No, Bonds, Sosa and Clemens aren't going to apologize

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I have head-full of other Mark McGwire thoughts driving me insane this morning, but those will come later. At the moment let’s address a sentiment I’ve heard over and over since yesterday afternoon, and that’s that now McGwire has offered up his mea culpa, it’s time for Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens to do likewise.  Interesting thought, but if you think that’s going to happen any time soon, you’re dreaming.

Let’s dispense with Bonds and Clemens quickly:  they can’t and won’t for legal reasons.  Barry Bonds is still being prosecuted — however slowly that prosecution is going — for perjury related to this denial before a grand jury of knowingly taking steroids. Due to the non-cooperation of a key witness and the fact that the feds have had a huge portion of their evidence against him tossed out, he has an excellent chance of skating on the charge. Why on Earth would he do anything at this point to screw that up?  If Bonds ever talks — and it’s not a given that he has the slightest desire to do so — it will come years from now.

Same goes for Clemens. He’s embroiled in approximately eleventy-seven variations of the same civil lawsuit against Brian McNamee, each of which depends upon him either proving that he didn’t take steroids or defending charges that he did.  Add to that the fact that the feds still purport to be investigating him for perjury in connection with his Congressional testimony and he has every reason to either stay quiet about this or to keep claiming that he’s as pure as the driven snow. If Clemens ever admits to using PEDs it will be under pain of torture or, given that he seems to be something of a delusional whack-job, from the top of a clock tower while holding a sniper’s rifle or something.

Sammy Sosa is a more interesting case. He has no legal reason preventing him from coming clean. As I’ve said before, his congressional testimony bordered on brilliant in terms of how he was able to mislead without technically lying (and the only reason he was able to do this is because Congress refused to ask even the most basic of followup questions).  Still, there’s nothing really compelling him to admit to anything now either. His one foray into the public spotlight recently resulted in something close to a p.r. disaster, turning him into more of a joke than a figure poised for some kind of redemption. He’s not a candidate for any coaching jobs or any other official position with baseball. McGwire is the canary in the coal mine for Hall of Fame juicers, so whether Sammy Sosa ever makes it to Cooperstown is more dependent upon what happens with McGwire than himself, so there’s no reason to come clean in the interests of lobbying.

Still, he’s Sosa and Sosa is kind of weird, so I could see him holding some Canseco-esque press conference that no one clamored for and offering up details of his life that no one truly wants.  It might be fun actually.

Mark McGwire came clean and apologized for one reason and one reason only: he wants back in the game of baseball, and given his particularly troubling Congressional testimony in 2005, baseball won’t accept him — and frankly, he couldn’t perform his job — unless he said something about it.

Bonds, Clemens and Sosa don’t have that sort of thing staring them in the face, so don’t hold your breath waiting for them to say anything about anything any time soon.

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.