Braves’ John Hart: “I never made any false promises we were built to win this year”

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Braves President of Baseball Operations John Hart gave a particularly candid interview to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Especially in this day and age when GMs are partial to businesspeak that borders on cloudspeak.

Among the highlights was his response to a question that followed up on Hart talking about his expectations heading into the season:

Q: So it’s not as if you expected a better record.

A: I’ve never made any false promises that we were built to win this year. We felt we had an energy and a good makeup. But you don’t trade your closer opening day, trade for draft picks, trade middle-of-the-order bats and expect to win. I won’t lie to fans.

He is also pretty candid in saying how surprised he was that the Padres were willing to take Melvin Upton’s contract in the Craig Kimbrel trade:

Q: But was your only chance to get rid of B.J. Upton’s contract.

A: That was obviously the intent. We had 10 calls on Kimbrel in the winter, but we just hung up because they wouldn’t take an off-load. San Diego was one of the clubs that came up early.

Q: Did it shock you when they said they would take Upton?

A: Yeah, it did. They put all of their chips in.

Q: Like the Braves two years ago. It didn’t work for them, either.

A: Yeah, I know.

He’s also straight-forward in (a) calling out catcher Christian Bethancourt, who was supposed to be a big part of this year but who struggled and then got sent down, as unprepared and not evidently committed, thus resulting in his demotion; and (b) praising Fredi Gonzalez. Though, notably, he does not say whether or not Gonzalez, who is in his last year under contract, will be back in 2016.

I take issue with many of the things the Braves did this past offseason — particularly signing Nick Markakis, which Hart does not address here — but you have to hand it to Hart for giving straight-forward answers to questions most GMs would duck, dodge and spin.

Interesting interview.

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: