A way back in July I had written an article called “Wrong on Brodie,” where I said it was too soon to judge the job BVW has done building the New York Mets in his image, and asked fans to have patience by waiting to see what Brodie Van Waganen will do with his year two before determining if he’s a failure as a GM.
Well, I waited. And it only took a mere three more months to see that as a GM? He’s a failure.
What made me change my mind in a mere three months?
It probably started with the roughly one week span where Yoenis Cespedes decided to quit baseball rather than be paid a paltry few million dollars for two months of work. This was predictable based on the renegotiation of the contract Cespedes signed and never lived up to, up to the end.
The Cespedes situation was a debacle, from the Mets announcing during a game against the Atlanta Braves that Cespedes was missing, as they knew entirely where he was. It was a weird way to throw a player under the bus, and will probably affect how free agents see the Mets organization.
A few days later Marcus Stroman had earned enough service to be a free agent, and was suddenly afraid of COVID 19 and left the Mets for free agency. Which made me think of Anthony Kay, who is 3-0 in the majors for the Tornoto Blue Jays, and Simeon Woods Richardson, who is working towards the Toronto rotation for 2023. Specifically I was thinking about who Stroman would be pitching for that aren’t the Mets while those two guys were playing for other teams that also aren’t the Mets in the majors.
Edwin Diaz was inconsistent, untradable at the deadline, and is eligible for arbitration next year, and free agency two years after that. Yes he showed improvements over the course of the short season, so I guess we wait another year to see what the Mets have on their hands. And the Seattle Mariners are waiting to see what they have in their hands with 21 year old Jared Kelenic. They already see what Justin Dunn can do as he’s already on their roster.
The Mets moved young pitcher Jordan Humphries for base stealer Billy Hamilton. Hamilton hit an amazing .054 before the Mets waived him. The Chicago Cubs picked him up, where he promptly hit .300.
The Jed Lowrie contract wasted tens of millions of dollars for what, 7 at bats? Who the fuck was his agent?
The mishandling of the Zach Wheeler contract situation ended up really biting the Mets on the ass. Man, wouldn’t Wheeler have looked good instead of the Wacha/Porcello experiment? And who didn’t even give him the respect of giving him a call to discuss the Philadelphia Phillies offer?
There’s also the situation where he threw the Commissioner of Baseball under the bus for suggesting the Mets and Miami Marlins play a game despite the players wanting to join the growing “Black Lives Matter” protests in all of sports. BVW later found out that it was the owners’ idea to take the field, walk off, then take the field and play, when the owners put out their own statements, including misspelling the name of the GM.
The Atlanta Braves released many of their scouts. It would seem that if Brodie was doing his job, they would be working for the Mets already, as the Braves player development is light years ahead of the Mets, and having weapons from a rival organization would be a smart move. Smart move and Brodie? Pfft.
The significant regressions of JD Davis and the often futile at bats of Pete Alonso makes me wonder if going with Luis Rojas as a rookie manager was the best move a team looking to contend for playoffs could have made.
But I guess the coup de grace, at least for me, are results. This roster was constructed by BVW over two years. In a shortened sprint of a season, half of the entire sport made the playoffs. Then there’s Brodie’s Mets. Come get us? More like come on us.
Clearly Brodie needed seasoning somewhere else before he took the reins in a major market like New York. I know the new Mets owner, Steve Cohen, has deep pockets, but I’m sure he doesn’t want to waste millions of dollars by just letting an asset go to waste.
So how can the Mets be creative on the two years left on Brodie’s deal? The organization can demote him, maybe to an assistant to the general manager. Kind of like a secretary. Treat him like Islanders General Manager Lou Lamoriello treated Generally Useless Garth Snow? BVW’s draft philosophes aren’t exactly crazy despite no results so far, but is it a case of a guy who thinks he’s the smartest in the room always taking high school kids and injured college arms? Can he be a subordinate with an ego that attakcs the Commissioner of Baseball? Would he be content with negotiating contracts against other agents in the second half of his Mets career?
The Mets have experienced in house candidates. They can easily promote Omar Minaya as GM for a year or two. Minaya has a proven record with attracting free agents, of which there are some quality ones coming up for 2021, such as J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer, Liam Hendriks, and Alex Colome. Minaya has had success in the past with free agents, especially ones with Latin surnames, so that’s something to seriously consider.
The Mets have already begun reshaping their front office. Sandy Alderson is already slated to come in as team president. And time may be on the Mets side as far as potential culture changes? Why? Because BVW’s remaining two years match up with two extremely interesting replacement candidates.
Rumors are Theo Epstein may be done in Chicago. Epstein is in the last year of his contract as Team President and at $10 million for the year, the Cubs may be willing to let him go, as it’s rumored that current Cubs GM Jed Hoyer is ready to step in as his replacement. Even if they let his deal ride, it’s over by October 2021. The question here would be if Epstein would take a GM job, or would he want organizational power that Alderson already has, unless Alderson is a placeholder and a move to get owners approval, as some have suggested. That would mean that roughly by this time next year. Theo needs a job. He sure has one hell of a pedigree in ending title droughts.
Across town, Brian Cashman has 2 years left on his deal at $5 million per year. I assume Cashman will want to complete the deal which would make him the longest tenured Yankee General Manager in the teams’ history. This would also make him a free agent around October 2022, and due for a huge raise above that $5m he makes. Cashman as Mets GM would create a more accountable culture than the Mets presently have, and is a very hands on GM, almost making the coach an unthinking position.
Maybe the Mets go for both? Neither? Only time will tell. Whatever their plans were, I’d strongly recommend that those plans involve removing Brodie Van Waganen from his current job as general manager. He has shows us who he is, and what he does. It’s unimpressive. It’s not what New York deserves. It’s certainly not the results that a guy who just dropped two and a half billion dollars on a team should want. And even if his draft picks hit? It’ll be 2024 before that happens. You want to wait around for that?
And more importantly, do you want to wait around for success? The Wilpons were able to deliver 3 successful teams in the last 18 years. Do you trust their judgement in who they hired that got the Mets and their fans to that point? I was OK saying I was wrong on Brodie after last season. And I’m OK saying that I was wrong at being wrong now. Brodie Van Waganen needs to be removed as General Manager of the New York Mets.
It’s impossible to be a New York Mets fan and not have heard the good news. The Wilpon family-who have been majority owners of the New York Mets since 2002 and part time owners for years before that- sold the team to billionaire investor and probably criminal Steve Cohen for a sum reported to be $2.4 billion dollars. Can you imagine buying a car and spending three years cleaning it, while the other fifteen years you spend your time shitting in that same car?
To think, back in 2002 the Wilpons said “For $400 million we can buy this team, do a horrible job managing it, have three decent seasons over 18 years, and we can sextuple our money when we sell it. During a global pandemic. While all the while we draw income from the team for ourselves, and also get ourselves a new arena paid for by the public AND get ourselves a TV channel so unpopular that no other regional area sports team wants to play on it, largely because they know we won’t pay them.”
We’ve all read about the winding down of the Wilpon Mets era. Well, the winding down of the majority of ownership. They’re still 5% owners of the team, meaning they still have an over $120 million share of the organization, and will partake in 5% of profits, assumedly. Nice pay out for failing.
But this isn’t meant to rehash stuff you’ve read about the sale or the team or anything else. Until Major League Baseball approved the sale of the Mets- and yes, the owners will approve the sale of the Mets because it makes all of their franchises more valuable because major sports teams only gain and never lose value – this is all conjecture. But I expect one thing to happen after the sale of the NY Mets: the sale of SNY.
