MLBPA and MLB agree on new free agency rules

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The MLBPA and Major League Baseball have been snipping at each other for a couple of years now over free agency. A lot of guys have signed late — some even after camp has started — and some have muttered about collusion and the like.

To resolve this, the union and the league sat down and tried to hammer out new rules — or tweaks to old ones — governing the mechanics of free agency. Amazingly, they’ve done so with little if any rancor. They just released a statement about it.  Here are the highlights:

  • When players become eligible for free agency, they’re free agents. No “filing” for free agency or whatever it is they do now;
  • The period during which only a free agent’s current team can sign them — the exclusivity period — has been reduced to five days. It had been 15 days;
  • Earlier deadlines for teams to offer arbitration and players to accept it;
  • Stricter rules — unspecified in the release — preventing collusion; and
  • “Restrictions on the abilities of the Clubs, players and agents to
    conduct their free agent negotiations through use of the media.”

These last two are the most interesting to me.

I take the thing about collusion to be a tacit admission by the clubs that, as the union has claimed in recent years, they were doing something fishy.  I’m not sure what those things are, but I’ve heard plenty of rumors recently that — amazingly — the clubs all seem to come up with similar offers for mid-level and lower-level free agents.  Could it be that everyone just uses the same metrics and the same numbers are spit out? Possible, I suppose, but Occam’s Razor suggests that teams have been comparing notes.

The thing about the media is fun. That one likely stems from complaints by the clubs and the players. I mean, it’s uncanny, is it not, how when a team is trying to part ways with a fan favorite that we suddenly hear reports of some outrageous demand by the player?  It is also uncanny, is it not, that when a player is having a hard time getting what he wants, there are suddenly a bunch of reports of “mystery teams” interested in his services?

That stuff is ridiculous, of course, because you’re never going to be able to stop people from leaking things. I mean, as it is, teams would probably fire employees over the stuff they leak if they could catch them, so what possible fear could a beef with the union or the league cause?  We’ll be “hearing this . . .” and “FYIing . . .” and “Sources tell me . . .” all winter, just like we always have.

But details aside, this is pretty extraordinary. Why? Because the league and the union quietly and, apparently, quite easily came to agreement over details relating to free agency. There was no yelling back and forth. There were no threats that it would become in issue in the next CBA negotiations.  Mature people just had a couple of meetings and figured it out.

I bet NFL fans with their league and union could do that.

Trevor May joins eSports team Luminosity

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 04: Trevor May #65 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the Cleveland Indians in the sixth inning at Progressive Field on August 4, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Twins 9-2.  (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
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When he’s not throwing baseballs, Twins pitcher Trevor May is an active gamer. He streams on Twitch, a very popular video game streaming site, fairly regularly and now he’s officially on an eSports team. Luminosity Gaming announced the organization added May last Friday. It appears he’ll be streaming and commentating on Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment.

May is the only current athlete to be an active member of an eSports team. Former NBA player Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, an eSports team that sports players in games including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat X. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is also a known advocate of eSports.

The NBA in particular has been very active on the eSports front. Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov launched NRG eSports in November 2015. Shortly thereafter, Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in the Immortals eSports team. Almost a year later, the 76ers acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The same month, the Wizards’ and Warriors’ owners launched a group called Axiomatic, which purchased a controlling stake in Team Liquid, a long-time Starcraft: Brood War website which has since branched out into other games. And also in September 2016, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko bought team Renegades, moving them to a group house in Detroit. In December 2016, the Bucks submitted a deal to Riot Games in order to purchase Cloud9’s Challenger league spot for $2.5 million. The Rockets that month hired someone specifically for eSports development, focusing on strategy and investment. Last month, the Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits.

Once an afterthought, eSports has grown considerably in recent years and now it should be considered a competitor to traditional sports. League of Legends, in particular, is quite popular, reaching nearly 15 million concurrent viewers at its peak in the most recent League of Legends World Championship. That championship featured a prize purse of $6.7 million with $2 million of it being split among winner SK Telecom T1’s members.

Orioles re-sign Michael Bourn to a minor league deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.

Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.