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Baseball is Better Than This, Right?


For a while you could make the argument that the resumption of baseball not getting off the ground was a “both” issue. Players and owners were dug in. Now, as Rob Manfred suggests a season may not happen, that’s no longer the case. Is this really all the better Major League Baseball is? It can’t be, right?Monday represented a day in which Major League Baseball could’ve announced a season. Fed up with the same offer being sliced different ways, the MLBPA had broken off negotiation talks and said simply, “We’re ready, let us know where to be.” The response to that from the owners and Manfred was to threaten a season taking place at all.

 

The impasse here is that any season without a negotiated agreement would come under an imposed ruling from the Commissioner, which was agreed to in the players March discussions. The caveat however was that the season would be implemented with the intention of playing the most games possible, something the owners have actively campaigned against. Right now, Manfred could implement a calendar of roughly 70 games, but that would be roughly 20 more than those paying the checks want to play.

 

We don’t know for certain whether this is another stall tactic or an effort by Manfred to get the sides back at the negotiating table. Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer is calling it like it is, and sees the mandate to withdraw any notion of a grievance as Manfred leveraging a season of baseball to give the owners what they want.

 

 

There’s plenty of reasons to believe this is what’s happening. There’s been rumblings that some owners would be fine with no season at all, and the reality for most is that baseball teams are simply another avenue for cash flow within their portfolio. It’s not about being profitable as much as it is how much profit is actually being generated. For the last twenty years revenues have skyrocketed in the sport, and now because the green may not be as large for a calendar year, it’s apparently worth blowing it all up.

 

On Monday night ESPN aired a segment called “The Return of Sports.” Rob Manfred was invited alongside several other league commissioners. It’s only his league that can’t figure out how to get back on the field though. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s not a health scare that’s keeping baseball on the shelf, but instead one man and the thirty ownership groups he represents.

 

As fans, we’re all the losers here. The Minnesota Twins are set to field one of their best teams since winning the World Series. Mike Trout is in the middle of his prime and could go down as the best to ever play the game. Heck, Albert Pujols is chasing down Babe Ruth at the tail end of his career. Because baseball’s profitability is being impacted, and mind you we don’t know to what extent as books are kept private, those who run it are ready to throw this all away.

 

For the past few years Rob Manfred has set out to increase the popularity of his sport. He’s sought out avenues to draw in new fans and speed up the pace of play. While many of those ideas have been futile at best, he’s found a way to take a large steaming dump on any positive momentum in the matter of a couple weeks. Baseball diehards will return, but the casual fan couldn’t be more apt to throw up their hands at this mess.

 

Over the weekend Long Gone Summer gave us a glimpse into the home run race of 1998. Bud Selig and the owners turned a blind eye to steroids and drug testing because it saved baseball after the 1994 strike. That won’t be an avenue for rebound this time, and nothing suggests Manfred has the capabilities to lead out of this dark time.

 

A mandated 50 game slate in a couple of weeks would prove Bauer right. A cancelled season would drive a nail into the coffin of those running the sport forever. What was once a “both” issue is now squarely on the shoulders of those running the show, and it’s time for MLB to show us that baseball is better than this.

 

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I have been trying to think of how to rank the baseball commissioners and Rob Manfred is quickly dropping down the list.  I think about Bowie Kuhn as the worst, and Bud Selig as a joke for his all star gaff.  Judge Landis started strong, but kept Blacks out of MLB for too long.  Happy Chandler seems to be the best.  Ford Frick was a bozo when it came to the Maris season.  Eckert avoided the real issues of his day Ueberroth accomplished the raising of the commissioners salary.  Fay Vincent and A Bartlett Giamatti really loved baseball and would have been great if they lasted. 

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If this is how the owners want to negotiate, we may not have baseball for 2 years in a row. Bye bye MLB

 

The owners are 100% at fault for this fiasco. If they have an increase in revenue, they pocket that every single time. They don't kick it back to the fans or the players. They laugh their happy @$$ to the bank. Poor babies want to now implement some sort of plan when the revenue is dropping? Oh please, you guys signed the contracts, now honor the them!!!! This is crazy. I can't even begin to think what sense this makes on a business level. Did they forget how baseball was nearly dead post 1994? History folks, it matters! 