SNY is the cable channel you can find the Mets on. And that’s about it. It’s one of the shittiest channels on TV, hands down. What brings me to that conclusion? Let me share with you what would happen if I watched SNY from the time I’m writing this through the next roughly 24 hours. Would you find the following programming captivating?
Amateur boxing from 9 to 11 pm
The same 30 minute long sports show from 11 pm until 2 am. One debut with 5 identical repeats.
Paid infomercial- 2:00 am to 2:30 am
Air fryer infomercial- 2:30 am to 3:00 am
Infomercial on medicine- 3:00 to 3:30 am
Different Infomercials 3:30 to 4:00 am, 4:30 to 5 am, 5 to 5:30am, 5:30 to 6 am
Condensed Mets game (they lost by 10) 6 am to 7 am
7 am to 9 am- the same 30 minute highlight show from the night before run four times in a row. Disgusting.
Four 30 minute infomercials 9 am through 11 am
Condensed Mets game (they lost by 10, but at this point it feels like 30) until noon
ANOTHER HOUR of the 30 minute sports highlight show. So far that’s 12 shows of that shit in 16 hours.
1 pm- 3pm Mets Yearbook, for the 1962, 1963, 2015 and 2018 seasons. Three of those years were washouts.
3 pm to 6 pm- A Mets game.
6 to 6:30- Game recap
6:30- 7:30 Documentary on the 2015 trade deadline. They’ve easily shown this shit 400 times
7:30 -8:00pm. Documentary on baseball in the Dominican Republic.
8:00 to 11pm- a replay of the entire game where Wilmer Flores hits a game winning homerun after he was traded and rescinded, but before he was released a few years later.
This is some shit. Who the fuck would buy this? 6 hours of informercials? 25% of the days programming are fucking infomercials. 6 hours of the same 30 minute sports show. Another 25% of the day repeating itself.
3 hours of historical shows. I’m fine with that, actually. 2 hours of replaying a beating they took at the hands of a better opponent. 3 hours of a new game, and 30 minutes of new discussion on the probable loss. 3 hours of a 5 year old game that was a turning point that the team almost didn’t have. And a 30 minute documentary that I’m sure has been repeated 200 times itself.
17% of the day has new material. 25% of the day are infomercials. How is it that Cohen would have to pay for this? You’d think that the Wilpons would have to pay him for taking a pile of shit off of their hands.
And yes, of course the Wilpons are in debt on the TV channel. Allegedly those infomercials and the lack of original content bring in $150 million a year of revenues. I’d bet the largest part is from being packaged as part of a basic cable package, a thing the Mets were 20 years behind the 8 ball in doing. You’d think if you own the team and bring in $150m in revenue you’d be ok? Nah. AMNY reports that the Mets are $850 million in debt in SNY. Meaning gthat the Wilpons are bleeding money out of the TV channel.
Understand that the Mets are partial owners of SNY. So the Wilpons are dragging other people down with them. This matters. SNY is valued at a billion dollars, but has $850m in debt. Mathematically, SNY is worth $150m. Which is more than what Cohen should be paying for a money loser that’s going to perpetually bleed as less and less people watch sports via a cable package and turn to the internet instead.
The Mets are unique at how late into the game they arrived for getting their own channel, and how late into the game they are at content, and how amazingly unprofitable they are at TV, but most of all, they’re just fucking stupid at running a business. Why?
Compare the 26 hour SNY TV schedule with any other viewing option you have. Are you tuning into the same 30 minute talk show 5 or 10 times a day? To the point, lets look at how other local teams handle this same scenario.
The Yankees share their channel in the offseason with the Brooklyn Nets. There are multiple MSG channels for the Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils. NO LOCAL CHANNEL HAS JUST ONE PRO TEAM. You would think the Mets would say “Jets Islanders Mets fans should have a home…let’s go get the hockey team with our colors for the winter and have a connection with the team we used to share a stadium with, so we’re not running so many shitty infomercials!” But that would mean the Mets would have to top the $25-30 million that the Islanders get for showing up on MSG Plus 5. And when you lose money at every turn because you suck? Well, you’re probably just going to lose more because you suck.
