Marvin Miller doesn’t know why the players agreed to HGH testing

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I liked to Shaughnessy earlier, so why not link to Murray Chass?

He spoke with former union head Marvin Miller — they’re bffs, you know — about the MLBPA agreeing to submit to HGH blood testing in the new collective bargaining agreement. Miller is perplexed by the union agreeing to this and to earlier concessions regarding drug testing:

 “I don’t understand the rationale of this. I don’t understand the rationale of a lot of things. It’s an unproven test. We don’t know the basis for this. I haven’t heard any rationale for this and there is no rationale for it … I understand Selig wanting it, but I don’t understand why the union would agree to it … It’s not a step forward … They didn’t get anything when they agreed to reopen testing when there was no reopening in the agreement to test. I can’t imagine anything appreciable to make you think twice about saying yes.”

Setting aside that Marvin Miller is 94-years-old and may not completely have his finger on the pulse of what’s going down in labor relations at the moment, he has a narrow technical point regarding negotiation tactics. You don’t, traditionally, give something up in this way. And he’s right that the HGH test is kind of a joke.

But Miller’s position is also some pretty old thinking when it comes to baseball labor relations.  What the union finally figured out — too late, but did figure out — was that there was a serious downside to the public thinking that everyone was on ‘roids. And that that perception was going to eventually translate to lower confidence in the game and ultimately lower revenues.

So, like Miller, you could just view this through the lens of owner-player politics.  Or you could see the longer game in which the players giving in on drug testing was actually in their own financial interests. And that’s before you talk about how, you know, getting on board with drug testing was the right thing to do anyway.

I agree with Miller that the HGH test thing is kind of silly — I’ve spoken about why before — but I don’t think you can give the union much hell for agreeing to go down this road, even if they’re doing it for reasons other than “HGH is bad, mmmkay?”

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.