Thursday, June 4, 2020

Bad Faith Bargaining

A couple of days ago it was being reported that MLB was going to propose to the Players a 30-60 game season at full prorated pay. I found some hope in this, as it seemed like the beginning of a bargain between the 114 games the Players had proposed and the short regular season the owners were pushing. Now it seems as if any optimism on my part was seriously misplaced. When will I learn?

The Owners flat-out rejected the Players proposal without offering anything in return. According to Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich at The Athletic, MLB told the Players' Union that they wouldn't be making another offer. They would only consider an agreement that included a very limited number of games and then Playoffs. MLB is interpreting the original agreement in March as allowing the Commissioner full control to set a schedule and, unsurprisingly, the Commissioner is prepared to set a short schedule that is exactly what the owners desire. I believe Rob Manfred has a chance to go down in history as the worst Commissioner in the history of the game, the man who blindly led baseball to self-destruction.

There was a time when a MLB Commissioner was supposed to make decisions that were in the best interests of the game of baseball. It's been a long time since there was even a pretense at any independence from the owners, certainly not since Fay Vincent was ousted in 1992 so MLB could employ hardball tactics against the players. Any doubt at all was erased when Bud Selig was installed as commissioner in 1998. Now we're not even attempting to find common ground with the players. Keep in mind it's the players who are risking health and safety, while owners worry that they might lose some money. Yet the owners are demanding we all take their word for the financial plight they insist on proclaiming without being willing to document.

The one piece of leverage that the players still hold is that MLB would need them to agree to the expanded playoffs that they desire. The Owners will continue their non-stop PR offensive, trying to pressure the Players to play under their terms. I can't see a scenario that's a win for fans coming out of all this. I worry that we're now looking at 3 undesirable outcomes:
  1. MLB refuses to consider anything beyond their current proposal and the game goes dark until next year.

  2. MLB schedules 50 games and expanded playoffs on their own, the Union balks, and most players decide not to play. MLB goes ahead anyway, primarily with replacement players, and make a total farce out of the season.

  3. MLB gets enough players to cave in that they wind up playing some hybrid where they're fielding teams combining major leaguers with replacements. A farce still, no doubt, but one a bit easier for MLB to sell.
I mean, the very best thing you could hope for if MLB holds their ground is that most of the players decide to play a joke of a season that makes a joke of any Playoffs that follow. As for any of the other possibilities, I just shudder. Everyone has the right to make their own decision, but I won't write about replacement player baseball as if it really is Mets baseball. I won't spend any of my life watching counterfeit Mets baseball.

I've enjoyed blogging again, and I appreciate the support I've been blessed with from the guys at Mack's Mets and Greg Prince at Faith and Fear in Flushing. I would be writing for myself and some Russian bots if it wasn't for those guys. I really appreciate those of you who give me some of your time to read what I post here day to day. It means a lot. Now that I'm back to blogging I really want to keep going, but I honestly ask myself what I will do if they don't play ball this year, or if they cheat the fans with replacement players. You can't write about nothing, and there are only so many times you can look back into the past to source material. Without a season of baseball that matters, it's going to be hard to treat baseball as a relevant topic.

Joel Sherman put it well in the New York Post:
MLB is talking about implementing a 50ish-game season that feels a slander to the league’s history, integrity and continuity. In a pandemic maybe you take what you get. But it is not the virus stopping owners and players from staging a more representative season. It is the money.
Sherman states that he's not rooting for the Players or the Owners, just for the game of baseball to put up some sort of representative season that isn't a complete joke. I still hope for that, even as I doubt that my hopes for baseball are reasonable any longer,

I hope things change here, and that compromise can be found to play a Major League Baseball season that it long enough to lend some legitimacy to the Playoffs. I would not only be overjoyed to write about that, as a fan I would feel privileged to watch it. It just seems like it might take a miracle to get to that place now.


ESPN published a piece where Cubs Co-Owner Tom Ricketts cried poverty and swore on the sacred memory of Harry Carey that every nickel of profit gets plowed back into the team. If this was even remotely true, why wouldn't the Cubs open their books and prove it? The constant refrain from billionaires that we should just accept their word on everything is getting quite old.

Cook County took Tom Ricketts' word on the value of a property in 2013. How did that work out? It's a routine practice for billionaires like Tom and other club owners to undervalue their assets to save on taxes. I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't think the word of people like Ricketts is worth much when they go out of their way to keep the public from seeing any proof. Open your books, then we'll talk.

If you're interested in the way MLB Clubs hide their profits, Craig Edwards has another excellent piece at Fangraphs.

I'm hoping somehow that MLB will take half of the energy they're putting into the PR campaign and actually try some negotiating. The clock keeps ticking, and right now no one is winning.

Please stay safe everyone. Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you back her soon.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos


  1. Hopefully this is just hard ball negotiations and in the end they will work this out.

  2. I wish, but I'm not optimistic anymore

  3. Thank you for your kind words.

    Greg has good taste.

    Don't knock Ruskie Bots. They kept me alive for years.

  4. It's amazing how many bots are out there now. I get about 40-50 hits a week from Russia. I guess my blog isn't political enough for then to actually leave comments.


The Defense Doesn't Rest

A renewed emphasis on defense would be a good thing for the New York Mets. Mike Vaccaro had an interesting column in the New York Post  abou...