If I don’t survive the night, I love you all

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I’m not gonna lie to you. I’m totally freaked out. I’d be way better off if the Braves were already eliminated. As anyone who has suffered profound grief can attest, the shock, denial, anger and bargaining stages are harder to get through than the depression and acceptance part.  Or not. I don’t know. I’m just trying to grasp on to anything here.

OK, I’m overplaying that. In all honesty, this is about as wonderful as baseball gets. Partially because there’s the possibility for the horrible. If you’re a Red Sox, Rays, Braves or Cardinals fan tonight, your stomach should be doing flip flops. It’s good for the soul in some strange way.  Unless your happiness is way too closely tied to your favorite team’s performance you should appreciate that the all-or-nothing aspects to this make it thrilling.

Sure, I want my team to win and I want the Cardinals to lose.  But I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a part of me that wants a game 163.  And that, even if it kills another part of me, I think the Cardinals winning the wild card would be a good thing because it will be a neat happening to consider.

OK, maybe not a good thing, but certainly an interesting thing, and interesting things make life better.  Interesting things are of just as much if not more value to a person than some vicarious triumph of someone we consider to be part of our tribe. I mean, the Braves don’t know who I am and don’t care about my happiness beyond how that translates into support they can quantify.  Fandom is almost always one-sided. If we as fans value the interesting as much as we value the rah-rah stuff at least we’re being repaid somehow.

Not that I will abandon the rah-rah.  I imagine — if my stomach allows me to anyway — I’ll be on Twitter tonight cracking wise and scared and happy and angry depending on what the Phillies hitters are doing to poor Tim Hudson.  I’ll say something like “Yay! Go team!” if the Braves win and something like “Oh drat” if they lose. But then I’ll wake up tomorrow and know that we have the playoffs and the offseason and the spring and then another summer ahead of us when everything is reset and begins anew.  And then I’ll realize, nothing truly permanent was lost, even in defeat.

But seriously: screw the Cardinals. I hope they get no-hit by Brett Myers tonight and that Tony La Russa pulls a muscle during his 19th pitching change.

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.