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MLBPA hired a new chief negotiator

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Over at FanGraphs, Sheryl Ring wrote an informative article about a recent hire by the MLBPA. Attorney Bruce Meyer is the union’s new Senior Director of Collective Bargaining and Legal, which was announced last week.

In the MLBPA’s announcement, Meyer is touted as having “advised the players’ unions in basketball, football, and hockey on a wide variety of legal matters.” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said, “With the experience and expertise he has gained from decades of protecting and advancing player rights, Bruce is uniquely qualified for this new role and will play an integral part in all that we do moving forward.”

Ring, a lawyer herself, says that Meyer is “by just about any metric, on the short list of the best trial lawyers in the United States and very likely the world — and he has experience turning around labor disputes for unions.” Ring adds that Meyer is “the only trial lawyer on the planet to have won the right of free agency for two of the four major North American sports.”

In other words, the MLBPA is gearing up for a fight in the lead up to the current collective bargaining agreement’s expiration date of December 1, 2021. We’ve covered various issues here since the current CBA was ratified, including service time manipulation, the qualifying offer system, and the recent stagnation of free agency. All will very likely be points of contention between the union and ownership. The arbitration system could also be subject to change, especially vis-à-vis service time manipulation.

In the time since the current CBA was ratified, the union has come off looking weak under Clark’s leadership. The MLBPA focused more on quality-of-life changes like more off days rather than fighting back on ownership’s expansion of power. Meyer’s hiring shows that the union has no intention of being a pushover at the next round of negotiations.

Meyer’s hiring, however, does not necessarily mean the MLBPA is preparing for a lockout. With Major League Baseball making money hand over fist, some of which indeed makes its way down to the players, neither side actually wants a work stoppage. But both sides will use the threat of it in what will amount to a game of chicken. With Meyer in the fold, the MLBPA intends to win that game this time around.

Rays lose, clinching postseason berth for Athletics

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The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.

Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).

Yay?

John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.

What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.

The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?