Anarchists' Brunch: What A Way To Run A Railroad

It seems a little ridiculous that we’re four days, maybe a couple more, from a possible lockout in MLB. Whether you can believe it or not, there hasn’t been a work stoppage in baseball in 22 years. We came close in 2002, but didn’t get there. And a lockout doesn’t seem like much in December, but people don’t want to hear that word. Sure, you and I aren’t going to be too fussed until spring training approaches, but the casual fan will hear the word “lockout” and they’ll stop paying attention.

It seems completely reckless that we could be here. MLB is coming off a World Series that more people watched in a long time. What they need to do is stay in the headlines. Ok, it’s not the league’s fault the free agent class pretty much sucks and there aren’t going to be signings that make heads turn. But there could be trades. Whatever there are, baseball wants to keep pumping out news about what’s on the field to hold the attention of all those who tuned into Games 6 and 7. That’s what a smart league does.

It was a long time ago, but maybe Rob Manfred has forgotten just how long it took baseball to recover from 1994. And it needed what turned out to be a home run race we kind of think as a farce now. Baseball has a real chance here, with football ratings dragging and such. It will never be “The National Pastime” again, but behind the Cubs it can achieve a place in the sports scene it hasn’t seen in a long time. There’s going to be more buzz heading into spring training since the 2004 season when A-Rod was traded to the Yankees. You may recall ESPN being live at the first Red Sox-Yankees spring training game that year. Baseball could lose that with a lockout.

-I wouldn’t pretend to know the ins and outs of all the issues, but it seems to me if the dumbest of all leagues, the NHL, can manage an international draft, then baseball can too. The union won’t be happy about the players from other countries not being able to make the money they are now, but then again the union hasn’t really been paying attention to the rest of minor leaguers who don’t make a living wage. And I’ve always thought it was a little strange that players from here have to be 18 to be part of a major league organization yet ones from elsewhere can be 16. It seems a uniform rule would make the most sense.

It at least seems like something you’d trade in to get the draft pick compensation off of free agents, who have seen their value neutered at times. Also, it was just a tool to keep more teams from signing free agents, not a way to equal out talent. That’s what revenue sharing is for.

There will be more things we find out. I’m sure the union would love more off-days in the schedule, maybe starting a week earlier to get them. We’ll find out, but baseball has more momentum than it’s had in a very long time, and it would be a real shame for them to waste it. Once you pull the stoppage trigger, things change in a hurry. Says someone who has lived through three NHL lockouts since baseball had its last one.

-Music time. Do not get the new Helmet, if you were a Helmet fan back in the day. If you are looking for the fast, raucous riffs that made you fall in love with Helmet when you first heard them, then this is not for you. If you like Filter or something, then it might be.

 

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    I believe it was the 1994 lockout when Montreal had by far the best team in baseball and then couldn't prove it. Imagine if this was earlier this year and the Cubs were running away from everyone and then the players struck! Life is luck, and as much as I don't want a work stoppage I'm glad we won last year.
    Strikes don't help any athlete. I understand the reasoning but there has to be a way to come together and keep the game going. Remember how bad the game was when the umpires struck? We certainly don't want that again.

  • I agree that a lockout would be nuts. However, if I was an owner of a small market team, I would not be happy with the state of the game. There is such an imbalance between the haves and have nots. If you're a Cubs fan, and finally have an owner and management team that are committed to winning and can take advantage of the huge built in advantages, it's great. Sure, throw out some money and sign one of the three big time closers available (they can easily avoid to) and rollout another juggernaut. Or maybe they are outbid by another deep-pocketed team: SF, LA, NYY, Wash. Yeah, I know, the Royals won it all, so it's possible. But if I owned a small market team, I'd sure as heck want an international draft. Heck, I'd hold out for a hard salary cap.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Continuing my rant...in addition to a salary cap, I would also have a salary basement, or a minimum that teams had to spend. And I would guarantee the players get a certain percentage of the overall league revuenes, maybe 55%. Anyway, i think it is easy to be happy if you're a Cubs fans, but I would be less so if I rooted for the Pirates, who have to compete with the Cubs and are at a disadvantage.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    I'd be in favor of a salary floor but a salary cap is never going to happen with the MLBPA, the best union in sports.

