Jason Kipnis thinks pressure of contract extension led to poor season

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After a breakout, All-Star season last year Jason Kipnis has struggled this year, hitting just .248 with six homers and a .664 OPS that represents a 150-point drop.

Kipnis also signed a six-year, $52.5 million contract extension in April and Wednesday the Indians second baseman told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that feeling the pressure from the new contract may have hurt his performance:

I might have taken it the wrong way. There’s one of two ways to go about it. There’s “Hey, I have the security and the money now I can go out and just play the game of baseball.” I took the way, where, “I’ve got this money, I’ve got to live up to it.” So I might have pressed at the beginning and tried to do too much. In hindsight that could have hurt me and played a little part of this season.

I’m in no position to say whether or not that’s true. Maybe it did weigh heavily on Kipnis and hurt his on-field performance. Who knows.

But what I do know is that we’ve all read plenty of quotes from players who say not signing a long-term contract extension has hurt their performance because they were thinking ahead to free agent. And we’ve also all read plenty of quotes from players who say trying to negotiate a contract extension during the season–which is something Kipnis avoided, for the most part–dragged down their performance.

Playing baseball at a very high level is really, really hard and lots of stuff can bump someone off track. Of course, it’s also worth noting that prior to his breakout 2013 season Kipnis hit just .257 with a .714 OPS in 2012, when there was no contract extension as a possible issue.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
LG Patterson/MLB via Getty Images
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: