Getty Images

Winners, losers of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement

35 Comments

As we reported last night, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association came to a meeting of the minds on a new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement. As the days go on and the agreement is reduced to writing, there will be new quirks and details reported that have not yet come to light. And, of course, many of the impacts and implications of new rules and provisions in place will not be revealed until they’ve been put into practice. Nevertheless, let’s take a brief, initial cut at the the major terms that have been made public, assess what they mean for the game and try to determine who benefits most.

No Home Field Advantage in the World Series Attached to the All-Star Game

This time it no longer counts! Now home field in the World Series will go to the pennant winner with the better overall record. This is not perfect, of course, given unbalanced schedules and stuff, but it’s far less arbitrary than the winner of an exhibition no one takes seriously determining things. There are still some stakes for the All-Star Game, however: cash. As in a pool of money going to the winning team. The best incentives are often the crudest and most direct.

  • Winner: Everyone who hates capriciousness and random rules.
  • Loser: Bud Selig, I guess, as the whole home field advantage thing was his baby, imposed to make up for the embarrassing tie in the 2002 All-Star Game. I’d assume at this point even he realizes it was a dumb, though, and that his legacy does not depend upon such a silly thing.

 

Minimum Disabled List Stay Reduced From 15 to 10 Days

Gone is the old 15-day disabled list, in is the ten-day. As before, players can always be on the DL for much, much longer than 10 days, but now the minimum time for which they can be disabled is shorter.

  • Winner: Both players and teams. There is always a calculus involved in a DL stint, at least for minor or nagging injuries, with a team trying to figure out if it’s better to be without a guy for over two weeks on an injury that may not require a two-week convalescence or, alternatively, to play shorthanded for a time, gambling that the player will be better in shorter-than-expected time frame and, possibly, playing them before they’re truly healed. With a 10-day DL the calculus is 33% less critical. Players can be disabled more freely and can return more quickly, reducing the incentive for them to play through an injury.
  • Loser: People who write up transaction blurbs. Like someone who puts the wrong year on their checks in January, expect a lot of erroneous “15-day DL” reports in April and May as the dudes at Rotoworld get used to the new rule.

 

Luxury-tax Threshold Increasing From $189 million Last Season to $195 million Now and $210 Million Over the Course of the New Deal.

Formally known as the “Competitive Balance Tax,” the luxury tax (a) limits just how much of an advantage the richest teams in baseball have in the free agent market, thus encouraging greater competitive balance; while (b) serving as something of a soft salary cap, inasmuch as teams are heavily penalized for spending above its limit (only a small handful have ever exceeded the luxury tax level since its inception). Increasing it was key for the players, who have seen average individual salaries increase at a rate far in excess of the increase in luxury tax levels. Over time, of course, such a thing would depress salaries. From the owners’ perspective, a strong luxury-tax penalty is both a soft cost-containment mechanism and, as discussed above, something of a field-leveler between large and small revenue teams.

As is clear from its dual purposes and the repercussions any cost-containment mechanism may have, finding the sweet spot where the luxury tax does not harm either the owners or the players too greatly is not an easy trick. That’s also why it’s usually the last item negotiated in these bargaining sessions.

  • Winner:  As one can assume with such a complicated issue, both sides gave a little and got a little here. That the tax still exists is something most owners desired and that it is increasing is something the players obviously wanted. The specific numbers are, like any negotiations over money, a compromise, and only time will tell who got the better end of things.
  • Loser: I suppose hardline labor people who see any limit on spending on salaries as anathema to workers rights and cheap owners who think any rule which allows a team with higher revenue to spend a penny more than he does are opposed to the luxury tax in principle, but such is the stuff of compromise.

 

Qualifying Offer Tweaks

The qualifying offer, in which teams who extend a certain one-year contract to departing free agents receive a first round pick if the player rejects the offer and signs elsewhere, had a pretty noticeable impact on the market for the handful of players it affected each season. The qualifying offer still stands in the new deal, but (a) players can no longer be extended a qualifying offer more than one time; (b) the draft pick a team loses has been reduced in significance; and (c) the team losing the player will get pick only if player signs contract of $50 million or more.

