Baseball Is Broken (off the field/labor relations etc.)

moly99

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Isn't an agent's job to downplay the risk? Assuming they are overlooking it feels like quite a leap.
Of course they have to ignore it in a negotiating situation. But expecting the other side to ignore that risk (especially when looking at the market as a whole) and then being outraged when they don't want to make sub-optimal decisions seems bizarre.
 

Average Reds

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Do the players, et al, realize that another strike could and likely would destroy any rebuilt credibility and good will with the fans? The strike-shortened season over 20 years ago all but killed the game and it took some 'roided-up sluggers hitting balls a mile to renew fan interest a couple seasons later. Baseball has come back to earth a bit lately but I recall that some recent World Series have had really good ratings and the sport always has a strong and dedicated following across the board. A season-long strike might kill not only any chance of expansion but also revenue streams from fans buying tickets, merch, subscriptions to the MLB Extra Innings packages, etc. I understand where they're coming from to a large degree but the phrase "cutting off your nose to spite your face" comes to mind a bit with these threats of a strike.
The question of who would be assigned blame for a work stoppage now is a topic for another post, but your opening statement intrigues me.

I say this because literally every MLB work stoppage from the early 70s to the last one was driven by ownership trying to break the union or curtail their power. And ownership's position has been proven wrong every single time.

I do believe the dynamics are different this time for a number of reasons, which is why I don't expect a major work stoppage. But I don't understand the knee-jerk reaction to absolve ownership for responsibility for any labor stoppage in any sport when it seems pretty clear to me that they are the ones who initiate the stoppages. Every. Single. Time.

Hell, there are some fans who STILL haven't forgiven the NHL players for the lockout over a decade ago even though it wasn't the players who made the call. Perception is reality (as the anthem protests flap has demonstrated) and increasingly so in the dumbed-down society we're living in nowadays. They need to think long and hard before they make the call to refuse to play or they might risk killing the golden goose.
The bolded is precisely my point. And since I know you understand this, my question is why do you think it is incumbent on the players (in any sport) to knuckle under, facts be damned? And if this is how the players acted, wouldn't ownership sense this and keep ratcheting up the demands?

Given that ownership keeps the (considerable) profits, aren't they the ones who should be acting in the best interests of the sport and/or worrying about killing the golden goose?
 
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charlieoscar

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The players tried to unionize in the past but they had no leverage until Curt Flood refused a trade and challenged the reserve clause, which because MLB was exempt from anti-trust laws. A player was owned by the club that signed him unless he was traded or released.

For a long time, the owners made their profits from ticket sales and advertsing. If an owner did not make the profit he thought he should have, he would cut players' salaries, even for players who had good years. As television came more and more into the picture, profits went up but players weren't seeing an equal increase.

Once the players had a strong union, they realized they could demand more, better. The owners would make a counter-offer and essentially a game of chicken began. If the players ask for more than the owners are willing to accede, and neither side backs down, is the work stoppage necessarily the fault of the owners?

I once had a lot of sympathy for the players, the chattel, but today with the contracts I see and the costs to attend games, it is the fans who are getting screwed. Take a pitcher getting $30 million per season. Say the average ticket price is $50. That means 600,000 seats must be sold to pay him (and that doesn't take into account the cost of travel, rooms, meals, etc.).

I think it would be interesting for the owners to hand MLBPA a check for a percentage of all income the teams derive and let the players divvy up the money themselves.
 

NDame616

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The players tried to unionize in the past but they had no leverage until Curt Flood refused a trade and challenged the reserve clause, which because MLB was exempt from anti-trust laws. A player was owned by the club that signed him unless he was traded or released.

For a long time, the owners made their profits from ticket sales and advertsing. If an owner did not make the profit he thought he should have, he would cut players' salaries, even for players who had good years. As television came more and more into the picture, profits went up but players weren't seeing an equal increase.

Once the players had a strong union, they realized they could demand more, better. The owners would make a counter-offer and essentially a game of chicken began. If the players ask for more than the owners are willing to accede, and neither side backs down, is the work stoppage necessarily the fault of the owners?

