News & Notes: 2020 Season Negotiations, the Yankees and MLBPA, Yankee Injury Updates

Is there another “Spring Training” in the future?

It feels like a lot has changed since I wrote a roundup of baseball news last week, but it also feels like we’re in exactly the same position: there is no plan for a season, and the two sides are still bickering. Still, though, I am as confident as I’ve ever been that we’ll get baseball in 2020 – and that we’ll find out about an agreement soon. Maybe I’m the sucker.

I sure hope we do, anyway. It would be nice to get some good news these days. I am looking forward to the MLB Amateur Draft (June 10 at 7 pm EDT) though. It’s being broadcast on MLB Network and, hilariously, ESPN. Real sports! Live action! We’ll be covering that, and running down who we think the Yankees might select, next week. So stay tuned for that.

Yesterday, I was thinking about Giancarlo’s 2018 walk-off against the Mariners. Today, I’m thinking about this one from Gleyber, which came amid that torrid stretch where it felt like the Yanks couldn’t lose:

Just fantastic stuff. Anyway, onto today’s news & notes.

2020 Season Roundup

As we all know by now, ownership and the players are still divided. Updates are pouring through social media, with many players speaking out. It can be hard to follow. The good news – if you want to call it that – is that most of this activity doesn’t really matter. Publicly airing laundry is a useful tactic, as it helps clarify positions and signal to the other side, but it’s not really worth following the nitty-gritty in this case. Both sides are negotiating. However, there have been a few important developments. Let’s run through them:

  • MLB Proposes New Framework (May 26): This is what everyone was talking about last week, and which I covered here. I won’t go into any more detail here, but it’s the one with the sliding scale of pay reductions and a reduced number of games. This was formally offered to MLBPA on May 26.
  • MLBPA Extends a Counteroffer (May 31): We heard rumors of this one last week. The union rejected the league’s new offer and instead proposed a 114-game schedule with no additional pay cuts for players. Just as the league went back on the original March agreement with pay reductions, the union went back on the number of games. Politics!
  • MLB Rejects MLBPA’s Offer (June 3): This week, MLB rejected that offer and informed the MLBPA that it would not extend another counteroffer.
  • MLBPA Stands Firm (June 4): Then, last night, we got word that the union “resoundingly rejected” the league’s latest offer. Union chief Tony Clark’s full statement is here.

That, my friends, is what we could call an impasse. Jeff Passan over at ESPN actually dove into all of this a bit more this morning, reporting that what the league wants is actually a 48-game season. His report goes into significant financial detail, so check that out if you want the full picture.

I don’t think any of that stuff really matters right now, though. The details are the details. The 30,000-foot view is more important. The foundational facts here are that both sides are losing (a lot) of money right now and that it’s in both parties short- and long-term interest to resume a season. The key issue is the number of games that season will be. That seems to be the pivotal point of discussion. Everything else – roster size, playoff structure, etc. – is comparatively small potatoes.

That’s why I’m actually optimistic. I know that there are a ton of structural problems with baseball economics and that the pending CBA expiration is a complicating factor. I also know that, because the season never started in the first place, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison with leagues like the NBA or NHL, who have generated 2020 revenue already. But I’m confident that this is all posturing and negotiation. When push comes to shove, both sides will concede on the number of games – my money is on 82, right where all of this started – and all the rest will fall into place. After all, if the owners’ losses really are “biblical”, as Cubs owner Tom Ricketts says, then they’ll have no choice but to get back on the field sooner rather than later.

Yankee Labor Presence

As all of these negotiations swirl, several Yankees are at the forefront of these discussions. (H/t Lindsey Adler, as always.) I was actually pretty surprised to see it. The union has an eight-player executive subcommittee.

