A few years ago the MLBPA, the league and the Marlins entered into an agreement in which the Marlins agreed to spend more money on players rather than cut things to the bone in order to rebuild. The leverage the union had in forcing the Marlins’ hand on this was Article XXIV(B)(5)(a) of the Basic Agreement, which commits teams to spending revenue sharing money “to improve its performance on the field.” The Marlins weren’t doing that, thus the agreement to spend more.
The Cubs aren’t in the same boat. They are a high revenue team which pays into the revenue sharing system, not one that draws from it. Still, they have a low payroll — on Opening Day they were 23rd out of 30, coming just under $90 million — and the union doesn’t like it when there are low payrolls, especially on teams that make a lot of dough. So, despite not having Article XXIV(B)(5)(a) at its disposal, the union is still pressuring anyway:
Whether the most powerful players union in American sports can do anything about the high-revenue team’s years-long trend of spending cuts and roster purges is tricky. It might depend in part on how much longer it lasts and if the union can find grounds for action in Major League Baseball’s debt-ratio rules for clubs.
The debt-ratio rule benefits players, of course, in that if a team is severely in debt and using all of its revenues to service it, they won’t be spending on players. As of now, Major League Baseball says that the Cubs aren’t in violation of debt-ratio rules. It is widely thought by outside observers, however, that the Cubs have to be in violation given that ownership took on $670 million in debt to buy the team. My guess is that the union is nudging at this apparent discrepancy and cautiously trying to get MLB to nudge the Cubs into spending more to avoid the sort of scrutiny into owner finances that owners really, really hate.
As of now, the Cubs kinda stink. They stink for a lot of reasons, and a rebuild is always going to require some payroll cutting. But I don’t think anyone has all the answers on whether the best way to rebuild is to burn-it-to-the-ground first and then add veterans or whether spending on MLB talent can or should go hand-in-hand with the sort of young talent development the Astros and Cubs are pursuing.
This article should be read a the MLBPA weighing in on that subject.
Veteran hurler Jake Peavy has not signed with a team. It’s not because he’s not still capable of being a useful pitcher — he’s well-regarded and someone would likely take a late-career chance on him — and it’s not because he no longer wishes to play. Rather, it’s because a bunch of bad things have happened in his personal life lately.
As Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports, last year Peavy lost millions in an investment scam and spent much of the 2016 season distracted, dealing with investigations and depositions and all of the awfulness that accompanied it. Then, when the season ended, Peavy went home and was greeted with divorce papers. He has spent the offseason trying to find a new normal for himself and for his four sons.
Pitching is taking a backseat now, but Peavy plans to pitch again. Here’s hoping that things get sorted to the point where he can carry through with those plans.
This is fun: The San Francisco Giants recently made their last payment on the $170 million, 20-year loan they obtained to finance the construction of AT&T Park. The joint is now officially paid for.
The Giants, unlike most other teams which moved into new stadiums in the past 25 years or so, did not rely on direct public financing. They tried to get it for years, of course, but when the voters, the city of San Francisco and the State of California said no, they decided to pay for it themselves. They ended up with one of baseball’s best-loved and most beautiful parks and, contrary to what the owners who desperately seek public funds will have you believe, they were not harmed competitively speaking. Indeed, rumor has it that they have won three World Series, four pennants and have made the playoffs seven times since moving into the place in 2000. They sell out routinely now too and the Giants are one of the richest teams in the sport.
Now, to be clear, the Giants are not — contrary to what some people will tell you — some Randian example of self-reliance. They did not receive direct public money to build the park, but they did get a lot of breaks. The park sits on city-owned property in what has become some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If the city had held on to that land and realized its appreciation, they could flip it to developers for far more than the revenue generated by baseball. Or, heaven forfend, use it for some other public good. The Giants likewise received some heavy tax abatements, got some extraordinarily beneficial infrastructure upgrades and require some heavy city services to operate their business. All sports stadiums, even the ones privately constructed, represent tradeoffs for the public.
Still, AT&T Park represents a better model than most sports facilities do. I mean, ask how St. Louis feels about still paying for the place the Rams used to call home before taking off for California. Ask how taxpayers in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas feel about paying for their second stadium in roughly the same time the Giants have paid off their first.