I once had a lot of sympathy for the players, the chattel, but today with the contracts I see and the costs to attend games, it is the fans who are getting screwed. Take a pitcher getting $30 million per season. Say the average ticket price is $50. That means 600,000 seats must be sold to pay him (and that doesn't take into account the cost of travel, rooms, meals, etc.).

I think it would be interesting for the owners to hand MLBPA a check for a percentage of all income the teams derive and let the players divvy up the money themselves.
In the last bolded sentence, is there any reason you're ignoring hundreds of millions of dollars teams make from sources other than ticket sales?
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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but today with the contracts I see and the costs to attend games, it is the fans who are getting screwed. Take a pitcher getting $30 million per season. Say the average ticket price is $50. That means 600,000 seats must be sold to pay him (and that doesn't take into account the cost of travel, rooms, meals, etc.).
I don't know if I'd say the fans are getting screwed. In fact, I would think that a majority of fans are able to watch and follow the sport on a level that is exponentially greater than in the past without directly paying a single dime to MLB.

The fans who are getting screwed are kind of screwing themselves. While it is fun to go to games and support the teams, spending what I consider to be outrageous amounts for tickets, concessions, and swag is still a voluntary choice.

At the end of the day, baseball's revenue stream is totally dependent on getting fans to shell out their money to buy stuff. That's where fans have leverage, if they could ever decide en masse to use it.
 

charlieoscar

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In the last bolded sentence, is there any reason you're ignoring hundreds of millions of dollars teams make from sources other than ticket sales?
Not sure I understand. I said profits went up as television came more into the picture. But I don't think players were getting an equal share. NBC started the Game of the Week in 1957; the MLBPA was started in 1966. Do you think the owners said, Let's give this windfall to the poor players? Of course there were other sources of income but do you really think the owners part with them voluntarily? The players finally realized they could tell the owner, Give us what we want or you won't get anything. As I said, a game of chicken.
 

charlieoscar

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The fans who are getting screwed are kind of screwing themselves. While it is fun to go to games and support the teams, spending what I consider to be outrageous amounts for tickets, concessions, and swag is still a voluntary choice.
Yeah, it's a voluntary choice but aren't the fans paying for the huge television contracts? There is money made from selling advertising but don't the fans (and non-fans) pay for that through higher prices on the advertised products?

After the 1994-95 strike, there was a movement among some fans to boycott baseball but that did not last long. Baseball had about 73 million in paid attendance in 2017. What would happen to the game if it dropped to half that in 2018? What would happen to all the television money?

Just as an aside to this:
"There is evidence that the financial success of minor league teams helped subsidize the major league owners before the 1950s (Sullivan, 1990: 2327). This changed in the 1950s, and by the 1970s, tired of losing money, the major league clubs were selling their minor league teams. Combined income statements of the major league clubs show that the major league teams sustained annual operating losses ranging from $459,746 to $954,050 per team, beyond other player development expenses, during the period of 1974-79 (Markham and Teplitz, 1981: appendix D).

Franchises, which were virtually given away or sold for no more than a few thousand dollars only a few years ago, are in the 1990s attracting offers of hundreds of thousands of dollars for A-level teams and several million dollars for AA-level and AAA-level teams."

Minor League Baseball and Local Economic Development by Arthur T. Johnson, 1993, University of Illinois Press, p. 18
 

jon abbey

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What does paid in-person attendance have to do with TV ratings and payments? Your last couple posts here have really confused me, charlieoscar.
 

Sampo Gida

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Attendance revenues are down to 30% of total revenues. RSN's are basically long term deals where rights fees paid to team are not dependent on winning or RSN advertising dollars. Post season revenue does not seem substantial with MLB and players taking over 2/3 and the TV revenue is shared revenue. Plus teams get hit with lower picks as penalty for winning.

