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Monday, February 18, 2019

Rob Manfred blames Bryce Harper for going unsigned

Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with the media today. Naturally, he was asked various questions about the landscape of the sport, given that superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper remain unsigned as spring training begins. Per The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli, Manfred said that he thinks the free agent market will begin to move once spring training exhibition games begin. Manfred also said that Harper’s camp suggesting that he wants $400 million back in 2016 was “an impediment” to discussions throughout the offseason.

No word on why Machado is also as yet unsigned, as he did not have a reported $400 million ask.

Is it just me, or is this sort of talk something that can only cause Manfred problems later, as opposed to simply stating it’s a matter between teams and players and not offering any more thoughts on the matter?

 

QLE Posted: February 18, 2019 at 07:25 AM | 76 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bryce harper, hot stove, rob manfred

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 18, 2019 at 09:19 AM (#5816057)
Rob Manfred: "I reject the notion that payroll is a good measure for how much a team is trying or how successful that team is going to be."


LOL.

MLB: "Payroll has little correlation to whether a team will be successful."

Also MLB: "We need to cap salaries, to allow small market teams to be successful!"
   2. Dolf Lucky Posted: February 18, 2019 at 09:22 AM (#5816058)
There's going to be a strike, isn't there? Like, soon.
   3. bookbook Posted: February 18, 2019 at 10:39 AM (#5816082)
I’m not sure whether the players are well served by allowing the 2019 season to begin.
   4. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 18, 2019 at 12:00 PM (#5816113)
Is it just me, or is this sort of talk something that can only cause Manfred problems later, as opposed to simply stating it’s a matter between teams and players and not offering any more thoughts on the matter?


Manfred is certainly willing to consider that thought.

And while I agree he shouldn't have said it, I do agree with Manfred. It really does feel like their was such a large amount of hype about the massive contracts Harper and Machado would be getting, if they *only* get $250,000,000 it's going to feel like a loss for them.
   5. JRVJ Posted: February 18, 2019 at 12:04 PM (#5816115)
There's a kernel of truth in what Manfred says (Harper is a Boras client, and Boras' long time FA strategy is to wait out until very, very late in the FA market to get his client's contracts).

But good God, Manfred really, really, really needs to go to the Crash Davis cliché speaking school.
   6. The Duke Posted: February 18, 2019 at 12:15 PM (#5816119)
He doesn’t like Trout either. It’s an odd posture to take as commissioner. “Come out to the ballgame but I’m not a big fan of our greatest players, maybe you will be!”
   7. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: February 18, 2019 at 12:15 PM (#5816120)
I’m not sure whether the players are well served by allowing the 2019 season to begin.
I think it's a PR disaster for them to strike now. On what basis? Suspected collusion?

I actually think there probably *is* some level of collusion. But I also think that striking now turns this waaaaay too easily into "the union is striking because 2 very good but ultimately overrated players aren't getting the inflated salaries they thought they would." Average Joe fan is going to see that Harper was offered $300 million and turned it down, and I doubt will feel the need to look one iota deeper than that.
   8. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 18, 2019 at 12:16 PM (#5816121)

No word on why Machado is also as yet unsigned, as he did not have a reported $400 million ask.


Or Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel or Marwin Gonzalez.
   9. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 18, 2019 at 12:35 PM (#5816126)
I’m not sure whether the players are well served by allowing the 2019 season to begin.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement runs through the 2021 season, so striking now could be problematic. The players might be able to contend MLB had committed unfair labor practices, but there's considerable risk if they don't prevail. Besides, the MLBPA probably needs the time between now and 2022 to prepare - the current generation of players hasn't had any experience with such tactics.
   10. villageidiom Posted: February 18, 2019 at 12:36 PM (#5816128)
On this date in 2018, Eric Hosmer, Colby Rasmus, JD Martinez, Mike Napoli, Logan Morrison, Jake Arietta, Carlos Gonzalez, Lance Lynn, Jonathan Lucroy, and Mike Moustakas had not yet signed. Hosmer, Martinez, Gonzalez, Moustakas, and Arietta were all represented by Boras.
   11. BillWallace Posted: February 18, 2019 at 01:06 PM (#5816143)
Let them eat hot dogs!
   12. Dr. Vaux Posted: February 18, 2019 at 01:10 PM (#5816147)
The players association needs to think very carefully, because since the last baseball work stoppage, the NFL situation has provided at least two more pieces of evidence that players can lose labor negotiations. It could only help the owners' resolve if public opinion is as behind them as it would be if the players struck now (with no evidence of collusion).