    Besides look what the cap has done to the Blackhawks, penalized the organization for drafting and developing good players and having to let integral parts of championship teams leave.

  • It would be a great shame. I quit watching non-Cubs baseball after the collapse in 1984. Now I am excited to watch other teams play baseball for the first time in 32 years. They better not screw it up!

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    the NHL can manage an international draft only because there are viable professional leagues in other countries, and the high school/college level amateur leagues necessary to maintain such things. Basically the international players being drafted by the NHL are effectively at the same developmental level as the american/canadian draftees.

    with baseball that's just not the case. outside of East Asia scholastic leagues don't exist. beyond little league there's nothing for kids in south/central america to develop their skills with outside the private faiclities run by the trainer/agent hybrids know as 'buscones'. They identify amateur talent at about ages 12-14, then train the kids at their own private facilities until they're ready to sign with major league teams at 16. They agree to cover all training expenses until the kid's IFA elegible, many times including food and board, in exchange for a percentage of future signing bonuses.

    The problem with an international draft that corporate MLB seems to be utterly oblivious to is that if you implement one, signing bonuses evaporate. The kids getting drafted don't have the leverage Americans/Canadians do, since for 90% of them college was never going to happen to begin with. They either take whatever the team offers them (and you can just bet it won't be a dime more than team actually has to, which is current $5,000), or basically go get a job in a hotel or a fishing boat. Which, frankly, is the only reason Manfred or any of the other owners want this, because it would torpedo the rising signing bonuses of the top IFAs.

    the part of it that ownership is seemingly blissfully or deliberate unaware of is that this would mean there's no longer any money to be made in training these teenagers, so the Buscones all simply leave the business. Meaning that once these players age out of little league, well, meaningful development becomes all but impossible. So by the time these kids are 18 and draft eligible, even the best ones are years behind the domestic prospects, good luck getting drafted in the top 10 rounds, much less the top 10. Que the mass exodus to sports like soccer which actually allow the athletically gifted kids a chance to help feed the family.

    so yeah, once you actually understand what MLB is threatening this lockout over, it becomes even more like that scene in Blazing Saddles where Bart puts the pistol to his own head

  • Cubswin09, I hear that a lot that the structure is not fair to the small market teams. That is undoubtably true, but at the same time baseball has had a very impressive run of parity.

    Matched up against football there really isn't much difference. I think since 2000 both sports have had 11 different champions, and both upper teens in teams playing in the SB or WS. I think every single major league team has been in the post season.

    Like you said the Royals won, as did the Marlins, the Rockies, Rays, and Indians played in the big game, the Dbax won a WS.

    In football there is similar results although if memory serves me, and somebody can fact check this I don't think every team has made the playoffs in that time. The most dominant team in the sport has been from Boston, not to unlike baseball. The teams I am thinking that have not made the playoffs are Cleveland, Jacksonville, small market teams.

    I will not argue that the sytem makes it easier for the wealthist teams in baseball, but it has been proved over and over throwing money at the problem doesn't work either. The Dodgers and Yankees have out spent everyone in the sport and don't play regularly in the WS, heck the Yankees have not even made the playoffs for 3 years or so.

    No matter the structure, it is the best run orginizations that succeed. Baseball and football have very different structures and the results are not very different. I don't think a salary cap (and floor) will net a much different result than what we have seen the past decade plus.

  • In reply to bleedblue:

    I agree with a lot of what you say, particularly the idea that simply throwing money at the problem won't succeed. Like you said, the Yankees have now recognized that and traded players in order to build one of the best farm systems. But then, they will be able to spend heavily to add to that core. The Cubs get a lot of credit for developing their young players, but they also paid for Lester and Lackey and Heyward and Fowler and Zobrist and Montereo and Hammel and more. I expect they'll be one of the teams bidding on the three big relief pitchers. The Royals really can't add all those players.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    You are correct that the small-market teams do operate at a disadvantage. It used to be that you could "make up for it" with smarts but now most FO have gotten on board in actually analyzing players and are far better at evaluating what they had. This does make it more difficult.