 

 

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Players threatening to sue has MLB questioning the season. These maybe are billionaire owners, but it is mainly on paper and pretty much every business is taking it in the shorts this year. Now we have reports that 8 owners don't want to play the season.

 

Listened to a Russo podcast yesterday with a Mayo Doc and his comments about athletes were encouraging. Testing has progressed enough to know if you get the virus, who is at real danger and who will be able fight it off easily. If the players will not sign off on not suing owners if they contract the virus, there will not be a season. Players have given and are guaranteed a certain amount of their salaries, though this agreement was when we all thought there would be fans in the stands. IMO the wealthy players are acting like spoiled brats and really hurting the young players who haven't made their big money yet. Please let calmer heads prevail and Tony Clark will never be one of them. His distrust and ill will towards the owners boarders in unhealthy.

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Have the players offered to agree to "Whatever terms the owners wish?"

 

No, of course they haven't. They want what they want, just like the owners.

 

This is on both sides.

 

That's not going to be popular here. So be it.

The players already agreed to a pay cut to get back on the field only two months ago and the owners tore up that agreement because they're greedy. Framing this as a both sides thing is absolute nonsense.
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Have the players offered to agree to "Whatever terms the owners wish?"

 

No, of course they haven't.     They want what they want, just like the owners.

 

This is on both sides.

 

That's not going to be popular here.  So be it.

You beat me to the punch.

Anyone saying “it’s only fault of Manfred and the owners” are being disingenuous.

Of course both sides are playing each other - that’s how the business works!

 

Also, referring to anything that Trevor Bauer says as an example of the Voice of Reason is tenuous at best.  His track record speaks for itself and makes Manfred look like Gandhi.

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I have been trying to think of how to rank the baseball commissioners and Rob Manfred is quickly dropping down the list.  I think about Bowie Kuhn as the worst, and Bud Selig as a joke for his all star gaff.  Judge Landis started strong, but kept Blacks out of MLB for too long.  Happy Chandler seems to be the best.  Ford Frick was a bozo when it came to the Maris season.  Eckert avoided the real issues of his day Ueberroth accomplished the raising of the commissioners salary.  Fay Vincent and A Bartlett Giamatti really loved baseball and would have been great if they lasted. 

I'm not solely blaming one side nor Manfred solely, but to me it's another piece of Manfred's legacy that I'm not impressed with, along with the cheating scandals, the minor league's contraction, the rabbit ball home run binge.

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This NYT essay is a good look at Manfred and the morass we are in.  I am really sad about the current status of my favorite sport and Manfred and the Owners are really disappointing.  No one forced them to sign massive contracts or even offer them.  They are their own worst enemy.  Now the players are mad, the new talent could not be drafted and the fans are ignored as though we do not matter. 

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I love baseball. I sucked at playing the game but enjoyed it anyway. I love watching the Twins (former season ticket owner). As time passes, I think about my years when MLB wasn't available to me and the times went to MiLB games. MiLB is being killed by MLB (greedy owners?). I can drive down to Fargo and catch a game there or listen to it on 740 the Fan. That may be a lot better idea than watching the slow train wreck that MLB is becoming.

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I have been very unimpressed by Manfred - the tone, strategy, consistency of message, etc. have all been poor. Slow-walking the initial proposals was outright bad faith.  

 

However to hold the players blameless does not seem appropriate either. They have stuck to their position of pro-rata pay even though circumstances have changed with no fans being allowed in. Furthermore, they said "tell us when and where to play" and then said they would file a grievance. That is incredibly bad faith. 

 

There was a comment earlier about players and fans not seeing a dime of increased revenue but that is only 1/2 right. Ticket prices are higher than a generation ago (not sure if they are adjusted for inflation) but in any case players salaries are dramatically higher than they were over the comparable time. It is in players best interest too to grow the game, not just owners. 

 

At this point the owners and players remind me of a couple divorcing who are so bitter and mad at the other party they just want to fight and cannot think about what is best for the children or how petty they look. 

 

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The owners' hard line stance is paying for 50 games (or less) at prorated salary. (Roughly 33% of players' full salaries) The players' hard line stance is not playing more than 50 games at 33% salary. Their justification for not playing more games is that if they played 70 games, they'd be playing 20 games for free since the owners already offered 50 games at prorated pay. 