   13. Lassus Posted: February 18, 2019 at 01:33 PM (#5816157)
Manfred is from an area of Oneida County replete with morons. Formerly dp, in his lurking, can confirm.
   14. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 18, 2019 at 01:34 PM (#5816158)
Or Craig Kimbrel


Kimbrel hasn't been signed yet because he may very well be starting to decline, but is asking to be paid like he isn't, and for a long time (relative to other relief pitchers).
   15. sanny manguillen Posted: February 18, 2019 at 02:53 PM (#5816181)
I've been thinking about this: it seems like the players must have an economist and also some sort of analytical adviser who gave them terrible advice about both the luxury tax and about demand for veteran players? I'm guessing the next negotiation won't be so rough, because the players will be focused on recovering what they see as lost ground.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: February 18, 2019 at 03:49 PM (#5816197)
I also suspect a strike now would be badly timed. Possibly some sort of very brief work stoppage (say every team misses opening day) to show they're serious and unified but that's not going to play well either. What I could see happening is pushing the Bryant et al grievances in front of an arbitrator -- at least as far as I know, they were never brought to resolution -- which I think they were holding out to be settled in the next round of negotiations. But those don't seem like strong cases to bring and they aren't going to impact the FA market, overall payroll substantially.

Their best strategy is probably to try to forge an unofficial alliance with the large market owners who must be tired of seeing teams pocket the shared revenue (and maybe tired of seeing them pocket the common revenue too) ... probably not happy about draft slotting and international spending restrictions either -- but those guys don't seem all that eager to raise the lux tax threshold and don't want to stir the pot too much given their franchises are worth billions.
   17. BrianBrianson Posted: February 18, 2019 at 04:04 PM (#5816203)
the large market owners who must be tired of seeing teams pocket the shared revenue


Why would they be tired of that? The alternatives are either forcing those teams to spend more on salary, thus driving up costs for everyone, or some kind of relegation/contraction system that could trash their franchises as well - or result in new teams springing up near their franchises. Or they spend more and you don't, so you win less, and make less money. There's no upshot to large market owners here.

They might get some of the large market owners to turn against the luxery tax - that's probably a net negative for them.
   18. BillWallace Posted: February 18, 2019 at 04:11 PM (#5816206)
Walt, is there any recent evidence that large market owners are very unhappy about the current situation? As many have noted, it seems that the era of 'win at all costs' ownership is all but over. I could see the Yankees/Red Sox/Dodgers being perfectly content to be limited by the lux tax, and if that means that they can only win once every 8-10 years on average, then that's fine. Their franchise value won't suffer for that.

I'm sure there's going to be ######## and moaning about revenue sharing to the Marlins et al, but I see that more as negotiating posturing between the owners... not even close to anything that would move solidarity away from the fellow owners and towards players. I think the owners know they have the Golden Goose right now, and they're going to do everything in their power to keep it alive.

If Manfred's statement is NOT a misstep, then it reflects just how much of an advantage the owners know they have in the court of public opinion. To me, as I said earlier, this should be the 'Let them eat cake' moment. But as others have noted there probably isn't public support for the players. I personally think they should strike soon anyway, but that would presume an internal strength of the players union that likely doesn't exist.

I'm sure I'm in the minority here in rooting for a strike soon.
   19. Fancy Pants Handle struck out swinging Posted: February 18, 2019 at 05:20 PM (#5816228)
Is it just me, or is this sort of talk something that can only cause Manfred problems later, as opposed to simply stating it’s a matter between teams and players and not offering any more thoughts on the matter?

Whether it is true or not, I think this is what we refer to in expat-BBTF:OTP land as "not a good look."
   20. TDF, trained monkey Posted: February 18, 2019 at 05:40 PM (#5816236)
or Dallas Keuchel
Paul Daugherty (who, admittedly, is an asshat) reports the Reds were interested until they saw his medical report. Before that, it was reported many places that they were likely to sign him.
   21. bfan Posted: February 18, 2019 at 06:09 PM (#5816246)
On this date in 2018, Eric Hosmer, Colby Rasmus, JD Martinez, Mike Napoli, Logan Morrison, Jake Arietta, Carlos Gonzalez, Lance Lynn, Jonathan Lucroy, and Mike Moustakas had not yet signed. Hosmer, Martinez, Gonzalez, Moustakas, and Arietta were all represented by Boras.


There is your answer. I have no doubt Harper has several great offers. He just wants a greater offer. That is not collusion; that is his choice. Harper (Boras?) is gambling that someone's best and final is neither their best nor their final offer. People who are screaming collusion are just playing into his (their) hands, and it is ridiculous nonsense. As I have said before, if someone had offered him 10 years, $35 per in November, he would still be holding out for a better offer. Why shouldn't he? Does anyone think that team would pull their offer?
   22. Dr. Vaux Posted: February 18, 2019 at 08:33 PM (#5816268)
Part of the PA's PR problem is that, while it would be more fun for fans if 15 or 20 teams, or more, were running $240 million payrolls and trying to win as many games as possible, that argument is enextricable from the argument for bigger free-agent contracts, which fans never support. The statement that Tony Clark just made tries to get the fans to back him on the former basis, and is right to do so, but then doubles down on the fans' most notable error of judgment, which is to link player salaries to ticket prices. He should be saying "and by the way, if you think less spending will ever mean lower ticket prices, I've got a bridge to sell you."

