The implications of yesterday's Marlins-MLB-MLBPA deal

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Marlins logo.jpgFor those who missed it due to all of the McGwire hoopla, the Marlins were taken to the woodshed yesterday over pocketing revenue sharing money instead of using it for its intended purpose.

The upshot: the Union had the Marlins dead to rights on violating Article XXIV(B)(5)(a)of the Basic Agreement, which commits teams to spending revenue sharing money “to improve its performance on the field.”  The Marlins quite obviously don’t do that, the union quite obviously threatened to file a grievance and MLB and the Marlins quite obviously realized they’d lose, so the Marlins agreed to raise payroll going forward.

Today Maury Brown has a great post up talking about the implications of the deal. Definitely give Maury a read, but in the meantime, here are what I think are the biggest takeaways:

  • Given that the Marlins now have a gun to their head to increase payroll, Dan Uggla and Josh Johnson were just handed the greatest possible leverage in their contract negotiations with the team. More so Johnson, who is currently haggling with the team over the length of a possible long term deal. The Marlins are now committed to raise payroll as they enter their new park in two years. The easiest way to get the heat off of them right now would be to give Johnson a deal that stretches into that time frame. The easiest way to take more immediate heat off would be to stop trying to trade Dan Uggla and give the man his $7 million or whatever he’s expected to get in arbitration.
  • This was a masterful, under-the-radar play by new union head Mike Weiner, accompanied by none of the sort of drama that has surrounded union-league dustups in the past.  While there have been dissatisfied rumbles regarding how certain teams spend their revenue sharing money, no one, not even the sports business junkies, was really reporting this beforehand and no one had leaked anything substantive about threats of grievances.  Such a thing would have been unthinkable when Don Fehr was in charge.
  • We’re really in a new era of union-league relations.  Baseball has had unprecedented labor peace since the 2002 negotiations, but I sort of figured that was more a function of there not really being anything to fight about as opposed to something changing in the overall dynamic. Now, granted, what the Marlins do with their revenue sharing money is not the biggest issue in the world, but it strikes me that this would have played out very differently even a few short years ago. The league would have dug in its heels more. Ideology would have taken over, at least for a while. That didn’t happen here.

As we sit here today, there’s no real reason to think that the 2011 CBA negotiations will be particularly contentious. But even so, it’s nice to see that an issue that could have gotten ugly was resolved with a minimum amount of fuss. 

Now let’s sit back and see how the NFL handles its labor business . . .

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

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.