Recently the opening shots were fired in what will likely be an escalating war of words (and worse) between the players’ association and the owners’ spokesperson Puppet*…oh, sorry… “Commissioner”, Rob Manfred.
The players union, justifiably unhappy about the lack of interest in a high number of qualified free agents who remain unsigned, sent their leader, former 1st baseman Tony Clark, to the world to voice their opinion. It must be noted that in a very complex area of labor laws, contracts and negotiations, the players felt that being a former 1st baseman was enough of a qualification to handle those matters.
Dear Players Union: At the risk of being overly officious, for future reference, get a labor lawyer to handle this, not a former 1st baseman.
But with a painfully obvious lack of qualifications aside, Tony Clark went in front of the world and, in reference to the owners’ collective reticence to sign free agents, proclaimed:
“This year a significant number of teams are engaged in a race to the bottom. This conduct is a fundamental breach of the trust between a team and its fans and threatens the very integrity of our game.”
A couple of things…
First, he’s 100% right. If you’re selling me on the idea that this new trend of “tanking” – being intentionally bad for an indefinite period in the hopes (hopes) that you’ll be better someday (maybe) – isn’t bad for all American sports (…?) That’s a tough sell my friend…
And if you’re thinking “Well it seems to be working…” I’m not sure about that. You’d have to define “working” for me. Because I know European football (soccer) leagues are “working” just fine: Last I checked, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United were all worth more than the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox.
For those knuckle dragging Americans among you, most European soccer leagues use a relegation model. If your team isn’t good enough to hang in the big leagues, it gets relegated (demoted) to a lower (minor league). In England’s Premier League the worst 3 teams get demoted at the end of each season, while the best three lower league teams get promoted to the big leagues. In other words, not only will “tanking” not help you, it’ll cost you a fortune. Next season you’ll have Paddy’s Old Towne Tavern coming to play you for your home games instead of Manchester United. It’s a “be good enough to be here, or leave” environment that works.
If I could only live in a world where Bud Selig had to play by those rules. I digress…
No doubt, there are problems that need to be addressed. In 2002 players received 58% of MLB revenue. By 2015 it was down to 38%. Does baseball have an “owners exploit players and fans” problem? Absolutely. We’ve had that problem since the 19th century.
That being said players union, again – you let former players handle your last labor negotiation so the owners pretty much got whatever they wanted. Now, you don’t have too many cards to play except the public sentiment one, which never – never – works. The combination of the public’s ignorance and jealously will always unjustifiably cast you as overpaid children – don’t try to change that. Sorry, Mr. Clark, I liked you as a player but today a sympathetic figure you are not. Win your wars at the table, not on social media.
Insert Rob Manfred yelling “Hold on! You want unsympathetic?!? I’ll give you that, plus idiocy and lying! Hold my Perrier!”
Puppet Manfred responded to Tony Clark with:
“Our clubs are committed to putting a winning product on the field for their fans.” LOL – good one. Ask Marlins fans about this.
“Owners own teams for one reason: they want to win.” All evidence to the contrary. For over a century, owners have displayed no discernable behavioral pattern except the one where they want to make money at everyone else’s expense.
“In baseball, it has always been true that clubs go through cyclical, multi-year strategies directed at winning.” Haha. Yep, the Cubs’ “multi-year” strategy was to suck for 100 years. Seriously, how does one say this dribble with a straight face?
“What is uncommon is to have some of the best free agents sitting unsigned even though they have substantial offers.” All righty then…
- He doesn’t know this. That information is not available to him. So Bull. Shit.
- What’s “substantial”? It goes without saying that you Mr. Manfred are nowhere near one of the best in the world at what you do. J. D. Martinez is. And other than you paying to watch him play baseball, you know nothing about him or his situation. Keep the condescending and ignorant judgments on your twitter feed like the rest of us.
Oh, he wasn’t done…
“To lay responsibility on the clubs for the failure of some agents to accurately assess the market is unfair, unwarranted and inflammatory.”
Imagine working for two weeks and your boss telling you it was unfair of you to ask what your paycheck was going to be. And that it’s your fault not theirs, for you not knowing.
Now, I’m not an attorney, but…
This sounds a lot like the owners presenting a united front of “tough shit, players and fans” – i.e., the “C” word – “collusion”. And even though George Steinbrenner isn’t around to tell arbiters that the owners did in fact collude, which led to the first collusion payouts in the 80’s (yes, seriously) – I don’t know if the owners want to go down that road again.
But whatever road the owners take, it’ll be well traveled and filled with condescension and more than a little fatuity.
*The last commissioner of baseball was Fay Vincent. The owners decided at the time that someone like Vincent – that is to say, someone who looked out for the best interests of the owners, the players and the fans – wasn’t necessary. It would be better for everybody involved (cough, bullshit, cough) if there were a puppet/commissioner who prioritized the owners’ best interests first. Because if the owners were happy, everybody would benefit. (Pinches bridge of nose…)