Hmmm, would it be possible to put in the CBA that teams can't view free-agents' medical information? That wouldn't have the effect of increasing spending, though . . .
   23. Walt Davis Posted: February 18, 2019 at 11:48 PM (#5816293)
Walt, is there any recent evidence that large market owners are very unhappy about the current situation?

A fair question and there isn't that I know of. There was maybe 10 years ago, maybe things have changed but signing over several million in revenue should never sit well. But sure, as long as they aren't under pressure to exceed the salary cap and Yanks, Dodgers, Red Sox and Cub fans aren't clamoring for Harper/Machado, the big market owners are probably content with where things are. And I'd agree that if the current trend of ownership by lots of equities billionaires continues then the focus will increasingly be on the bottom line not the win column.

In case it's not clear, I think the union is in a crappy position right now (relative to the FA era history) and I don't see a way out of it. From their perspective, the next CBA can't just be a continuation of the current one and I think that will require a strike with no guarantee they win that strike. I think their best chance of winning a strike is a divided ownership therefore their best strategy is to divide ownership.

Further ... I think the lux tax or similar is here to stay. Unless they can force a big jump in the threshold (which is what I thought they'd do in the last round), it's going to operate like a salary cap and one that several teams are pushing. If the top end of the payroll scale is not going up, the only way to get a bigger percentage of the revenue is to push the bottom end up. Seems to me that means forcing the cheap teams to spend which means convincing one group of owners to force the other group to spend.

EDIT: Should have noted that I just don't see what the players really have to offer in exchange for major concessions from the owners. They've conceded on drug testing, they've given the owners what they want on the draft, they've agreed to limits on international spending, whatever concessions they've gotten on FA draft pick compensation don't seem to have helped free up the market. With little/nothing left to trade (we'll allow a pitch clock, you give us 6% more of the revenue? really?) they have to strike and win the strike ... or watch their power dwindle further. So, other than "when?", I was kinda jumping to the question of how they might win the strike.
   24. sanny manguillen Posted: February 19, 2019 at 06:53 AM (#5816304)
They've conceded on drug testing, they've given the owners what they want on the draft, they've agreed to limits on international spending,


Are any of these things concessions? They seem like things the players might do if they ran the league themselves.
   25. Rally Posted: February 19, 2019 at 08:41 AM (#5816311)
Manfred is from an area of Oneida County replete with morons. Formerly dp, in his lurking, can confirm.


Hey, I resemble that remark! Not from Oneida County myself, though many family members are, I'm from Oneida (in Madison County).

The fact that Oneida is outside Oneida county but in such close proximity is not going to effectively refute the charge of the area being replete with morons.
   26. Rusty Priske Posted: February 19, 2019 at 09:02 AM (#5816314)
Average Joe fan is going to see that Harper was offered $300 million and turned it down, and I doubt will feel the need to look one iota deeper than that.


Apparently I am an Average Joe fan then, because I have literally zero compassion for Harper. $300m over ten years isn't enough? Seriously?
   27. BrianBrianson Posted: February 19, 2019 at 09:27 AM (#5816319)
Well, given the choice between making $300 million over the next ten years, and $350 million over the next ten years, I'd certainly choose the latter.

And really, since the people who believe there's tanking taking place now will believe it totally regardless of what the owners actually do, there's no reason for rational owners to appeal to those fans.
   28. Lassus Posted: February 19, 2019 at 09:45 AM (#5816325)
Rally - I grew up in Oriskany, currently live in Clinton.
   29. Howie Menckel Posted: February 19, 2019 at 09:59 AM (#5816328)
Rally - I grew up in Oriskany, currently live in Clinton.

take it to the OTP thread!
   30. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: February 19, 2019 at 10:25 AM (#5816332)
I blame Harper, too. Sign a damn contract.
   31. Rusty Priske Posted: February 19, 2019 at 10:47 AM (#5816343)
Well, given the choice between making $300 million over the next ten years, and $350 million over the next ten years, I'd certainly choose the latter.


And this is what is wrong with the system. That extra money literally means nothing when it comes to your standard of living. It is using money as a scorecard. "I am better because I have more" is a pretty darned awful way to live.

If one team offers $300m, another team offers $275m, and another team offers $350m the decision should be based on where you would prefer to play because there is no functional difference between those amounts. (In fact, if I felt confident that the extra money would be used to make the rest of the team better, I would prefer to get a little less.)