Here is that committee:

  • Association Representatives: Andrew Miller, Daniel Murphy, Max Scherzer, and Elvis Andrus
  • Pension Representatives: Cody Gearrin, Chris Iannetta, James Paxton, and Colin McHugh

Half of the executive subcommittee has recent ties to the Yankee organization. Obviously, Paxton and Iannetta are on the team now, and Miller was a big part of the Bronx bullpen just a few years ago. Gearrin, you might recall, was in the Yanks’ clubhouse a bit last year. Paxton and Iannetta alone mean that the Yanks’ players are more represented than their peers. Miller and Gearrin is just an additional connection.

Moreover, like every team, the Yankees are represented by a player to the union. Right now, that’s Zack Britton. As Lindsey notes, Gerrit Cole (the Yankees signed him, remember?) and Adam Ottavino have been player reps in the past for other teams. It’s a pretty union-heavy locker room on 161st and River these days.

(Relatedly, Paxton is no stranger to labor fights, as his time as a college student at the University of Kentucky shows. A dispute over the role of agent Scott Boras resulted in Paxton leaving school before the drat. He didn’t finish his final season. Read more on that here.)

Yankee Injury Updates

Finally, let’s cover some on-the-field-stuff, shall we? It’s a good reminder of The Before Times™ when I was able to do that multiple times a day. When we last left the Yankees, they were a hurt and hobbled mess. It was a continuation of the 2019 season, really. If there’s one good thing about this delay, it’s that the team should be healthy when the season does resume.

Here’s all of the good news from significant injuries:

  • James Paxton: In early February, the Yankees announced that Paxton would miss 3-4 months following back surgery. The timeline was for him to come back in mid-May, which would have been about 6-8 weeks of season. For his part, Paxton is fully healthy now. He’s resumed a throwing program and is even tinkering with his fastball grip. I’m interested in the new grip (and will probably get to it next week), but the most important thing is that it seems like Big Maple will be ready to go.
  • Aaron Hicks: Hicks, who needed Tommy John surgery this offseason, was slated to miss several months of the season. Like Didi Gregorius before him, he was aiming for a mid-July return. (Didi made it back sooner, but let’s be conservative here.) According to Hicks’ Instagram, he has been swinging a bat. All of the news has been positive. If and when the season resumes, he should be ready to take part in most of it.

Here’s all the obvious stuff:

  • Gary Sánchez: Gary, who was struggling with back aches and a flu that was definitely not COVID-19, should be all set and ready to go for 2020. We’ve seen video and photos of him behind the plate recently, so one can only assume he’s healthy. This injury was just small stuff anyway.
  • Giancarlo Stanton: Stanton also got banged up in Spring Training, remember. The good news is that Boone called him “game ready” in late March even though there were no games. So he’s all recovered from his minor injury, which is good news.

Finally, the confounding/weird news:

  • Aaron Judge: Who the hell knows what’s going on with Aaron Judge these days. His broken rib/collapsed lung came to light in late March. The timeline was unclear then, with rumors swirling he might need surgery. He hasn’t, as far as we know, but he also hasn’t resumed swinging a bat. I don’t know, man. It’s the weirdest situation. Let’s just hope Judge recovers by the time the season starts. Losing him for 4 months would have sucked, so there’s a silver lining.

Anyway, it’s Friday and everything is depressing and bad these days. I don’t want to end on the Judge injury note, so I’m not going to. I am amazed by Aaron Hicks’ ALCS performance every time I think about him. Honestly, I didn’t think it was possible. Dude missed so much time and honestly had the best at-bats of anyone on the team against that nasty Astros staff. Incredible.

Here’s the first inning of Game 5 of the ALCS, capped by Hicks’ impossibly satisfying home run off Justin Verlander as a palate cleanser to [gestures wildly] all this:

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1 Comment

  1. MikeD

    Both sides want there to be a baseball season, so there will be a baseball season. Right now it’s posturing, some of it normal, some of it driven by mistrust, but they’ll figure it out.

    On the injury front, most concerned about Judge. This is has been a weird injury with a vague recovery timeline. The chance remains he will need surgery, which will not be minor. Full recovery would extend into next season, so hoping for encouraging news. Judge is not the best person for news. He always thinks he can play now, even though it’s clear he can’t, and in the process could be hurting his return.

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