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Jim Furtado
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Editor - Baseball Primer


Labor Newsbeat

Friday, March 29, 2019

‘Ready to strike tomorrow’: How one $20 trinket captures the strife within a $10 billion industry

The​ Belt​ changes​ hands​ shortly after​ season’s​ end,​ in a crowded conference room at​ a luxury​ resort, where​ delegates from​​ every MLB team have been summoned for a symposium on arbitration. For three hours, they will work together at the direction of the league to set recommendations, which teams will use in negotiations with their players. It’s a thankless job. So before the meeting adjourns, they’ll celebrate an unsung hero in this battle over dollars. The ceremony ends with the presentation of a replica championship belt, awarded by the league to the team that did most to “achieve the goals set by the industry.” In other words: The team that did the most to keep salaries down in arbitration.

For the last few years, The Belt has been an urban legend of sorts, known mostly by player agents and the small circle of mid-level team officials tasked with the tedious process of arbitration. But its existence, confirmed to The Athletic by multiple sources, has emerged as a tangible example of the animosity that could plunge the sport into a bruising labor conflict.

To its creators, it is nothing more than a morale booster, a nod for a job well done in the unglamorous arena of arbitration. But to others within the industry, it is emblematic of a climate in which the livelihoods of players can be turned into a parlor game.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 29, 2019 at 11:14 AM | 66 comment(s)
  Beats: labor

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

How baseball owners came to value profits over World Series titles

Maybe it’s collusion, maybe it’s the economics of a broken system. Former MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth once told league owners they were “damned dumb” for prioritizing winning over making money, and today’s owners seem to agree. Why try when trying costs money? It’s this attitude that has helped MLB’s luxury tax threshold work more like a salary cap, one so effective teams avoid coming within tens of millions of it, as too many of them would rather turn a profit than win the World Series.

Compare this with what’s expected of the players, who must abide by MLB’s Rule 21: players must “give [their] best efforts towards the winning of any baseball game.” Players must try their hardest, but teams and owners do not need to do the same if it gets in the way of profits. How is this, or telling fans to be fine with paying full-price for tickets and concessions and merchandise for teams promising they’ll get around to trying again in three or four or five years, fair?

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 26, 2019 at 08:44 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: labor

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

With labor tension high, it’s time for me, Dr. Rosenthal, to stage an intervention between MLB and its players

Still, a deal on the current issues probably could be forged from these elements alone:

*A 20-second pitch clock that would be turned off with men on base (Mr. Manfred announced on Sunday he will introduce the clock in spring training to prepare players and umpires in the event it is used during the regular season).

*A three-batter minimum for pitchers, which the union reportedly is willing to accept starting in 2020.

*The expansion of rosters from 25 to 26 with a 12-pitcher maximum and accompanying reduction from 40 to some lesser number in September, changes that also would take effect in ‘20.

As you know, Mr. Clark, the union already endorses the latter two points and probably could extract additional concessions on the introduction of the clock. Yet Mr. Manfred and baseball also are willing to budge, starting this season, on two other elements they need not address until after the CBA expires on Dec. 1, 2021 – incentives in the amateur draft and service-time manipulation.

Without knowing the details of its proposals, baseball’s mere willingness to bargain over the issues represents something of a breakthrough, particularly when its leaders believe the question of tanking is less black-and-white than the union contends, and more a reflection of the game’s cyclical nature than a non-competitive strategy.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 19, 2019 at 11:31 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: labor

Monday, February 11, 2019

Inside The Numbers: The Player Salary Battle Lines Between MLB And The MLBPA

It is here that the story of last season surfaces and shows that even if there is an uptick in 2019, as of now it is possible that it does not come back to levels seen as of 2017. From 2006-17, the percentage in player compensation across MLB, MiLB, and amateur signings was 56.5%. In 2018, the average was 54.8%. This occurred as the growth of league revenues increased at a faster pace than compensation back to the players grew:...

The percentage in player compensation has not moved smoothly. It has seen wild fluctuations at given points. And it’s here that the players have a concern. Note that even when money had not yet arrived into the owners’ pockets, such as the announcement ahead of the league’s new national TV deals taking effect, clubs increased spending on talent, as sign, they say, that clubs used to be interested in winning by investing:...

For the owners, they point to prior history and say, on average the percentage to all players has remained constant even with the deep drop in 2018. The trendline, while down, is nearly flat. But, for the players, what is concerning is if this new trend of owners investing in the front end (those 0-6 players), as opposed to the back end with free agents.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 11, 2019 at 10:04 AM | 12 comment(s)
  Beats: labor

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Should baseball go to a pay-for-performance model?

