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  1. If you haven’t seen the news in recent weeks, retail-giant Fanatics has made massive waves in the card collecting world, and while we’re still sorting through the details, change is coming. A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Fanatics would become the exclusive licensee for baseball cards. It wasn’t there where things stopped, though. The NBA and NFL also joined in the venture. That means over the next few years, it will no longer be Topps or Panini that produces sports cards, but instead this new brand entering into a completely new venture. Specifically looking at baseball, Topps is the only player to be considered. Their current deal with Major League Baseball runs through 2025, but the license with the MLB Players Association expires following the 2022 season. Whereas Panini can produce unlicensed cards with big-league players, Topps would no longer have rights to major leaguers for their cards. The lone SKU they’d be able to make in 2023 would be the Bowman line featuring minor leaguers. The blow to Topps is substantial, and the impending public merger with Mudrick Capital was called off following the news. Also notably, Alex Rodriguez’s intentions to buy Topps’ competitor Panini were also called off. For the New York-based card company, the exit from MLB leaves Topps holding only soccer as their notable sport-based license. Rob Manfred is looking out for the almighty dollar here. Fanatics' purchase price is reportedly ten times larger than any previous deal agreed to by the union. It also directly benefits Major League Baseball and those within the MLBPA. The league owns equity in Fanatics and effectively allows all parties to further capitalize from one another. A recent report from CNBC suggests that Fanatics' interests span far more than just cardboard. The retail giant is looking to create a whole new pillar within its company. From grading to selling, the company wants to have avenues for every aspect of the lifecycle of card collecting. Based on the report, it appears that the new giant entrant will explore any potential opportunity within the hobby. The rub is that Fanatics and the leagues themselves seem to be betting on the popularity and collectibility residing with the product rather than the brand. Topps and Panini have done themselves no favors over the years. Poor customer service, slow redemption turnarounds, and dated websites are just touching the surface of current problems. What they do have, however, is an established identity. Topps is celebrating 70 years of baseball cards this season, and the iconic offerings being paid handsomely for are as much because of the subject as they are the established desire rooted in the brand. Vintage cards have soared due to their scarcity. Key rookies have experienced a boom because of the sets Topps included them in. Lesser competitors such as Leaf and Onyx have seen little success in driving desire to the same levels despite similar subjects and chase offerings. Fanatics will have to buck that trend. We’re still months, and potentially years, from understanding how this all will look. For the sake of Topps and Panini, being bought and allowing their brands to be used under the Fanatics umbrella seems like a promising avenue to pursue. Maybe that’s not one the new head honcho will be agreeable to. I find it hard to get excited about an entirely new offering from my collecting seat, no matter how much of a draw the shiny feeling may bring. Topps is iconic with baseball cards, and while I enjoy the hobby, it’s an unnecessary venture into disposable income. Years down the road, some may consider this era vintage, so maybe I just shifted my focus. I’d love to be surprised by Fanatics and find myself drawn in, but for now, I’m more than comfortable sitting on the sidelines and working through the bewilderment of what just took place. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  2. A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Fanatics would become the exclusive licensee for baseball cards. It wasn’t there where things stopped, though. The NBA and NFL also joined in the venture. That means over the next few years, it will no longer be Topps or Panini that produces sports cards, but instead this new brand entering into a completely new venture. Specifically looking at baseball, Topps is the only player to be considered. Their current deal with Major League Baseball runs through 2025, but the license with the MLB Players Association expires following the 2022 season. Whereas Panini can produce unlicensed cards with big-league players, Topps would no longer have rights to major leaguers for their cards. The lone SKU they’d be able to make in 2023 would be the Bowman line featuring minor leaguers. The blow to Topps is substantial, and the impending public merger with Mudrick Capital was called off following the news. Also notably, Alex Rodriguez’s intentions to buy Topps’ competitor Panini were also called off. For the New York-based card company, the exit from MLB leaves Topps holding only soccer as their notable sport-based license. Rob Manfred is looking out for the almighty dollar here. Fanatics' purchase price is reportedly ten times larger than any previous deal agreed to by the union. It also directly benefits Major League Baseball and those within the MLBPA. The league owns equity in Fanatics and effectively allows all parties to further capitalize from one another. A recent report from CNBC suggests that Fanatics' interests span far more than just cardboard. The retail giant is looking to create a whole new pillar within its company. From grading to selling, the company wants to have avenues for every aspect of the lifecycle of card collecting. Based on the report, it appears that the new giant entrant will explore any potential opportunity within the hobby. The rub is that Fanatics and the leagues themselves seem to be betting on the popularity and collectibility residing with the product rather than the brand. Topps and Panini have done themselves no favors over the years. Poor customer service, slow redemption turnarounds, and dated websites are just touching the surface of current problems. What they do have, however, is an established identity. Topps is celebrating 70 years of baseball cards this season, and the iconic offerings being paid handsomely for are as much because of the subject as they are the established desire rooted in the brand. Vintage cards have soared due to their scarcity. Key rookies have experienced a boom because of the sets Topps included them in. Lesser competitors such as Leaf and Onyx have seen little success in driving desire to the same levels despite similar subjects and chase offerings. Fanatics will have to buck that trend. We’re still months, and potentially years, from understanding how this all will look. For the sake of Topps and Panini, being bought and allowing their brands to be used under the Fanatics umbrella seems like a promising avenue to pursue. Maybe that’s not one the new head honcho will be agreeable to. I find it hard to get excited about an entirely new offering from my collecting seat, no matter how much of a draw the shiny feeling may bring. Topps is iconic with baseball cards, and while I enjoy the hobby, it’s an unnecessary venture into disposable income. Years down the road, some may consider this era vintage, so maybe I just shifted my focus. I’d love to be surprised by Fanatics and find myself drawn in, but for now, I’m more than comfortable sitting on the sidelines and working through the bewilderment of what just took place. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. Despite a global health crisis, it isn’t a pandemic that has ultimately thwarted the resumption of Major League Baseball in 2020, no instead it’s those directly involved with the game. Regardless of fault, fans are on a roller coaster ride they never signed up for, and it’s hurt the sport substantially. Today the Major League Baseball Players Association will vote on whether they’ll accept or reject Major League Baseball’s proposal for resumption of play. 38 voting members will give a yay or nay with a majority vote needed to cement a decision one way or another. The expectation is that the proposal will be rejected on the grounds of not wanting to lose an opportunity to grieve the circumstances in court. What we really have is posturing, and it’s what we’ve had during so much of this process, and what baseball labor negotiations have become synonymous with. Owners and players don’t trust each other at all, and it’s why every renewal of the CBA ends up coming with a significant possibility of lockout. It wasn’t until recently that Rob Manfred and Tony Clark got in a room together to has things out. Both sides came out of that meeting with different understandings of what took place, and it only furthered a battle that has played out with public barbs being fired back and forth. Regardless of the structure imposed by the current deal, it would seem to be a non-starter for players in that acceptance represents failure of sorts. I’ve long operated with the belief that there will undoubtedly be baseball in 2020 (barring a shift in circumstances regarding the virus), but that I have no idea what it would look like. The initial suggestion of a full season seemed laughable, but so too does the suggestion of an implemented 48-game playthrough. We’re obviously much closer to the latter than former at this point, and it’s because of all the feet dragging that we’re here. Siding with the players should be an easy choice in this whole battle, but the reality is that both parties have dug in so harshly what we as fans are left with is a bastardized version of what could’ve been. Finances tied directly to games played left us with one side looking to cut down the calendar, and the other trying to recoup as much of their income as possible. It isn’t a matter of what we want to play at this point, but instead what the calendar will allow for. So again today, when there’s a vote on whether the season should start under a certain set of conditions, we’ll likely be left waiting. One side’s disagreement will shoot down the opportunity for an official announcement, and like the many weeks and days of vast importance before it, the day will again be wasted. Tomorrow and going forward Rob Manfred, who has failed miserably in providing any direction or leadership while instead allowing his sport to burn, will need to decide whether or not he’ll implement a season. The players agreed to that possibility back in March, and it’s a scenario that makes all too much sense not to fulfill. Then again, we’ve crossed plenty of these bridges already throughout this process and they all still remain smoldering. I still believe we’ll have baseball in 2020, but the waiting has turned away many future fans forever, and it’s cost the current one’s significant amount of trust for ultimately no necessary reason. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  4. Here’s the thing, baseball is a business for the 30 groups that lay claim to an organization. While that’s a worthwhile reality, there’s also little shred of fandom in regards to those groups as well. By and large, Major League Baseball owners are not representative of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban per say. In fact, Cuban was actively campaigned against when trying to break into the ownership ranks for this sport. Why does that matter? An owner like Cuban is also an active participant in the on-field excitement of his investment. While looking to turn a profit, it’s not just another vehicle to generate revenue for an owner like that. Many across baseball have a team as part of a much larger portfolio, and it’s something they simply count dollars from as a hobby. What’s problematic is that viewpoint is where these labor negotiations break down and the sport suffers unrepairable damage. Though there are some hardcore fans that could be dismayed by all of this, it’s more the casual fan that Major League Baseball should be worried about. If you live, breathe, and sleep the sport you’ll also be aware that labor strife is part of it, and ownership digging in has long been part of the problem. When the rosin bag is flipped again and the pill is tossed across the dish, you’ll be there for it. The fan that tunes in because it’s a lovely Saturday afternoon however, well, they’ve now found new hobbies. https://twitter.com/jjcoop36/status/1270351426636484608 For the past few seasons, we’ve seen Rob Manfred actively seek ways to change the game in hopes of capturing the casual onlooker. How do we make it more exciting, quicker, or quirkier? Those questions have resulted in some significant shifts throughout the 27 outs we’re given, and there’s been ever more off-the-wall proposals that we haven’t seen come to fruition (yet). It’s long been noted that Manfred was brought in because of his labor and employment law background. He was to be an advocate for the owners, which is understandable as it’s the group he reports to, but he’s failed miserably to connect with players and the union. While attempting to do the latter and leaning heavily towards the former, a massive chasm has been created between the two sides and it’s likely one he’s over his skis when trying to fix. Despite these 2020 restart discussions having gone on for weeks at this point, it’s very clear that none of this is a result of the global pandemic wreaking havoc on the world. No, this was a jumpstart for ownership to posture in relation to the expiring CBA in 2021. Cities that are supposedly set to host games have no idea what the health protocols will actually be, and it’s been noted multiple times that health related issues (the reason we aren’t playing right now in the first place) won’t be the cause of a season without liftoff. https://twitter.com/mikeaxisa/status/1270007214208679936 So, what happens from here? It’s pretty clear that no matter how many proposals MLB ownership provides they’ll continue to offer the players the same $20 value cut up in different forms of payment. Whether it’s one $20, two $10’s, or twenty $1’s, there’s been little to no progress made. All of that trends towards owners’ eventual goal of a season mandated by the commissioner. Neither side comes to an agreement, owners pay out the lowest possible amount of prorated dollars, they rake in the benefits of Postseason play, and somehow their books stay closed through all of this. If, and more than likely when, Manfred must mandate a season be played we’ll be no better off than when baseball was shelved. The sides weren’t able to come to an agreement, and a year from now there won’t be a CBA to enact any sort of action at all. A global pandemic was used to truncate what could have been, and a lockout will take the damage a new step further. No matter what date and time the best Twins team in recent history takes the field, or the greatest player to ever step on a diamond digs in, your die-hard fan will be there. No number of Yankees and Red Sox on Sunday Night Baseball is going to be appointment viewing for the fan this sport has yearned to capture though, and the door could be closed on that ever happening again. In 2020 those who have invested the most dollars in baseball are killing the sport for anyone but those that have invested the most time. It’s a disappointing and catastrophic reality, but it’s where we are at. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. Ever since Major League Baseball was halted on March 12, we could have surmised that whatever season took place in 2020 would be drastically different. Despite their being an initial desire to still get all 162 games in, that never seemed like a logical ask. Now that we are months separated from the original start date, it’s about fitting in as much as realistically possible. Continuing to claim vast financial losses, owners are looking for ways to shed financial commitments. By playing a shorter season, and one of substantial measures, prorated salaries are significantly diminished. Initially suggested to be at the 50-game mark, which is permissible under rule of the Commissioner, reality would lean towards a schedule closer to 60 or 70 games. Being at 82 games when discussions began, that would seem like a total that owners would come in shy of. So, if the season is just 60 games long, what can we learn from the 2019 Twins that may translate to 2020? Baseball being the marathon it is during a traditional year; 60 games is going to produce an incredibly small sample size. Luis Arraez owned a .346 batting average through that many contests a year ago, and eventual American League title winner Tim Anderson finished with a .335 mark. Minnesota was 40-20 at the 60-game mark in 2019, and that came with a 9.5 game lead over the Cleveland Indians. The Chicago White Sox had a losing record through their first 60 games, and Cleveland sat exactly at .500. Knowing this type of schedule would be a sprint, there’s a level of comfort in seeing Minnesota start and end strong last season. Their