RUNNING OUT THE CLOCK

By:  Holly Horning

What.a.mess.

And I’m being polite. This is a family blog, after all.

Let’s just say that this whole mess has turned into a…..



 

 

Over the weekend, I read a number of polls about where the blame should be placed for this year’s still TBD season. One, done by ESPN, that has fans putting 96% of the onus for failure on the owners.

Foolishly believing that MLB “stewards” couldn’t get any worse, they did. On Monday night. On national tv.

Only 4 days after guaranteeing “100% there will be an MLB season”, Rob Manfred now claims he’s “not confident there will be a 2020 season.”

And if you watched the interview, Manfred looked like he had eaten some bad shellfish.

The 180-degree change came directly after a conference call with all 30 franchise owners. It’s not hard to imagine that he got his you-know-what handed to him on a silver platter by them.

There are so many layers to this issue that it’s hard to know where to start. I could write a 5-part blog on what is going on between the owners and players.

However, something is becoming even more clear with each day – and each side’s statements.

What if the majority of those who are currently pondering the negotiations have it all wrong?

What if the assumption that both sides are actually negotiating is wrong?

What if the owners actually made up their minds months ago about what they want?

What if they are only pretending to negotiate?

What if owners already decided they just don’t want a season?

What if they decided to run out the clock on a season in order to get the shortest number of games possible (and biggest playoff broadcasting rights) if they are forced into having one?

It’s looking more and more like this is the case.

A negotiation involves 2 sides and requires participation by both parties. And this is the rub. MLB is not really participating.

They have submitted 3 proposals to the Players Association. Each of them identical in the end result with no new concessions offered. Just reconfigured. It’s like telling someone you’ll give them a quarter and they turn it down. Then you offer them 2 dimes and a nickel. They turn that down and then you say you’ll give them 4 nickels and 5 pennies.

Not much of an effort.

And in-between each round of offers, MLB has waited a full week before responding or counter-offering. No sense of urgency.

For a reason.

Let’s not forget that baseball’s owners hired one of this country’s top employment and labor leaders who has 30 years of experience working for MLB as their Commissioner. He was hired for a reason.

And let’s not forget that the Commissioner no longer serves for the good of baseball. He serves at the pleasure of the owners and is their mouthpiece. He also takes what his 5-member owner labor relations committee tells him and communicates it to the world.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that the union has stopped trying to negotiate. They see what is going on. (And for the record, the union is not blameless in this mess. But we’re focusing in on MLB right now because they are train-wreck worthy.)

Tony Clark and his committees have seen what is going on. Seeing how futile negotiations have been. After all, it takes 2 to tango and MLB is sitting on the sidelines, refusing to fill out their dance card.

Which is why the union has told owners to cut to the chase and tell them “where and when” to report. They’re playing. They want to play.

And that’s when it all blew up publicly for a lot of people. That’s when MLB’s ulterior motive became exposed.

Their bluff was called. Players ready to get started right now.

But that’s not what the owners want.

For 2 reasons.

First, it’s been widely reported that a number of owners ( at least 6 currently but it’s expected to be more) don’t want a season at all. They don’t want to take a financial hit. Even if it means there’s a good chance to grow the game during a time period where people around the world are desperate for sports. They are so greedy to hang onto their money that they don’t want to see the greater good that a long-term outlook would create for them or the game.

Bottom line: they are willing to take the risk of killing the game in order to avoid a 1-year loss.  The only question is whether it is due to greed, stupidity or arrogance.

Especially teams that are nowhere close to being competitive. Or teams with really large contracts on players during their declining years.

The second reason has to do with the timing. The owners’ strategy is to run the clock down to the last possible minute so there is the shortest season possible.

If they accepted the players offer to play, it would mean a season of 70+ games. In the March agreement, it was clearly stated that owners would make an effort of “good faith” and establish a season with the greatest number of possible games.

After Manfred’s veiled threat (the “100% guarantee” of a season) to the players about imposing his mandated 50-game season, MLB is once again backtracking on their promises.