   32. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: February 19, 2019 at 10:51 AM (#5816346)
The Kimbrel thing is different - there were signs in 2018 of decline, and he wants money like he's not in decline. The funny thing is, the Red Sox would probably take him back at good money for 2-3 years, and they need bullpen help...but Boston is so close to various tiers of luxury tax penalties that giving him even $10 million a year would cost them far more than that. In fact, if he had accepted the team's qualifying offer, it would have put the Red Sox in a place of having to dump payroll.
   33. . Posted: February 19, 2019 at 11:34 AM (#5816356)
In case it's not clear, I think the union is in a crappy position right now (relative to the FA era history) and I don't see a way out of it. From their perspective, the next CBA can't just be a continuation of the current one and I think that will require a strike with no guarantee they win that strike. I think their best chance of winning a strike is a divided ownership therefore their best strategy is to divide ownership.


The lessons from the recent hockey and basketball work stoppages is that once ownership has a salary cap (*) in place, and the negotiations are just over how big a piece of the pie each side gets, ownership always wins. In the last hockey CBA, Bettman didn't even bother pretending ownership had any other goal but getting a bigger percentage of revenue for itself -- and it was successful.

At least baseball doesn't have, as yet, a set percentage of revenues going to the players but it really doesn't need to at this point. The percentage is shrinking naturally.

The baseball players I'm sure think they're going to win the next negotiation but they should be being counseled already that they'll be lucky if they just hold serve.(**) They made a massive mistake giving in on free agent compensation and the de facto salary cap. They could fight on those grounds but there's no precedent in either basketball or hockey to think that will be successful. There will be no fan support, a big faction of the union against, and holding the union together long enough to win them back will be next to impossible. Given the short careers, and the big salaries, time will always give a built-in natural advantage to the owners.

(*) Hard, like hockey's, or soft like baseball's and basketball's -- doesn't matter.

(**) All this assumes no provable collusion.
   34. Lassus Posted: February 19, 2019 at 11:36 AM (#5816357)
I support #31 and will subscribe to that newsletter.
   35. Rally Posted: February 19, 2019 at 11:49 AM (#5816361)
If one team offers $300m, another team offers $275m, and another team offers $350m the decision should be based on where you would prefer to play because there is no functional difference between those amounts.


I think I'd take the extra money, simply because I can't predict what the other factors are going to look like over the next 10 years. It is likely that whoever made the decision to sign you will not be there at the end of the deal. Most of your teammates will be replaced. Your manger will be replaced. And unless you get a no-trade clause as part of the deal, you can't even guarantee that the city you chose will be the one you get to keep playing in.

Either way you have to accept that change will happen and make the best of it. I see no reason not to do so with an extra 75 million if it's offered.
   36. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:00 PM (#5816366)
About a decade ago I played a baseball simulator called Baseball Mogul. If you play far enough into the future then the offseasons become such that the salaries have inflated faster than renvenues enough that the first few weeks of the offseason basically knock out every team’s budget. A bunch of stars go unsigned. Then their salary asking prices collapse as the season approaches and begins. And you can basically just wait out the offseason and then sign a bunch of guys for cheap, often giving them multi-year deals to lock them in for cheap. This offseason reminds me of that game.

Also, by the 2030’s building a retractable roof stadium with 100,000 seats and excellent everything causes the price to go over INTMAX (around $2.147 billion) causing integer overflow. The game’s method of handling overflow is to simply turn the negative asking price into 0, meaning a free top of the line stadium.
   37. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:00 PM (#5816367)
I support #31 and will subscribe to that newsletter.
And you'll regret it after you blow your first $300 million on internet newsletter subscriptions.
   38. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:03 PM (#5816369)
Also, by the 2030’s building a retractable roof stadium with 100,000 seats and excellent everything causes the price to go over INTMAX (around $2.147 billion) causing integer overflow. The game’s method of handling overflow is to simply turn the negative asking price into 0, meaning a free top of the line stadium.
That's not a bug, it's an Easter egg. Everyone who's playing Taxpayer Mogul at that time suddenly finds their cash reserves drained to zero.
   39. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:06 PM (#5816370)
If one team offers $300m, another team offers $275m, and another team offers $350m the decision should be based on where you would prefer to play because there is no functional difference between those amounts.


If you can burn through $275 million in your lifetime, you would have burnt through $350 million, too.
   40. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:20 PM (#5816373)
And this is what is wrong with the system. That extra money literally means nothing when it comes to your standard of living. It is using money as a scorecard. "I am better because I have more" is a pretty darned awful way to live.
Totally cool for the owners though, amiright??

