Another day, another dollar’s worth of rhetoric from the MLB Players Association, followed by a quick response from the commissioner’s office.
The fight, as you know, is over the lack of movement in the free-agent market.
One side believes there’s collusion and was threatening for a brief moment a spring-training boycott, while the other insists they’re merely playing by the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Just after 1 p.m. Tuesday, PA boss Tony Clark issued this statement:
“Pitchers and catchers will report to camps in Florida and Arizona in one week. A record number of talented free agents remain unemployed in an industry where revenues and franchise values are at record highs.
“Spring training has always been associated with hope for a new season. 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.”
Within the hour, MLB responded with this:
“Our Clubs are committed to putting a winning product on the field for their fans. Owners own teams for one reason: they want to win. In Baseball, it has always been true that Clubs go through cyclical, multiyear strategies directed at winning.
“It is common at this point in the calendar to have large numbers of free agents unsigned. What is uncommon is to have some of the best free agents sitting unsigned even though they have substantial offers, some in nine figures.
“It is the responsibility of players’ agents to value their clients in a constantly changing free-agent market based on factors such as positional demand, advanced analytics, and the impact of the new Basic Agreement. To lay responsibility on the Clubs for the failure of some agents to accurately assess the market is unfair, unwarranted, and inflammatory.”
As was mentioned here a few days ago, this rise in temperatures is bad for the game and suggests we are headed for labor unrest and perhaps the first work stoppage since 1995.
But I read the Basic Agreement on Tuesday, all 373 pages of it — OK, I skimmed a few having to deal with Home Run Derby and Uniform Regulations — and at the bottom of Page 154 was the only sentence that truly matters right now:
“This Agreement shall terminate on December 1, 2021, at 11:59 P.M. Eastern Time.”
That’s 10:59 p.m. here in Chicago, in case you’re counting down.
Yeah, there’s nothing in there about an opt-out and no clause stating, “We reserve the right to terminate said agreement if we’re getting our heads stoved in by the other side because we didn’t foresee the unintended consequences of the payroll tax and signed a bad deal for our side.”
That would be the players, who agreed to a de facto salary cap in the form of the Competitive Balance Tax.
As bad as it looks right now, it’s going to look a lot better after the 2018 World Series when Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Clayton Kershaw sign some of the biggest contracts in the history of the game.
One of those deals could be for $500 million, another for $400 million and perhaps a third for $300 million.
Those three players are likely to bust a billion dollars on their own.
Charlie Blackmon, A.J. Pollock, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Josh Donaldson, Craig Kimbrel, Daniel Murphy, Andrew McCutchen and David Price are among many others who have the opportunity to score big if they are healthy and perform well in 2018.
There won’t be any crying then, except from the small-market teams who are always complaining about the big-market teams while they bank revenue sharing and turn a nice profit.
Yeah, there’s always more than two sides to sports labor disagreements.
But that didn’t stop the very many hot takes over the last few days, reacting to this winter’s free agency.
The latest is that there must be a floor to the spending so teams are forced to buy free agents they don’t want, as happens frequently in sports with an actual salary cap.
So a team like the White Sox, for example, must spend money on players it doesn’t want right now when banking cash for the future — Machado? — and pouring money into international spending, amateur scouting and player development.
But you want to tell them how they should spend their money as they build toward what they hope will be an extended run in the postseason and a chance to win a World Series?
Hot take, indeed.
It’s all grist for the mill, filling airtime and Twitter feeds until the CBA is something both sides are ready to discuss again.
Don’t hold your breath until it expires — in 1,394 days.
• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.