Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Just When I Thought I Was Out...

I honestly wasn't going to write about the negotiations between MLB and the union today, but the unexpected news that Rob Manfred and Tony Clark met face to face today seems significant. So, to borrow some words from Michael Corleone, "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!" We'll see if it turns out any better for me than it did for him.

While I do believe it's significant that Manfred got on a plane and flew out to Arizona to meet with Clark, I'm going to be careful not to allow myself to get overly optimistic. It's likely that Manfred's trip was driven by the incredible amount of negative publicity both he and MLB received after Manfred backpedaled on his statement from last week that a 2020 season was "100 percent certain." While it certainly is possible that Manfred and club owners are making a sincere effort to rekindle the moribund negotiations, it's just as possible that the purpose of this effort is just a feint to forestall a potential grievance by the players.

That being said, Manfred's statement after the meeting offers some promise:
At my request, Tony Clark and I met for several hours yesterday in Phoenix. We left that meeting with a jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement and subject to conversations with our respective constituents. I summarized that framework numerous times in the meeting and sent Tony a written summary today. Consistent with our conversations yesterday, I am encouraging the Clubs to move forward and I trust Tony is doing the same.
After the last few days, any positive developments are welcome. I have to admit that they have my attention again. Ken Rosenthal had some details on Twitter (hat tip Craig Edwards FanGraphs)
In a later tweet, Rosenthal suggests how the union might counter
I suspect that, if this indeed is going to be worked out, things would happen fairly quickly. If things stall again, I truly would be pessimistic about anything happening in 2020. And keep in mind, even if they do come to an agreement, they still have to figure out how to play ballgames in the midst of a pandemic.

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Speaking of negative publicity, besides my piece yesterday and the ones I linked to by Joel Sherman and Ken Rosenthal, there were some other notable writers that weighed in on Rob Manfred:

Jeff Passan at ESPN:
Manfred is the sport's public shepherd. Yes, as commissioner, he works for the 30 owners and represents their positions. And yet his admission of the "disaster" unfolding was a brutal self-own, an indictment on the negotiating positions taken by the league and how they fomented solidarity inside the union.
Tyler Kepner at the New York Times:
Bud Selig presided over a canceled World Series, which would seem to be about as bad as it gets for a baseball commissioner’s legacy. Yet his successor, Rob Manfred, may sink even lower. Manfred just might cancel the entire 2020 season... Manfred’s blatant contradiction will haunt him, if he indeed refuses to stage a season. Whatever the outcome, he has already given whiplash to the fans - those who still care, anyway - and further provoked the players. He is failing in his responsibility as a steward of the game.
And there were some others, too. I find it rather extraordinary that so many of these guys criticized Rob Manfred quite harshly. It's one thing for a small blogger like myself to do it. I have no access to lose. But the national guys need to maintain a relationship with the Commissioner's office, and for them to criticize him so severely was not something they would take lightly. I will again grant that Manfred has an incredibly difficult task ahead of him, but nothing in his tenure on the job so far has shown him to be up to it. Maybe he will grow into the job, or maybe it will just continue to chew him up.

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A piece by Jayson Stark for The Athletic earlier today gave me a lot to think about. Stark was looking ahead to the future. No matter whether some sort of schedule is played or not, the 2020-2021 off-season is going to be markedly affected by the loss of revenue this season and the uncertainty going forward.

The upcoming off-season really interests me. You can expect to see a lot of players non-tendered this winter, with some of these moves more geared toward saving money than the quality of the player. I doubt that any team will do this with their top young players, but the next tier down of good but not great players can be affected.

Same thing with veteran players who have a contract buyout. A guy who is solid would normally pretty much automatically get his option year picked up, but penny-pinching clubs looking to cut operating costs could decide to cut loose that type of player in favor of one younger and cheaper, even if the replacement isn't as good as the veteran.

Stark also cites an agent who suggests that teams that are willing to be opportunistic might see an opportunity to sign some of the better players cut loose by cost-cutting clubs and go the other way. This type of club might also be willing to take a chance to sign one or two of the top free agents at a discount, seeing an opportunity to add a real difference maker or two to their club at a time when there are fewer teams in the mix for top free agents.

It's an interesting idea. I don't see the Mets being that kind of an opportunistic club if the team doesn't sell. In that case, they almost certainly be cost-cutting. But if someone buys the club and is willing to spend to make a splash in 2021, there would be an opportunity. It would be fun to see the Mets aggressively upgrading for a change.

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Finally, a brief programming note. I have what is likely to be my final piece in my series on the 2005 season going up tomorrow morning at 9 am. That's a time that I normally don't post, but it's all written and ready to go. Please check it out, if you have the time.

Speaking of time, thanks again for spending some of yours here with us today. Please stay safe, stay well and take care. This all really has to get better, doesn't it?


 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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