 

I don't see how this is solely the fault of the owners. It's a negotiation. By definition, that means two sides. 

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Look, the players have refused to acknowledge that there will be no revenue from ticket sales and food sales for the owners. Their demands to get paid in full each game while the owners take it on the chin is ridiculous. The owners offered a 50/50 revenue share that would have shared the pain. If it's good for football why isn't it good for about half a baseball season. 

 

Besides, I'm sick and tired of the Twins making it to the playoffs only to get beat by a Yankee team that can spend twice the money on players. I think the owners should go ahead and close the facilities until baseball get's a salary cap just like other leagues. 

 

But make no mistake about it, once the players realize they are about to not get paid a penny, sometime next week they will scurry back to the table and accept the last offer realizing that 80% is better than nothing at all. 

 

If not, time to start getting ready for the Vikings season ..

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At this point it seems like eliminating the season entirely is the best way to go.  What does a 50 game season really mean?   Why do it?  The short season doesn't really give you the "best" team.  Baseball is a marathon of ups and downs.  Don't reward the team that gets out of the blocks fast.

That being said they should take the time to fix their problems.  Both owners and players are being greedy.  Both make a ton of money for a game.  Yes it is a business but most fans would give anything to have baseball as a "job".  I can't put the blame on one side or the other.  Each have their agenda and are trying to point fingers and put the blame on the other side.  All it boils down to is money.

And the fans and the entire game lose.

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Not very impressed with Manfred as well in terms of this negotiation, marketing the game, and contracting the minor leagues as other examples.   He should be able to get both sides to move to a compromise.   The owners haven't really budged in their offers - but on the other-hand the players have not come off of getting paid 100% of their prorated salaries for any games they play.   From their point that was agreed to in March but there is some question about if that was including games with no fans or not.   That part is on the owners for agreeing to that without stipulating caveats.   I put the majority of the blame on the owners but I am not letting the players totally off the hook.  This is bargaining and in bargaining both sides have to give up something.   Play 50 games or play none - either is fine with me.  I really feel for the minor league players and minor league local ownership groups.         

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For me, determination of fault here is heavily weighted by the existence or non-existence of an understanding to renegotiate player compensation if fans are not present. I think the players were told one thing but the evidence strongly suggests there was an understanding terms would need to be defined if fans were not present.

 

If this understanding existed, the owners were acting in accordance with that understanding. The players at every turn demanded 100% which obviously had blatant disregard for renegotiating if fans were not present.

 

So, who here believes that the original agreement did not address the need for different terms if fans were not present. Do you believe the owners agreed to pay the exact same amount to players regardless of revenue level with a likely $2B reduction in revenue if fans are not present?

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We've been over this a couple times already, or at least I have. Nothing I think/say is going to change anyone's mind. This remains the fault of both sides. But here are some things that i dont think anyone can dispute:

 

1] The NBA got almost their entire season in, with fans, before the season paused. They are basically going to finish the rest of their season, though probably with zero fans. Same for the NHL. Baseball never got to play a single game to this point, fans or no fans.

 

2] The NFL and college football are HOPEFUL of full seasons with at least SOME fan attendance, if not full attendance. That will depend on public health/risk as well as the public unto itself. With so many unknowns, there is already conjecture the NFL may be actually lowering their cap next season. Why? Because without a full season and little to no fan support/income they will lose a huge revenue stream. Some colleges are talking about trimming sports.

 

Does any of this sound familiar?

 

3] Fan support/income is approximately 1/3 of total earnings for MLB, with a low of about 20-25% depending on which source you read/believe. How is that difficult to understand? And BTW, despite regular season contracts with national networks, the playoffs provide something around half of said network agreements. In other words, if something happens and the playoffs are suddenly cancelled, MLB revenue gets smacked down yet again.

 

4] It has been reported by national correspondents, who have read the March agreement that everyone likes to site, that there is language written there that states the owners had the right to re-open negotiations once additional information presented itself. This is not backing out of a deal, it's re-examing it now that new information HAS presented itself.

 

5] As a business, MLB is open for business paying full staff without any income for what is almost half a season now. Most teams have announced plans to pay milb players for the year. Ownership has paid out one large, shared sum early in the pandemic for the players. Once again, they have been operating with no incoming cash flow.

 

Despite all these things, the owners are the bad guys here because they are trying to mitigate their losses as much as possible?

