May 8, 2014
The Five Teams That Don't Have to Play by (All of) the Rules
Baseball’s two publically accessible governing constitutions send us scrambling to their pages for very different reasons, and usually with very different results.
If you find yourself heading for the rule book, you’re probably doing so in a state of confusion and probably some anger. When you dive into the much weightier collective bargaining agreement, well, first of all, you’re probably also confused. Let’s face it; readers of this site probably don’t have to look up much of what happens in the flow of the game (in the case of the rule book) or the baseball calendar and off-field choreography (in the case of the CBA). But you might be intrigued by what’s in there anyway.
The big difference is in the satisfaction. If you’re a lifetime fan and have to go to the rule book, you’ll probably be a little let down. You’ll probably find some non-answer that’s the best you can do in a complex game that tries to accomplish all it’s trying to accomplish while remaining a low-contact sport. Look into the CBA, and you’ll probably find something cool. You’ll probably find something that even if not accompanied by much of an explanation, reveals something about how the game works behind the scenes.
Last week brought us back to the CBA for sort of a weird reason—not that there are a lot of normal reasons to be exploring it. The Rays were in Boston and had voted not to play a split doubleheader on Thursday to make up a rainout. Their starting pitching was worn out, beset by injury and, so the belief went, in no position to pitch 18 innings.
While the epilogue is that they won the game, the story was in the fact that the Red Sox were given special permission in the CBA to disregard the visitors’ desires.
In short, while this was hardly the Rays’ final visit to Boston, given the exception, the Sox were able to claim no reasonable alternative and have their two games on Thursday. The two small and historic ballparks got the exceptions, though the also diminutive Marlins Park didn’t—not that they’d have much trouble packing two sets of ticket-holders into one single-admission twosome.
For every one of these little undiscovered nuances of the CBA that makes the news, there are another few that you never hear about but might come up sometime in the near or distant future. And there are some that just serve as fun pieces of trivia within a 311-page document that you sometimes wonder if anyone even read before signing.
So for the rest of this season and however long the nuggets keep jumping off the page, we’ll be giving you a little tour of the lesser-known elements of the CBA. It won’t be a weekly series or even a monthly, just an occasional foray into the more unusual elements of baseball’s governing text, whether it’s in the news again or not.
For today’s first installment, let’s keep the focus where it’s been—on these one-team (or two-team or three-team) exceptions to the rules that apply to everybody else.
Did you know: There are only six teams mentioned in the body of the CBA?
Every team name appears on a two-page list of acknowledging parties at the end, but the actual CBA itself mentions only six teams—all as exemptions to the rules. The Red Sox’s lone mention came up this week, but here are the other five.
Cubs: A travel exemption in addition to the doubleheader rule
This actually came up, not really as a newsworthy matter but more as an occasion of grumbling, when I was covering the Astros a couple of years ago. The Astros were starting to draw badly after some of their roster demolition and were strongly against hosting day games during the week. And given the Cubs’ restrictions of a city ordinance that has them playing Friday and Saturday day games, I think people were more upset with the Astros for scheduling a 7 p.m. game the night before.
Houston to Chicago is only about a 2 hour and 10 minute flight, so the Astros were allowed to play their 7 p.m. game in Houston, head to the airport, and fly to Chicago for what I’d guess was a 3 a.m. hotel arrival and a day game the next afternoon.
Diamondbacks, Marlins, Rays: Rehab travel cost savings
The perks of being close to your spring training home don’t end when the trucks move out in late March. First of all, this is a tremendous level of specificity, bargaining for the family size car in part (3a). As with many things we’ll explore in the CBA, I would have loved to be at the table when the size of the rental car was negotiated. And second of all, great product placement for Google in the latter part.
But it really is a nice amount of change saved by the Diamondbacks (20.9 miles from their complex by Google Maps), the Rays (77.7 miles by Google Maps), and the Marlins (82.7 miles by Google Maps). First-class air and hotel for the immediate family can’t be cheap.
And the only other team mentioned in the text of the CBA is the…
Athletics: Revenue sharing exception
So Bud Selig can’t get around to solving the A’s’ stadium issue, but it still gets a shoutout in the CBA—appropriately, as a vague eventuality.
The idea here is fairly simple. Oakland is in a huge metro area—maybe the fifth-largest in the United States depending on what you count. That would be a disqualifier for revenue sharing even though Oakland is clearly the little brother in that metro area. The Angels, White Sox and Mets—all attendance and popularity runners-up within their own metro areas—are disqualified. But the A’s, with such a bad stadium situation, are excepted and profit greatly from revenue sharing.
Even if that new stadium is in another part of the San Francisco Bay Area, that exception will be gone.