Players are taking home a much smaller percentage of revenue than they used to

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Over at FanGraphs, Nathaniel Grow has a good story up looking at the biggest issue facing the Players’ Union as it looks ahead to collective bargaining negotiations with the owners following the 2016 season. It’s not rules. It’s not service time manipulation. It’s that the players, for all of the money they make, are taking home a considerably smaller portion of league revenues than they have in recent memory. They’re even taking home a smaller percentage of revenues than NFL and NBA players, who have historically had far weaker unions.

And it’s not so much that salaries are down — though owners are better about not giving out dumb contracts than they used to be — it’s that revenue is up dramatically and it hasn’t trickled down to the players:

So even though MLB’s television revenues have increased substantially in recent years, relatively little of this extra money is flowing to the players. Instead, teams are largely pocketing these additional revenues as extra profits, raising the league’s overall revenue without a corresponding increase in player payroll. As a result, the new television money is actually lowering the players’ share of overall league revenue on a percentage basis.

One point Grow misses, which one curmudgeonly but insightful person on Twitter pointed out, is that all of that TV money isn’t necessarily being pocketed per se. Rather, a lot of it is going to debt service, as owners are increasingly leveraging themselves to buy teams. It’s a good deal for the owners still and it’s not like this puts them in the poorhouse, but it is worth noting that it’s not a zero sum game between owners and players and that there is another hole into which that money is going.

That caveat aside, yes, the players are getting less of a share than they used to. Grow notes that, gaining back a certain percentage of revenue is no easy trick. Indeed, the only sure-fire way to guarantee that a certain percentage of revenues is spent on salary is to agree to a salary floor structure that, almost necessarily, requires a salary cap for it to come to fruition and to be workable. And the MLBPA has built its entire modern history on opposing such a thing.

Interesting times ahead, but I do think that overemphasizing percentage of revenue on the union agenda is not necessarily the wisest thing. Obviously it’s worth watching and the more a worker can do in that regard the better, but there are other things the MLBPA can and should be sure it doesn’t sacrifice as it thinks about their share of revenue.

The NFL, for example, has a nice percentage of overall revenue going to the players in the aggregate. Any one player, however, also has a non-guaranteed contract and is generally treated like cattle or machinery by that league. Baseball players, in contrast, have pretty good working conditions, security and quality of life. It’d be unwise, I think, for a union full of workers with a limited amount of time in which to set themselves for life to roll back some of those protections in the interest of grabbing extra revenue. That’s especially true when their salaries are still extremely healthy as it is and that the source of that big revenue explosion — TV deals — could be subject to a bubble and possibly even a crash some day given how crazy and unpredictable the future of pay TV is.

Ultimately the people who will make these strategic decisions are paid way more than I am, so we’ll leave the ball in their court. But it’s worth noting that protecting a worker’s quality of life and well-being is not always the same thing as making sure their salaries are maximized.

Marlins clinch 1st playoff berth since 2003, beat Yanks 4-3

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK (AP) Forced from the field by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins returned with enough force to reach the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 championship.

An NL-worst 57-105 a year ago, they sealed the improbable berth on the field of the team that Miami CEO Derek Jeter and manager Don Mattingly once captained.

“I think this is a good lesson for everyone. It really goes back to the players believing,” Mattingly said Friday night after a 4-3, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees.

Miami will start the playoffs on the road Wednesday, its first postseason game since winning the 2003 World Series as the Florida Marlins, capped by a Game 6 victory in the Bronx over Jeter and his New York teammates at the previous version of Yankee Stadium.

“We play loose. We got nothing to lose. We’re playing with house money.,” said Brandon Kintzler, who got DJ LeMahieu to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded after Jesus Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th. “We are a dangerous team. And we really don’t care if anyone says we’re overachievers.”

Miami (30-28), second behind Atlanta in the NL East, became the first team to make the playoffs in the year following a 100-loss season. The Marlins achieved the feat despite being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that prevented them from playing for more than a week.

After the final out, Marlins players ran onto the field, formed a line and exchanged non socially-distant hugs, then posed for photos across the mound.

“I can’t contain the tears, because it’s a lot of grind, a lot of passion,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “It wasn’t just the virus. Last year we lost 100 games. But we came out this year with the hope everything was going to be better. When we had the outbreak, the guys who got an opportunity to help the organization, thank you for everything you did.”

Miami was one of baseball’s great doubts at the start of the most shortened season since 1878, forced off the field when 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 following the opening series in Philadelphia.

“Yeah, we’ve been through a lot. Other teams have been through a lot, too,” Mattingly said “This just not a been a great situation. It’s just good to be able to put the game back on the map.”

New York (32-26) had already wrapped up a playoff spot but has lost four of five following a 10-game winning streak and is assured of starting the playoffs on the road. Toronto clinched a berth by beating the Yankees on Thursday.

“I don’t like any time somebody celebrates on our field or if we’re at somebody else’s place and they celebrate on their field,” Yankees star Aaron Judge said. “I’m seeing that too much.”

Mattingly captained the Yankees from 1991-95 and is in his fifth season managing the Marlins, Jeter captained the Yankees from 2003-14 as part of a career that included five World Series titles in 20 seasons and is part of the group headed by Bruce Sherman that bought the Marlins in October 2017.

Garrett Cooper, traded to the Marlins by the Yankees after the 2017 season, hit a three-run homer in the first inning off J.A. Happ.

After the Yankees tied it on Aaron Hicks‘ two-run double off Sandy Alcantara in the third and Judge’s RBI single off Yimi Garcia in the eighth following an error by the pitcher on a pickoff throw, the Marlins regained the lead with an unearned run in the 10th against Chad Green (3-3).

Jon Berti sacrificed pinch-runner Monte Harrison to third and, with the infield in, Starling Marte grounded to shortstop. Gleyber Torres ran at Harrison and threw to the plate, and catcher Kyle Higashioka‘s throw to third hit Harrison in the back, giving the Yankees a four-error night for the second time in three games.

With runners at second and third, Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly.

Brad Boxberger (1-0) walked his leadoff batter in the ninth but got Luke Voit to ground into a double play, and Kintzler held on for his 12th save in 14 chances.

Miami ended the second-longest postseason drought in the majors – the Seattle Mariners have been absent since 2001.

Miami returned Aug. 4 following an eight-day layoff with reinforcements from its alternate training site, the trade market and the waiver wire to replace the 18 players on the injured list and won its first five games.

“We’re just starting,” said Alcantara, who handed a 3-2 lead to his bullpen in the eighth. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

TOSSED

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected for arguing from the dugout in the first inning. Plate umpire John Tumpane called out Judge on a full-count slider that appeared to drop well below the knees and Boone argued during the next pitch, to Hicks, then was ejected. Television microphones caught several of Boone’s profane shouts.

“Reacting to a terrible call and then following it up,” Boone said. “Obviously, we see Aaron get called a lot on some bad ones down.”

ODD

Pinch-runner Michael Tauchman stole second base in the eighth following a leadoff single by Gary Sanchez but was sent back to first because Tumpane interfered with the throw by catcher Chad Wallach. Clint Frazier struck out on the next pitch and snapped his bat over a leg.

SLOPPY

New York took the major league lead with 47 errors. Sanchez was called for catcher’s interference for the third time in five days and fourth time this month.

REMEMBERING

Mattingly thought of Jose Fernandez, the former Marlins All-Star pitcher who died four years earlier to the night at age 24 while piloting a boat that crashed. An investigation found he was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system. The night also marked the sixth anniversary of Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

UP NEXT

RHP Deivi Garcia (2-2, 4.88) starts Saturday for the Yankees and LHP Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.84) for the Marlins. Garcia will be making the sixth start of his rookie season.