Protestors to picket the Cubs-Dbacks game. I kinda wish they wouldn't

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As you probably know, Arizona passed a law that makes the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and gives
the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the
country illegally. Supporters believe it to be a necessary move to combat illegal immigration to the state. Opponents call it an open invitation for
harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their
citizenship status.  I have my own opinions about it all and I’m sure you do too, but that’s not terribly important in this forum because this forum is about baseball.

But the controversy over Arizona SB 1070 is now hitting baseball, as people are protesting the Arizona Diamondbacks wherever they go:

Today at Chicago’s Wrigley Field and in just about every city the team
visits, there is expected to be a protest outside the stadium against
Arizona’s new immigration-enforcement law, Senate Bill 1070. One of the people organizing and encouraging such protests is Tony
Herrera, the Arizona representative for a national movement (it has a
Facebook page) called “Boycott Arizona 2010.”

“This team is an ambassador for Arizona,” Herrera told me. “And the
owner, Mr. (Ken) Kendrick, is a big supporter of Republican politics.
This new law was a Republican bill. Until the law is changed, there
should be protests.”

Some people are also suggesting that Major League Baseball take away the 2011 All-Star Game which will take place in Chase Field.  The odds of that happening are somewhere below the odds of Lou Dobbs joining those protests, but people are asking it all the same.

I like to rouse rabble as much as the next guy, but protests based on attenuated links kind of irk me. Yes, the Dbacks are from Arizona and yes the team’s owner — one of several dozen in a large ownership group, by the way — generally supports the party that sponsored the legislation, but the Diamondbacks and any fans heading to Wrigley Field this weekend are innocent bystanders here. I’m guessing they no more appreciate having a ballgame interrupted by immigration politicking any more than Super Bowl viewers were interested in listening to Tim Tebow go on whatever it was he was going on about in that boring little commercial that caused all the hubub.

People can obviously do what they want because the First Amendment is pretty damn awesome, but I can’t help but think these sorts of protests and calls for boycots are at best ineffective in furthering the protesters’ cause and potentially detrimental. If you’re running late to the game and you have to navigate a picket line outside the gate, you’re probably not going to be very sympathetic to the protester’s cause.  And if calls for boycotts are actually heeded they won’t hurt the owners of the Diamondbacks nearly as much as they’ll hurt the concession guys and stadium sweepers who get laid off because business is slow.  These things are great for some short-lived publicity, but short-lived publicity is generally not the best way to affect political change. That takes sustained activism, legal action and other less-sexy things than jumping in front of TV cameras.

But I guess my biggest beef with this sort of thing is that when I go to a baseball game, I’m looking to escape reality for a little while and it angries up my blood if I have to have to think about the real world for those three hours.  Maybe that makes me a bad citizen or something, but it’s how I feel. And I feel that way whether I agree with the protesters or not.

UPDATE: If you’re looking for more on this, BIll at the Daily Something has some.

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 sigbned. 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.