MLBits: Fixing Blackouts, Clevinger Troubles, Economic “Reform,” Cohen Spending, Rizzo and the Yankees, More
Some of the latest news from around Major League Baseball …
Fixing Blackouts and Waiting on Realignment
Thoughts from the Commissioner on two of the hotter topics of late:
I think we already knew that realignment was off the table (and unnecessary) until there is expansion to 32 teams. At that point, you’re very likely to see eight divisions of four teams, with geographic realignment.
As for blackouts, Manfred has suggested this before, but it’s definitely the ideal setup for fans (The Athletic):
Manfred made clear on Thursday at his annual Grapefruit League news conference that, ideally, fans would be able to get any game they want at any time — for all 30 teams.
“I hope we get to the point where on the digital side, when you go to MLB.tv, you can buy whatever the heck you want,” Manfred said. “You can buy the out-of-market package. You can buy the local games, you can buy two sets of local games — whatever you want. I mean, that is, to me, the definition of what is going to be a valuable digital offering going forward.” …
“The blackout issue has been a concern for a number of years. Some of it, maybe a lot of it was built into the structure of the RSN models, when you have an exclusivity that belongs to an RSN. If they don’t get distribution in a particular area, obviously, there’s no games available,” Manfred said. “I think our aggressiveness with respect to stepping in, in the event that Bally can’t broadcast, was driven in part by the fact that we saw it as an opportunity to fix this blackout problem.”
MLB getting back full control of local rights is a possible first step, as Manfred suggests. But even after that, the road to getting ALL teams on a single platform, regardless of market, is going to be a long one.
Mike Clevinger Still in the News for the Wrong Reasons
New Chicago White Sox pitcher Mike Clevinger, who is facing a domestic violence investigation by MLB (although he has not yet been placed on the Restricted List), is pretty upset that 670 The Score interviewed one of his accusers. He went so far as to threaten defamation litigation.
Paul Sullivan asked Clevinger about the threat, and he was, uh, uninterested in discussing further (Tribune):
A White Sox player suing the flagship station of the Chicago Cubs for defamation would bring the crosstown rivalry to another level and would create plenty of content for sports writers to opine about.
I doubt it will happen. But in case he were serious, I gave Clevinger a chance to explain his reason for threatening a lawsuit against a sports radio station.
“I don’t need your chance, bro,” he said, walking away without making eye contact.
As Sullivan goes on to write, there’s no real way around it: the Clevinger distraction isn’t going anywhere.
The Economic Reform Committee
Major League Baseball is trying to take on myriad financial issues facing the sport with a new ownership committee:
I see that and I instantly think, yeah, this is where the push for a salary cap system begins.
I don’t even mean that in a lazy, cynical way. There are POTENTIALLY versions of cap system that COULD be beneficial to wider swaths of players than current system, but such a system would require (1) a very high salary floor, and (2) players getting sizable guaranteed share of revenue. Which is to say nothing of figuring out the revenue-sharing among the teams, as Manfred mentioned.
If you could thread that needle perfectly, then everyone is finally incentivized in the exact same way to grow the game (and the revenues). I’m dubious that a perfect setup can be figured out in the next decade, much less the next few years.
All that said, the stated raison d’être for the committee is to work out revenue disparities around the league, and to figure out the future of broadcast rights/avenues/etc.
Are Owners Just Trying to Deal with Steve Cohen?
He doesn’t think so. And, as he has suggested before, Steve Cohen doesn’t think his team and his spending are really the issue:
That said, I do find it interesting that Cohen is making sure to say that the goal is only to spend at this level for a little while, until the farm system is in a better place (The Athletic):
Cohen’s payroll is projected to be approaching $375 million, a record, which Mets fans and those who appreciate seeing owners attempt to invest in their product enjoy. Speaking to reporters at spring training, Cohen hammered home Monday morning that his definition of success includes building a successful farm system, a message that might have been aimed at unhappy owners who are worried he will continue to outspend everyone by a considerable amount.
Cohen didn’t give a direct answer when asked if he would change his behavior because other owners are unhappy.
“I can tell you I was at the owners’ meeting, and people were friendly and were conversational,” Cohen said. “I’m pretty clear about what I want to do. I mean, hopefully, people are listening to what I want to do, as far as this being a bridge to a stronger farm system. And I mean it as a marker of success of my ownership reign. But listen, talk is cheap right? We’ll see what happens. And we’ll see if we can perform and have a farm system that can produce the players that we need. Right. So, all that’s to be determined.”
When Brewers ace Corbin Burnes lost his arbitration case – and said the way it went down hurt his relationship with the organization – it was not an isolated incident. Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley, who also lost, said that the system could use some improvement. Bo Bichette has said the system is unnecessarily antagonistic.
Ken Rosenthal wrote about the state of arbitration, given that the league trounced players this year in cases, 13-6. The problem is that nothing is going to change until the next round of CBA negotiations in 2026, and even then, it sounds like players don’t necessarily all agree on the best approach going forward. Tee it up as another financial issue, I guess.
Odds and Ends
- Terrible news today for the Cleveland Guardians, who revealed that top pitching prospect Daniel Espino has a shoulder strain and a capsule tear, AND top draft pick Chase Delauter – who broke his foot early in the amateur season last year – had to have foot surgery (on the same foot):
- Red Sox fans are UNhappy:
- Anthony Rizzo and the New York Yankees sound very happy together (SNY):
“I definitely wanted to come back here,” Rizzo told SNY. “That was (our) first choice, was to be here. We loved where we lived last year. We loved the whole atmosphere in the city, outside the field, and showing up to Yankee Stadium every day is top notch. We were on the verge of turning down a qualifying offer and knowing it could be a long time in the winter and I really wasn’t interested in that again, just with the last two, three years of chaos of COVID, lockout, all the variables. So when the contract came and we felt comfortable with it, we definitely jumped on it.” …
“Huge — became a priority right away,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of getting Rizzo signed. “I think everyone’s seen Anthony come in and become a leader on this team, have success playing here, become entrenched with his teammates and with the organization and feeling like this is a place that he wanted to be but also just the left-handed pace, the defender that he is, the leader that he is. He’s such a glue player for us. So I would say it was absolutely a priority.”