Michael Weiner: draft slotting is a salary cap and the players are against it

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The Executive Board of the Major League Baseball Players Association
just had a conference call with the media to formally announce Michael
Weiner as the new Executive Director and to field questions from the
media. I guess I’m the media now, so I called in. I even asked a
question and may have actually committed an act of journalism in doing
so.  I feel so dirty. But I’ll get to that in a minute.  The rundown:

  • Players Tony Clark, Curtis Granderson and Jeremy Guthrie were on the
    call and talked first. Only Guthrie identified which team he plays for,
    which I thought was kind of cute. Newsday’s Ken Davidoff is the only
    one who asked a player a question, to Granderson, about the trade
    rumors. Granderson’s response: “I’m still wearin’ the English D!”  If
    I’m Granderson I give no comment and write about it all on my own blog
    over at Yahoo!

  • Weiner had a lot of nice things to say about Marvin Miller and Donald
    Fehr. He used the word “humbled” about 15 times.  Based on everything I
    hear from people who know him, that’s genuine. Weiner is just a nice
    guy who everyone seems to like. The anti-Fehr in that regard.

The bit of news came when I asked him whether the union has discussed
the statements Bud Selig has made in recent months about
internationalizing the draft and about a hard slot on draft picks in
order to scale back signing bonuses.  Until now, many individual
players have said they would be fine with it, exhibiting no small
amount of annoyance that these 18 year olds are making a lot of money.

Weiner indicated that there has been an about-face,* suggested that the union has decided to fight it hard, however, correcting
my use of the term “slotting” in my question to “salary cap” and than
unleashing all of the time-worn union rhetoric about salary caps being
antithetical to individual players being able to negotiate their own
deals on the open market.  In other words, it sounds like the union
will either (a) go to the mat to fight hard slotting; or (b) come off
of their longstanding opposition to caps of any kind.

So that was interesting. Like I said, I’m a newbie at this reporting
stuff, but those of you out there who aren’t may do well to get a
microphone in front of some of those players who complained about
amateur signing bonuses in recent years and let them know that they
need to change their tune.

Beyond that, a lot of talk about some other stuff: HGH testing: the players will be on board when there’s a reliable urine test. Collusion: the union is still thinks something fishy happened in 2007-08, but nothing new to report.  John Henry’s interesting revenue sharing plan from yesterday: the players discussed it today, but no real comments. The current free agent market: Weiner is “a little bit concerned” about the slow place of signings so far, but it’s too early to draw any conclusions about the state of the market.  So beyond the bit about the slotting stuff, nothing terribly new or earth shattering.

That’s enough journalism for me today. Starting now, I go back to blogging. At least you can blast your stereo while you’re doing that.

*in hindsight I think I overstated it a bit. The union as a body has been basically non-committal in its official statements on the matter, so the term “about face” is probably not accurate. The fact that the union is now clearly saying that they are against it, however, is a new development, and one which runs counter to the statements of many individual players who have said that they’d be fine with a slotting system. 

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.

Max Scherzer still can’t throw fastballs

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals works against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.

The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.

Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.