Dennis Gilbert wants to run it all in Texas; Nolan Ryan wants no part of it

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It’s being reported that Rangers owner Tom Hicks has had a falling out
with Dennis Gilbert, the guy who, just two days ago, was called the
front runner to take over the team.  This is good news, reports Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, because if Gilbert had come on board, Nolan Ryan was going to resign as team president:

Nolan’s problem was not with Hicks. But if Gilbert takes over — and
even without Hicks as his partner, he will go it alone — Gilbert would
be in charge of the team’s entire operation, business and baseball . .
. Those close to Gilbert say his ultimate goal would be a combined team
president-general manager situation. Total control of all things
baseball has been his dream.

If Gilbert is truly fighting with Hicks now it’s a good bet that Hicks
won’t sell to him, but dear God, Rangers fans have to hope that
Gilbert’s bid doesn’t otherwise get any traction, say, through a forced
sale over Hicks’ objections. Not just because it would mean the end of
the well-loved Nolan Ryan’s career with the team, but because Dennis
Gilbert calling all the shots would be the short road to hell for the
Rangers.

If history shows us anything, it shows us that when owners take an
active role in the actual day-to-day baseball decisions, bad things
happen.  The Yankees spring to mind. Yes, they won despite
Steinbrenner’s meddling in the Bronx Zoo era, but it’s no accident that
they didn’t start to rebuild the dynasty until Steinbrenner was
suspended for a year and actual baseball minds took over.  Ask any
Orioles fan how life was back when Peter Angelos was more active on a
day-to-day basis.

Just because you’ve figured out how to make a lot of money doesn’t mean
you know how to run a baseball team.  Based on Gilbert’s ridiculous
claim that he invented free agency
, you can imagine that he has no
shortage of ego. That, combined with no one to call him on any bad
decisions would be a recipe for disaster for Texas.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.