Some Braves players think the All-Star voting process is unfair

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Only one Braves player made the All-Star team and that was because the manager put him on there. As far as fan voting goes? They didn’t do so good.

Dave O’Brien of the AJC talked to a bunch of them yesterday and many voiced their displeasure at fan voting. Both in the main selection process and the “Final Vote” which is putting Freddie Freeman against Yasiel Puig. And they think the media — specifically ESPN — has an agenda to get more media-friendly players selected. Guys like Yasiel Puig.

Tim Hudson pretty much covers it all:

“I think it’s B.S. … I mean, it’s pretty obvious what players certain media outlets want to have plugged in. It’s pretty obvious. You have young, exciting players – and they are that. I’m not saying they don’t deserve to have the opportunity to be in there, but these guys that are competing with them to get these last couple of spots, they’re just as deserving. It’s not fair. The whole fan vote thing, I think is obnoxious. I mean, the starting players in the All-Star game are determined by fans who can plug any players they want in there, and it determines home-field advantage for the World Series. The World Series!

“It’s not fair. At all.”

Seriously, Tim. Tell me if you think it’s fair.

He has a point (which he goes on to explain in greater detail) about how, if the World Series hinges on the All-Star game, there shouldn’t be a fan vote. Problem is, I’m willing to bet $100 that if a Braves player was the media sensation du jour a la Puig — let’s say a pre-injury Evan Gattis — Hudson wouldn’t be complaining too much.

It’s a flawed process, yes, but most of the complaining you hear about it is just tribalism and homerism. Our guy deserves it, theirs doesn’t. If the fans vote for us it’s an honor, if they vote for the other guys it’s illegitimate. Here it’s the Braves doing it. I’ve seen other teams do it every year since I’ve been paying attention.

It stinks that the All-Star Game decides home field advantage. But really, it’s just for fun. I’d rather see some hyped kid like Puig in it over someone else, frankly, because Puig is interesting and the game doesn’t matter otherwise. And if I’m Hudson, I’d be quietly pleased that my teammates were getting three days off to relax and get healthy.

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

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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.