Cohen doesn’t seem to mind spending money. Allegedly he spent as much on a single piece of art as the Wilpons did on the entire Mike Piazza contract. Let that sink in as to what this would mean for the Mets. So while I make it a habit of telling others how to behave professionally in order to look, you know, professional? And I get how Mets fans are so Stokholmed Syndromed to accept losing that everything I write has the impact of a genocide? Yeah, it’s time to expect more. Actually, that time was back in 1988. Like SNY becoming a channel, you’re late to the game for Mets fans who enjoy losing, but it doesn’t mean that you’re losers.
In the end, Cohen will be in negotiations for SNY. That’s great, I guess. I know my cable bill will go up for it. But Cohen needs a separate negotiation first. He needs another pro team, and I have just the one for him: The New York Islanders.
The Islanders have a nice deal from MSG because the Islanders Rangers rivalry was so hot in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that at that point the 25 year old channel of MSG (told you the Mets were late to the game) gave the Islanders a very rich TV deal. The Rangers owners expected the Islanders to continue being competitive, and that never happened, so the Islanders were using that TV money to prop up a team that was so underpaid that the NHL instituted a salary floor to try to guarantee a product for the fans despite the owners being terrible. Looking at you, Charles Wang. Tim Thomas was an awesome Islander…cap hit.
You do know that at one point under Wang the Islanders had a national TV deal for $13 million and a local TV deal of $25 million on a team payroll that was $43 million and claimed a $20 million loss. If you’re bad at math I’ll help. $38 million of TV money, $43 million of payroll. This NOT considering advertising, the Canadian TV deal, parking lot revenue, T shirt sales, hot dog sales, beer sales, and OH YEAH ticket sales. But if all those streams never existed? $38m is NOT $20m less than $43m. Oh, and then with the NHL adding $5m to the Islanders budget for being a small market team? $43m is the same as $43m. And the Islanders had phantom cap hits not being paid. If you’re concerned with a Cohen organization being fined for insider trading, understand that the Islanders were 20 years ahead of the curve. And the owners got approved, even with one headed to jail.
Oh, does that Wang era and those statutes of limitations! How far we’ve come. There’s even rumors that if the Cohen- SNY negotiations somehow fall apart, the New York Islanders are looking to buy the channel. How far they’ve come.
But with Cohen? He can say to the Islanders- “We make $150 million a year. You can be $50 million of that revenue. It’s nearly double the MSG deal. You stop being on MSG 5 or C-SPAN. You get a home so that no channel surfer has to guess what channel the game is on every night. We get winter ratings without having 5579987 reruns of the David Wright story- which I am certain has been shown more times than we have viewers. And we can sell advertising at higher rates while having live sports, so it won’t actually cost us $50 million. Plus, we look like a legitimate sports channel.”
A second team a must. Lets face it, the Knicks and Rangers ARE MSG network. The Yankees have made the low rent Nets their 5 boroughs partner. The Jets and Giants are major channel properties and unbiddable as a headliner. So what’s left? The orphaned franchise with the same color scheme playing 10 miles away from the newest mess that needs cleaning up.
And the Islanders absolutely need their own TV identity and home. It’s a no brainer.
Cable TV is a changing climate. Thanks to the Netflix model, channels will continue to go ala carte. SNY with one sport can not be a subscription service. SNY needs the Islanders- and probably more than amateur boxing- because the 45 actual classic Mets games will not fill another winter.
And a channel maybe losing money? That may actually help Cohen. For instance, say Cohen’s capital gains and taxable income is $300 million a year. But the Mets lose $300 million in that same year. Well, Cohen is effectively paying no taxes. The Mets can be a cost sink and Cohen will actually make more money from it. Also, sports teams themselves do not lose value, so even if Cohen somehow lost every dollar he has, he’s still a multi-billionaire.
