Tony Clark says something odd about the upcoming CBA negotiations

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The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the owners and the players expires after the 2016 season. One of the issues which some — notably Scott Boras — has thrown out as a possible topic of the upcoming CBA negotiations is the apparent disparity between baseball’s revenues and the share of those revenues taken by the players.

On the surface it appears that, while everyone in baseball is getting rich these days, the owners are getting far, far richer than the men who actually play the game, proportionally speaking. Indeed, those who have studied the matter or who have at least spoken out about it, including agents with skin in the game like Boras and less-agenda driven analysts like Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs, have been in agreement that the players’ piece of the pie is shrinking.

Last spring Grow reported that since baseball’s last labor stoppage, in 1995, MLB’s revenues have increased nearly 650% (from around $1.4 billion to over $9 billion in 2014). During that same time period, however, MLB payrolls have only increased by around 378%, from roughly $925 million in 1995 to just under $3.5 billion last year. The spilt, Boras says, has gone from 60/40 in favor of the players to 57/43 in favor of the owners.

While revenue splits between owners and workers have, historically, been on the front burner of labor disputes, whether that split is actually a huge issue for the players heading into the next negotiation is unknown. Maybe they don’t care about it too much and are more concerned with other matters. But there is that history and, of course, when you negotiate it’s NEVER in your best interest to give away an issue or to claim it’s unimportant ahead of time, even if it is. Indeed, the key to winning a negotiation is to “give in” on stuff that, secretly, you don’t care as much about as your opponent thinks you do.

As such, it would make perfect sense for MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark to claim — even if he does so only for tactical purposes — that revenue split is a concern of the union. Clark spoke with Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times today, however, and he said something rather odd on the matter:

I can find no one who studies such matters who has claimed what Clark claims here regarding revenue splits. And, at least from the outside, it would be hard to come up with such wildly divergent numbers. Payroll figures and baseball revenue are more or less publicly reported. We know what each player makes and the league itself likes to crow about how much it brings in (it helps shout down the “baseball is dying, you guys” crowd too). Simple math gives us percentages, of course.

Which isn’t to say that Clark is wrong. He’s the head of the MLBPA, after all, and after Rob Manfred and some accountants one presumes that he has better information than anyone. He also doesn’t have any incentive — as owners certainly do and as owners have frequently claimed throughout history — to disingenuously understate baseball’s revenues, to portray the league as poorer than it really is or, for that matter, the players richer than they really are. Again: he’s the Executive Director of a labor union. If he did that, he’d be committing malpractice.

So what the heck is going on here?

At the moment I can’t for the life of me figure it out. One possibility that fits here is that, in reality, those $9 billion+ revenue numbers that get passed around each year are bogus and that, in reality, baseball makes far less than it claims. If that were the case, Clark wouldn’t be “crying poor” the way the owners have done in the past. He’d just be operating from financial assumptions which he can reasonably defend in a negotiation. If that’s the case, a reasonable takeaway here would be for the media to never again credulously report baseball’s revenues as reported by baseball and, further, to criticize baseball for claiming the crazy-growth it has claimed for the past 20 years.

If that’s not the case — if the $9 billion+ and the payroll figures which get reported are legit — I’m at a total loss. And utterly unable to comprehend why a union boss would downplay the size of the golden goose. A golden goose from which he has a fiduciary duty to carve a larger part for the workers he represents. Or to at least claim he wants to for purposes of negotiation.

Anyone have any ideas?

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.