Apparently I am an Average Joe fan then, because I have literally zero compassion for Harper. $300m over ten years isn't enough? Seriously?
I wasn't talking about compassion. Like, at all. I was talking about public perception and whatever leverage attaches to that in a potential work stoppage. Which you just illustrated nicely, so, thanks?
   41. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:24 PM (#5816377)

If one team offers $300m, another team offers $275m, and another team offers $350m the decision should be based on where you would prefer to play because there is no functional difference between those amounts.

It depends what you plan to do with your post-baseball playing career. If you just want to have a nice quiet retirement or become a manager/commentator then sure, there's no functional difference. If you want to own a team (not like Derek Jeter owning 2% or whatever) or start a company or a non-profit, then that extra $50m can make a difference.
   42. Lassus Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:24 PM (#5816378)
Totally cool for the owners though, amiright??

This is an odd counter, to me. The answer is "no", but even with that, I'm not sure how it relates to the question. The dude has a choice in the example, so....?
   43. akrasian Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:29 PM (#5816380)
If you can burn through $275 million in your lifetime, you would have burnt through $350 million, too.

Yeah, but you'd have had $75 million more fun - and I can have a LOT of fun for $75 million.
   44. Der-K's emotional investment is way up Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:29 PM (#5816381)
You should sign the contract that you feel best about; full stop.

(In fact, if I felt confident that the extra money would be used to make the rest of the team better, I would prefer to get a little less.)
As an NBA fan (where essentially all teams are limited by cap concerns), that normally backfires on the player.
   45. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:31 PM (#5816383)
Machado to the Padres, per Passan
   46. Ginger Nut Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:34 PM (#5816386)
Part of the PA's PR problem is that, while it would be more fun for fans if 15 or 20 teams, or more, were running $240 million payrolls and trying to win as many games as possible, that argument is enextricable from the argument for bigger free-agent contracts, which fans never support.


I agree that this is a contradiction, but I would add that from the fans' point of view, it's only exciting if your team is spending $240M if most other teams aren't. Once 20 teams are doing that, then $240M is just the new average and a team with that payroll won't be especially exciting.

With regard to whether MLB is exciting for fans, the issue is finding a balance between a league in which there are extremes of dominant teams and hopeless teams, vs a league with more parity. Going too far in either direction is bad. It sucks to root for a team with no chance to make the playoffs, but fans do like it when certain teams stand out as great. Everyone wanted to see their team play the Yankees in the late 90s because it was exciting to play a great team. So, too much parity makes things boring, but there has to be enough parity that most fans will feel their team has a chance. With the expansion of the playoffs, this is normally the case nowadays for most teams, at least until the very end of the season.

The question of how the money in MLB should be divided up between the owners and players is separate from this and makes little difference to the entertainment value of the product on the field. If 10 teams offer Bryce Harper $300M contracts, he is still only going to play for one of those teams. Being willing to spend money doesn't automatically make a team better. Even if every team spent $240M a year on payroll, half the teams would still have losing records....
   47. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:35 PM (#5816388)

Wow. Didn't see that one coming.

Although if I had to pick any place in the country to live for the next 10 years (independent of career/money/etc.), San Diego would be pretty high on my list.
   48. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:37 PM (#5816390)
This is an odd counter, to me. The answer is "no", but even with that, I'm not sure how it relates to the question. The dude has a choice in the example, so....?
In my experience, the "Joe Average" perspective about how much money is enough for athletes doesn't usually get extended and applied to the owners. Though of course there are exceptions.
   49. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:38 PM (#5816392)
It's supposedly $300 million for ten years, or exactly what everyone was expecting.
   50. Lassus Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:39 PM (#5816394)
Wrong thread.
   51. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: February 19, 2019 at 12:42 PM (#5816401)
It's probably not a big factor in Machado's decision, but I think San Diego has the best weather of any major American city. The average daily high goes from something like 66 degrees during January to 77 in July. Spending your late 20s and early 30s playing baseball in San Diego at $30 million a year seems like a pretty awesome lifestyle.
   52. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 19, 2019 at 01:33 PM (#5816459)

#51 yep. Especially if your job involves working outside 81 days a year.
   53. . Posted: February 19, 2019 at 01:53 PM (#5816473)
In my experience, the "Joe Average" perspective about how much money is enough for athletes doesn't usually get extended and applied to the owners.


Because most people are grown-ups and realize the difference between an employee who's risked no capital, and someone who has. Typically, when someone spends $1-2 billion on an asset, it's reasonable to think that they will generate some kind of economic return on the asset.