Seems draft picks should be based on a teams revenue and not penalize winning, or perhaps winning can allow higher revenue teams to be rewarded with higher picks than their revenue ranking would allow (eg each playoff team gets a 5-10 pick jump)

Not sure there are enough financial incentives for teams to spend money to win, but thats been the case for awhile now and does not fully explain the FA market

The sudden change in teams behavior on the FA market seemed to begin with Manfred taking over and began last year before the new CBA .

Looking at Manfreds career , an AFL-CIO report, cited by workers at Harvard University when they first tried to unionize more than 20 years ago, named named Manfred's first company of Morgan Lewis & Brockius (MLB) as one of the top five “union avoidance” firms in the U.S., a fancy name for union-busters. So basically he started from a culture that was anti-labor.

Manfred has been working with MLB on CBA negotiations and labor issues since 1987, which if people remember was a collusion year and at a time players had already filed a grievance.

As for any anti-trust lawsuit such as being floated around at Fan Graphs , MLB is exempt from anti-trust laws and in this political and judicial climate where the cult of neoliberalism rules, its just not smart to challenge the exemption in the courts . Such an attempt might even be what Manfred wants to bust the union or at least weaken it.

BTW, a partner at Morgan Lewis was nominated by Trump to fill the 5th seat of the NLRB. Might want to avoid any action that gets them involved , although a strike may be unavoidable down the road regardless
 

jon abbey

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I mean, that would all make a lot more sense if big money FA deals worked out well for the team more than like 20 percent of the time.

It's pretty simple to me, the risk/reward just doesn't make sense (again, not just the money and the penalties accompanying that, but the loss of roster flexibility), and GMs are sick of putting their hands in the fire and getting burned.

And this wasn't an overnight thing, the two quotes in my sig below were made publicly and are a couple years old now. Or you can check the thread I made in the Yankee section last summer called 'Logan's Roster' about how Cashman was trying to clear out almost all players over 30.
 

charlieoscar

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What does paid in-person attendance have to do with TV ratings and payments? Your last couple posts here have really confused me, charlieoscar.
If people stop going to games and stop watching games on television, do you think MLB is still going to get huge contracts from the networks?
 

jon abbey

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If people stop going to games and stop watching games on television, do you think MLB is still going to get huge contracts from the networks?
Why would they stop watching on TV? If anything, I'd think fewer people at games would mean more people watching at home.
 

charlieoscar

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Why would they stop watching on TV? If anything, I'd think fewer people at games would mean more people watching at home.
If the stands are half-full all the time, do you think the networks are going to say, "Wow, baseball is really, really hot right now. We'd better make sure we have the rights to broadcast games." ?
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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If the stands are half-full all the time, do you think the networks are going to say, "Wow, baseball is really, really hot right now. We'd better make sure we have the rights to broadcast games." ?
If the networks still get ratings why not? After all, isn't this what is happening with the NFL this past season?
 

Ananti

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How would a salary floor even realistically work without being too messy and/or complicated?

I keep trying to envision a scenario where you are either penalizing or forcing a team like the Pirates to spend and it just doesn't add up as feasible in my head.
Seem pretty easy to me, if a team spends less than the floor, the difference between their payroll and the floor must be paid to the MLBPA, who then must use 50% of the money toward a bonus distributed to all players on MLBPA's retirement pension, and 50% as a bonus distributed to all players who were paid the MLB minimum salary for that season.

So there is no benefit to a team spending less than the floor, they have to pay it out any way. That should get rid of most of it and if a couple team do it will put some money in the pockets of the people who might actually need the money.
 

Gdiguy

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To put some actual numbers to the discussion:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/george-diaz-en-fuego/os-sp-mlb-george-diaz-0223-story.html

The Rays are down to $73,063,332, 27th among all MLB teams, and will likely drop some more. The Marlins are at $82,962,14, and the Orioles at $122,317,115, still below the MLB average.

