McCarver compares Yankees to Nazis and Communists. But that's not the real problem

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It doesn’t happen very often, but Tim McCarver actually said something interesting during the Yankees-Rays game on Saturday. Too bad it wasn’t interesting in a good way. Here’s what he said, transcribed by Lisa Swan over at Subway Squawkers (Note: NY Stadium Insider had it first, with video):

You remember some of those despotic leaders in World War II, primarily
in Russia and Germany, where they used to take those pictures that they
had … taken of former generals who were no longer alive, they had shot
’em. They would airbrush the pictures, and airbrushed the generals out
of the pictures. In a sense, that’s what the Yankees have done with Joe
Torre. They have airbrushed his legacy. I mean, there’s no sign of Joe
Torre at the stadium. And, that’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it.

Not surprisingly, this has created a great deal of ire across the Internets since Saturday. And I understand why.  What he said was really, really stupid. Only I don’t think the Nazi/Communist comparison — in and of itself — is what makes the comments stupid.

Obviously anyone should tread lightly when playing the Nazi/Soviet card because it’s not too often that you’re going to be making a fair comparison in terms of moral equivalence. I mean really, no matter who your subject is, odds are pretty good that he or she wasn’t responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people.

But McCarver is obviously not making a moral equivalence here. He’s simply saying that he thinks the Yankees are playing propaganda games like Hitler and Stalin did. As I explain below it’s a dumb point, but if you’re trying to make a propaganda analogy — especially when talking about airbrushing figures out of photos in an effort to alter history — Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia really are the go-to references. Heavy-handed, sure, but I don’t think McCarver is treading in taboo territory here.

But his comments were stupid. Why? Because as several people have pointed out, he’s simply wrong. There are pictures of Torre on championship banners on field level at the ballpark. There are photos of him in pictures of celebrations of championships in some of the luxury boxes and elsewhere.  As such, McCarver saying that Torre has been removed from Yankees history is just false.

And really, what would McCarver have the Yankees do regarding Torre’s legacy at this point? He’s an active manager working for a historic rival. When he left town, he wrote a book about the Yankees that pissed just about everyone off.  Would McCarver expect the Yankees to have a statue of Joe Torre up at the main gate? Should there be a giant banner with his likeness hanging next to the Hess ad on the scoreboard? Call me in 25 years if the Yankees haven’t honored Torre somehow, but I think it’s a little premature for the team to be building monuments to the man, especially given the recent bad blood.

Oh, and one final note. If McCarver is going to accuse the Yankees of not treating Torre’s legacy fairly, perhaps he should disclose to viewers who were not otherwise aware that he is Torre’s close friend and former teammate and may very well be letting his personal feelings color his perception of how the guy is being treated by the Yankees.

The upshot of all of this: I’m not going to burn McCarver at the stake for saying what he said, because his comments weren’t outrageous in the way a lot of people are saying.  They were just wrong in the fairly normal and conventional way in which we’ve come to expect Tim McCarver to be wrong about things over the years.

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.