Emotional Roller Coasters
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel as though I have been through a baseball-induced emotional roller coaster the past few days, as we went from Rob Manfred’s statement, on draft day, that he was 100% certain we’d have baseball in 2020, to his assertion a few days later that a baseball season was unlikely. What changed in the meantime?
Well, the MLBPA announced it was done negotiating, and that they looked to Manfred to do what a previous agreement gave him power to do — which is unilaterally set the season, with players paid on a pro-rated basis based on games played.
You’d think that would make it easy to move ahead, but in fact it led to the owners side seeming to melt down. Why? Well, some believe that the owners only want to pay players for about 50 games. We’re at a point in the summer, however, where it would be quite possible to have a shortened training camp and still manage to get in 60-70 games before October. The league is required, by agreement, to ensure that the shortened season include as many games as possible, and their failing to do so would allow players to file a grievance ($) which, if I understand correctly, would be heard by the National Labor Relations Board, which takes on disputes between unions and management. Should the players win such a grievance the owners could face monetary penalties.
So, if the more cynical minds looking at this situation are right, the owner hand wringing and “let’s negotiate a bit more-ing” we are seeing is a tactic aimed at procrastinating until we get down to where more than 50 games can’t be played.
Or maybe get to the point where zero games can be played. As Rosenthal and Drellich report ($), there are rumors (these are at best second hand, keep in mind) that at least 8 owners don’t want the season to start at all. Do these owners think they will lose more money having games than not having games? Are they genuinely concerned about the spread of COVID-19? Are they hoping to stick it to the MLBPA with Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations around the corner? None of that is clear.
Oh and for good measure, someone leaked information about unnamed baseball personnel testing positive for the virus. COVID-19 remains a huge concern, one big enough to threaten the season altogether. But no one should be surprised that some players and coaches will report to camp with positive tests - these folks have all been out and about in their communities and this is a pandemic after all. The point of having a detailed safety protocol is to have steps that ensure those who test positive do not infect others. More fodder for those cynical minds: is this leak of health information another owner tactic to give legitimacy to delaying the start of or cancelling the season altogether?
The MLBPA, which has not always been very adept at bringing its members together or crafting a unified message, has in the last few days played this masterfully. They stopped playing the owners’ game of salary ping pong. By saying they are simply ready to report when MLB declares the season open, they have indeed positioned themselves to file a possible grievance, but they have also shifted from being the side responsible for obstructing the season from starting to being the folks who are oiling their gloves and getting ready to take the field.
They have unified behind the MLBPA’s statement — “tell us where and when” — which players have repeated in interviews and on Twitter. And the reason this works is that it feels authentic, we know that with perhaps a few exceptions (guys with strong health concerns) these young men really do want to play.
At this point, casual fans are much more likely to see the owners, who refuse to say “where and when,” as the obstructionists.
OK, if you aren’t sick of the topic, here are a few good reads:
Mark Carig of The Athletic ($) is no fan of the owners.
Well put from Tyler Kepner:
It is truly sad that there are some owners who don't want a season at all. Manfred won't/can't admit that, but it's true. If you're an owner and you don't want a baseball season, put up a "For Sale" sign, take your $1B+ and get out of the sport. https://t.co/7DjEof3C8Y— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) June 16, 2020
On the lighter side
Harry Enten is a smart man:
The bad news is there may not be an MLB season. The good news is that Yankees would not win a world series under that circumstance.— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) June 15, 2020
I can’t stop watching this and laughing.
A recap of today’s negotiations to restart MLBpic.twitter.com/52tps11Jze— Mike Oz (@mikeoz) June 14, 2020
Trevor Bauer makes a lot of sense! I can’t always say that!
So, Rob, explain to us how you can be 100% sure that there’s going to be baseball but not confident there will be baseball at the same time? hmmm. What changed between those statements Players told you to set the season, but it’s too early to set the season right now,— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) June 15, 2020
Love Merrifield’s optimism!
I can. Baseball is coming back. That’s a fact. And it’s such a beautiful game. While the business of it may suck sometimes, that doesn’t take away from the beauty of the game we love and miss. “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” https://t.co/FfY8RpQCCG— Whit Merrifield (@WhitMerrifield) June 14, 2020
Saying no to Mike Trout?
Sean Doolittle always has a thoughtful perspective:
Hearing that 1200 players really want a season! Urgency for information on when and where so we can play baseball in 2020. https://t.co/Y0KoeN4iIE— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) June 16, 2020
Any high school baseball teams in the Tampa area that would like a volunteer assistant pitching/mental/vibe coach...LET ME KNOW!— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) June 15, 2020
Finally, for my fellow and sister Floridians: the spike in COVID-19 cases is scary; it looks like the early days of the virus here in Florida with the huge caveat that back in April we were in the midst of closing things DOWN as cases increased and now we are in the midst of opening things back up as the cases increase. So: be careful out there!