But thanks to the magic of revenue sharing, bad teams with apathetic ownership can make it rain on their investments. A year ago, the Rays invested only $70 million in payroll while taking in $205 million in revenue. The Marlins spent $114 in payroll off a revenue haul of $206 million in revenue.
I'm coming around to a salary floor being necessary; @Ananti 's type of suggestion is fine, and I'm even fine with having it averaged over 5 years or something so you can do things like spend less for a couple years to then over-spend when you're in contention; but the Rays & Marlins are pushing the boundaries to such an extreme that I think it's going to force action
 

sean1562

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Payroll doesn’t include payroll tax right? What other expenses could a team see here? Nobody goes to those games regardless. The rays were a great team for a bit, nobody went. Tampa is not a big market
 

timlinin8th

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“We’re definitely in a transition period. Because of analytics, the days when 30-year-olds get seven-year deals aren’t going to happen very much anymore,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t blame teams for that. It’s smart. But if owners are going to put so much value into the first part of people’s careers, then [future] players should be compensated at the beginning of their career more than they are now.

“Most guys don’t get to the big leagues until they are 24, 25. I’m not a genius, but 24-25, plus six years [until free agency], is 30 or 31. Look around at how many 30-, 31-year-olds are basically just getting pushed out of the game right now. So the system, I don’t want to say it’s outdated, but . . .”
Ryan Zimmerman hits it pretty succinctly here.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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Not sure how you fix that unless you bring in a huge element of Pay For Production, which would be extremely difficult to do in a sport where individual success doesn't always translate into team success.
 

jon abbey

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We talked about it upthread, you cut team control from 6 years to 4 or 5 and in exchange, players allow themselves to be optioned to AAA at any point in their careers that they are not performing well enough to stay on the 25 man. Both of these things would at least help.
 

trs

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Ryan Zimmerman hits it pretty succinctly here.
I wonder how much the last CBA was designed with PEDs "in mind?" I'm not suggesting that there were backroom handshakes, but Zimmerman's point is a good one -- the math is now off, when in the 90s it wasn't. I wonder how much of an effect access to PEDs allowed players to be ready earlier, entering the majors before 24-25 and allowed some to last longer, beyond 31. Reducing the "cost control" part of the system makes sense... maybe just assuming that 6 years of control allows a big contract at the end is no longer accurate.
 

jon abbey

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I wonder how much of an effect access to PEDs allowed players to be ready earlier
I think actually the opposite, greenies (more than PEDs) allowed older players to continue to perform longer and hence kept younger players in the minors longer behind them.
 

trs

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I think actually the opposite, greenies (more than PEDs) allowed older players to continue to perform longer and hence kept younger players in the minors longer behind them.
Good point, I hadn't thought of that. Either way, the math is broken. More teams are realizing that you can build competitive teams with a bunch of 25-30 year-olds on cost-controlled contracts, and superstars perhaps have less impact on a team when say in the NBA or NFL. Therefore the cost-benefit gets a bit screwy when you're talking free agents in their 30s demanding 200mm over 7 years versus a pay-as-you-go plan with pre-arb and arb-elg players in their 20s. Sure that 31 year old is worth 28mm but is that same player at 36 still worth 28mm?
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Ryan Zimmerman hits it pretty succinctly here.
From this article: "Such a hypothetical club could have Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, John Lackey and Ricky Nolasco in its rotation, National League saves leader Greg Holland as its closer and a lineup with Carlos Gonzalez, Jon Jay and Jose Bautista in its outfield, an infield of Matt Holliday, Neil Walker, J.J. Hardy and Mike Moustakas, as well as Jonathan Lucroy at catcher with Adam Lind, Jayson Werth and Mark Reynolds (30 homers) on its bench."

Are playoff bonuses still allowed? If so, it would be hilarious if these guys all agreed to sign with some small market team as a group for one-year, below-market deals that included profit-sharing (err, playoff bonus) clauses.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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We talked about it upthread, you cut team control from 6 years to 4 or 5 and in exchange, players allow themselves to be optioned to AAA at any point in their careers that they are not performing well enough to stay on the 25 man. Both of these things would at least help.
I don't know why players wouldn't offer to include as many salary cap relief provisions to the Owners as possible, like the NBA stretch provision or being able to renounce one contract a year. So long as the contracts actually get paid in full, the players should want contracts of non-performing players to come off the books to open up more cap space for performing players.