    But not impossible. The Pirates had an impressive run. They were just unfortunate that the Cardinals had a really good stretch too. As this year showed, again, even a "small market" team can do well if they have a couple things break their way.

    What is likely scary for the rest of the league, though, is that teams like BOS, CHC, LAD, NYY are being FAR more competently run than 10-20 years ago (BOS being closer to the 20). An office mate of mine is a big Twins fan. I keep telling him that players like Buxton, Kepler, etc. are great young players. I promote trading Dozier (he is getting old and will quickly get expensive). I said there is no reason the Twins can't do what the Cubs did. Then he reminded me that the Cubs are likely to spend big to KEEP at least some of their core (if not all) together. Further, the Cubs went out and SIGNED Lester, and Heyward, and Lackey etc. While not all the deals worked out it does indicate a willingness--and ability--to spend on identified needs.

    But I believe that a small-market team CAN succeed. They do have to get more "lucky" in having things break their way. But they can still develop their own players. And developing players is still a cost-efficient way to operate.

    The Pirates are a good example. They have some REAL talent in the minor leagues. Put on top of it that they still have Cole and they will be a tough team, in my mind, for a while.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I have been mulling this over, the conventional wisdom that a team should pay to keep its core. I'm not sure that is the right approach. I think what a young, cheap core like what the Cubs have allows you to do is spend your big-market money elsewhere. So I would follow the Cardinals lead with a guy like Pujols and get the best years of his career cheaply, win some titles, and let another team pay big money for his free agency years when he isn't as good. Of course, it all depends on the deal. If you can convince a player to take a Rizzo-like deal that probably is beneficial to the team, then do it. But I would not be quick to give Bryant, for example, an enormous contract that makes it harder to sign players during the next five years when he is under control. I'd probably let him go test free agency elsewhere, and if need be, break the team down, rebuild. Hopefully not to the extent that the did last time. But now is the time to strike when the team is at the top of the winning cycle!

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I agree with much of this. If Bryant continues the trajectory he's on you would have to think long and hard about signing him to the mind boggling type of deal that awaits. Then there is Rizzo who took security over gambling for the huge dollars and will be insanely underpaid for a while. What will be his thoughts after that? Also Russell is a Scott Boras client along with Bryant and they come up the same year. For us it's way too early to be speculating on any of it, heck I just want another WS or two, but I'm certain the FO already has a plan A, B, C & D depending on how things go.

  • In reply to TC154:

    You're right, it is too early to speculate, but I do it anyway! Ultimately, I am a firm believer in the idea that if a team wins a title, they should get a five year window where fans can't complain. So I ain't complaining! But if it were me, I would make an effort to win as much as possible over the next fives years, even if it means a few down years follow.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    "You're right, it is too early to speculate, but I do it anyway! "

    We are commenters on an internet blog. A great blog, to be sure, but still... Un-warranted speculation is kind of "what we do." Some of our posts are insightful, thought-provoking, etc. But, honestly, a lot of what we do is speculation with far too little information to warrant our conclusions. LOL

  • To Sams point on the International draft vs. Int. FA I have never understood why the union protects it so hard and fast. It causes teams to spend huge sums on players that often don't reach the majors and thus never become part of their union.

    If I were them I would allow the Int draft and bargain hard to get the portion of the monies paid for International FA's, above the new draft slotting, to be added to the amount allowed to spend before the luxury tax sets in.

    Baseball teams have shown time and again they will spend the money in a competitive sport, and they will again, might as well move that money to people playing in the MLB, not people that may, in 6-10 years.

  • In reply to bleedblue:

    Any high salaries are viewed as a plus by the union. Anything that can drive up the price of future contracts for their people is good. Players and their agents can point at those international contracts as stepping stones in contract negotiations.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Fair enough, but I think that logic is flawed. There is only so much money out there in any given year. Right now a significant portion is being handed out to a group of players which mostly fail to make it to the majors.

