of the 16 highest totals in the history of the sport. But now, with Giancarlo Stanton added to the mix, the question becomes: can the 2018 Yankees beat the 264 HRs hit by the 1997 Seattle Mariners (who had Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner)? Mike Petriello takes a closer look at their chances at MLB.com.
- Back in 1861, 20 members of the Charter Oak and Atlantic Baseball Clubs organized a baseball game on a frozen pond in New York, and Ashley Varela recounts the tale (with hilarious imagery) at NBC Sports. Yep, it’s baseball on ice and it finished with a final score of 36-27 for obvious reasons. I have to say … I’d watch the heck out of that.
- Earlier today, the FanGraphs 2018 Top 100 Prospect Rankings came out, and, like Baseball America and MLB Pipeline before them, the Cubs landed nobody on the list. Also like those rankings, former Cub Eloy Jimenez remains in the top ten and the Reds Nick Senzel is the highest ranked player from the NL Central. Interestingly, Gleyber Torres fell quite a bit in this set of rankings – down to 12th – which is pretty surprising and a bit of a divergence from other lists I’ve seen this season.
- And finally, at Baseball is Fun, I ran into video of a 12-year-old girl not only hanging with the boys in the Japanese Junior Baseball Tournament, but also really bringing the heat!
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) February 5, 2018