 

I am NOT saying the players don't have a right to earn money. Everyone wants money for themselves and their family. Nobody wants a pay cut or a job loss, even if temporary. And where the the owners have blown it, IMO, was the sliding wage scale they initially proposed. It should have been a more balanced and neutral, universal pro-rated for everyone. There is trying to mitigate losses and then there is ticking off the largest power players in the union. I was also encouraged by playoff revenue sharing with the players. That means more money going to the players.

 

The players want full proration of salaries and will allow ownership a couple years to defer additional salary payments.

 

Ownership can do better. They should have done better. Hopefully they will do better. But in no way, shape or form is baseball not being played some universal fault/responsibility/conspiracy by ownership.

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In 1981 after a strike shortened season MLB had a world series rating of a 30.0. Last year Washington's world series win had a rating of 8.1. The owners should really be looking at that when they consider these crazy bargaining conflicts. I mean this type of bull headedness is going to, in the end, decrease their profitability over the next 10 to 15 years. I mean most of their profits come at the hands of TV contracts and deals of that nature. I mean billions. With those ratings headed for the toilet, why would anyone pay MLB so much money for losing viewers? They won't and all of their greed will beging to bankrupt them as they will have to charge more for the games and stuff like that which in turn will decrease the number of overall fans. I mean I get it that this year will be a tough year, they might have to take it in the shorts a little so as to profit at a higher level in the future. I mean when I see the offers of a 50/50 split because of the decreased revenues this year, I kind of get it. But are those same owners willing to do a 50/50 split for all of the good seasons too? If they aren't then they should just get it going now, if they are willing to split profits with the players 50/50 forever then let them know that. But they won't, because they are only willing to split 50/50 when stuff is bad, not when it's good. So at your local grocery store, are they asking the employees to make 50% of a pro-rated salary? No, they are paying the employees what they normally make, and in these crazy times with the virus and all these stores may not make any profits, but they know that if they can keep operations going that on the other side they will. Could you imagine the outrage if someone came up to you at your place of employment and offered you the ability to make 50% of your normal pay. Imagine if you make minimum wage and now you get to make half of that? So yeah I know MLB players make a lot more than that, but still, the owners are making billions off of their backs, and if they screw it up, they might not be in the very soon future.

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I have to agree with Ted that at this point, if a season isn't played in 2020, that's on the owners. It's always easier to say "both sides are to blame" than to analyze the negotiating maneuvers and tactics of each side and make a judgment call as to which side is holding up the deal, but that's not real analysis.

 

I do think things changed when the MLBPA issued its "Tell us when and where" statement over the weekend. The MLBPA's position all along has been that they want to play the maximum number of games the owners will accept while maintaining 100% of pro-rated salaries. The owners have held firm on the rough dollar amount they're willing to pay for player salaries, while indicating at one point they could abide a 50-game schedule with 100% pro-rated salaries. The MLBPA has questioned whether it's true that owners will lose money if more games are played; doubts about the truth of how MLB's representing owners' books are what leads us to where we are today.

 

Essentially, the MLBPA has said: "We aren't willing to budge on 100% pro-rated salaries. Under our previous agreement, you can impose a season in which we receive those salaries, so go ahead and do it. But keep in mind that under the agreement, you are required to try to play as many games as possible. If we believe you're being dishonest about what your books show as a tenable number of games, we reserve the right to file a grievance."

 

The owners are only in a bind if they've been negotiating in bad faith. If it's true that more than 50-odd games means they'll lose money, then they can proceed and they'll win the grievance. If that was a negotiating tactic and they can stomach, say, 70 games before losses kick in, then they can impose that and admit 50 was a negotiating tactic. It's only if they impose 50 games when they could really stomach 70 that they're in trouble. Ball's in your court, owners.

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I have seen several comments above about Manfred and cutting minor league teams. I am in total agreement that there will be real pain in a lot of places like Elizabethton. Gotta feel for all those folks who's summer will be trashed.

 

But looking at the big picture of MLB, it probably makes a ton of sense what they are doing as teams really don't need the better part 200 minor league players, not including the DSL, to find 2 or 3 rookies every year. These cuts will bring that down by 30 for most teams, other than the Yankees who will need to lose two teams.