I can see how players might not want to ride the minor league buses at 30 years old but Panda's contract isn't really hurting John Henry, it's hurting the guys after Panda who want to get paid.
 

Marbleheader

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There should definitely be an amnesty provision in cases like Sandoval where the player was complete dogshit and is preventing the Red Sox from signing any of the remaining free agents.
 

Sampo Gida

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Free agency for all players no later than after their age 28 season (earlier still possible). In return for that concession player agree long term contracts are not guaranteed after the 5th year (subject to 10% buy out)
 

timlinin8th

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I don't know why players wouldn't offer to include as many salary cap relief provisions to the Owners as possible, like the NBA stretch provision or being able to renounce one contract a year. So long as the contracts actually get paid in full, the players should want contracts of non-performing players to come off the books to open up more cap space for performing players.

I can see how players might not want to ride the minor league buses at 30 years old but Panda's contract isn't really hurting John Henry, it's hurting the guys after Panda who want to get paid.
An amnesty clause also would remove some of the reluctance to give out the longer term contracts, since there would be a way to escape it. This would be another plus for the players, but it would need to be structured in such a way that it doesn’t hurt the competetive balance between teams.
 

lexrageorge

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Amnesty clause with salary floor would solve a lot of the problems, IMO. It's getting to the point where it probably would be best to weed out those teams that claim they can only afford to spend $30M in payroll.
 

Max Power

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The owners are making a perfectly rational decision not to pay free agents for their decline years. Unfortunately the understanding has always been that the players get paid in those years in exchange for being undercompensated when they're most valuable. It's a real problem if they're not sharing in the revenues they're helping create at any point.

I'd like to see the luxury tax number tied to league revenues, the major league minimum raised to $1 million, and arbitration with no limits starting right after a player's rookie year. Teams would still have exclusive negotiating rights for six years, but players would be compensated at market rates. Free agent salaries for players in their 30s would probably nosedive, which is fine, since they've already made their money when they were young and productive.

There are two obvious problems with that system. During the transition, the players who didn't get paid in their arb years would be screwed by the lower free agent compensation structure. And small market teams wouldn't be able to afford their best draftees almost immediately. They'd go from fielding really young teams to old ones.
 

jon abbey

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There are two obvious problems with that system. During the transition, the players who didn't get paid in their arb years would be screwed by the lower free agent compensation structure. And small market teams wouldn't be able to afford their best draftees almost immediately. They'd go from fielding really young teams to old ones.
I'm not sure about the second one, but for the first there would have to be some sort of massive pool of money put aside for those players, maybe administered by the union? Dunno, but agree it definitely has to be addressed.
 

jon abbey

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I mean, they have Matt Andriese slotted for the bullpen, and he started 36 games for them in 2016-2017 combined, so I think it's more that they have a lot of guys they think will be good in a 2-3 inning relief role and they think this is the best way to use them. Not saying you don't have a point, but I don't think it's pure cheapness here.
 

Ford Frick's Asterisk

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I don't know what the Rays reasoning is, but that list of available pitchers is a case of "one of things is not like the others". Aside from Cobb, the answer is no -- "bullpen day" is better than the rest of that list.

