Selig hands up

Selig: baseball “moving inexorably” toward a ten-team playoff

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We’ve seen this coming for some time, but Bud Selig today said that baseball is “moving inexorably” toward an expanded playoff beginning with the 2012 season, and said that, while there are details to be worked out, it will likely be a ten-team affair. Specifically, he said “ten is a fair number.” This is a more precise way than he put it last fall when he said “Eight is a fair number. So is ten.”

Not that fairness is the real consideration behind this. If it was they’d just do a 30-team tournament because there’s nothing more fair than that.  No, this is about revenue from highly-rated national playoff games and several hundred thousand more people going through the ballpark turnstiles at playoff ticket prices. It’s also about job security, as anonymous baseball sources have admitted that it’s way better to be able to tell the team’s owner that, hey, they put a playoff team together rather than put a good team together that fell oh so short.

The league wants it. The union doesn’t oppose it.  It’s happening.  I just wish that when people talked about it they didn’t try to convince me that there are baseball, as opposed to business arguments for it. Because there clearly are none.

UPDATE: OK, I’m being overly grumpy. An additional wild card round — which is what Selig suggested, though he doesn’t know its length — will make winning the division a preferable option to winning the wild card and will make it all the harder for a marginal team to win it all.  That is a good baseball reason.  It doesn’t overcome my distaste of it because I hate short series — and God help us if they make it a one-game play-in thing, because that’s just gimmicky — but I’m being a grouch when I say there “clearly are none.”  I just don’t like ’em.

Now get off my lawn.

Are the current Collective Bargaining Agreement talks too friendly?

Scott Boras
Associated Press
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Baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1. There have been comments from both commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA director Tony Clark suggesting that progress was being made and there has been no suggestion thus far that there are sticking points which could lead to a work stoppage. Heck, even a few acrimonious rounds of negotiation before it’s all said and done seem unlikely.

That’s good news for fans, but it’s not making certain agents happy. Smooth labor sailing likely means a new CBA that is pretty close in most terms to the current CBA. Agents — especially agents who represent veterans — don’t like that because they believe that the current rules regarding free agency, draft pick compensation, luxury taxes and qualifying offers penalize the players they represent. Today Ken Rosenthal has a story about that anger, talking to both anonymous agents and super agent Scott Boras about how baseball’s middle class is disappearing and baseball’s median salary goes lower and lower.

Major League Baseball counters that while the median salary is going down, the average salary is going up. And baseball is right about that. But it’s also the case that the average is propped up by a handful of superstar contracts while the somewhat less lucrative but still nice mid-level contracts for mid-level veterans are disappearing. The financial landscape of the game is morphing into one with a small upper class with nine-figure contracts and a large lower class of pre-arbitration players and veterans on shorter, smaller deals, squeezing the old veteran middle class out of existence.

Sound familiar?

Baseball, of course, is not the American economy. There are some good reasons why those mid-level contracts have gone away. Specifically, because they tended not to be very good deals for the teams who signed them. At the same time, baseball is far better able to tweak its rules to spread the wealth than the U.S. government can, and those rules — like the qualifying offer and luxury tax — have had a harsh impact on a lot of players.

There’s not a clear answer on what the best system is for free agents, draft pick compensation, draft bonus pools and the like actually is. I tend to favor the fewest restrictions on a player’s right to negotiate freely with teams, but I’ll also acknowledge that there is a less than perfect market at play in baseball given revenue disparities between teams and the need to maximize, within reason, competitive balance. It’s not an easy trick even before you get into the B.S. team owners tend to spew about pocketbook matters.

But it’s also the case that an all-too-friendly relationship between the union and the league — one in which a given set of rules is rubberstamped from CBA to CBA — is not an ideal situation. No one wants acrimony, but the fact is that the players and the union are slicing up a pie. If the person you’re slicing up a pie with is all-too-happy to keep slicing it the same way, it probably means that they’re getting a bigger piece than you. Maybe, if it’s your job to grab a bigger piece?

The agents Rosenthal talked to, who represent a good chunk of MLBPA membership, certainly think the union should be doing some more grabbing. I wonder if their clients do too.

Four baseballs autographed by Jose Fernandez wash ashore

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 03: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins looks on during a game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on August 3, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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This is just . . . ugh.

WSVN-TV in Miami reports that a black bag containing Jose Fernandez’s checkbook and four baseballs signed by him washed ashore on Miami Beach. Probably a bag to keep stuff dry while out on the water.

The bag was given to a lifeguard. Hopefully the bag finds its way back to Fernandez’s family quickly.