B.S. – Bud Selig’s – what did you think that stood for?
The MLB and MLBPA have reached an agreement and a new CBA is in place. As seems to be the case with everything Bud Selig does, even the good is flecked with not-so-shiny ‘bad’. The new CBA takes some legitimate steps forward, that cannot be denied. And while I admit a certain degree of ignorance of the logistics of the deal’s finances, I’m no dummy. Some parts of the agreement simply leave me shaking my head, wondering why if they comfortably put their whole foot in the water, why didn’t they jump in? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go to the scoreboard…
Section X (that’s Roman Numeral ten, ijjits, not a division of mutants) is classified as “other.” The section is a mishmash of topics, many of which, quite frankly, are not only pretty boring but wishy-washy as well (this is where several ‘parties agree upon’ and purposeful vagueness. Very clever in terms of the reach of their control, very frustrating for us fans).
There are, however, two clauses that made me as happy as a schoolboy.
“Clause X(a) – Participation in the All-Star Game will be required unless the Player is unable to play due to injury or is otherwise excused by the Office of the Commissioner. Players Trust will receive an increased contribution and players will receive additional benefits.”
“Clause X(f) – Instant Replay will be expanded to include fair/foul and “trapped” ball plays, subject to the Office of the Commissioner’s discussions with the World Umpires Association.”
Baby steps, folks, baby steps. While neither of these clauses goes quite as in-depth as I (and millions of others) would like, they are both steps in the very much right direction. The mere phrasing “All-Star Game required” should be a good thing. Not necessarily under this Bud Selig administration, mind you, but he’s not going to be around forever (barring some deal-with-the-devil soul selling that is eerily not out of the question). One of the great frustrations if you truly love baseball and understand its history is the sometimes-crap All-Star experience. Let’s put it another way- baseball’s All-Star extravaganza ranks second to Basketball (you know, the sport that just had the stupid-beyond-stupid lockout?) only because most players in other major sports didn’t even know there was an All-Star game for their sports (or in Tom Brady’s case, the weighing of going to Honolulu for one more game versus a private nude beach with his supermodel wife and family… well what would YOU pick?). Point being, the baseball All-Star game used to be one of the best events in sports. Time, technology and money have tarnished that. So if the players won’t respect the history for history’s sake, make them. When a commissioner with some cajones steps in, he’ll have this in his back pocket to build off of getting guys to play (and care, one would hope).
I spoke in my MLB Reboot posts about baseball’s reluctance to embrace technology and how it has held the game back. While the clause in section X (I apologize, that really does sound like a totally badass secret agency) falls far short of robot umpires, virtual advertising (wait, we have that already) and digital foul lines, the vocalization of the need to incorporate replay specifically should signify that baseball wants to move forward. Or at least avoid another blown perfect game… which they didn’t address… do they need a bigger catastrophe to implement replay for safe/out calls!?!?! Is there a bigger blunder than an umpire ruining a PERFECT GAME? Wow, I almost talked myself out of this being in the ‘good.’ I’m trying to remain positive and addressing this should be seen as a baby step forward. Like I said, baby steps are still steps. Most of us don’t make fun of babies when they make them. We’re usually really happy. So let’s just think of baseball and Bud as big ol’ babies…
Sections VIII and IX are both Health and Safety related. Mandatory HGH testing? Check. Elimination of low-density maple bats? Check. No visible tobacco products? Well… whatever. Just talk to your kids, folks. Don’t blame the athletes for your brats’ bad habits. Honestly, these sections are simple and effective. Did I mention everyone will be using new helmets designed by Rawlings to protect against higher-speed pitches? This section was a definite victory for baseball in all senses as it looks great PR-wise but also makes logical sense for preserving the games integrity and safety.
Section II outlines the new playoff routine and the move of the Houston Astros. I like the new playoff idea. Listen to any player, current or former, and they will say that at the end of a 162 game season, a grueling patience-testing ordeal, the last thing you want to do is have a one game play-in for your postseason lives. The new layout, with two wild card teams playing one game to decide who moves on is awesome. It will make the final scramble all the more dramatic as teams desperately try to win out so as to set up their rotations and rest. It also sets up all kinds of kooky scenarios where a team with a hot pitcher finds itself in the division series and surprises everyone. I’m glad I waited to respond to this new set up, as the idea has really grown on me. The old wild card system diminished the importance of actually winning your division (just go back and look at Wild Card World Series winners if you don’t believe me). This new one reclaims that importance and then jumps over it. Trust me, after all that hard work, no player wants to hinge his playoff hope on a single pitcher who’s had a stellar second half (I’m looking at YOU Josh Johnson) not continuing his hot streak. Give this layout time. I think it will surprise people.