    I also think it is faulty logic in that I don't see a strong coorelation between what INT FA gets and say what Cesdpes got last off season or this off season. It is not even a factor. When was the last time we heard, WOW, that Int FA got that money, it just reset the bar for next off season, Cespedes just went from 5/$120MLN to 5/$150 MLN. It just doesn't happen.

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    In reply to bleedblue:

    I think you are looking for a "smoking gun" type correlation. Or at least a strongly linear one. I don't think that this will happen with Int FA. I agree with what Michael says (if I understand it properly) that when big money is handed out to even more people it starts shifting things. Let's say that several teams go wild signing HUGE Int FA contracts. Suddenly, the average value of a contract goes up $250K. Many players now point to that as part of the ratinoale for "deserving" a raise. It doesn't have to result in a given FA suddenly taking a significant increase (your example is a 25% increase). It can be a small increase for a lot of players. Suddenly it is a "new norm." In some ways that would be more in line with what a union often wants: better wages for a large chunk of their membership rather than a significant hike for a couple guys at the top.

    I'm not crazy about ANY contract being hailed as a "game changer." Even one like Cecil's. It might result in some relief pitcher getting significantly higher salaries. But what will REALLY shift the market is if managers start using their best relievers in the highest leverage situations (like the playoffs with Chapman, Miller, Allen, Jansen, etc.). Suddenly their value starts going up significantly and it is even easier to justify large salaries. I think that it will be at THAT point that contracts for relievers will be changed. Not when one team overpays for a player.

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    I confess to not knowing a lot of the ins and outs myself, but it's definitely weird how we might have a lockout over nothing really serious. I understand that the relationship between players and owners in any sport is always strained since both sides want what's best for them, but there's hardly anything acrimonious going on here. It seems like the CBA was put off until the last minute and any stoppage will be due to MLB and the Union lacking foresight and trying to hammer this out sooner. Oh well, hoping for the best!

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    I wonder if Archie Bradley may be worth a shot.
    Bosio has done more with less before...

  • First I'll start by saying baseball is my favorite sport, But ... The MLB is the most messed up sport there is.
    1. They have the all star game (an exhibition) decide the home field team advantage for the World Series.
    2. They have 2 leagues with different rules. The AL has the DH, NL does not. That's crazy.
    3. Teams do not play balanced schedules in their leagues or their divisions.
    4.They can not decide on common uniforms. Long pants or short pants.
    5. For some countries there is an amateur draft (US and Puerto Rico). Other countries the amateur's are free agents.

    I fell better getting that off my chest.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I don't think the Cubs win the World Series if best record decides home field. We needed that DH.

    So, thanks, Bud!!

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    In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Cannot decide on common uniforms? What do you mean? The NBA has some uniforms with "sleeves" and others without. And that is on one team. Similar things happen in football.

    In baseball, yes, some people where their pants down to their shoes (pajama style) while others (Pence?) like to where their pants up above their knees (usually called "high socks" though I am not sure why). But those are PLAYER preferences, not league rules.

  • Under the old system the AL would have had home field anyway. The last WS before this All-Star brain child, was just to switch AL/NL every year. In 2002 the Angels had home field and that was the last one under the old system. So the Indians would have had home field this year either way.

  • In the larger conversation about MLB's structure and future, an interesting note in today's NY Times article about Curtis Granderson's community works:

    "Granderson pulls in front of his brick townhouse on [Chicago's] South Side. He offers a final story: As a young player, he worked with a wizard of a batting coach, Leon Durham, a former major leaguer coaching for Detroit’s Class AAA franchise in Toledo, Ohio. When players got to the big club and fell into slumps, they would hop in their cars and drive back to Toledo for a morning refresher course. “We’d go on a hot streak, and everyone knew: Leon was getting guys right,” Granderson says.

    That memory is a dozen years old. Durham just received his first promotion to a major league coaching staff. He will be the Tigers’ assistant hitting coach.

    “Sad to say, but you look at who owns baseball,” Granderson says of the vastly white ownership ranks. “You wonder.”

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