Millwood's option will be allowed to vest. Maybe.

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While Kevin Millwood pitched well earlier in the season, he is 2-4 with a 5.92 ERA and has been walking a lot of guys in his past 11 starts. What’s more, as Baseball Time in Arlington’s Joey Matschulat notes this morning, Millwood has greatly reduced the number of fastballs he has thrown in the second half, which could suggest an injury.

Is he hurt or is he just ineffective?  These aren’t merely baseball questions for the Rangers, they’re business questions too, because Millwood needs eight more innings to reach 180 for the year, and that would trigger his $12 million option for 2010.  In light of (a) his performance, (b) Texas’ plethora of young pitching talent; and (c) Owner Tom Hicks’ severe financial problems and the impending sale of the team, there is at least a reasonable argument to be made that Texas should shut Millwood down.

Anyone willing to go on the record is saying that won’t happen, however.  Millwood is slated to start tonight, and both GM Jon Daniels and team President Nolan Ryan are saying that they won’t consider sitting him in order to prevent his option from vesting. MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, however, adds an ominous sounding note when he says “It may be
others besides the Rangers baseball people who decide that Millwood
won’t pitch beyond Friday.”

That seems like a very odd thing for him to just throw into an article like this. Sullivan is a good reporter and knows the Rangers better than anyone, so I can’t help but think that he’s heard something from someone suggesting that Millwood’s season could be over soon.

I suppose a lot of this depends on how he pitches tonight.  If he’s effective, I can’t see how the Rangers could keep him off the mound without losing both the clubhouse and the fans.  If he’s shelled, however, all bets are off.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.