The Rangers bankruptcy decision: maybe not as bad as it seemed yesterday

2 Comments

As I admitted yesterday, I had not had not yet had a chance to read the judge’s decision in the Rangers’ bankruptcy case. I read it last night, however, and in light of that it’s probably worth dialing back my initial reaction a bit.

Yes, this was still a setback for the Rangers and the sale of the team.  Neither the parties nor those who followed last week’s hearing expected the decision that the creditors’ rights were impaired. Indeed, the fact that Nolan Ryan and others close to the Rangers felt comfortable talking about potential trade targets in recent days suggests that they expected the judge would OK the prepackaged plan with little fuss.  The court’s ruling yesterday constitutes fuss, however, and the team does need to do some work in order to get through the process and have the team sold.

But it’s not as huge a fuss as it first seemed yesterday.  Yes, the creditors now have a right to vote on the bankruptcy plan which, if they had not been found to have had their rights impaired, they would not have.  I was wrong in suggesting yesterday, however, that the creditors could block the sale to Greenberg. The vote they now have is on the bankruptcy plan, not a veto over the sale.

The only way the sale itself could be hindered is if, for some reason, the Rangers do not restructure the bankruptcy plan in a way that gives the creditors the rights (e.g. the right to sue for damages, etc.) that the judge says they have. Given that the Rangers and creditors will be working with a mediator on this, that seems rather unlikely. It would also be rather stupid of them not to make the necessary changes.

But while my initial reaction was a bit overheated, it would probably be wrong to swing the pendulum too far back the other way as well. This decision, while not as devastating as initial reports first made it seem, does occasion delay and at least a possibility that more bumps could form in the road ahead. After all, if you give lawyers enough time to talk about something, they’re likely to come up with seven problems no one ever considered in the first place. And of course delay and uncertainly was exactly what the team’s bankruptcy filing was designed to avoid in the first place.

Nevertheless, while the news was not good for the Rangers, it was not as bad as my report and the reports of others made it seem.  Such are the perils of blogging, of course, but when it comes to legal stuff like this I, more than anyone, should know better than to go all ready-fire-aim like this. I’ll try not to do that again.

Note: a mighty shoutout to Baseball Time in Arlington on this point is in order.  BBTIA correctly illustrated how the media — and particularly I — got sloppy yesterday in an effort to try and be first and fast and all of that. I’ll gladly take my spanking from them in exchange for their handy digest of all of the day’s coverage of the decision, to which they link. 

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
12 Comments

Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.