This idea only works if Cohen gets SNY for pennies on the dollar. I’d think assuming the Wilpon debt may be enough to get the deal done. That type of thing never happens you say? Hmm. Didn’t the Islanders buy their practice rink for15% of the cost of actually building it? Yes, yes they did. Sometimes when people are desperate, you take advantage of it. The Wilpons are clearly desperate. They quibbled over keeping a $120 million stake of the Mets, which tells me $120 million means a lot to them. And it may be more than enough cash Cohen may need to buy a TV channel.
When MLB and the rest of the sports world shut down operations due to the spread of COVID-19 in March, few knew how important their season would become. After bickering between the MLBPA and MLB owners forced commissioner Rob Manfred to mandate a 60-game season, few in society thought MLB could manage the epidemic, player’s health, and what’s best for the fans.
Despite the minuscule sample size, Opening Day around MLB proved therapeutic. While it’s a small step for Aaron Judge, it’s a massive step for humankind’s mental health. New rules, faces in new places, and avoiding lengthy games entertained fans. Starting with Giancarlo Stanton’s mammoth blast off Max Scherzer on Thursday, and ending with Matt Olson’s walk-off grand slam early Saturday morning, MLB’s best was on display.
Here are some factoids from Opening Day
In Flushing, Queens NY, the Mets improved to 39-12 in their last 51 season openers (the franchise lost their first eight games on Opening Day) with a 1-0 win over the Atlanta Braves. New York won for the 22nd time in their last 25 home openers to start the season.
The Mets recorded their ninth shutout on Opening Day, and their third 1-0 victory. Yoenis Cespedes homered in the 7th inning for the Mets only run. It was Cespedes first HR since July 20, 2018.
The Mets are 5-1 against the Braves on Opening Day (won five straight). The Mets pitching staff has recorded 35 consecutive scoreless innings against Atlanta on Opening Day. The last player to score for Atlanta was Marcus Giles, won hit a two-run HR off Tom Glavine in the first inning of the 2004 season opener in Atlanta.
Despite not earning a win, Jacob deGrom extended his consecutive inning streak without allowing a run to 28. deGrom, Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson & Edwin Diaz, combined for 15 K for the Mets, the most for an Opening Day shutout since 1901.
Shane Bieber struck out 14 Royals in six innings, becoming the first pitcher to strike out 14 on Opening Day since Randy Johnson struck out 14 White Sox for the Mariners in 1996.
Shane Bieber, Nick Wittgren, and Brad Hand combined to strike out 18 batters for Cleveland, the most for a nine-inning game on Opening Day since 1901.
Sonny Gray held the Tigers to three hits in six innings in the Reds 7-1 win over the Tigers. Gray has gone 34 consecutive starts allowing six hits or fewer, setting an MLB record.
Toronto defeated Tampa 6-4, while the Jays top four batters, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, and Travis Shaw (all sons of former MLB players, each recorded a hit and scored a run.
The Red Sox 13-2 win over the Orioles marked their most significant margin of victory on Opening Day in franchise history.
Kyle Hendricks threw 103 pitches and going the distance in the Cubs 3-0 win over the Brewers. Hendricks was the first Cubs pitcher since Bill Bonham in 1974 to record a shutout on Opening Day.
Lance Lynn recorded six shutout innings while striking out nine Rockies in the Rangers 1-0 win. Lynn joined Jon Matlack (1980) and Charlie Hough (1989) in team history to record six shutout innings on Opening Day.
Texas won its inaugural game at Globe Life Field, marking the second time they were victorious in three home park openings (lost to Milwaukee Brewers in the first game at The Ballpark in Arlington in 1994 and defeated California at Arlington Stadium in 1972).
Max Kepler hit the first pitch from Lucas Giolito for a home run. He joined Ian Happ (Cubs in 2018 off Juan Urena), Kaz Matsui (Mets in 2004 off Russ Ortiz) and Dwight Evans (Red Sox in 1986 off Jack Morris) as the only players in MLB history to hit his team’s first pitch of the season for an HR.
