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It’s not as simple as “The Players Just Need To Get Over It”

Bobby Manfred said a bunch of things in a news conference on Sunday, and I’ve been meaning to do a post about it. But, I’m quitting that terrible tobacco, which has made me squirrelly and affected my sleep in ways that I had no idea that it would. So, yeah, waking up at 4:45 am every morning hasn’t been much fun, and I haven’t had the energy to type this up until now. Anywho…

Now, many of the things that Bobby voiced to the press has had MLB fans (and players) shaking their heads all week because it’s kind of hard to believe that he actually said some of the things that he said. I’m pulling most of the Bobby quotes from a great piece in the New York Times, which you should most definitely read if you haven’t yet.

I’m also pretty impressed by the writer’s ability to keep the salt out of it because it’s hard not to toss a little shade at Bobby and the Billionaires these days. So beyond his ‘the players need to get over it’ money quote – because it’s as simple as that – here’s some more terrific stuff relating to, ya know, how a lot of MLBers are feeling right now and what he thinks of the situation:

“It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how you conduct good labor relations to have people running around three years before an agreement expires, before there has been one word of negotiation, arguing that there is going to be a strike.”

So let me get this straight: if I’m in a union and we’re not happy about how shitty things have been lately, ‘we’ can’t ‘run around’ and talk about how there is going to be a strike? We can’t talk about why we’re unhappy and why the system doesn’t work for us? We’re just supposed to be cool with everything, sip coffee, and smile?

The players have every right to take to Twitter to call out this ‘collusion’ nonsense that is happening right now. Sean Doolittle, who is a pitcher for the Nats and a great Twitter follow, tweeted this after the Machadre signing (cap tip to LaLaLatte on Twitter for the ‘Machadre’ thing):

But, at least, there’s this ‘small’ step in the right direction:

‘Small’ like this:

What’s happening in the MLB may be a battle of the 0.1%, but that doesn’t mean that what’s actually happening makes it right. The truth is – I’m just going to be blunt here – the players are getting screwed over pretty badly right now. There is no reason to use some ostentatious ten-dollar word to describe the situation. It’s not right. And when there is no baseball in 2022, it’s going to suck for everyone. So when Bobby Manfred says things like this:

“I think it’s important to remember that the Major League Baseball Players Association has always wanted a market-based system, and markets change, particularly when the institution around those markets change. We’ve had a lot of change in the game. People think about players differently. They analyze players differently. They negotiate differently.” 

How could he not expect that maybe the way the market has changed because of the billionaires who control it might create responses like this from players:

The Cards’ Adam Wainwright said that unless something changes, there is going to be a strike, 100 percent. And hopefully those changes happen. And we all know what the players are going to be fighting for when the time comes, as Sean Doolittle states very clearly:

“Like, there was always this kind of unspoken agreement, or model, set up where for your first six years, most guys are underpaid because they don’t really have that much leverage. You’re locked into your minimum salary your first three years, and then when you go through the arbitration process for the next three years, there’s no market — it’s just you and one buyer, so there’s only so much you can do to move your value. But then you make it up on the back end in free agency.”

But, the market has changed and this isn’t happening now, which has led to the fun offseason times of today. And when you add in how organizations around the league manipulate the whole service time thing with their best prospects, a strike seems inevitable. But, don’t worry Bobby because you believes this:

“I do believe that we have the greatest game in the world. Maybe we’re going to make some little changes to make it even better. And I do think once we do get out there and start playing, that positive glow around the game will re-emerge.”

The first part he got right, that is something we can all agree one. But, holy shit – he’s really for real here, right? He really actually believes that the positive glow will just magically appear around the game once the warm sun is shining – all will be forgotten. I guess once spring is here, every MLB player will just wake up like they got blackout drunk and not remember a damn thing that has happened, but smell that fresh April air and play baseball.

I’m not trying to just go after Manfred in this little whatever for the sake of it, it’s just that clearly there is a major problem here. I think that he could have maybe been a little more empathetic or careful with his words considering he runs a business where the fans pay to see the players and not the billionaires who are screwing them all over.

  • The Humungus

    That last Doolittle quote is bang on. That was always the way it was. Then teams decided we’re only going to pay for the production of players worst case Ontario, and never pay them on the back end. So, if that’s the way it is now, then the players have to fight to make money on the front end.

    The way this ends is with an NHL style free agency model, wherein everyone is granted UFA status after 6 years or at age 27, whichever comes first.

    If that happens, there will be no more service time manipulation, because only the tip top guys will be in the majors before age 21 anyway. The teams will cry foul, but fuck them. The Pirates profit 10’s of millions without selling a single ticket every year. The cheap owners can get bent.

  • Warren

    Hi Ryan!
    I have not seen an article published on the effect that the American tax cut has had on baseball salaries. Baseball teams are allowed to write off the entire contract with a player in the year in which the contract is signed. (Jeff Loria for example was able to write off 320 million in the year in which the deal was signed with Stanton. I assume that this tax loophole allowed Loria and others to lower their overall revenue to avoid taxes from his other businesses.) With the reduction in tax rates it may have become unnecessary to use this loophole for a lot of owners.

  • Jim Scott

    Problem is, we do not know the background. As for example – I strongly suspect that Machado and Harper have had $200 mil + offers on the table for months. They are waiting, Boras-style, for the larger offer. If that is the case, then I see their situation in a very different light and do not blame ownership for saying that they only see $250m-ish of value (not do I blame players for wanting the extra $50m, even though at that financial level the difference is just ego). Similarly, I suspect that many of the unsigned all-stars have offers on the table – or have turned them down – because they wanted more. Fair enough, but in that scenario it is harder to say that they are being scr*wed.

    • Ryan Di Francesco

      I understand what you mean, and I think that there should be a hard offseason deadline or something so that free agency ends and the business sleeps from mid-January until pitchers and catchers report. I think there needs to be more pressure on organizations and the agents to get a deal done by a hard deadline. However, the fact that Bryce Harper (plus other notable players) are still free agents blows my mind man. I think that Manfred should have used better language when he spoke to the media and what he chose to say doesn’t help the situation at all.

      • Tools of Ignorance

        Harper declined the richest FA contract in human history. He had competition on the supply side (Machado). Limited need from NYY, BOS & LAD. We haven’t seen that one single team that’s willing to make a poor decision other than San Diego, and even they mitigated the risk by taking the surer bet. This can’t be surprising.