All the jibberjabber about free agency, arbitration, draft slotting, and international players.
People smarter than I all over the interwebs and other media sources have broken down the more monetary aspects of the CBA (I know, that’s a dumb statement, the CBA was all about finances, really. Hush.). It’s hard for me to grasp how these changes will affect the league. On the one hand, the new arbitration rules won’t allow geniuses (that is sincere, he punished this loophole) like Alex Anthopoulos to do things like trade for a low-level but high-ranked catcher, not offer him arbitration, then get a nifty sandwich pick. This was a fun loophole, but I understand why it needed to go. The CBA also allots a cap and taxes on investing in foreign players. I’m okay with this (for now) but like I said, not being privy to the functions of baseball financially (say that 5 times fast), I find it hard to project this positive or negative going forward.
I’ve read some places that this CBA is a net loss. I would argue with that contention. However, no one can deny that there is a problem in baseball that this CBA did not fix. Try as they might, the powers that be of the diamond still can’t figure out this parity thing. Sure, every couple of years a feel-good story comes along, but the reality is in baseball there are the haves and the have-nots. This is an odd concept to digest as we’re talking about tens of millions of dollars, but relatively, more money=more quality players = more wins. Hem and haw all you want about drafting smart, building from within yadda yadda yadda, but there is something flawed in baseball financially. At least to me, an ignoramus, it seems. Comparing the NFL to the MLB is like comparing dogs and Cadillacs, but look at the numbers. We laughed about Ryan Fitzpatrick signing a 6-year $59 Million contract. Now look at J.D. Drew. Sigh. All I’m saying is, the NFL’s system of paying, capping, and distributing lends itself to more teams at least feeling like they have a chance. Baseball’s money problem is still a mess.
Another issue, and really my only other BIG issue, with this CBA is the capping on spending for draft picks. I know what you’re thinking – “Wait, Will, you are completely contradicting what you just said about the MLB needing to fix how it spends and allocates money!” – well, sort of. Given the nature of the MLB, simply instituting a salary cap would throw the league into chaos. It’s a broken system, but it’s the system we have. That being said, the only way to combat the flaws was with the draft. A wise, smaller-market team could overpay young players and keep them in more affordable contracts as they became legitimate MLB-ers. Or they could flame out, as was more often the case. But the point remains, paying above recommendation helped more teams, in theory, than it hurt.
But that’s not the larger, more concerning point. The real issue isn’t the players who will be coming through the MLB Draft and MLB system but rather the players who will eschew the league, dropping baseball overall. In a slow game, sometimes you need a little flash, you need an athlete. Many of the top players, or even just the very good ones, are athletes in other sports. Guys like Carl Crawford, who could have played college football OR basketball, may back away from the less-appealing paychecks the MLB may immediately bring. Being good at a major college program in another sport could prove to be a much more lucrative decision for some of these guys (like Bubba Starling this past year).
Mark my words – baseball is going to see a decline in the overall athleticism in the draft picks coming through. It may not be this year. It may not be the next. Taken at net value, the MLB will hurt from the fact that they can’t attract the same athletes as they used to.
Sadly, I’d say it’s a tie (so Buddy Boy should be thrilled).
The restructuring of the luxury tax and other monetary considerations repeatedly cites “modifying” the 2006 version of the CBA, which basically amounts to putting lipstick on a very, very ugly pig. It worries me that, for the decidedly good aspects of the deal we should all get behind (safer bats, better Wild-Card system, All-Star game participation), the stinky odor of competitive inbalance still lingers in the game.
It is great to see baseball taking steps to make the game safer and eliminate things like HGH and skipping out on All-Star games. It makes me both glad and worried to see that while the CBA addresses the issue of replay- but doesn’t take it far enough. The CBA, looked into properly, is a great point-counterpoint debate sparker. Bud Selig is undoubtedly beginning to grow more concerned with his legacy in the game. Things like ties, steroids, and Scooter the talking baseball will always leave their scars. Time will tell if this new CBA’s good eventually outweighs the bad.
Enjoy that Arrested Development clip – classic.
P.S. – This has nothing to do with the CBA but good lord, if you haven’t read the article yet over at Deadspin about Dan Lozano, Albert Pujols’ agent and the subsequent threat by his lawyers, you MUST READ. I’m not sure why this isn’t a bigger story yet, but it is stupendously awful, dirty, and weird. Enjoy. Then be sad that he’s probably looking at an unprecedented payday when Pujols signs.