first 50 games produced a 34-16 record while the final 50 were played to the tune of a 31-19 mark. The toughest part about a condensed schedule is that there’s little time for normalcy to establish itself. The Washington Nationals were 19-31 at one point during 2019 and went on to win the World Series. Rocco Baldelli needs the Twins to jump on the division from the get-go and not look back. Assuming a reshuffling of the opponents is also a logical bet. With expanded playoffs and a desire to keep travel more regionally focused, the Twins could be in for a four-way split of their AL Central Division foes. Playing the Indians and White Sox well, and then getting a substantial helping of both the Tigers and Royals is nothing short of favorable. Last year Minnesota went a combined 28-10 against Kansas City and Detroit, so padding any overall total with those two should be looked at as a big plus. There are so many questions that remain in terms of logistics, but there should be some assumed certainties we’re already dealing with. A shortened season does not help a favorite’s chances, but Minnesota having the best roster in the Division is an absolute benefit. There isn’t time for slow starts, and we don’t know what reinforcements (either by promotion or trade) will look like. Everyone is chomping at the bit for baseball, and when it resumes each club will need to be shot out of the gate like a horse at the Kentucky Derby. It’s going to be a baseball season like none other, and while it will always be difficult to hold in comparison among the rest of the yearly accomplishments, this outlier should be one we remember for quite some time. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. Today was the biggest day since COVID-19 shut down Major League Baseball way back on March 12. After publicly disseminating information over the course of the past few weeks, owners were presenting a formal proposal to the MLBPA. How it is received will be drawn out over the next few days, but it doesn’t look good for the billionaires.Since publicly asking players to consider a revenue split and going back on the already agreed upon prorated pay for 2020, Major League Baseball ownership had yet to put forth any concrete proposal. Tony Clark and the Major League Baseball Players Association were given that proposal this afternoon. Clark publicly stated that contracts would not be renegotiated, and that ownership needed to figure out a way forward for 2020. Despite turning annual revenues near $10 billion, it was suggested today that Major League Baseball would still bring in around $3 billion in 2020 should an 80-game slate with no fans be the route taken. There's a possibility that net revenues could still dip into the red, but baseball has opportunity to at least break even as well. With the afternoon meeting coming to a close reports of the proposal began to leak. New York Post writer Joel Sherman outlined what can be described as a sliding scale. In this structure the players making the most money would be paid the smallest percentage of their agreed upon contract. Those players who are set to make less money would retain a higher portion of the prorated dollars. Defining it as simply and most straightforward as possible, the owners are looking for their highly compensated players to provide them relief. Gerrit Cole inked a deal with the Yankees this winter and was expecting a $36 million annual paycheck. Instead of getting that, he’d be taking a substantial cut in order for lower compensated players to receive a higher amount of their annual expected take home. Jeff Passan of ESPN relayed some specific details of the plan on Twitter: In a season where expanded rosters will increase the number of players making closer to the league minimum, Major League owners would get the benefit of savings from high dollar contracts while handing out minimal sums to a few more players. It’s the exact reason why service time manipulation exists, in that ownership is able to keep lower payrolls by owning a player’s low dollar years. Getting a discount on the highest contracts, having those well compensated players foot the bill, and paying a bunch of minimum salaries sounds like nothing but roses for the owners. At the end of the day this argument is always going to be between millionaires and billionaires. For some fans, the economics will never present an opportunity for logic. While it’s difficult to insert yourself into the situation, the total sum of money shouldn’t change the optics of what is going on here. Imagine a situation in which the CEO of a company asks a manager to take a substantial cut in pay so that the intern can receive their full wages. There’s a morality issue here too, but logic doesn’t hold up across the entire example. Also noted in Sherman’s breakdown of MLB’s proposal is what could be an underlying desire to cause cracks within the union. Most teams are represented by veteran players, many of which would fall into the highly compensated category. The group of lesser compensated players is far larger and would have no reason to oppose this deal. Those taking the hit, however, are often vocal decision makers and have earned the contracts to which they have been signed. It should have been expected a storm was brewing between MLB and the MLBPA. With CBA expiration on the horizon, a lockout was thought potential in the not-so-distant-future. Now we have MLB ownership using the time constraints of a global pandemic as a negotiation tactic in hopes that players act quickly on a less than advantageous deal. Suppose that Harold Steinbrenner wanted to leverage Gerrit Cole’s contract and defer the money he’ll lose to a future time, I’d imagine that would be met begrudgingly but fine. Asking players of that ilk to simply foot the bill and then pitting them against guys in the same clubhouse, I certainly can’t see it going over well. While this is just the first proposal, it doesn't seem like a good foot to start on. Maybe the first week of June isn't a hard and fast deadline. Maybe a goal of dividing the players is of further importance. Maybe any cash flow relief is the greatest goal for ownership. We're dealing with lots of maybes here, but in unprecedented times we're likely in store for more unprecedented measures than we can imagine. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  7. Since publicly asking players to consider a revenue split and going back on the already agreed upon prorated pay for 2020, Major League Baseball ownership had yet to put forth any concrete proposal. Tony Clark and the Major League Baseball Players Association were given that proposal this afternoon. Clark publicly stated that contracts would not be renegotiated, and that ownership needed to figure out a way forward for 2020. Despite turning annual revenues near $10 billion, it was suggested today that Major League Baseball would still bring in around $3 billion in 2020 should an 80-game slate with no fans be the route taken. There's a possibility that net revenues could still dip into the red, but baseball has opportunity to at least break even as well. https://twitter.com/Todd_Rosiak/status/1265334135226281984 With the afternoon meeting coming to a close reports of the proposal began to leak. New York Post writer Joel Sherman outlined what can be described as a sliding scale. In this structure the players making the most money would be paid the smallest percentage of their agreed upon contract. Those players who are set to make less money would retain a higher portion of the prorated dollars. Defining it as simply and most straightforward as possible, the owners are looking for their highly compensated players to provide them relief. Gerrit Cole inked a deal with the Yankees this winter and was expecting a $36 million annual paycheck. Instead of getting that, he’d be taking a substantial cut in order for lower compensated players to receive a higher amount of their annual expected take home. Jeff Passan of ESPN relayed some specific details of the plan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JeffPassan/status/1265422054880358402 In a season where expanded rosters will increase the number of players making closer to the league minimum, Major League owners would get the benefit of savings from high dollar contracts while handing out minimal sums to a few more players. It’s the exact reason why service time manipulation exists, in that ownership is able to keep lower payrolls by owning a player’s low dollar years. Getting a discount on the highest contracts, having those well compensated players foot the bill, and paying a bunch of minimum salaries sounds like nothing but roses for the owners. At the end of the day this argument is always going to be between millionaires and billionaires. For some fans, the economics will never present an opportunity for logic. While it’s difficult to insert yourself into the situation, the total sum of money shouldn’t change the optics of what is going on here. Imagine a situation in which the CEO of a company asks a manager to take a substantial cut in pay so that the intern can receive their full wages. There’s a morality issue here too, but logic doesn’t hold up across the entire example. Also noted in Sherman’s breakdown of MLB’s proposal is what could be an underlying desire to cause cracks within the union. Most teams are represented by veteran players, many of which would fall into the highly compensated category. The group of lesser compensated players is far larger and would have no reason to oppose this deal. Those taking the hit, however, are often vocal decision makers and have earned the contracts to which they have been signed. It should have been expected a storm was brewing between MLB and the MLBPA. With CBA expiration on the horizon, a lockout was thought potential in the not-so-distant-future. Now we have MLB ownership using the time constraints of a global pandemic as a negotiation tactic in hopes that players act quickly on a less than advantageous deal. https://twitter.com/Joelsherman1/status/1265381642849353728 Suppose that Harold Steinbrenner wanted to leverage Gerrit Cole’s contract and defer the money he’ll lose to a future time, I’d imagine that would be met begrudgingly but fine. Asking players of that ilk to simply foot the bill and then pitting them against guys in the same clubhouse, I certainly can’t see it going over well. While this is just the first proposal, it doesn't seem like a good foot to start on. Maybe the first week of June isn't a hard and fast deadline. Maybe a goal of dividing the players is of further importance. Maybe any cash flow relief is the greatest goal for ownership. We're dealing with lots of maybes here, but in unprecedented times we're likely in store for more unprecedented measures than we can imagine. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. Major League Baseball and the players’ union (MLBPA) are about to begin hammering out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and the result is likely to have a direct or indirect effect on just about every aspect of professional baseball that any of us care about in the least. Yes, this is going to be that big. http://knuckleballsblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/mlb-and-union600-600x412.jpg The thing is, we already know which side is going to win. It will be the players. We just don’t know the final score, yet. There will also be more than one loser. It won’t be just the owners, though they will certainly be losers, some of them much more than others (that would be you, Minnesota Twins). Owners/operators of some minor league teams are also possible losers (some of them potentially big losers). Minor league players will be losers (as they always are in these CBAs). Amateur ballplayers, in the United States and elsewhere, will be losers. On the other hand, I’ve looked into my crystal ball and the future looks very, very bright – if you’re Mike Trout. In fact, the future also looks pretty good if you’re swimming anywhere in the top half of the MLB player talent pool. For the rest of us, though, it could be a very bumpy ride. In the early 2000s, estimates placed the percentage of MLB revenues paid out in Major League salaries at about 55%. Current estimates have been reported at something close to 43%. The players are clearly going to want to see those numbers project closer to 50% in the new CBA and they have enough leverage this time to get what they want. You always want to be cautious about speaking ill of the dead, but the former head of the players union, Michael Weiner, who passed away in 2013, arguably gave away the farm to Bud Selig and the owners in his first, and only, CBA negotiation back in 2011. In his defense, he wasn’t exactly dealt a strong hand going into those negotiations. Players’ reputations were continuing to be tarnished by the image among fans that they had all built their careers on performance enhancing drugs, making it certain that any work stoppage resulting from a failed CBA negotiation would be blamed on the players. Regardless of the reasons, though, the final result was a contract in which the owners got most everything they wanted. Current MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark, the first former player to lead the union, should carry a much stronger bargaining position into this round of negotiations. As a group, baseball’s owners are making money by the boatload, thanks to incredible increases in local television revenues in many markets. That’s a double-edged sword, however, when it comes to negotiating a new CBA. It makes it impossible for baseball to contend that they can’t afford to give a bigger share of the financial pie to the players, yet those revenues are anything but evenly distributed. As a result, increasing salaries across the board would adversely affect the competitiveness of teams who have not been able to cash in on the local TV bonanza (see: Twins, Minnesota). On top of that, the owners with those huge TV deals stand to lose a lot of money in the event of a strike or lockout that results in games not being played, as do owners who rely on revenue sharing from those teams. Wide public awareness of the enormous revenues also makes it likely that ownership will be viewed by fans as being primarily at fault for any such work stoppage, should it occur. The result is a players’ union with a very strong negotiating position and plenty of motivation to take advantage of it. Here’s how the union could attempt to go about increasing the share of revenues that go to players’ salaries: Significantly increase the minimum salary for Major League players The minimum player's salary was $507,500 in 2015. That may not immediately increase to $1 million in 2017, but it won't be surprising if it's closer to that number than where it currently sits. This is important to the union because significantly increasing the minimum would potentially result in fewer players signing early team-friendly extensions that buy out arbitration years and, in some cases, free agency years. These extensions are viewed by the union as a drag on average player salaries. Elimination of the Qualifying Offer/draft pick compensation system for teams that stand to lose free agents Despite changes that have been made to lessen the market-dampening effect for many free agents, the players still hate this system. It’s seen as being particularly hard on the union’s “upper-middle class” of players – those who aren’t in the elite category, but for whom having to settle for merely $15 million or so on a one year contract is “unfair.” Significantly reducing the number of years a player is “under team control” This refers to the total number of years that a club can restrict a player’s ability to shop his services to the highest bidder on the free agent market. It consists of a three-year (usually) period of essential “serfdom,” during which the player has no alternative but to accept whatever salary (subject to the Major League minimum) the team offers and another three-year period of years during which the team must decide whether to offer the player binding arbitration or grant him unconditional release. The result is a total of six years (in most cases) of team control before a player can become a free agent, meaning that currently a player who makes his MLB debut on or after turning 24 years old will be at least 30 by the time he’s eligible to file for free agency if his team exercises every year of control they have over the player. In combination with the increased minimum salary, reducing the number of years of team control could make it far more likely that players would forego the additional security of an early team-friendly contract extension, in favor of playing out their arbitration years to reach free agency as soon as possible. It could also make it much more likely that young superstars hit free agency right at their peak, in terms of productivity, rather than somewhere at the beginning of the downside of that curve. More time off for players The MLB schedule is a gauntlet. Between the day games after night games and, perhaps