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Friday, February 16, 2018

Rob Manfred Might Have Just Made a Mistake | FanGraphs Baseball

Pfft.

And can we stop with the talk about disbanding the MLBPA. Do you know who would get hurt by such an irresponsible action? EVERYBODY!

Jim Furtado Posted: February 16, 2018 at 04:39 PM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cba

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   1. villageidiom Posted: February 16, 2018 at 05:43 PM (#5626259)
Yeah, disbanding the MLBPA is the action to take by the players if they want to rip up the current CBA. But it's unclear that they get a better deal by doing so; they just kick-start the discussion/negotiation of a new CBA.

But another path there is the antitrust/collusion path, and I agree with TFA that MLB is doubling down on a talk track they shouldn't be on. To respond to the MLBPA's statement by saying "players have nine-figure contracts they're not taking" instead of "according to media reports players have nine-figure contracts they're not taking", OK, that's weak sauce for evidence of wrongdoing. On its own it's a nothingburger. But Manfred's statement that the market is dictating lower terms than the players seek, to some degree is indicating a collective entity rather than individual teams. I know that's not what we mean when we talk about "the market" in economic terms - the stock market is not an exercise in collusion among publicly-traded companies, for example - but in a cartel "the market" is really a collective function. Again it could be poor word choice, but repeatedly making poor word choices that betray one's innocence is either a lot of misfortune or an indication that there's no innocence to betray.
   2. Walt Davis Posted: February 16, 2018 at 06:30 PM (#5626272)
Maybe both Manfred and Clark has risen to the level of their own incompetence.

Not a lawyer but it seems hard to make much of what Manfred said here -- and of course it's a press conference, not a court of law. He's saying the market is working. The suggestion in the article that he should say the market isn't working would likely lead directly to his firing. Saying nothing ("MLB and the MLBPA have a collective bargaining agreement that includes an arbitration process. MLB has no concerns about how the agreement is operating at this time.") I mean, if you want controversial headlines, "Manfred admits free agent market is not working" would be a controversial as you can get.

And I agree that disbanding the MLBPA sounds like a dumb risk. I can see that it might be the only path if the players decided they absolutely had to destroy this CBA this very moment to get JD Martinez a 6th year. But even if the players consider this CBA anathema and think major changes are necessary, surely the safer option is to live with what you've got until this CBA expires then take a very hard, committed negotiating stance, possibly resulting in a strike.

We are still at a point where the only person who's really gotten screwed this offseason is Ohtani and (a) he was screwed by MLB, MLBPA and NPB and (b) he did at least have the option of waiting two years and making a lot more money if he stayed healthy. It's possible that everybody except relievers got screwed a little bit this offseason (max JDM at $25 M) but that becomes an arbitration/negotiation issue.

Anyway if MLBPA (or its disbanded entity) has sufficient evidence to contemplate disbanding and filing an anti-trust suit then they've got enough evidence to win compensation from the arbitrator or compensation/concessions in the next CBA.

That said, what happens to the mini-reserve/arbitration system if MLBPA disbands? It would be rich if the MLBPA's best leverage is un-screwing younger players.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: February 16, 2018 at 06:39 PM (#5626275)
I will add ... if the owners are colluding, they are really dumb. This is a great CBA for them, as close as they've ever been to the (post-FA) system they've always wanted. A virtual salary cap, restrictions on international/draft bonuses, drug testing with expanded penalties, the 6 years of control is still there, they still get to play whatever service time games they want. If they're putting any of that at risk to shave a few million off the contracts of JDM, Hosmer, etc. they deserve whatever pain a future arbitration/court ruling against them dishes out.
   4. ptodd Posted: February 16, 2018 at 07:01 PM (#5626283)
The take on Manfred as soft on labor because he was a labor lawyer is interesting. An AFL-CIO report, cited by workers at Harvard University when they first tried to unionize more than 20 years ago, named named Manfreds company of Morgan Lewis & Brockius (MLB) as one of the top five “union avoidance” firms in the U.S., a fancy name for union-busters. They are also Trumps tax advisor but thats beside the point

Manfred has been working with MLB on CBA negotiations and labor issues since 1987, which if people remember was a collusion year and at a time players had already filed a grievance.