Kepler also homered in his second AB, becoming the first Twins player since Jacque Jones (2002) and the fourth in team history (Gary Gaetti in 1982 and Brant Alyea in 1970)to homer twice on Opening Day.
Matt Olson ended Opening Day with a walk-off grand slam against the Angels. Olson joined Jim Presley (Seattle in 1986 vs. Angels) and Sixto Lezcano (Brewers in 1980 vs. Red Sox) to record a walk-off Grand Slam on Opening Day.
While most of the United States is preparing to introduce the business world back to society, my focus is on sports. Here is a preview of the 2020 New York Yankees.
2019: 103–59 1st in AL East. Lost in ALCS to Houston Astros, 4–2.
FIVE QUESTIONS PLAGUING THE YANKEES FOR 2020.
5. Can Aaron Judge & Giancarlo Stanton stay healthy?
While Stanton only played in 18 games last season, he averaged 130 games and 479 AB from 2011–18. Is he starting to break down, or was last season an aberration? Judge rocked the MLB world by hitting a record 52 HR (broken by Pete Alonso in 2019) while driving in 114 in his rookie season of 2017. However, the last two seasons saw him average just 27 HR and 64 RBI.
COVID provided ample time for both players spring training injuries to heal and they should be ready to pound in the shortened 60-game format.
4. Can Gerrit Cole lead the pitching staff?
While there is no doubt Cole is the free-agent prize of the offseason, will his success over the last few seasons continue in the Bronx? Two things point to a big season for Cole in NY.
– He is an innings eater — Cole has thrown 200 or more innings in four of his last five seasons. Leading this staff, I project him to throw at least 210 innings.
– His strikeout total has increased significantly over the previous two seasons (avg. 13.1 K per 9), while his WHIP has evaporated (0.962).
One slight concern is for Cole is his inexperience at Yankee Stadium. He only has one career start during the regular season in the Bronx but did throw seven shutout innings in his only postseason appearance (Game 3 of 2019 ALCS).
3. Can they stay healthy or will depth again save them?
The Yankees lost an incredible 2,336 man-games to injury, 253 more than the second team on that list, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite that, the Yankees still won 101 games.
With the shortened season of 60 games, and availability of 60 players, it’s impossible to reach those numbers in 2020. However, the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus will make this interesting.
A direct result of all those injuries saw contributions from unexpected players. Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman, Cameron Maybin, and Mike Ford combined for a .880 OPS. Such results repeated in 2020 are unlikely.
2. Will they miss Didi Gregorius?
While Didi played in only 82 games last season, his presence took a lot of pressure off a position that replaced a Hall of Famer, which will be inducted into Cooperstown this season. Gregorius averaged 20 HR, 75 RBI, and .765 OPS the previous four seasons.
Didi also came to play when it mattered. Over the last three postseasons, only Aaron Judge has more hits (26 to 25) and RBI (17 to 16) than Gregorius among the Yankees.
Can Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar handle the pressure now that Didi is gone?
1. Can Chapman and bullpen be consistent enough in big spots?
While the Yankees bullpen numbers in 2019 were magnificent, (finished second to the Rays in WAR and were one of three MLB teams to record over 10 K per 9 innings) Loaisiga, Ottavino, and Chapman struggled in the postseason. With Chapman missing most of the early part of the season with COVID, how will bullpen perform getting more work and shorter periods of rest?
Yankees should continue to ring the bell
The Yankees led the majors in runs scored (943), and their 306 HR were one shy of the Minnesota Twins who set an MLB record in 2019. With the same cast of players returning, they should continue to post impressive offensive numbers.
Unequaled success in the wild-card era
Since the MLB went to the wild-card format in 1995, no team can equal the success of the Yankees in playing beyond the regular season. Last season saw the Yankees make their 21st postseason appearance over that span (next closest is Atlanta with 16). Their 12 LCS appearances and seven World Series appearances are also the most over that era.
While society is still trying to understand how to survive until a vaccine is made available, the sports world also is adjusting.
However, many regular folks are now facing real questions about how to survive in the upside-down world of COVID-19.
The last time we saw professional sports, most fans could find something they can identify with each player and team. Unemployment was at record lows, the stock market was soaring, and the fear of what we are currently suffering through was utterly foreign.
While it might be hard for the millionaires that play and run MLB to identify with regular folks that cannot pay their bills anymore, common sense has yet to register.
The MLB Players Union, aided by agent Scott Boras, who represents three of the eight players on the MLBPA’s eight-player executive subcommittee, advised them not to “bailout” the owners. The player agent argued the owners made poor financial decisions outside of baseball.
The players further separate themselves from fans when players like Max Scherzer and Blake Snell claim they will not take a pay cut or play at all if the MLBPA compromises. According to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, the owners, claiming lost receipts on ticket prices, will take as high as a $4 billion loss.
Most of the players understand the situation with COVID-19 and want to play. Trevor Bauer’s comments on twitter endured some criticism (see Kyle Lohse), but I’m sure it represents many players.
While on the surface, it looks like the MLBPA is the primary source of greed, that is exactly how the owners want the argument framed. In today’s society, very few understand the importance of vetting both sides of a dispute before pushing their perspective. Such is the reason why politics create viral responses to issues.
The owners would also want their uniform deal with NIKE, and broadcasting deal with FOX Sports ($5.1 Billion through 2028), to stay on the lowdown. MLB is currently re-negotiating its broadcasting agreement with ESPN, which expires at the end of 2021 (total value of $5.6 billion over eight-years). ESPN is MLB’s longest-tenured national rights partner, having broadcast games since 1990.
My message to MLBPA and MLB is to drop the massive greed that will undoubtedly destroy your sport if it doesn’t get with this new reality.
Baseball is my first love. I played it until cancer took it from me in my junior year of high school. Currently, diseases (Crohn’s, Lymphedema) resulting from the long-lasting side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, I consistently worry about how I will survive with the issues I face on a daily basis. Sadly, many other Americans are worrying about this same fate. That is a new reality.
NEW YORK, N.Y.- Millionaires fighting billionaires. Most of us just roll our eyes as we’d all love to have those problems. When the haggling of money occurs in the arena of sports, we usually side with the billionaire owners and want the player to sign a deal quickly in order to get back on the field. The stakes, though, are very different in this feud. Players want a reasonable salary for 2020 while the owners are desperate to stop hemorrhaging cash. Baseball’s long-term future is very much in peril if a deal isn’t reached. While we normally side with ownership when contract disputes arise, there are a few reasons why it’s time we flip our allegiance to the players side and root for them to get properly compensated for the risk they are taking in resuming play.
In this pandemic, it’s not unreasonable and almost mandatory that sacrifices be made by everyone. Baseball is no different. The players have already done their share of sacrificing as back in March, the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to prorate their salary commensurate to the number of games played. Owners are now asking the players to take a second pay cut because of the fact that most likely, no fans will be allowed stadiums at all during this shortened season. It’s tough to criticize and fault the players for not wanting another salary reduction because the owners misjudged the climate in which games would be played and now are frantically trying to hold onto every dollar they have. Why should the players have to pay for a miscalculation by the owners?
The form of the pay cut is also very controversial because it would come in the form of a 50/50 split of the 2020 revenue between the owners and players, a practice never before enforced. The players association, as they should, strongly disagrees with this proposal because it would serve as a de facto salary cap, as baseball is the only of the four major sports without one. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark had some strong words when speaking to The Athletic last Monday about the idea of a 50/50 split.
“A system that restricts player pay based on revenues is a salary cap, period,” Clark said. “That the league is trying to take advantage of a global health crisis to get what they’ve failed to achieve in the past – and to anonymously negotiate through the media for the last several days – suggests they know exactly how this will be received.”
From the players perspective, it’s tough to trust the owners to act in good faith. They’ve accused them in the past of colluding together to suppress wages and destroy the free agent market. Now with the CBA set to expire after the 2021 season, the players worry that their leverage could be lost if they cave and agree to a second pay reduction. This agreement could have devastating impacts that last a lot longer than just this season.
The risk the players are taking by stepping onto the field in the midst of a pandemic is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Without a vaccine available, there’s still a chance of infection despite the numerous precautions the league office is taking. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell’s viral rant brought to light how divisive this proposal is to the players. Snell was speaking on his personal Twitch stream last week when he let loose on why taking another pay cut was not an option.
“The risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I’m making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that?” Snell said. “If I’m gonna play, I should be getting the money I signed to be getting paid. I should not be getting half of what I’m getting paid because the season’s cut in half, on top of a 33% cut of the half that’s already there — so I’m really getting, like, 25%.”
He’s right. After all, the owners aren’t the ones out on the field risking their health to play the game. It’s a matter of when a player will contract the virus, not if, so why should the players be exposed as well as have their pay significantly slashed? The risk versus reward debate right now is an easy one because the players are facing a health risk while getting compensated very poorly. The scales have to be tipped in favor of the reward far outweighing the risks involved, a balance that at the moment favors the risk being too high. There needs to be some sort of incentive because right now, all of the signs point to it not making a whole lot of sense for players to return to the field this season.
Snell isn’t alone in this thinking, as some of baseball’s superstars came out to defends the Rays pitcher. Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper is glad those comments were put out in the open.
“He ain’t lying, he’s speaking the truth bro,” Harper told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Somebody’s gotta say it, at least he manned up and said it.”
Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado also chimed in and backed up Snell when talking with The Athletic.
“He made a lot of good points,” Arenado said. “A lot of it gets misperceived. Trying to get the public to understand us, it’s not going to work very well in our favor…”
Arenado brings up a very important point that can’t be lost in this entire battle. With the owners floating out the 50/50 revenue split idea, this public frustration from the labor is exactly what they wanted. Social media was buzzing with tons of “Just get out there and play” takes after Snell’s rant went viral. Let’s also not forget what the players are actually asking for. They aren’t demanding a pay raise, but instead just asking to keep their already halved salary. It’s easy for the public to get frustrated about millionaires complaining about salary, but you can’t overlook the billionaires selfishly trying to keep their pockets filled.
Looking at the landscape of the country right now, there’s a serious void that we are so used to sports filling. If the NBA and NHL can’t or choose not to return, baseball will be at the forefront of the nation. This is a unique opportunity that could allow baseball to jump back into national relevancy and with that increased attention, allow owners to make up for lost revenue in this pandemic stricken season. MLB has the chance to be the first and quite possibly the only league to return for a long time.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has focused a lot of his efforts on changing the game to make it more appealing to the younger audience. There’s no better way to bring new fans in than being the main sport played during an otherwise bleak time in history. The short-term losses could be made up down the line by tapping into a fanbase that baseball has never had access to before. The growth of the sport will increase stadium and television revenues, creating a new stable stream of money coming in. Considering the potential loss of four-billion-dollars if baseball isn’t played in 2020, it’s advantageous for the owners to cater to the needs of the players.
If anything, the coronavirus has put us all on the same playing field. No matter the job we have or the industry we work in, we’re all inconvenienced and more importantly, we’re all in this together. We’ve sacrificed and now hope springs eternal that the summer can bring about some semblance of normalcy. Part of that return to normalcy is watching baseball on the television every night. In a time when we’re all sacrificing for the greater good, baseball needs to do the same. The players have made their sacrifice. It’s time for the owners to make theirs.