Which is why, after the players announced they are ready to play, Manfred came back and said the deal was off until all the players and union agreed that they would not pursue legal action against MLB.

Because, after Monday’s meeting with owners, it became apparent to Manfred and his mob that they would lose in court which is why they abruptly changed course about having a season. The Players Association is almost certainly going to file a grievance against MLB in their attempt to recoup approximately one billion dollars in lost wages.

All because it’s become apparent they are trying to run out the clock on a season by either not playing at all or scheduling the shortest number of games possible. MLB has been employing a lot of smoke and mirrors in their attempt to get to that magical 50.

Not an effort of “good faith.”

Hey, it’s not like the owners have ever done anything bad to players like service manipulation or collusion, you know…..

Never mind that the players have asked repeatedly for MLB to prove their statements of “crying poor.” They’ve asked for financial documents and gotten crickets in return.

Owners have had the audacity to say that “baseball is not profitable”. The same owners who got a 1000% return on their investment. The same owners who are some of the richest people in the US and have owned their teams for decades. They want us to believe that they are poor and stupid when it comes to owning a baseball team but not stupid when it comes to their other thriving businesses or the billions of dollars they have earned because of their business smarts.

They also think fans are stupid and will believe these outrageous statements.

And someone with access to contracts was also tired of hearing this and leaked the agreement MLB just made with Turner broadcasting for a $1 billion deal. And that’s just one of many local, regional and national contracts MLB signs with the media.

Don’t forget that MLB has recently made billion-dollar deals with BAM! Technology, Disney and Nike, to name a few.

Then there are the extremely profitable real estate ventures MLB has that are adjacent to the ballparks. That’s another conversation for another day….

Watch that calendar because MLB has to delay for another 11 days in order to get their way. A severely-shortened season that will help them avoid losing their grievance stance in court.

And they’ve already started with their announcement that a couple players and a coach have COVID-19 as part of their delay tactics. MLBPA says they have no record of it.

A stalling tactic that uses the pandemic to erase a season that every other sport has found a way around or is actively addressing it. MLB has also used the pandemic to shrink the minor leagues, cancel the minor league season, shorten the draft, limit bonuses and push the international signing period into 2021.  Just to name a few.

Convenient.

Remember, MLB doesn’t like to leave fingerprints. Which is also why the owners who don’t want a season will not vote to cancel it. It takes 8 votes to make it official and no owner in his right mind will allow it to be known he was one of those votes.

Besides, MLB has other ways of trying to get rid of seasons. Tactics that will try to put the blame on the other side while leaving them untarnished.

MLB has made lots of threats to the players. But also, they are serious threats to the game.

Worst of all, they are holding the fans and the future of the game for ransom.

Hello, Congress? You could score some serious points if you make a move to remove MLB from the Sherman Anti-Trust exemption. Currently, it’s the best way to save the game.

And it’s an election year.

Let’s get moving…..


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20 thoughts on “RUNNING OUT THE CLOCK

  1. I must admit this analysis took me by surprise. But in support of that analysis, MLB sent me my refund of 121.00 for MLB tv. I sent one email asking for it. Did not expect to hear back. If there was any kind of season planned, they would have sent me an email saying – the season will take place and not refunded my automatic credit card payment. I think I am done subscribing to MLB tv. I am not in the mood to support this group of owners, and players anymore. Little League is more exciting I think.

    Liked by 9 people

    • Hi, TAS – Great question! And definitely a topic for an entire blog. But to summarize, there are many advantages. First, if no to little baseball, fans jwould be increasingly upset and would want action. Congress has several times tried to address the anti-trust so there is interest out there. Then, a repeal would allow states, cities and counties to make a sales pitch to either move franchises there or lobby for the new franchises (actually 2 new ones are on the board) instead of having MLB dictate where those teams would go. Repeal would also open up televised games for more fans with fewer to no blackouts. And finally, a repeal would help protect minor league teams. You’ve just given me one of my next blog topics! – Holly

      Liked by 5 people

      • Gee, what a concept, open up MLB to the free market. Imagine cities and the market could help determine where new teams play. Also, if a smaller city can support a minor league they could start one. I look forward to your next blog and what it will take for Congress to act. I can’t think of why they would defend the exemption but I know who contributes to whom.