worse, the night games followed by cross-country overnight travel to begin another series the next day, the 162-game schedule is more than merely grueling and players want more than the three or so days off each month they currently get. The problem is that, with the extra postseason games resulting from the Wild Card era, the season already is starting and finishing during time periods where no sane person should be trying to play meaningful baseball in many northern big league cities. One idea often floated to address this problem is to cut the schedule back to the 154 game levels that existed before the leagues expanded from eight to ten teams in the early 1960s. This would result in each team losing four home dates, however, and that would cut into revenues, not only with regard to attendance, but also in programming for those local TV partners that are shelling out big bucks to show the games. Another possibility would be to expand active rosters. If you have 27 players, for example, instead of 25, it would be easier to give everyone an extra day off occasionally. It probably sounds better in theory than it would work in practice, however. Still, it would increase union membership by 8%, so don’t be shocked if the union pushes the idea pretty hard. In a worst case scenario, it gives them something they can “give up” when it comes time to finding a way to allow the owners to save some face. Each of these would have the net effect of increasing the share of MLB revenues that go into the pockets of the players, collectively. Since the owners really cannot afford a work stoppage, if the MLBPA is willing to play hardball, we shouldn't bet money against the players' chances of getting some version of these changes. All of them. What the owners will get Of course, the owners won’t just cave on those issues while getting nothing in return – and that’s where things can turn bad for the rest of us. The owners might get more drug testing. After all, the union has gone down this path already, so what’s the big deal about going a bit further? On the other hand, this “give” doesn’t put even a dime in the pockets of the owners, so they aren’t likely to push too hard for it. The owners want an international draft, to further dampen costs of acquiring new talent. Since giving in on this issue costs the union membership absolutely nothing, they may posture about how unfair it is, but they will capitulate to the owners. If the owners want further restrictions on bonuses paid to players subject to the draft, both foreign and domestic, the union can give on that issue, too. Again, it doesn’t cost their membership anything, so why not? Of course, at a time when fewer parents are allowing their sons to play football, giving MLB an ideal opportunity to come up with ways to attract kids back to baseball, this is exactly the time when MLB should be adopting a system that encourages the best athletes in this country and around the world to choose baseball as a potential career over other sports, not discourage it. But that might cost money and owners, by the time this subject gets addressed at the negotiating table, are probably going to be ticked off about the extra money they’re having to shell out to players already in the big leagues, so we shouldn't expect logic to win the day. Indirect side effects on the rest of us Unfortunately, none of the ownership "wins" are going to even come close to making up for the money the owners are going to lose to their players in this deal, so they’re going to end up looking elsewhere to recoup some of those bucks. This is where minor league players, teams and fans should start feeling nervous. Minor league players, you can forget about seeing your pay go up to anything close to a living wage. Consider yourselves lucky if they don’t lower your base pay. After all, neither the union nor the owners are looking out for your interests in this negotiation. You might find yourself with less competition for that low paying minor league roster spot you’ve got, though. The number of minor league teams with MLB affiliations hasn’t changed significantly in decades. The current working agreement between MLB and MiLB assures owners of current affiliated minor league teams of having a MLB affiliation every year, but that agreement expires after 2020. Renegotiation of that agreement is just one of many things that is waiting for the completion of the new CBA. If owners decide they have been terribly abused under the new CBA, it shouldn't be too surprising to see them propose elimination of some affiliated minor leagues. That would mean fewer communities with affiliated minor league teams, fewer jobs for minor league staff, fewer spots for minor league players and fewer games for minor league fans to attend. Is this a Doomsday scenario that can’t possibly happen? Maybe. But neither MLB nor the players' union has ever been shy about screwing over minor leaguers in CBA negotiations. After all, minor league teams and players are not represented in those negotiating sessions, making it easy for both sides to sacrifice minor league interests if it means getting something of even moderate value in return. It's not unlikely that minor league baseball could look a little bit different in 2021 than it does today if Major League owners determine it's in their best financial interests to impose significant changes. A year from now, we’ll likely know a lot more about the changes coming for professional baseball going forward. Unless you happen to be a big league ballplayer today, you have a right to feel very uneasy about those changes. (This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com)
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