Moreover, in virtually all cases, someone who's an owner will be able to deploy the money better than a player and so the money would be better off in the owners' pocket. Not in all cases, of course, but in the vast majority.
   54. BrianBrianson Posted: February 19, 2019 at 01:56 PM (#5816479)
Wow, I didn't realise San Diego had such nice weather. I'd assumed it was a living hellscape resembling the surface of Venus, like Los Angeles.
   55. Zonk Will Be Reinstated in August Posted: February 19, 2019 at 01:58 PM (#5816484)
In case it's not clear, I think the union is in a crappy position right now (relative to the FA era history) and I don't see a way out of it. From their perspective, the next CBA can't just be a continuation of the current one and I think that will require a strike with no guarantee they win that strike. I think their best chance of winning a strike is a divided ownership therefore their best strategy is to divide ownership.


The MLBPA should be getting their own house in order.... Tony Clark has been the ED of the MLBPA since Fehr, right? That covers how many CBAs... 4? 5? If players are unhappy with the current revenue splits and how contracts are getting allocated, I don't think it's 'sudden' thing.

They probably also need to get a better handle on exactly WHAT they want.... is it a pure guaranteed revenue split? More money for top FAs? More money for middle guys? Changes in service time, FA, what?

The MLBPA seems pretty dysfunctional to me - and barring some actual collusion among the owners - they've dug their own hole. Near as I can tell, they've accomplished precious little in terms evolving the way players get their set for life paychecks.... Meanwhile, MLB teams HAVE evolved in how they allocate player contracts. Things like service time have suddenly become UBER valuable.

IOW - much as I'm all for players getting as big a share of revenue as possible, they've put themselves in this situation. Teams have adjusted - bigly. Players - via CBA negotiations - have been perfectly happy to just nibble at core value propositions (read: service time and arb/FA).

I'm staunchly pro-union - even for big dollar sports.... but simply having a few players join agents in bellyaching MORE MORE MORE is not a plan.
   56. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 19, 2019 at 02:09 PM (#5816496)

Because most people are grown-ups and realize the difference between an employee who's risked no capital, and someone who has. Typically, when someone spends $1-2 billion on an asset, it's reasonable to think that they will generate some kind of economic return on the asset.

I'm pretty sure that's not it. They simply have no transparency into how much the owners make or how player salaries translate into owner profits.
   57. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 19, 2019 at 02:12 PM (#5816501)

Tony Clark has been the ED of the MLBPA since Fehr, right? That covers how many CBAs... 4? 5?

Clark took over in December 2013 after Michael Weiner, Fehr's successor, died. Pretty sure he's only presided over one CBA negotiation, in 2016.
   58. Rusty Priske Posted: February 19, 2019 at 03:05 PM (#5816540)
As an NBA fan (where essentially all teams are limited by cap concerns), that normally backfires on the player.


That's why I included the 'if I felt confident' part. That is definitely a big IF.
   59. . Posted: February 19, 2019 at 03:12 PM (#5816542)
They simply have no transparency into how much the owners make


Well, these aren't public companies so transparency wouldn't be expected. A little Googling can be your friend, too, as a few minutes doing it will turn up nuggets like the 2013 Astros making what was then the highest one-year operating profit in the history of the sport at around $100 million.

The S&P trades at a multiple of a little north of 21, which would value those kind of earnings, if they could be generated consistently (*), at $2.1 billion. Add a bit for the scarcity value of franchises and you're at something like $3.5 billion or so.

(*) They can't, but let's assume.
   60. BillWallace Posted: February 19, 2019 at 03:39 PM (#5816564)
Should have noted that I just don't see what the players really have to offer in exchange for major concessions from the owners. They've conceded on drug testing, they've given the owners what they want on the draft, they've agreed to limits on international spending, whatever concessions they've gotten on FA draft pick compensation don't seem to have helped free up the market. With little/nothing left to trade (we'll allow a pitch clock, you give us 6% more of the revenue? really?) they have to strike and win the strike ... or watch their power dwindle further. So, other than "when?", I was kinda jumping to the question of how they might win the strike.


Walt,

Good points, I understand what you're going for. I also don't see much leverage for the players other than a prolonged strike, and it's probably wishful thinking to hope that they'll outlast the owners. I suppose you're right that they should lean into any slight bit of dissension they can create between large and small market owners, but I'm not optimistic it will accomplish much.

Rusty,

Do I think it matters whether Harper makes $300m or $350m? In a vacuum, no. But that extra $50m is going directly into the pockets of a guy who is much richer than Harper will ever be... so I care even less that he keeps it.
   61. . Posted: February 19, 2019 at 03:58 PM (#5816573)
But that extra $50m is going directly into the pockets of a guy who is much richer than Harper will ever be... so I care even less that he keeps it.


What if he endows a new museum with it or something like that? I trust him to do something like that more than I would Harper or Machado. Maybe he won't, but it's fair to think he's more likely to. And I'd much rather the 4% agent fee stay with the owner than go to an agent.
   62. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 19, 2019 at 04:06 PM (#5816575)
What if he endows a new museum with it or something like that? I trust him to do something like that more than I would Harper or Machado.

There's already a Clown Museum, bro.
   63. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 19, 2019 at 04:12 PM (#5816578)
Well, these aren't public companies so transparency wouldn't be expected.

Right, that's my point. These aren't public companies so Average Joe doesn't know how much the owners make. I don't think he cares at all about the owners' ROIC and but if he knew that the average owner pulled out $X million in dividends and salary last year he'd probably be very unsympathetic to any crying about their inability to sign free agents.

Even the Astros making $100M in operating profit is pretty far divorced from something tangible that most people can understand. How much of that went to debt service (S&P multiple of 21x is based on Net Earnings, not Operating Earnings, FYI)? How many people are in the ownership group? How much of an increase was that relative to where they bought in at?

If you asked the average person whether Manny Machado should get paid $30M next year, they'd probably say no. If you asked them whether Jeff Moorad (does he still own the team?) should get earn $30M from his Padres investment next year, they'd probably also say no. If you asked them what proportion of team revenues should go to the players, they'd probably say 50% for no other reason than it sounds fair.
   64. . Posted: February 19, 2019 at 04:15 PM (#5816579)
Right, that's my point. These aren't public companies so Average Joe doesn't know how much the owners make. I don't think he cares at all about the owners' ROIC and but if he knew that the average owner pulled out $X million in dividends and salary last year he'd probably be very unsympathetic.

Even the Astros making $100M in operating profit is pretty far divorced from something tangible that most people can understand.

...


Well, then at this point maybe the answer is just for Average Joe to just watch the games and not have an opinion on something he knows nothing about. Social media and everything but it isn't a rule of the universe that everyone has to have an opinion about everything.

If you asked them what proportion of team revenues should go to the players, they'd probably say 50% for no other reason than it sounds fair.


Why would anyone ever ask him? And if he belched out the opinion that the split should be 50-50 for the sole reason that it "sounds fair," why would anyone listen?

   65. . Posted: February 19, 2019 at 04:21 PM (#5816581)
There's already a Clown Museum, bro.


Not just a museum, a Hall of Fame!!

I'm assuming Bozo went in first ballot. Although since it's an international hall of fame, that opinion could be perceived as overly provincial.
   66. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 19, 2019 at 04:23 PM (#5816582)
Well, then at this point maybe the answer is just for Average Joe to just watch the games and not have an opinion on something he knows nothing about. Social media and everything but it isn't a rule of the universe that everyone has to have an opinion about everything.

Why would anyone ever ask him? And if he belched out the opinion that the split should be 50-50 for the sole reason that it "sounds fair," why would anyone listen?


They shouldn't. That's my point. And we shouldn't care about the average person's opinion about how much Bryce Harper makes, either. I was simply responding to your theory about why people care about how much players make and don't seem to care about how much owners make. I don't think people are inherently more sympathetic to business owners (some are, some aren't). There's no logic to it. It's just that player salaries are in the news constantly and are subject to frequent negotiations, while owner compensation never is.
   67. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: February 19, 2019 at 04:34 PM (#5816585)
Because most people are grown-ups and realize the difference between an employee who's risked no capital, and someone who has.


The employee in this case has risked far more than mere money: Human capital. Harper and Machado have spent their entire young lives pursuing this goal, to the detriment of all else. I'd much rather they be properly rewarded for their hard efforts, which, nearly unique among the thousands of their peers who did the same an failed, than to the Steinbrenner children who did nothing in their lives but be born to the right father.
   68. . Posted: February 19, 2019 at 04:45 PM (#5816592)
The employee in this case has risked far more than mere money: Human capital.


Every employee in America sells her or his human capital. Harper didn't even have to invest in college to develop it. Indeed, he has far less of an investment in it than the vast majority of Americans in the labor market.

nearly unique among the thousands of their peers who did the same an failed, than to the Steinbrenner children who did nothing in their lives but be born to the right father.


You could say exactly the same about Harper's children if and when he has them. Harper's children are even less entitled to the money on your premises than the Steinbrenners, who at least run the business they inherited somewhat well.

The sermonizing here on behalf of arrested development baseball players is rather nauseating in and of itself, and positively expectorate-inducing when it's dressed up in comically wrong social philosophizing.
   69. . Posted: February 19, 2019 at 04:52 PM (#5816601)
Harper and Machado have spent their entire young lives pursuing this goal, to the detriment of all else.


Bug, not feature. Society really shouldn't be encouraging such a thing and adults certainly shouldn't be applauding it. Pure bread and circuses.
   70. Dr. Vaux Posted: February 19, 2019 at 05:41 PM (#5816622)
. is precisely right about this one, but of course the communist chorus will arrive to claim that reason is jealousy, as they always do.