On top of the base pay, a player would be owed $4 million per WAR based on his performance that year. The antiquated arbitration system which rewards service time over production would be completely eliminated. There would be no reason to game the system for service time (except to move back free agency and that could be remedied somewhat by making it either 5.5 or 6.5 seasons of service time to be eligible for free agency). There is also no reason why you couldn’t have a player’s base pay go up as soon as he hits the service time threshold, even if it is in the middle of a season.

So for a player like Whit Merrifield in his second year of service time, he would have a base pay of $500,000, but would get in effect, a bonus at the end of the year based on his 5.2 WAR, an amount that would total $20.8 million for a total salary of $21.3 million. Could there be possible sticker shock for teams that see they have to suddenly pay a player $20 million at the end of the year? Perhaps. But teams can mitigate some of that volatility by offering more long-term deals, like the one Merrifield received. Only now those players will have more leverage to get something closer to market value.

What about veterans who have reached free agency and are enjoying guaranteed contracts? They can still enjoy guaranteed contracts, but teams should be encouraged to move to a more incentive-based model. Right now, teams are not allowed to offer contracts based on performance-based incentives, instead the only incentives allowed to be offered are for playing time (i.e. $1 million for reaching 500 plate appearances) or receiving awards.

A Baseball Fan Posted: February 05, 2019 at 07:49 PM | 13 comment(s)
  Beats: donald fehr, labor, war

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Rosenthal: Inside the frayed relations that could have MLB owners and players ‘walking off a cliff together’ ($)

One potential compromise would be for baseball to agree to largely non-economic incentives that would spur greater competition in exchange for the union yielding on pace-of-play initiatives. But baseball officials say they have experienced repeated frustration trying to engage the union in conversation. They have yet to receive a response to a series of rules changes they proposed on Jan. 14.

“I am not sure why we are talking about ‘walking off the cliff together’ when we are three years away from the expiration of our collective bargaining agreement and there has been no effort by the MLBPA to engage in discussions on these issues,” said Dan Halem, MLB’s chief legal officer and deputy commissioner for baseball administration…..

The owners, according to the Associated Press, reported a slight increase in the average salary last season, to $4,007,985. But the union, using different accounting methods, said the average dropped for the first time since 2004, dipping to $4,095,686, down $1,436 from the previous season. Going by the union figures, salaries barely rose over the most recent three-year period, increasing 3.6 percent from 2016 to ‘18 after rising 23 percent from ‘12 to ‘15.

The difference, Levinson said, is largely attributable to changes in free agency, which drove the player market for more than 40 years and helped make the union the wealthiest in professional sports, and one of the most powerful in history.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 29, 2019 at 08:31 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: labor

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Major League Baseball wants players exempt from minimum wage law

As pitchers and catchers prep to report for spring training in February, Major League Baseball is trying to convince Arizona lawmakers to exempt minor league ballplayers from the state’s minimum wage law.

The legislative maneuver mirrors the league’s lobbying effort at the federal level, where in 2018 Congress passed the Save America’s Pastime Act as part of a budget bill. That law exempts baseball players on minor league contracts from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires employees to be paid the federal minimum wage and overtime pay.

Garrett Broshuis, a St. Louis-based attorney and former minor league player, said that law doesn’t preempt state law from applying to players while they participate in the Cactus League, Arizona’s spring training system.

Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved a law to gradually increase the state’s minimum wage in 2016. Now $11 per hour, the rate will spike to $12 in 2020.

Baseball players won’t see a penny of that come February and March.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 24, 2019 at 07:55 AM | 29 comment(s)
  Beats: labor

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Rosenthal: For the good of the sport, Tony Clark needs to lead the players to a compromise solution on improving the game

The problem is, the union agreed to the current collective bargaining agreement only 26 months ago. Agents criticized the annual thresholds as too low from almost the moment the terms were announced, but the union did not believe teams would or should treat the boundaries as a soft cap. Well, guess what? Most teams do. And the union must bear responsibility for failing to anticipate the potential harm.

The solution, for now, is for the union to work around the edges of the CBA, propose non-economic measures that might spur competition – perhaps adjustments to the draft based upon team performance, perhaps a deadline of sorts on free agency, perhaps other things. The union, pending approval from the players, intends to introduce not only such measures, but also a broader plan that includes suggestions on how to enhance the on-field product, sources say….

For the good of the sport – a sport he loves as much as anyone – Clark needs to serve as a calming force, build a consensus for positive change and demonstrate greater leadership than before. Clark is aware league officials portray him as someone who says “no” to everything when he is responsive at all. This is his chance – an important chance, with far greater battles ahead – to prove that perception wrong.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 17, 2019 at 03:36 PM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: labor




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