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  2. Are MLB player contracts for a specific number of seasons or calendar years? Normally these would be one in the same but if MLB cancels this season is there a chance that the 5th year of Jordan Zimmermann’s is now the 2021 season instead of this season? This could be part of any grievance the union files.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hi, Spartan – This would be Zimm’s last year. So if there is no baseball played, he ends up with the stipend MLB gave all players and says “buh-bye” to the Tigers. He would forfeit the rest of his salary. Same goes for Miggy’s salary this year. Mookie Betts, if there is no season, becomes a free agent even if he plays zero games for the Dodgers. In the March agreement, MLB gave players service time only while not guaranteeing pay in exchange for players not suing them. Interesting motivation for owners who all may have different reasons for wanting or not wanting a season, don’t you think? – Holly

      Liked by 5 people

  3. This analysis by Holly obviously leans very much in the direction of the owners getting their way. We fans, who are not even a distraction to either party in all this may rise early in November for the Japanese World Series and a plethora of new names. This after our own mind numbing parade of MLB replays fully exhausts our patience.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Holly, you’ve got your finger on the pulse of DC. Is there any viable congressional action to overturn MLB’s anti-trust exemption? And if so, who’s leading the fight and what can we aggrieved fans do to push it forward? As you said, it’s an election year and the current situation impedes a lot of commerce.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, McWatt – Another great question! There are a couple ways to go about this. First, for fans to lobby and petition their representatives as well as the House and Senate Judiciary Committees who would handle this. (It’s a bigger field to conquer.) But also (and maybe easier), fans can contact their states, cities (like San Jose) and counties who tried to get baseball to come there but were turned down by MLB. They would have a vested interest in pursuing this. And lastly, lobbying members of Congress who live in states where MLB has threatened to disband their minor league teams. Potentially, also cities like LA where fans are blacked out from watching their own Dodgers or some of the MidWest cities who can’t watch any games because they are too close to all the teams. I know that LA has been working on defeating MLB over the tv rules. Thanks for keeping the conversation going! – Holly

      Liked by 4 people

  5. Holly you always write about topics that I never would have thought of. This keeps this blog number one in my opinion. This keeps me coming back everyday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Claude – You just made my day! You have no idea how much Kurt and I appreciate these comments. This was our purpose and vision for this blog and we love the affirmation! Esp. during this crazy year. Thank you so much! – Holly

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Holly, you stated in regards to the owners recent actions “the only question is whether it is due to greed, stupidity, or arrogance”. If we were to assume it was all of the above, that would explain everything, wouldn’t it?

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  7. I am somewhat in disagreement with a couple of points because I think it is less about money and greed, and closer to arrogance. It is much more about the owners demand to control and dominate the game and the players. The billionaire owners are accustomed to dominating in the businesses they have run, and they demand to have the same domination over baseball and its employee-players. They have little commitment to the game of baseball.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I have a different perspective because of my work in environmental health. We will not be done with COVID-19 this year; cases and deaths are increasing in 21 states, a second wave is expected with the fall flu season, and no expert believes a vaccine will be ready in 2020. I love baseball but any play at this point would be a sham. Make this season the CBA year and play ball in 2021.

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  9. For the longest time, I put most of the blame on the players. But after reading numerous other articles and this blog, I have changed my mind completely. Please, may this promote the end of the MLB anti-trust exemption!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Unfortunately, getting congress to repeal the anti-trust exemption for baseball probably won’t happen for one reason: The owners have lots of $$$. They also donate a lot of that $$$ to members of congress. I doubt members of congress will do much to upset that flow of money.

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  11. Excellent analysis not found anywhere else! The owners will lobby with their money to keep their anti-trust exemption. It’s clear the owners don’t respect the players and may see them as overindulged and under educated. The players need to pursue a revenue share ala the NFL model but with a better guaranteed money situation. The owners could get a hard cap and institute a rookie pay scale like the NFL and ameliorate some of the arbitration pain they experience now.

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