The argument that players deserve more of the revenue than they get because people want to pay to see them, not the owners, holds some water. The argument that they deserve more because they've supposedly invested more in their human capital is ridiculous. They were born with talent, and honed it. The owners--some of them--were born with money, and didn't squander it. Some of them actually earned their fortunes entirely on their own. To try and split hairs over who did how much work is a sideshow, because economies don't actually operate on the moral basis of who did the most work. They operate on the economic basis of who will pay the most for what work. I don't like that any more than anyone else, but I've been out and about in the world long enough to observe that that's how it goes.
   71. Zach Posted: February 19, 2019 at 05:58 PM (#5816629)
In case it's not clear, I think the union is in a crappy position right now (relative to the FA era history) and I don't see a way out of it. From their perspective, the next CBA can't just be a continuation of the current one and I think that will require a strike with no guarantee they win that strike. I think their best chance of winning a strike is a divided ownership therefore their best strategy is to divide ownership.

I'd say they have a tough position to defend because they've already got it pretty good. Compared to other American sports, they've got super long contracts with super high AAV, all of it fully guaranteed. And the percentage of total revenue is pretty respectable, too. All of which makes it harder to take a tough line in negotiations.

I mean, right now Machado is looking at a 10 year contract at $30 million per. I think there are a lot more players who would take that deal for five years than owners who would spring for fifteen.
   72. . Posted: February 19, 2019 at 06:02 PM (#5816631)
The human capital thing is even sillier than first blush. As I'm sure a lot of other people here do, I occasionally earn dividends from stocks -- i.e. a return on capital. I didn't do any "work" to earn the dividends, but I had to work to earn the capital to invest in the stocks that churn out the dividends -- just as virtually all of the owners did to get the capital to invest in their baseball teams. So in reality every owner that didn't flat out inherit her/his team earns the profits from the team ultimately through his/her human capital, just as with my dividends. The idea that money earned from capital is somehow "tainted," as compared to money earned from sweat equity, carries more than a little whiff of anti-"cosmopolitan" fascism (*) to it. It's very odious.

(*) Or communism. Whatever.
   73. JL72 Posted: February 19, 2019 at 06:16 PM (#5816636)
The idea that money earned from capital is somehow "tainted," as compared to money earned from sweat equity, carries more than a little whiff of anti-"cosmopolitan" fascism (*) to it. It's very odious.


I would say the issue is the opposite - money earned from capital is treated far better than money earned from sweat equity. If we want to avoid such an odious taint, perhaps we should just treat both the same.
   74. Dr. Vaux Posted: February 19, 2019 at 06:50 PM (#5816643)
When people say that the players deserve the money more than the owners for moral reasons rather than economic reasons, then they are treating money earned from capital as tainted. When they say the players deserve more than they're getting because they're the main part of the reason the teams make money, they're treating all the money essentially equally. Both arguments are made here.
   75. . Posted: February 19, 2019 at 07:28 PM (#5816652)
Capital has first claim on revenue in every American business, ahead of labor. There's no reason whatever to conceptualize the baseball business any differently. The labor that makes, say, a car is no less integrated in the product than baseball players and purchasers of a car are buying the product of labor every bit as much as the purchasers of baseball. The owners don't play baseball on the field, but neither do the owners of Ford make Ford cars.
   76. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 20, 2019 at 10:51 AM (#5816764)
This is all just a negotiation between players and owners, and neither side is really entitled to any more than they can get in the negotiation.

Baseball is not a particularly capital-intensive business. It may have cost an owner $1.5 billion to acquire his team (much of it financed with debt rather than his own capital, of course), but the vast majority of that is just profit for the previous owner, not essential capital to run the business. This is not a bank that has regulatory capital requirements, or a drug company that requires years of expensive R&D to bring a new drug to market, or an auto manufacturer that requires significant investment in plant and technology to bring a new car to market. It's more like a consulting or law firm, where the product *is* the employees and their expertise. Baseball is different from those businesses due to the fact that players can't also be owners and the owners can prevent new teams from joining the league, but in those other types of businesses, high performing employees make a disproportionate amount of money (and are eventually made partners in the company).

Owners have bid up the value of teams so much because of those scarcity and barriers to entry, because the teams are such cash cows, and because ownership has been able to increase revenues (via ticket prices, media rights, etc.) while retaining a large portion of that increase for themselves rather than the employees. But they're not entitled to anything just because they paid a lot more than the previous owner did. This isn't like other companies where if the shareholders can't earn a certain level of return commensurate with the risk, they'll simply liquidate the business (I mean, it is, but based on the price that even the Marlins just sold for, that level must be so much lower than what the teams are currently making that it's not relevant). Some owner might have to sell his team for less than he paid for it if he has to pay the players more money, but there's no reason for us to care about that any more than we should care whether Manny Machado makes $25 or $30 million next year.

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