*
 

VORP Speed

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They are big believers in the times through the order effect and they have made a very conscious decision to go with a 4 man rotation, with the 5th day being a “bullpen day”....but in reality that bullpen day is scheduled 2-3 inning stints from designated multi-inning guys. They also are using quicker hooks on the regular starters so there are spots to deploy the multi-inning guys in the 4 man rotation games, too. They believe you get more value from average starters by using them as multi-inning guys and pitching them 2-3 innings a couple times a week instead of 6 innings every 5 days. They are blurring the lines between starter/long reliever and taking the position that only the most elite starters should be going deep into games.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
They are big believers in the times through the order effect and they have made a very conscious decision to go with a 4 man rotation, with the 5th day being a “bullpen day”....but in reality that bullpen day is scheduled 2-3 inning stints from designated multi-inning guys. They also are using quicker hooks on the regular starters so there are spots to deploy the multi-inning guys in the 4 man rotation games, too. They believe you get more value from average starters by using them as multi-inning guys and pitching them 2-3 innings a couple times a week instead of 6 innings every 5 days. They are blurring the lines between starter/long reliever and taking the position that only the most elite starters should be going deep into games.
That actually makes some sense, and I'll be curious to see how it goes. Baseball is overdue for a re-examination of pitcher deployment.
 

grimshaw

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Those pitchers are all roughly replacement level except Cobb who is out of their price range and Dickey who may retire. Why spend a dime on any of them when you're unlikely to finish higher than 4th place?

The Rays ought to be doing experiments like that because they have no chance.
 

jon abbey

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This seems like it might need 15-16 healthy pitchers you were comfortable with, shuttling maybe 6-7 up and down as needed, especially if you have some extra innings games. Of course, that will also keep service time down on the guys who do that, so maybe that’s where we’re back to the thesis of this thread.
 

VORP Speed

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This seems like it might need 15-16 healthy pitchers you were comfortable with, shuttling maybe 6-7 up and down as needed, especially if you have some extra innings games. Of course, that will also keep service time down on the guys who do that, so maybe that’s where we’re back to the thesis of this thread.
Yeah. Also, it’s going to be harder to do the extreme matchup stuff with late inning guys when you are trying to squeeze more and more innings out of the pen. A knuckleballer or some other abuse-resistant innings eater would be helpful, even if just for mop-up duty.
 

koufax32

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In what world would players be upset by someone with zero mlb experience getting $24m guaranteed? Other players may choose differently but that an impressive insurance policy.
 

Dernells Casket n Flagon

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Interesting economic take on the Kingery contract from Fangraphs. Essentially comes down to the fact that it allows both sides to maximize earnings vs playing time without having to deal with service time manipulation etc.
 

Sandwich Pick

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In what world would players be upset by someone with zero mlb experience getting $24m guaranteed? Other players may choose differently but that an impressive insurance policy.
Kingery will be 32 if this contract goes full term. If it does, it's very likely that he's outperformed the contract, as the last 3 years are team options.

Yes, it's guaranteed money but it's also the very definition of team-friendly if he performs. I know it's only one contract but it doesn't seem like a tradeoff many players would make. A lot can change in the marketplace in 9 years.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Sorry if this is being discussed elsewhere, but OAK drew 46,000 by giving away tickets and parking. Assuming they got each patron to buy two beers and a hot dog ($20.00), they probably broke even versus 10,000 people each paying $100.00 for tickets, parking, and concessions.

I think baseball has really priced itself out of its target audience.

Not so much a "broken" comment, but here is an observation:

Whether it is due to tanking or just poor performance, there are currently 7 teams at .350 winning percentage or below.

There were no such teams in 2017. Worst WP was .395
Ditto 2016. .364
Ditto 2015. .389
Ditto 2014. .395

You have to go back to the 2013 Houston Astros (.315) to find a sub-.350 team.

So what the hell is going on here?
Sorry to sound like a broken record but the incentives to finish at the top of the draft - bonus pool money, likelihood of draft success, increased service time of prospects - are such that every team that doesn't think it has a chance of the playoffs should slash its payroll and keep its best prospects in the minors for as long as possible. And take a chance on every Rule 5 guy they can put their hands on.

No brainer to me from a math perspective.
 

sean1562

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for all the "baseball is broken" talk, a lot of the big FA pickups, other than JD, have not been performing to expectations, and certainly not to deserve the massive deals they were clamoring for. Arrieta has been good but not 30 mil a year good while Darvish has been bad. None of the 1B are playing particularly well