Brandon Moss elaborates on comments regarding the collective bargaining agreement

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Yesterday, new Athletics 1B/OF Brandon Moss appeared on MLB Network Radio and had a few things to say about the collective bargaining agreement, which has influenced greatly how this offseason has played out. Many free agents, including many of the best players in baseball like J.D. Martinez, remain unsigned. The issue is complex, but part of the issue is that teams aren’t as willing to exceed the competitive balance tax threshold or relinquish draft picks.

Moss said that the players’ union has to take responsibility for the balance of power that has begun tilting greatly towards ownership. He said, “It’s our own doing. These past two collective bargaining agreements, any bargaining chip that we’ve had — we’ve incentivized teams to wait us out. We’ve incentivized teams to value draft picks over a known commodity in a Major League Baseball player.” He added, “It’s just one of those things where the players are going to have to get together and say, ‘Man, we’ve given some things away that we’ve got to find a way to get back.’”

Moss appeared on MLB Network’s Hot Stove on Wednesday and was asked by Ken Rosenthal to expound on the thoughts he shared yesterday. Here’s the video (skip to about 6:25) followed by a transcription:

I meant what I said. Everything that happens in the game of baseball as far as how things are done financially is bargained into a collective bargaining agreement. The way free agency runs, the way draft money is allotted, the way international signing bonus money is allotted, everything is bargained.

Obviously, this is my own opinion. I don’t want to sit here and pretend that I represent all the players. I don’t want to sit here and pretend that this may or may not be a popular opinion. This is just from my perspective as a guy that — my career is almost finished, so I don’t have to deal with this much longer. But the worry is there for me as far as a player now for the players in the future that enough attention is not being paid to the way we allow our system to be ran. I feel like we put more things that are of less value to the forefront. I just feel like we’re starting to have to walk a little bit of a tightrope that we’ve created for ourselves.

I think that we have given the owners and we have given the people who are very, very business savvy a very good opportunity to take advantage of a system that we have created for ourselves. I’m not sitting here saying that — we’re not better than anyone else. We’re not sitting here saying like, “Hey man I deserve $180 million. I deserve $200 million.” That’s not what we’re saying. What we’re saying is we have the right to bargain and set our price just like the owners have the right to meet that price. What we’ve done is we’ve incentivized owners and we’ve incentivized teams to say, “We don’t want to meet that price, it costs us too much to meet that price. It costs us draft picks. It costs us international signing money. It costs us all these different things. We’re going to have to pay a tax if we go over a certain threshold that we’ve set ourselves.” I just think that by doing all those things, what we have done is we’ve given the owners and teams and franchises an excuse to not pay top free agents. To have a reason to say, “No, we don’t want to go after these guys because this is why.”

The only reason those things are there is because we bargained them in. If I’m an owner, my goal is to have the bottom line be in black. To put a winner on the field and the bottom line to be in black. The more opportunity you give me to do those things, the better off I’m going to be. I just feel like, as players, we also have to watch out for our own interests. If you run too good of a deal out there in a bargaining agreement then of course the owners are going to jump on it. You have to be willing to dig your heels in a little bit, fight for the things that the guys in the past have fought for. I’m sure that those guys in the early ’90’s were not excited about going into spring training without a job, without having a salary, without being able to say, “This is what I’m making this year and this is when I’m going to have a job again.” But they did it, and players like me benefitted from it, and I just hate to see players like me taking advantage of a system that was set up for me by other players and not passing it along to the next generation of players.

Everybody wants to look up and scream, “collusion.” Everybody wants to look up and scream, “This isn’t fair.” But sooner or later, you have to take responsibility for a system you created for yourself. It’s our fault.

Once again, Moss is right on the money with his thoughts. Ownership and labor are always at odds. Ownership is always going to look out for its best interest, even at the expense of labor. So it’s up to laborers to look out for themselves — to be informed, to speak up and fight back.

I’ve cited this statistic, published by Nathaniel Grow at FanGraphs in 2015, ad nauseam here but it’s extremely relevant: In 2002, players took home 56 percent of league revenues. In 2014, that figure was 38 percent. Over the course of a decade and a half, ownership took small victories in collective bargaining and turned it into a nearly 18 percent change in revenue shares. It was easy to miss because Major League Baseball was making billions of dollars and player contracts were still going up. So the union began to focus on other, littler things in negotiations, like off-days (which are still important). As Moss put it, “We put more things that are of less value to the forefront.”

Moss also said something which I hope other players — especially other veterans — take to heart and apply it not only to their current teammates, but to the players in the minor leagues. Moss said, “I just hate to see players like me taking advantage of a system that was set up for me by other players and not passing it along to the next generation of players.” By focusing on quality-of-life issues and deprioritizing issues that affect player salaries, current players have actually hurt their younger teammates and those in the minor leagues (who do not have union representation).

In the grand scheme of things, the players will be fine. Most of them will make millions of dollars as will many of the top minor leaguers, who received hefty signing bonuses and will likely earn more in the majors, even as their first six years in the league are subject to the whims of their teams. But this is a zero sum game and, in a lot of ways, baseball is a microcosm of our society at large. We have allowed the people that run things to take increasingly more ground. We have wealth inequality now at levels we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. By fighting and winning, the MLBPA — one of the few remaining unions with any real power — can show other unions how to fight back and show that the fight can be won. It shows the Average Joe laborer that fighting back is worth the effort. It is easy to dismiss the current issue between baseball players and ownership as greedy millionaires looking for more money, but it runs much deeper than that.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.