As for any anti-trust lawsuit, MLB is exempt from anti-trust laws and in this political and judicial climate where the cult of neoliberalism rules, its just not smart to challenge the exemption and might even be what Manfred wants to bust the union. BTW, a partner at Morgan Lewis was nominated by Trump to fill the 5th seat of the NLRB.

MLB anti-competitive behavior is quite simply is Collusion and thats against the CBA. No need to disband the union and go to court, arbitration is good enough to start

MLB will argue that it is simply conscious parallelism which by itself is not collusion, but can be considered collusion if MLBPA proves plus factors exist, in which case it may be considered tacit collusion. This similar behaviour by 30 owners seemed to come about when Manfred took over as commissioner, and for 30 separate owners to act in unison stretches the concept of conscious parallelism as an argument. The concept is generally limited to industries where a handful of companies control 80% of the market and can result in price leadership where everyone follows the leaders to the mutual benefit of the owners, and in this case against labor.

Contrary to popular opinion explicit collusion with hard evidence of a formal agreement need not be proved.

Once the season starts I expect a formal charge of collusion to be filed. Circumstantional evidence is plentiful. The salary/signing data is Exhibit A and GM 's being quoted by Passan in November they would hold off signing to February to get the beat deal is Exhibit B. Manfreds statements as the
author correctly points out is definitely going to help.
   5. Baseballs Most Beloved Figure Posted: February 17, 2018 at 12:45 PM (#5626395)
Really poor article. Poorly written, pushes the Boras agenda, misreads Manfred's quotes, only links to like minded Fangraphs sources, cites no precedents, and provides no statistical analysis.
   6. Spahn Insane Posted: February 17, 2018 at 03:07 PM (#5626449)
Rob Manfred might have just made a mistake

Surely the possibility must be considered.
   7. eddieot Posted: February 17, 2018 at 04:24 PM (#5626471)
I'm kind of tired of hearing what a genius Manfred is because he went to Harvard Law. He was basically a Selig sychophant that regularly got his clock cleaned by the union in CBA negotiations up until the PED era, when a lot of leverage swung to the owners through no efforts of their own. The players were the ones who decided it was time to clean up the game and in the process the union decided it was time to "partner" with the owners rather than fight them tooth and nail on every tiny issue. Two-plus decades of labor peace followed and everyone was happy. Then the owners got greedy again, because of course they did. Mike Weiner (who actually was a genius that went to Harvard Law) died prematurely and Tony Clark got thrown into the position he was supposed to inherit about 15 years earlier than expected. Bud slinked away into his hole, and the owners saw blood in the water. No doubt the most recent CBA greatly benefited the owners, but, as always, they are driven by greed and greed alone and they know Manfred is nothing but their puppet, so instead of enjoying the new larger spoils they decided to once again try to break the union. I have no doubt this is the new collusion era and I have no doubt that Manfred and the owners are dumb enough to trip themselves up again at some point. History repeats itself, especially in baseball. A work stoppage within 5 years is almost inevitable at this point. #dumbasses
   8. there isn't anything to do in buffalo but 57i66135 Posted: February 17, 2018 at 04:32 PM (#5626474)
i heard keith olbermann make a big deal of this manfred quote on ESPN, too.


something definitely happened here, but it's not just free agency. there were only 3 active sellers in the trade market this winter -- PIT (cole, mccutchen), TB (longoria, boxberger), MIA (dignity), which means the problem is not just that teams aren't spending money, it's that they're no longer attempting to improve.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: February 17, 2018 at 04:54 PM (#5626479)
for any anti-trust lawsuit, MLB is exempt from anti-trust laws

Not when it comes to the baseball player labor market -- the Curt Flood Act makes that clear.
   10. JRVJ Posted: February 17, 2018 at 05:17 PM (#5626483)
He was basically a Selig sychophant that regularly got his clock cleaned by the union in CBA negotiations up until the PED era, when a lot of leverage swung to the owners through no efforts of their own.


A general comment from an attorney who has been practicing for 23 years.

The results of MOST negotiations depend mostly on how much leverage you have going in. If you don't have much leverage, you can be the best damn attorney for that type of field, and your impact in any long-term negotiation will be mostly at the margins....
   11. Stevey Posted: February 17, 2018 at 07:07 PM (#5626501)
until the PED era, when a lot of leverage swung to the owners through no efforts of their own


I don't think this is true, at all. PED users were turned into villains long before the MLBPA gave in to testing. To believe that MLB played little to no part of that just doesn't seem believable, especially when considering the biggest consequence - how much leverage swung from the players to the owners. Testing hasn't really prevented players from taking risks with drugs to improve themselves, but it does allow the owners to take back money through unpaid suspensions, and obviously in CBA negotiations.
   12. eddieot Posted: February 18, 2018 at 11:02 AM (#5626576)
I don't think this is true, at all. PED users were turned into villains long before the MLBPA gave in to testing.

Yes, that's my point. The union still would not give in to testing. When Congress got involved was when the PR hit became untenable. Ultimately the reason the CBA was reopened was because a majority of players, including most of the board members, came to leadership and demanded it. Too many players said they felt pressured to use PEDs just to keep up with the criminal class and maintain their jobs. Meantime, the GMs and owners, despite their hypocritical public stance, all knew what was going on and still gave huge contracts to abusers and cut players who couldn't keep up. The union leadership had no choice but to give up some leverage to keep the membership united. The owners really could give a s**t as long as they were selling tickets.
   13. JRVJ Posted: February 18, 2018 at 12:09 PM (#5626587)
The union still would not give in to testing. When Congress got involved was when the PR hit became untenable


The owners really could give a s**t as long as they were selling tickets.


What makes you think that the players were the only ones who got a PR hit when Congress got involved?
   14. Buck Coats Posted: February 18, 2018 at 12:21 PM (#5626588)
The fact that Bud Selig just got into the Hall of Fame?
   15. eddieot Posted: February 18, 2018 at 01:11 PM (#5626600)
The players were the focus of the Congressional hearings. Selig basically played dumb by lying through his teeth and Palmeiro, McGwire and Clemens took all the heat by their bumbling testimonies. It was a disaster for the players as evidenced by their subsequent HOF exclusions. Selig and the owners? They got a pass, made their money, franchise values continued to climb, TV deals exploded and Selig is in the Hall. Name one way the owners suffered because of PEDs.
   16. Stevey Posted: February 18, 2018 at 03:33 PM (#5626625)
Yes, that's my point.


But then you ignore my next line or missed which part of yours I was responding to. Owners/teams didn't just sit on the sideline and get lucky while the players got vilified. They were in on it.
   17. eddieot Posted: February 18, 2018 at 05:06 PM (#5626656)
Ah, yes Stevey, I misread your response. Certainly the owners conspired to paint the players as the villains and piled on once the media realized that the story was bigger than they thought. I give Selig and team some credit for realizing their opening in terms of gaining leverage against the players. But I think sports talk radio played a huge role in that and the owners were more lucky than devious. They just rode the wave.

I think overestimating their leverage now, today, is a huge mistake and pretty reckless on the owners' part. Given this generation of young, personable budding superstars both sides should be teaming up to promote the game's stars. Instead the owners are devoting all their efforts to saving a few million here or there instead. As I said in another thread, pennywise and pound foolish. They're going to end up hurting their own product. Again.
   18. JRVJ Posted: February 18, 2018 at 10:40 PM (#5626741)
15, you submit that the Congressional hearings on PEDs were a disaster for "players" "as evidenced by their subsequent HOF exclusions".

