Thoughts While on the Brink

It would be insensitive to put a picture of the Doomsday Clock here, but were there a baseball version, believe me, it’s what would lead off this piece. As you all likely know by now, MLB rejected yet another proposal by the MLBPA last night and the players are, predictably, heated. I’ll get to that in a a little bit, as I do want to have a little bit of fun first, though the exercise hardly seems relevant or realistic now. But, alas, let’s at least have some sliver of optimism, right?

Saturday morning, I put out a thought exercise on the Views twitter account–as I often do. It was as follows:

Most respondents picked the third trio as the one they’d take the elite/peak performance from, trusting in the other two to be able to perform well in the randomness of baseball. Let’s take a look at what the peak of each trio would be.

Trio 1 is MVP level performance from Judge; probably 80 walks and 25 HR from Hicks; and something similar to Hicks–maybe more power–for Voit.

Trio 2 is MVP level performance for both Stanton and LeMahieu and 20 homers + superb defense for Gio.

Trio 3 is 30 homers from Sanchez; a balanced contact and power from Torres; and 40 homers from Gallo.

Obviously, any and all of those would be desirable. However, I think I’ll have to go with the crowd and say I’d take the elite performance from Trio 3. I know Gleyber doesn’t quite have a spot right now, but let’s just pretend. He and Sanchez and Gallo are some of the biggest question marks the Yankees have going forward after their performances last year. Getting the top of their games and the normal games of everyone else would probably lead to a mashing offense worthy once again of the name Bronx Bombers.

Of course, for anything like this to be more than academic, we need an actual baseball season and despite the start date–whenever it is–being closer on the calendar than ever, we’ve seldom felt farther away from baseball actually starting.

Before I get into this next part, I suppose I should do the integrity thing and say that I do speak from a position of bias. As many of you know, I’m a New York City teacher; what many of you may not know is that I am the union chapter leader for my school. Additionally, both my father and grandfather–a delegate–were big parts of the local carpenters’ union where I grew up. With that out of the way…

It is clear that one side wants baseball to be played as soon as possible and one side doesn’t.

It is clear that one side is negotiating in good faith and one side isn’t.

It is clear that one side wants to make the game better for its own sake and for fans and one side cares only about extracting as much profit from the game as possible.

The owners imposed a lockout they didn’t need to impose.

The owners dragged their feet in negotiations.

The owners have made almost no significant movement towards the middle– let alone the MLBPA’s side–in offers and counteroffers.

The players have been willing to negotiate from day one.

The players have sent in honest, genuine propsals.

The players have shown a willingness to concede on issues.

There is no ‘both sides’ to this.

I want baseball in the worst way. It’s a big part of my life, silly and frivolous as it may be, but it is a great source of fun and joy and something my family share together, bond over. But that doesn’t mean I want the players to sacrifice so much, to give the owners what they want, just to get games played.

Earlier this week, in now deleted tweets, Dodger pitcher Walker Buehler framed the issue as ‘the numbers don’t line up’ when it comes to owners vs. players. And he’s absolutely right; this is a vitally important point. We see what the players make, in a very public way. And that amount of money can make it hard to relate to them. But remember, the owners make WAY MORE…and now they’re seeking to take even more AND water down the game through wildly expanded playoffs (that will make the regular season less competitive). “The numbers don’t line up.”

I’d bet that almost everyone reading this has had a similar thought regarding their own jobs or careers. The players are fighting to make the numbers “line up” a little better than they have in the past, just like any of us would. The players have an amazing job and earn a lot of money for it–more money than most of us can imagine, let alone earn. But that doesn’t mean they forfeit the right to fight for more, to make things a little more fair.

The publicity and visibility of players, especially relative to owners, makes them easy targets for public scorn. This is augmented by a lamentable and significant decline in labor union participation in America, along with some (sometimes intentional, sometimes not) owners’ water carrying by media. However, I think this time around–at least I hope–it will be better and people will side with the players.

I morbidly joked in the past that winning the 2021 World Series was crucial for the Yankees since there wasn’t going to be a season in 2022. I didn’t think I’d be this close to being right.

There is no doubt that when baseball is back, I will be watching. But that doesn’t mean I need it to be tomorrow, or even March 31. The players winning this fight is better for the game of baseball.

I hope the MLBPA continues to stand strong and does not give in to a set of greedy, entitled, spoiled billionaires who care for nothing more than the next buck and not the long term health, stability, or competitiveness of baseball.

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6 Comments

  1. Vin F

    When the greedy owners and overpaid players begin thinking first of the fans, I will start watching MLB again… the price of the tickets for a couple and the parking/tolls to get to Yankee Stadium is extremely high…. So, it’s Minor League Baseball for me…… vin f

  2. I’m totally with you, Matt. To hell with the owners and their greed. I’d rather have no baseball this year than have the owners get what they want. And when baseball resumes, I’m not going to any games. Especially the Yankees, who bring in massive money and yet still voted for a low luxury tax threshold. The whole idea of revenue sharing in MLB is abhorrent to me – don’t we live in a capitalistic society? If a millionaire/billionaire can’t hack it in a small market, sell the team and let someone else try it.

  3. Wire Fan

    Really the only way for the players to expand the revenue pie is by increasing the CBT and preventing the harsher penalties the owners are pushing for (which effectively will make the threshold a hard cap)

    While it is noble to try to get more pay to younger players via league min and arbitration increases, for most teams payroll is a zero sum game. Teams generally have yearly payroll targets – increase league min or arb salaries and that money will just come out of FA spending. I am not sure why the owners are fighting as much as they are in those areas (my guess is they will concede ground in these areas to harden the CBT cap and grow it slower).

    There were 5 teams within 4 mil of the CBT last year and another one (SD) barely over it. That is 6 teams treating the CBT like a cap. Make the penalties stronger and you won’t see teams like LA or the Mets go over for a prolonged period of time. Add in teams starting to come out of rebuilds like SF, Detroit, Texas and suddenly about 1/3 of teams will be impacted by the CBT.

    Just a 20mil increase in the CBT could mean as much as 200mil/yr in additional payroll spending. The players should take expanded playoffs out of their offer and only put it back in for a substantial CBT raise. It is their only real bargaining chip at this point.

  4. Mikenyc2007

    Matt- imo it’s not carrying water for the owners if you don’t automatically agree with increasing the total monies available to an entire group of workers because their bosses or industry is more profitable……and you are either ignoring or disregarding the biggest tool the players/workers have during a negotiation… that’s the power to unilaterally leave their job and/or work elsewhere, since they don’t have a right to be professional baseball players any more than I do….but the players won’t ever really leave because on their worst day it still ain’t so bad….so instead they are asking for more because their bosses are making more…and that’s a strong point if they have a skill and the employers value that skill differential over that of their replacement. We see it in tech and finance all the time.

    The issue to have with ownership is they will accept that lesser work product ( ie replacement, unpopular players playing with less skill) to fill out the uniform and move forward- that’s an insult to the fans who are expecting top talent.

    The players can’t say the teams are worth more because of “them”, as the “them” changes every few years, whether specific players are on a team or active or not… the only constant is the cloth.

    Should Dominicans ask for a greater percentage of the pie because their % of participation level has mirrored the exponential growth in team values?

    It’s a tough spot as the players have fake leverage, and their careers are too short to have a nuclear option (is scherzer going to miss out on 40mm this year, or Verlander is $25mm??)… but to take sides here is to have the pot calling the kettle black.

    • The Original Drew

      Your logic has more gaps in it than the Grand Canyon.

      • mikenyc2007

        deep thinking there Drew…care to expound, or just remaining salty?

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