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.

Report: The Yankee Stadium charity is a secretive, self-dealing boondoggle

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The New York Times has a blistering report on the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund. The Fund is the charity the Yankees created in 2006 as a means of making up for the negative impact the construction New Yankee Stadium had on the surrounding community, primarily via its taking over 25 acres of parkland.

The idea of the Fund was a good one: to distribute $40 million in cash grants and sports equipment, and 600,000 free baseball tickets to community organizations in the Bronx over four decades. And it has been distributing funds and tickets. As the Times reports, however, the manner in which it has done so raises some red flags. Such as:

  • Charitable donations have, in an amazing coincidence, often gone to other charities which share common board members with the New Yankee Stadium Fund;
  • Funds have gone to many wealthy groups in affluent parts of the Bronx far away from the Stadium while the area around the stadium remains one of the most impoverished in the nation. For example, a private school in a wealthy part of the borough and a rec center in a gated community have gotten a lot money that, one would think anyway, could be and should be devoted to organizations closer to the ballpark that are in greater need; and
  • There has been almost no transparency or oversight of the Fund. Reports which were supposed to have been submitted have not been. And no one, apart from the Times anyway, seems to care. The Yankees certainly don’t seem to. Indeed, as the article notes, the team has worked hard to keep the Fund’s operations out of its hands. They just got their new ballpark and write the checks and hand out the tickets. Everything else is someone else’s problem.

Cronyism in private philanthropy is not uncommon. As is a lack of oversight. Often it’s the best connected people who receive the benefit of such funds, not the people most in need. This is especially true in charities whose creation was not born of a philanthropic impulse as much as it was born of a need to put a good face on some not-so-good business dealings.

If the Times’ report is correct — and the lack of anyone coming forward to dispute it on the record despite the Times’ requests that they do suggests it is — it appears as if the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is one of those sorts of charities.

Who is the fastest sprinter in baseball?

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We’re not talking the 100 meters here. We’re talking practical baseball sprinting. That’s defined by the StatCast folks at MLB as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window,” while sprinting for the purposes of, you know, winning a baseball game.

StatCast ranked all players who have at least 10 “max effort” runs this year. I won’t give away who is at the top of this list, but given that baseball’s speedsters tend to get a lot of press you will not be at all surprised. As for the bottom of the list, well, the Angels don’t pay Albert Pujols to run even when he’s not suffering from late career chronic foot problems, so they’ll probably let that one go. I will say, however, that I am amused that the third slowest dude in baseball is named “Jett,” however.

Lately people have noticed some odd things about home run distances on StatCast, suggesting that maybe their metrics are wacko. And, of course, their means of gauging this stuff is proprietary and opaque, so we have no way of knowing if their numbers are off the reservation or not. As such, take all of the StatCast stuff you see with a grain of salt.

That said, even if the feet-per-second stuff is wrong here, knowing that Smith is faster than Jones by a factor of X is still interesting.