If by "players" you mean Palmeiro, McGwire and Clemens and by a disaster you mean not getting inducted into the HoF, I suppose you are somewhat right. However: (a) McGwire has found work in baseball, and is a well respected guy within the industry;

(b) Bonds and Clemens had OTHER brushes with the law which hurt their HoF cases (and Bonds did find employment with MLB when he wanted it, even if it was w/ the Marlins);

(c) While Palmeiro, McGwiere and Clemens (and Bonds and Sheffield and Manny Ramírez and Jason Giambi) did not and will probably not get inducted into the HoF, Piazza, Bagwell and Ivan Rodríguez WERE inducted. The jury is still out on Andy Pettitte, David Ortíz and Alex Rodríguez's chances.

****

Let's look at this is an a different way.

Did players actually take a hit monetarily from the PED issue? Using the March 2005 Congressional hearings as a starting point (and because it was too late for March 2005 Congressional hearings to impact FA signings), let's use 2005 as a baseline.

In 2005, the average MLB player salary was $2,632,655.

If you look at the next 4 years (2006-2009), salaries kept on going up, some years by as much as 8.9% (2006, when they went up to $2,866,544) to as little as 2.7% (2007 and 2009), getting up to $3,240,206.

So while it's possible that players did take a hit due to PEDs and Congressional hearings, and that hit translated into salaries not going up as fast as they otherwise would have, it's certainly not demonstrable.

****

Let's look at owners, though.

By the same rationale as I use above (which is an attempt to at least make some monetary sense of your argument), the owners can reasonably be believed to be affected by PEDs if the number of fans and/or TV viewers decreases because of PEDs.

If nothing else, there's a number of articles or studies making different claims about Steroids impact on baseball.

Again, the question isn't whether MLB grew or didn't grow during those years. The question is if the black eye caused by steroids didn't in some way affect MLB in the second half of the 2000s.

Only a fool would disregard the possibility that it did hurt MLB on some levels, even if other counter factors were strong enough for MLB to continue its solid growth.
   19. eddieot Posted: February 19, 2018 at 11:10 AM (#5626849)
Only a fool would disregard the possibility that it did hurt MLB on some levels, even if other counter factors were strong enough for MLB to continue its solid growth.

My commentary was not intended to say that there were no short-term losses during that period but by every metric the owners have since recouped all of that back and more. Revenues continue to set records each successive year, franchise values keep rising, MLBAM brought in tons of extra money that the players were shut out of and the percentage of overall revenues that go to the players continues to shrink. Much of that is a result of the Union losing a lot of negotiating leverage during the PED years. Yes, salaries have gone up for players too but they are getting an increasingly smaller share of the overall revenue pie. And even an idiot owner like Jeffrey Loria can operate a team with yearly losses, pocket tens of millions of dollars a year from revenue sharing and TV, extort a city into building him a new stadium, and then become a billionaire by doing next to nothing but sitting on the franchise and then selling it. The owners came out just fine.
   20. SoSH U at work Posted: February 19, 2018 at 11:32 AM (#5626869)
Yes, that's my point. The union still would not give in to testing. When Congress got involved was when the PR hit became untenable. Ultimately the reason the CBA was reopened was because a majority of players, including most of the board members, came to leadership and demanded it. Too many players said they felt pressured to use PEDs just to keep up with the criminal class and maintain their jobs. Meantime, the GMs and owners, despite their hypocritical public stance, all knew what was going on and still gave huge contracts to abusers and cut players who couldn't keep up. The union leadership had no choice but to give up some leverage to keep the membership united. The owners really could give a s**t as long as they were selling tickets.


The owners never had any incentive to push for PED testing, which is the largest reason the whole thing got sideways. From the outset, this was an issue far more important to the union than it was the owners. The players were taking all of the risks and costs associated with the lack of a policy, while the union as a whole was reaping no benefits (individual players might have been, but it wasn't benefiting MLPBA). If anything, the owners got some small benefits (higher level of play driving revenues/healthier players) at no cost.

They should have listened to Helling.

   21. JRVJ Posted: February 19, 2018 at 08:24 PM (#5627174)
The owners came out just fine.


True, but that was in spite of the PR hit caused by the Congressional hearings in 2005. Which is what we were arguing here......
   22. JRVJ Posted: February 19, 2018 at 08:26 PM (#5627175)
The owners never had any incentive to push for PED testing, which is the largest reason the whole thing got sideways. From the outset, this was an issue far more important to the union than it was the owners.


