NBC Sports welcomes Joe Posnanski

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And now it’s my privilege to introduce NBC Sports’ latest addition, even if he’s a man who needs no introduction around here: welcome aboard, Joe Posnanski.

Joe’s track record is well known. He comes to NBC from Sports on Earth. Before that he wrote for Sports Illustrated and before that, for many years, the Kansas City Star. Joe was named National Sportswriter of the year by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame in 2011. He was named best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors twice. He’s the inaugural winner and namesake of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance’s “Joe Posnanski Award,” given to the top Internet baseball writer of the year. He’s written four books, one of which — The Soul of Baseball — is, in my view, a top-5 all-time baseball book.

Apart from all of that official stuff, I say — and have said, long before I knew he’d be joining me at NBC — that Joe is the best baseball writer around. I know that’s subjective — we all have our favorites — but in my estimation Joe loves the game, understands the game and writes about the game better than any other guy who gets paid to do so, full stop. Along with Rob Neyer and Bill James, Posnanski is one of the biggest single influences on my understanding of baseball and on my writing. Rob and Bill helped me approach baseball analysis in a different way. Posnanski changed the way I thought about the personalities and stories which surround the game. And now Joe’s going to be writing here. So, yes, I’m a little bit giddy.

He’s going to writing all over NBC Sports.com, actually.  He will be doing what he’s always done, covering all sports, and you’ll be able to read all of that work at our main page.  But if you know anything about Joe’s work you know he’s rather baseball-heavy and quite prolific, writing both long columns and blog posts (sometimes long blog posts).  Which will be great for us because that means his work will be showing up here at HardballTalk as well.

Joe’s first column for NBC drops today. It’s about Alex Rodriguez and what he used to be, back before the quarter billion dollar contracts and back before the celebrity. How he got to where he is now and how things could have been different (if, in fact, they ever could have been).

Jose’s first “[Player] is in The Best Shape of His Life” post is TBD, but I assume we have that in his contract.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.