 

After having lived with this for several months, my biggest problem isn't that they are making the cuts. And the minimal salary increases previously reported may be offset by the savings of the reduced numbers. But they still haven't gotten minor league salaries to even a minimal acceptable level for these kids. That's the biggest problem I see, not that Manfred seems to be blind to what is going on around him.

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I have seen several comments above about Manfred and cutting minor league teams. I am in total agreement that there will be real pain in a lot of places like Elizabethton. Gotta feel for all those folks who's summer will be trashed.

 

But looking at the big picture of MLB, it probably makes a ton of sense what they are doing as teams really don't need the better part 200 minor league players, not including the DSL, to find 2 or 3 rookies every year. These cuts will bring that down by 30 for most teams, other than the Yankees who will need to lose two teams.

 

After having lived with this for several months, my biggest problem isn't that they are making the cuts. And the minimal salary increases previously reported may be offset by the savings of the reduced numbers. But they still haven't gotten minor league salaries to even a minimal acceptable level for these kids. That's the biggest problem I see, not that Manfred seems to be blind to what is going on around him.

 

They need to quit giving unproven players $5M or $6M or $7M signing bonuses. If they live up to the bonus, they are going to make huge money over their career. The problem is not one of payment but distribution of payment. Too many guys who don't pan out get huge bonuses. Take 80% of the bonus money and put it into MiLB salaries. That would allow for an increase in MiLB pay by an average of 5K/month per player. 

 

BTW ... I built a quick model. This still allows for a $750K bonus for the top spot and then decrease each spot by 2% for the 1st two rounds.  4%, 6%, and 10 percent decreases in rounds 3-5. 25K for rounds 6-10 and 15K thereafter.

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They need to quit giving unproven players $5M or $6M or $7M signing bonuses. If they live up to the bonus, they are going to make huge money over their career. The problem is not one of payment but distribution of payment. Too many guys who don't pan out get huge bonuses. Take 80% of the bonus money and put it into MiLB salaries. That would allow for an increase in MiLB pay by an average of 5K/month per player. 

 

BTW ... I built a quick model. This still allows for a $750K bonus for the top spot and then decrease each spot by 2% for the 1st two rounds.  4%, 6%, and 10 percent decreases in rounds 3-5. 25K for rounds 6-10 and 15K thereafter.

That's interesting, Major League Ready. Have been saying for a long time that if they cut the first round bonuses by say 40%, they could double all the salaries in the minor leagues. There probably is a reason the MLBPA would be opposed to it, just don't know why...or maybe I do, ie, the agent's fees would be 40% smaller on those kids. Maybe its time the MLBPA stops catering to the Boros of the world.

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I think that MLB teams should be able to field as many minor league teams as they want. I mean if the Yankees wants to have a few more minor league teams then that should be up to them. I get it that some places don't have the facilities to maintain a group of up and coming minor league players, but if a team like the Yankees want to have a couple of more teams so be it. If they want to drop a couple teams and have less than other teams out there then so be it also. I mean all of these teams are not required to have all the same amount of academies in the Dominican? So why do they all have to be the same every where else?

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That's interesting, Major League Ready. Have been saying for a long time that if they cut the first round bonuses by say 40%, they could double all the salaries in the minor leagues. There probably is a reason the MLBPA would be opposed to it, just don't know why...or maybe I do, ie, the agent's fees would be 40% smaller on those kids. Maybe its time the MLBPA stops catering to the Boros of the world.

 

I have also wondered why the league takes the image hit when they could pay MiLB players quite well with the money they are already spending. I used 80% because I wanted to give all the players a $5K raise. Maybe your 40% number would be more acceptable to the MLBPA or perhaps somewhere between 40-80%. IDK but this sure seems like it would be great way to take care of ALL MiLB players.

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That's interesting, Major League Ready. Have been saying for a long time that if they cut the first round bonuses by say 40%, they could double all the salaries in the minor leagues. There probably is a reason the MLBPA would be opposed to it, just don't know why...or maybe I do, ie, the agent's fees would be 40% smaller on those kids. Maybe its time the MLBPA stops catering to the Boros of the world.

But if the money shifted from 1 player to 3 wouldn't the same agents make their money? I think the big thing is trusting the owners to actually spend that money on those other players and not just pocket it. That is probably the biggest thing is trust between the players and the owners.

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