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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Murray Chass: A BASEBALL WRITERS’ GIVEAWAY

I posed that question to Jack O’Connell, the long-time BBWAA secretary-treasurer, who announced the awards live on the shows.

“Any answer to my question about our giving away our awards while MLB network makes many thousands off it?” I asked in a second e-mail.

“The answer is that we did not give away the awards,” O’Connell replied. “They are still ours.”

I will give O’Connell the benefit of doubt and figure he misunderstood my question. My “give away” was not to be taken literally, as in giving the network proprietary control of the awards. But the BBWAA gave away the awards for television profit and got nothing in return.

There was commercial money involved, and the network got it all. ...

Using the low estimate, each show would have earned $120,000 for a total of $600,000. Even if the commercials were discounted by 50 percent, the network would have had $300,000 in revenue. ...

What could the BBWAA have done with the money if it had received any from the network? It could have helped families of writers who died or writers who had lost their jobs in a shrinking and decaying industry. Institute a college scholarship program. Make donations to hurricane or earthquake victims.

The BBWAA wouldn’t have to keep any of the money and ruin its nonprofit stratus [sic]. But instead of giving away money, the BBWAA would rather give away its awards.

bobm Posted: November 25, 2012 at 01:00 PM | 112 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: awards, bbwaa, tv

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   101. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 26, 2012 at 03:12 AM (#4309546)
And MLB doesn't need a nuclear war - the BBWAA has historically been very compliants to what MLB tells them.


Yes, exactly. MLB says jump, and the BBWAA asks how high, because they know that MLB has all the power.
   102. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: November 26, 2012 at 03:18 AM (#4309548)
Dan, is it your position as well that should BBWAA ask for something in return for an arrangement concerning the awards that MLB should say no?

From a practical consideration, it depends on the price. MLB would probably (and smartly) consider small sums of money to be simple nuisance value. Any amount MLB feels they would actually miss would be too much - the BBWAA is too small, too poor, and extremely unlikely to act in concert against MLB over something that has no effect on the vast majority of members.
   103. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: November 26, 2012 at 03:20 AM (#4309549)
And how many views does that "small fraction" get for their pieces and how many pieces are written because of their decisions?

If people are interested in reading MVP articles, the editors will still assign them and they will still be written. Let's not forget, only 28 writers can write a piece detailing their decision on, say, the MVP Award. What are they going to threaten to do, write about curling instead?
   104. McCoy Posted: November 26, 2012 at 03:23 AM (#4309550)
It's a, "God, what a pointless question. I can't believe someone actually asked me that."

How about you just say yes or no?
   105. McCoy Posted: November 26, 2012 at 03:29 AM (#4309551)
If people are interested in reading MVP articles, the editors will still assign them and they will still be written. There are a maximum of 28 articles in the entire world that involve a writer detailing their decision to vote.

And if there is no MVP award at the end of the season backed by the BBWAA and instead is merely some award handed out by MLB how long will articles be written about the MVP awards? Virtually no one cares about who is the MVP in the NBA, NHL, or NFL. The BBWAA has done a very good job with their MVP award. At this point in time MLB appears to be trying to monetize that relevance and I see no reason why MLB would risk that money by tempting BBWAA to alter the award in such a way as to render the award worthless to MLB.
   106. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 26, 2012 at 03:35 AM (#4309552)
How about you just say yes or no?


If they politely asked, I'd politely decline. I'd only call the power imbalance to their attention (in some subtle fashion) if I felt that they hadn't fully considered the implications. You only apply as much force as is needed to achieve the desired outcome - this is business, after all, not sadism.
   107. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 26, 2012 at 03:39 AM (#4309554)
And if there is no MVP award at the end of the season backed by the BBWAA and instead is merely some award handed out by MLB how long will articles be written about the MVP awards?


Under that scenario, the same number of articles will still be written. The only difference is the a few of them might be written by different people, depending on how many BBWAA members were unwisely willing to cut their own throats.
   108. KT's Pot Arb Posted: November 26, 2012 at 03:40 AM (#4309555)
How long are newspapers going to pay baseball writers to not write about baseball?


They'll pay them to write about other sports, which is what most do most of the year. I'm sure the Teams will be thrilled when some of their usual column space is given over to other sports and events competing for their fans attention and dollars.