I sometimes wonder if MLBPA won't end up pushing for laxer PED testing, so older members can start juicing up again and drive up their salaries.... (hey, it'd be a way to ramp up salaries for older players).
   23. eddieot Posted: February 19, 2018 at 08:34 PM (#5627180)
True, but that was in spite of the PR hit caused by the Congressional hearings in 2005. Which is what we were arguing here......

Fine, I submit. They took a (short-term) PR hit 12 years ago. You win.

Meantime, they don't care since the filthy lucre is all that matters to them. And Bud's in the HOF and the juicers are not. And they're all lighting their cigars with hundreds while taking an increasingly large piece of the revenue pie that is almost solely generated by the players. I just don't like the direction this is going. I liked labor peace.
   24. QLE Posted: February 19, 2018 at 08:44 PM (#5627185)
I sometimes wonder if MLBPA won't end up pushing for laxer PED testing, so older members can start juicing up again and drive up their salaries.... (hey, it'd be a way to ramp up salaries for older players).


Problem with that is, if everyone does it and it has the same effect on everyone (two big ifs, I admit), than it will just result in increased offense on the whole- and, with the Ruben Amaro Jrs of the GM world largely gone, at best this will probably not impress the current crop of GMs much, and at worse may actual undercut older players by making it easier to find similar offensive levels at a cheaper rate.
   25. JRVJ Posted: February 19, 2018 at 09:03 PM (#5627194)
Meantime, they don't care since the filthy lucre is all that matters to them. And Bud's in the HOF and the juicers are not. And they're all lighting their cigars with hundreds while taking an increasingly large piece of the revenue pie that is almost solely generated by the players. I just don't like the direction this is going. I liked labor peace.


I'll grant you that the present ownership group is less swashbucklery than it was in (say) George Steinbrenner's day. I miss that type of owner.

Bud is in the HoF, as are Piazza, Bagwell and Ivan Rodríguez. David Ortíz will very likely get in, and some others will also get in down the line. The HoF, BTW, has a TON of problems, and I don't really think that these are because of the current ownership group (they've scr*wed up all on their own - think the Joe Morgan letter of some months ago).

As to how much the owners are making, the one thing I don't get is the rage at the players getting a lesser percentage of the much larger MLB pie, when players themselves aren't exactly up in arms about it (admittedly, they may rise up in arms after this off-season, though the Darwish, Hosmer and Martínez signings will probably calm a lot of players).
   26. eddieot Posted: February 20, 2018 at 08:42 AM (#5627244)
As to how much the owners are making, the one thing I don't get is the rage at the players getting a lesser percentage of the much larger MLB pie, when players themselves aren't exactly up in arms about it.

I don't think "rage" is accurate. There are a lot questions as to why the formerly 'most powerful union in the nation' has ceded such significant ground but even someone like me, who is pro-player and pro-labor in these arguments, isn't angry about it. Just disappointed.

The players are a victim of their own success. Back in the labor battle era of the 80s and 90s a player relied on the system to play out in hopes of one day possibly getting that deal that could set him up for life. Generally that took years in the minors and 6 years in the show to get to free agency and only then did you have a chance to maybe sign a 7-figure free agent contract. 8 figures if you were an absolute superstar. There was hunger driving the fight. As AAVs have grown players are now getting life-changing contracts much earlier in their careers. Even without a big extension, you can progress through the arbitration process and end up with $10M-$30M in the bank before you ever get to free agency. It's peanuts next to the superstar contracts but it's enough to guarantee a high standard of living for the rest of your life if you have your wits about you. When the rank-and-file is fat and happy the rest of the workforce suffers, and the union has traditionally done a crappy job of protecting the fringe players at the expense of the stars who drive the market up and up. Not sure what the solution is there because no one wants to upset the apple cart. But I think the owners recognize that the players' resolve is lesser than it used to be.


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