In the blogging game, speed often rules. Sometimes you can be too fast, however. That happened a few minutes ago when I broke down the new collective bargaining agreement. Within about five minutes of that post going live, a number of details started spilling out about the thing, and a lot of those details are making me way more skeptical of the quality of this deal than I was when I called it “a total success.”
I think the biggest issue is that it is now becoming clear that the caps/taxes involved in tamping down amateur signing bonuses are way more harsh than had been suggested in earlier reports.
Specifically, the tax on amateur draft bonus seems downright punitive. If teams exceed the bonus limit set by Major League Baseball by more than 5%, they get hit with a 75% tax. If they exceed it by between 5 and 10%, they get a 75% tax and they lose a first round pick the next year. If you’re 10-15% over, it’s a 100% tax and the loss of a first and second round pick. Fifteen percent or higher a is 100% tax and the loss of two first-round picks.
The only thing not included is first born male children being turned over to a central league fund.
What’s more, the international signings are going to play into this as well, with any international player under the age of 23 being considered on the same basis as a draftee for tax purposes. Overall, there will be “pools” of international signing money available to each team, with better teams being able to pay out lower dollars in international signings than worse teams and, at some point in the future, the ability of teams to trade their international money to other teams if they don’t want to use it. It’s unclear yet how that will work.
Let’s be really clear about something here: these changes are going to make baseball way less attractive to amateur players. If you’re an elite two-sport athlete you’d be frankly crazy to try baseball first before giving the NBA or NFL a shot. It may also serve as a de-incentive for scouts and agents and stuff to look for the next big thing in the Dominican Republic, say. Even more significantly, this directly impacts the low-revenue teams who rely disproportionately on the draft in order to improve quickly.
Unlike a few minutes ago I’m going to hold an ultimate verdict until I’ve had a chance to think on it some more, but man: it seems like the owners and the MLBPA banded together to stick to it to the amateurs and draftees and international free agents. And that seems profoundly shortsighted to me.
Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:
The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.
The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.
I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.
In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.
The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.
The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.
Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.