When was the last time MLB willingly left money on the table, even if getting it involved long-term damage to the brand? Look at the recent changes to the draft (which drives talent into other sports), or the sale of TV rights to the highest bidder regardless of the manner of presentation or priority within the network lineup.


Draft changes were hugely positive for teams, few (if any) athletes have been driven away just because they can't negotiate higher bonuses, since top picks still get millions, and the career length and earnings in baseball are second to none. You are confusing the MLB's focus on improving key parts of their business that provide hundreds of millions or billions in revenues/benefits, with little or no risk, with taking a huge risk to a huge free asset of their business over a trivially small amount of money that matters only to some assistant producer tasked with producing a small time program.

And it worked. The ban held, other outlets continued to cover the Royals, and the team successfully pushed the reporters in question out of the market. So in exchange for a little bit of short term pain, they got everything they wanted.


No, they lost fans, ticket sales, media coverage, all to massage a wealthy owners ego. David Glass's ego was more important to him than those incremental revenues, esp. when MLB revenue sharing already assured his team's profitability.

But guess what, the egos of Junior execs at MLB.com running a micenuts sized program mean zero to David Glass and every other owner. They aren't getting carte blanche to pick dumb fights at David Glass's and every other owner's expense.

If an owner is dumb enough to complain, Selig will explain to the slow learner why it's in MLB's interest to hold the line, and if the owner is dumb enough to keep complaining, Selig will put him on the #### list henceforth and forever, and the rest of the owners will back his play. MLB cancelled a World Series and a big chunk of a season under Selig. That's a hell of a lot more money than a handful of newspaper articles, and Selig came out of it as strong as ever.


That is truly insane. The majority of the owners decided to it was worth canceling games to get important concessions in their labor agreements worth billions of dollars over time, and Selig publicly announced those decisions. If he had ever gone against the wishes of the majority, Bud would long ago would have been quickly retired.

Bud can certainly finesse a single owner with a single axe to grind (as long as the owner isn't too influential with the other owners), but he's never even going to disagree with any significant numbered group of owners, he'll be road-kill. Those owners aren't going let Selig do squat if it hurts their local revenues unless there is some big payoff to it. I would laugh until my sides hurt if you ever tried to explain to an owner why it's important for the MLB to pick fights with all his key local sportswriters and hurt his teams local ticket sales in order to avoid paying the BBWAA an honorarium smaller than the annual expense reports for most team presidents.

I picked up on the fact that you're not the brightest bulb in the drawer, and that arguing with you on this is probably a waste of time. Lesson learned, I guess.


I applaud your decision to discontinue digging this hole now that you realize how far below ground you are.
   109. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 26, 2012 at 04:07 AM (#4309559)
They'll pay them to write about other sports, which is what most do most of the year.


And the people who normally write about those other sports? What will they be doing? Why would the newspaper continue to pay two people to do one person's job, in order to protect the BBWAA's right to try and shake down MLB for some piddly license fee?

Not to mention the fact that for most of the MLB season, there aren't any other pro sports to write about. Maybe casual fans will be thrilled to see their MLB coverage phased out of the paper in favor of stories about bull riding and bowling and the local girls' high school volleyball team. I kind of doubt that, though.

No, they lost fans, ticket sales, media coverage, all to massage a wealthy owners ego.


If it was so damaging, why was their attendance higher in 2006 than it had been in 2005, and higher in 2007 than it had been in 2006?

If he had ever gone against the wishes of the majority, Bud would long ago would have been quickly retired.


Bud wouldn't be acting against the wishes of the majority. The owners aren't going to want to cough up part of their personal portion of MLB's shared revenue to the BBWAA for no good reason. Though again, it'd never even get to that point because the BBWAA is smart enough to not start a fight that they can't win.

I applaud your decision to discontinue digging this hole now that you realize how far below ground you are.


Sure, keep telling yourself that, if it makes you feel better.
   110. KT's Pot Arb Posted: November 26, 2012 at 04:52 AM (#4309567)
And the people who normally write about those other sports? What will they be doing? Why would the newspaper continue to pay two people to do one person's job, in order to protect the BBWAA's right to try and shake down MLB for some piddly license fee?


Reading comprehension problems? Those writers already write about "those other sports', very few writers specialize only in baseball.

Not to mention the fact that for most of the MLB season, there aren't any other pro sports to write about. Maybe casual fans will be thrilled to see their MLB coverage phased out of the paper in favor of stories about bull riding and bowling and the local girls' high school volleyball team. I kind of doubt that, though.


What choice do they have? In your fantasy world, the MLB is refusing to let them cover the local team, remember, to save MLB.com paying the BBWAA a $100k or $200k a year ($3k to $6k per team, when teams already spend multiples of that to feed and schmooze local sportswriters every year).

If it was so damaging, why was their attendance higher in 2006 than it had been in 2005, and higher in 2007 than it had been in 2006?


You are arguing that sportswriters are the only factors driving attendance now? Not a team improving two years in a row from 56 wins to 62 to 69 wins?

I do love how desperate you have become to paint going from 1.371M in 2005 to 1.372M in 2006 as "higher" as if it were some significant improvement. Given normal attendence increases in the MLB isn't that really a decline? And wow, 1.61M in 2007, good for 14th in the league, despite a 13 game improvement over 2 years

Bud wouldn't be acting against the wishes of the majority. The owners aren't going to want to cough up part of their personal portion of MLB's shared revenue to the BBWAA for no good reason. Though again, it'd never even get to that point because the BBWAA is smart enough to not start a fight that they can't win.


Yes, the owners want Bud to pick a fight with the BBWAA so they can each pocket another $3k or $6K a year, while their team president and marketing VPs are screaming bloody murder over the problems it's causing with local ticket sales.

You are arguing that blackballing BBWAA members can't possibly cost the average team even 200 or 400 tickets a year (2-4 per game)!

No one is arguing that the BBWAA could pick a fight with the MLB and win. We are all arguing that teams would lose far, far, more in local ticket sales if MLB.com picked a fight with the BBWAA, than the BBWAA could ever want in a participation fee.
   111. Greg K Posted: November 26, 2012 at 08:35 AM (#4309582)
No one is arguing that the BBWAA could pick a fight with the MLB and win. We are all arguing that teams would lose far, far, more in local ticket sales if MLB.com picked a fight with the BBWAA, than the BBWAA could ever want in a participation fee.

I think you're both looking at it from opposite angles.

1) Is it worth it for MLB to pick a fight with the BBWAA? Perhaps not, seems like a piddling amount to fight over.
2) Is it worth it for the BBWAA to pick a fight with MLB? Almost certainly not, to the individual writer that looks like a pretty big risk, and for what reward?

That scenario seems like a recipe for the status quo.
   112. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 26, 2012 at 10:37 AM (#4309602)
Reading comprehension problems? Those writers already write about "those other sports', very few writers specialize only in baseball.


Sure, but they don't do it during baseball season. There's only a limited amount of non-baseball news to go round (particularly during baseball season), and a limited demand for it. If the paper could make money by having people write extra articles on whatever non-baseball sport, they'd already be doing that.

What choice do they have?


They could write baseball stories that don't require clubhouse access, or assign a different (non-BBWAA) sportswriter to the baseball beat, or ask their reporter to put pressure on the BBWAA to drop the stupid demand and quit screwing up their livelihood already.

You are arguing that sportswriters are the only factors driving attendance now?


Speaking of reading comprehension problems...

You said that the Royals' decision to pull the two media members' credentials cost them fans. I asked why, if that was the case, attendance went up rather than down. You apparently don't have an answer, because you were just making #### up rather than checking the evidence.

Yes, the owners want Bud to pick a fight with the BBWAA so they can each pocket another $3k or $6K a year, while their team president and marketing VPs are screaming bloody murder over the problems it's causing with local ticket sales.


I'm not sure how many times I need to say this, but I'll do it again: It'll never get to that point, because the BBWAA recognizes that MLB could pretty much end it with a thought, and kowtows accordingly.

No one is arguing that the BBWAA could pick a fight with the MLB and win. We are all arguing that teams would lose far, far, more in local ticket sales if MLB.com picked a fight with the BBWAA, than the BBWAA could ever want in a participation fee.


Of course the short-term cost to MLB from spanking the BBWAA would be higher than the short-term benefit from not paying the fee. So what? MLB's real motivation in doing so would be keeping the BBWAA (and other outside observers) in line, rather than picking up a reputation as an easy mark.

You think the piddly short-term savings from the NFL's standoff with the referees were worth all the bad ink they got from the blown calls at the start of the season? Of course not. But that wasn't the point - sending a message about the way they do business was.
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