Delmon Young gets a suspension. DUI guys: nothin’

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In the wake of the news that Delmon Young is getting a suspension for his adventures in New York over the weekend, I have to ask why him and why now?

Not that his behavior wasn’t awful.  According to the charges he was drunk and disorderly and assaulted someone and then used ethnic slurs that reflect awfully on him and, by extension, on the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball. That’s bad and probably does deserve discipline from his team and/or the league. I’m actually glad he’s getting it.

But why does Delmon Young get a suspension for walking around drunk and acting like an ass when no players have ever been suspended for driving around drunk and putting people’s lives in danger?

Baseball has had a rash of DUIs in recent years. From the top — future Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa — to the bottom.  Broadcasters. Coaches. Players. Team executives. All-Stars and scrubs.  There have been two high-profile deaths due to drunk driving too: Josh Hancock, who killed himself while driving drunk, and Nick Adenhart, killed by another, along with two of his friends. Yet despite this, baseball never doles out discipline in these cases.

Why is this? Why start with Delmon Young?

One reason, I suspect, is that most ballplayer DUIs don’t end up splashed across the front page of the New York Post like Young’s did.  Baseball has always seemed to react to bad behavior in direct proportion to how much publicity it gets, and my gut tells me that that is the case here.  Player DUIs usually get picked up by one local player, create a quick blip and the fade.  Not so with Young.  If Young has a bad night in Minneapolis, it makes the police blotter column for a single day and similarly goes away is anyone talking about this?

But maybe I’m just being cynical. Maybe this is the beginning of a new discipline regime designed to stamp out what seems like a growing number of alcohol-related incidents involving ballplayers.  If so — if the answer to “why Delmon, why now” is “you have to start somewhere” — I applaud baseball for finally stepping up.

But if that’s the case I will also expect to see similar discipline come the next time a ballplayer gets a DUI.  Because people watch these things, Mr. Selig. At least some of us do.

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.