  • Winner: This seems to be a pretty decent win for players who, one suspects, did not realize how bad a deal it was for them to agree to the dang thing five years ago. While the scheme still exists, the penalty for a team signing qualifying offer-attached players has been reduced (i.e. teams that exceed the luxury tax threshold — not many — will lose a second and a fifth-round draft pick if it signs a QO-attached free agent; teams under the threshold will lose a third-round pick) making them more appealing commodities. Another winner: trade deadline junkies, as one significant effect of this may be seeing an increase in mid-season trades for players in walk years. When, under the previous system, a club could expect to get a first round pick for holding on to a player an extra couple of months, it may have very well been worth doing so. Now it may be more attractive to try to get something in return from him in July. And, of course, once a player is traded midseason, he is no longer subject to a qualifying offer.
  • Loser: GMs who may have viewed the qualifying offer system as a great way to stock up on draft picks. Though, honestly, the number of players and picks involved here were never so great that this was a big incentive in the way the old system with automatic draft pick compensation turned out to be.

 

Smokeless Tobacco Ban for all new Major Leaguers

There has been a ban on smokeless tobacco use for minor leaguers for a couple of years now, but big leaguers were allowed to do what they wanted, at least as long as they weren’t too conspicuous about it. On the big league level the rules were pretty much ignored, however, with Major League Baseball likely realizing that enforcing such a rule on grown men who have been using the stuff for years was more trouble than it was worth. Those guys are all allowed to keep using smokeless tobacco as they are grandfathered in. New major leaguers, however, are going to be prohibited from doing so.

  • Winners: People interested in reducing smokeless tobacco use, which should be pretty much everyone except companies which make smokeless tobacco. Players who may have used the stuff, whether they realize it now or not. The stuff is vile and dangerous.
  • Losers: Hardliners, I suppose, who would like to see an immediate and total ban. Such a thing was never going to happen, however, so they should put their loss in perspective. A grandfathered rule is a reasonable one.

 

No International Draft

This was long-rumored to be on the table but unexpected pushback from the union on the matter put the kibosh on it. That international amateurs can still negotiate with all 30 teams instead of being controlled by one is a good thing. That international signings will be capped at around $5-6 million per team per year, however, will limit what the top players are played and certainly is a good thing for owners looking to save money. Which, contrary to their assertions in the runup to negotiations, was really what the draft proposal was all about.

How much it limits spending will depend on the specific new rules in place. Before, there were bonus “pools,” allocated on a team-by-team basis, with certain penalties applied to teams who exceeded them. Those pools ranged, in this most recent signing period, from a little over $2 million to $5.6 million. Many teams spent dramatically more than that, however, and were willing to take the penalties. Now that this has been characterized as a “cap,” aggregate spending may go down and large bonuses given to the top amateurs — which have begun to push up against that $5-6 million level — will become a bit more rare, as teams may wish to spread their money out among more players.

  • Winners: Impossible to say until we see the details — all salary caps are complicated — and how it plays out in practice. At the moment the owners got the cost containment they sought and the cap level is significantly below what some who proposed increasing bonus pools suggested as reasonable, so they probably didn’t do too badly for themselves.
  • Losers: There will likely be some which, again, we’ll see over time. At first glance, I’d guess that the very top international players will lose money on this, as teams may bypass signing them given that it will likely mean signing no other players. And, of course, their bonuses will be capped.

 

No 26th-Man on the Roster in exchange for a reduction in expanded active roster limits for September

Another thing expected but which did not come to pass. The idea was to limit those big, unwieldily September rosters and, in exchange for the loss of service time to young players that would have occasioned, giving one more player a full season’s worth of extra service time. The problem, as many had pointed out when this idea was first discussed, was that it was highly likely that teams given a 26th roster spot would simply give it to yet another reliever, incentivizing more pitching changes and, thus, slower, more boring games, which no one wanted. To avoid that, MLB would likely have wanted to tie the 26th man to a rule limiting pitching changes or reliever usage, but that would be such a major change to the way baseball operates that tacking it on as a concession to deal pertaining to the relatively minor matter of expanded rosters in September would’ve seemed like the tail wagging the dog. Probably best that this whole notion was scrapped in order to be revisited at a later date.

  • Winners: All of us who hate excessive pitching changes; people who like to see major matters handled in a serious manner and not as an afterthought.
  • Losers: The people who get quoted every September complaining about teams using 7 relief pitchers in a nine-inning game because, hey, they can. Unless they simply like being quoted, in which case they’re still in business.

 

More Off Days In The Schedule

Beginning in 2018, the 162-game regular-season schedules will start four days earlier — in the middle of the week rather than on the weekend/Monday —  allowing teams more off-days.

  • Winners: Players, who have been agitating for more off-days. This isn’t amazingly significant — it’ll probably amount to a bit less than an extra off-day a month or so — but one extra day in the dog days of July and August will boost morale.
  • Losers: People who hate late March and early April games played in snow flurries, of which there will likely be more.

 

Increased Minimum Salary

The major league minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, then to $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years. The minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, then to $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

  • Winners: Guys making the minimum, obviously.
  • Losers: minor leaguers not on 40-man rosters who will still be paid less than minimum wage once all of their work requirements are factored in and who, for the millionth time in a row, got no help from the MLBPA and no more money thrown their way by MLB.

 

Changes to Drug and Domestic Violence Policies

There will be increased testing and players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year. There will also be some changes to the domestic violence policy, though details have yet to emerge.

  • Winners: Players who have been agitating for tougher drug rules.
  • Losers: Hard to say at the moment, as the details are not really known.

 

There will likely be many more changes and new rules that are revealed in the coming days and weeks. For now, it seems like this is a pretty straightforward CBA with nothing earth-shattering coming into play. Everyone gave some, everyone got some and the game will go on for five more years without a work stoppage.

Miguel Sano fouls a ball off his shin, so a columnist slams him for his weight

Getty Images
4 Comments

As Bill wrote last night, the Twins have placed third baseman Miguel Sano on the 10-day disabled list with a stress reaction in his left shin. He sustained the injury Friday after he fouled a ball off of his leg, attempted to play through it, and left the game on Saturday when the pain became too great.

That’s baseball, though, right? Sometimes you foul a ball off your foot or your shin or something. Stuff happens and you just gotta accept it. Unless, of course, you’re Jim Souhan, columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, in which case you use it as a pretext for going after Sano for his weight:

Souhan acknowledges that Sano injured himself with the foul ball and says that he’s not fat-shaming him. He says he’s merely concerned about him and how well a man of his size can recover from injuries. Maybe that would wash for most columnists, but it doesn’t for Souhan, who has made it his business over the years to treat illness and injuries of sports figures as moral failings and evidence of poor character.

His most famous target has been Joe Mauer, who he has slammed as “fragile” for years, arguing that he was coddled for missing time and losing effectiveness to a concussion — a concussion! — which he compared to “a bruise.” Given that Souhan had a front row seat for a concussion all but destroying the career of Justin Morneau you’d think he’d have a bit more empathy about that, but apparently not. Then again, this is a guy who once wrote that the University of Minnesota football coach should be fired because he has epilepsy, so empathy is not his strong suit.

And so it is with Sano. A guy injured with a foul ball which, apparently, makes him deserving of a sermon about watching his weight. It’s a column I would bet Souhan has had written and saved for months, hoping he could use it in the event Sano went on the disabled list for some conditioning-related ailment or a pulled muscle or something, but which had to be pressed into service for this occasion.

It’s practically pathological. And it’s sad.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

Associated Press
7 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 6, Dodgers 1: Justin Verlander dominated the Dodgers, allowing one run on two hits over eight innings, snapping their six-game winning streak. Audition for Verlander? He lives in L.A. in the offseason and would waive his 10-5 rights to play there, I imagine. Not that the Dodgers really need any help.

Royals 7, Indians 4:  Cheslor Cuthbert homered and drove in three runs for the Royals. Between him and Whit Merrifield, Kansas City has more guys with names that sound like they belong to prep school bad guys from a 1980s snobs vs. slobs movie than any team in baseball history. Add Cam Gallagher to that list. He drove in a run too. Afterwards they had a meeting to try to figure out just how they keep losing to the nerd fraternity/poor kid camp/random band of neighborhood misfits in whatever improbable sporting event they’re all competing in. Thing is, they’ll never figure it out AND the nerds/poor kids are gonna steal their girlfriends. Sad.

Angels 5, Orioles 4:  Kole Calhoun and Andrelton Simmons homered and Cameron Maybin drove in the go-ahead run with a pinch-hit single in the eighth. The Angels have won nine of 11. Orioles pitchers issued nine walks. Yep, the Angels walked nine times.

 

Braves 8, Reds 1: Atlanta rode a six-run fifth inning to victory and that inning was powered largely by a Tyler Flowers grand slam. Braves starter Sean Newcomb tossed five shutout innings, allowing five hits but also walking five guys which is sort of what he does. I don’t have a “five times” GIF.

Twins 12, Diamondbacks 5: The Twins scored nine runs in the first — yes, they scored NINE TIMES — thanks in part to an Eddie Rosario grand slam. Per baseball rules, a forfeited game is scored 9-0 in favor of the winning team. The Dbacks shoulda just thrown in the towel after the first inning and hopped their flight to New York a lot earlier. Really, playing out the rest of this one had to pale compared to 2-3 extra hours to do stuff in New York. In other news, Bartolo Colon won his third game in five starts for the Twins. It’s his first ever win over the Dbacks, which was the last team he had never beaten.

Marlins 6, Mets 4: Giancarlo Stanton hit a three-run homer, turning a 2-1 game into a 5-1 game. It was his 45th dinger of the year. Adam Conley backed him up by allowing one run over seven innings and striking out 11 before the Marlins bullpen got a bit roughed up, but they held on. The Mets have lost six of nine, which is not nice.

Rays 3, Mariners 0: Blake Snell tossed seven shutout innings, allowing only two hits. Kevin Kiermaier homered. He went 5-for-12 with a couple knocked in on his first weekend back following a two-month absence, so he definitely landed on his feet. Seattle took two of three from the Rays, however, and remains one and a half games back of the Angels and Twins for the second Wild Card. Tampa Bay is four back.

Red Sox 5, Yankees 1Jackie Bradley Jr. drove in three with an RBI triple and an RBI single and Rick Porcello and three relievers allowed only one run on three hits. Boston extends its lead over New York to five games after taking two of three from the Yankees.

Athletics 3, Astros 2: How are things going for the Astros lately? Like this, mostly:

That’s how two of the A’s three runs scored. The third: on a passed ball. Woof.

Cubs 6, Blue Jays 5: It was tied 3-3 heading into the 10th inning and then the Jays scored two. Most times that’d be enough to win an extra innings game — in fact, per ESPN, teams with multi-run leads in extra innings were 50-0 this season before yesterday — but the Cubs scored three, with one coming in on a wild pitch and two coming in on Alex Avila‘s walkoff single. Two of the Cubs base runners that frame reached on strikeout/wild pitch combinations too. Not an inning Roberto Osuna will remember fondly.

White Sox 3, Rangers 2: Miguel Gonzalez shut the Rangers out for six and two relievers made it eight shutout innings in all. Texas made it close in the ninth thanks to a two-run homer from Rougned Odor, but it was too little too late. Tyler Saladino doubled in two runs for Chicago in their three-run fourth inning, Omar Narvaez singled in the other one.

Brewers 8, Rockies 4Jesus Aguilar hit two homers, driving in three and scored three times. Keon Broxton knocked in a couple of runs with a single. Chase Anderson allowed one run and two hits in five innings in his first start since late June.

Phillies 5, Giants 2: Pedro Florimon doubled in a run early and hit two-run single late to give the Phillies the lead. Rhys Hoskins homered for some insurance in the ninth, his fifth in 11 games. If you’re really bad, having one young kid come up late in the year and look good is a pretty decent silver lining on that cloud. No word what the Giants are doing for silver linings these days.

Nationals 4, Padres 1: Gio Gonzalez allowed one run on five hits — all singles — and struck out eight in six and two-thirds. Daniel Murphy drove in two of the Nats four runs. The Nats took three of four from San Diego.

Pirates 6, Cardinals 3: Josh Bell homered and drove in four runs in the first ever Little League Classic, which took place on a converted Little League field in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, not far from the Little League World Series. Coolest part, aside from the fact that the players all hung out with Little Leaguers all day and the Little Leaguers getting front row seats at the game: after it was over, the major leaguers lined up on the field and did the “good game” high five line, just like you did when you were 12. The highlights, with the handshake at the end: