What they're saying about Lou Piniella's retirement…

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Cubs manager Lou Piniella got the opportunity to explain his sudden retirement before Sunday’s game against the Braves.  It’s more about his sick mother than his frustration with the Cubs’ play, and many folks are sharing great ‘Sweet Lou’ stories this afternoon.

Here is a bit of Piniella’s statement, via Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune:

“When I previously announced my intentions to retire at the end of the
season, a primary reason for my decision was that it would allow me to
spend more valuable time with my family. That time has unfortunately
gotten here sooner than I could have ever expected.

I couldn’t be more appreciative of the Cubs
organization for providing me the opportunity to be their manager.  I
wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world and I consider
this the ultimate way to end my managerial career.”

And some reactions to Lou’s departure:

* Greg Johns of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a Mariners perspective: “Piniella is remembered by M’s fans for more than just the wins,” writes Johns.
“His emotional outbursts on the field were legendary, but even more
important was his presence and leadership for a franchise desperately in
need of both.”

* Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com believes that the timing is right for a new manager in Chicago.  But he will remember Piniella with fond memories.  “Sweet Lou provided so many fun moments for fans across all the country,” writes Rosenthal, ”
entertaining us with his classic ejections and rants, not to mention
winning baseball.”

* Adam McCalvy of MLB.com passes along some kind words from Brewers manager Ken Macha.  The two were rivals in the AL West for a while.  “Lou and I talked quite a bit over the years that I managed,” Macha
said. “I said this when he announced his retirement, that I admire the
guys who have done this job for that long, [like] Bobby Cox and [Joe]
Torre. This is not an easy job.”

* Cubs starter Ryan Dempster told the Chicago Tribune that he is said to see Piniella go, but also that he understands the reasoning behind the sudden departure: “Dealing with family issues and
dealing with your mom are something none us ever want to go through,” Dempster
said. “I’m happy for him he gets to go be with her.
  Obviously, the season didn’t
go like we wanted it to but the most important thing is family and he gets to
be with his mom and be around her.”

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.