I spent almost all of yesterday on the phone with a wide range of people
with various connections to the CBA negotiations. I can’t really put a
coherent picture together of exactly where things are headed, but from
what I heard yesterday, that puts me right in line with everyone else.
Instead of trying to synthesize this stuff, I figured you’d prefer to
just have the impressionist version, so here’s the highlights of what I
heard on the earpiece yesterday. I’ll spend most of today charging four
cell phone batteries.
"We hit a wall." — NL Team Player Rep
"There’s no way that enough of us can sign off on the deal
Don wants to frame. We just can’t do it. I love baseball,
but I also don’t want to just throw money away, season after
season." — Ownership Partner
"Personalities are getting involved on both sides. Players
are competitive by nature, and so are successful businessmen.
No one wants to walk away with an ‘L’."
— Rightsholding General Manager
"They’re all on the same bus, and everyone seems to be proud
of the fact that they can drive fastest towards oncoming
traffic." — National Broadcasting Executive
"It’s like we’re dealing with Sybil. I think this would actually
be more productive if they just had a plan to break us. I don’t
think they’re on the same page. And that makes it very hard to
deal with them." — NL Team Player Rep #2
"I don’t understand their proposals at all. The only thing
they know is that they all want to pay less in salaries,
but they don’t know how to go about that. The plans they’ve
put forward don’t help competitive balance at all. If they
go ahead with revenue sharing the way they want, it just
means a different bunch of freeloaders." — Agent
"I can run infomercials in those time slots and make more
money." — Rightsholding General Manager #2
"If there is a stoppage, no one will care if they restart this
year at all. If they stop on August 30, it’s football season,
and ESPN, Fox, and all the local broadcasters would just as soon
use those 45 extra seconds per game to cover football."
— Rightsholding General Manager #2
"More people here care about the lowliest NFL game than about the
local baseball teams. I could probably allocate the time to
Bengal games and be better off." — Rightsholding General Manager #2
"There’s no unity among the owners at all. There was a consensus
to deal with the little stuff first and slowly, then stand hard
and fast on a tax/cap. Then, an impasse is declared, and the
owners implement a new system, and we go through replacement players
again, this time with serious money as an investment. But that
plan’s falling apart.
"I think they’ll set a strike date by this weekend, the owners will
negotiate up until the very last possible second they can and still
save the postseason, and then they’ll take the best available
offer." — Eastern Seaboard Sportswriter
"I wish all this would stop, so my client would stop showing up
on ESPN talking about going on strike. F#$k!" — Agent #2
More confusion flying around than optimism.
One of the very overlooked aspects of the labor issues is distraction.
There are many organizations in MLB that have enormous problems, and
those problems won’t go away no matter what happens at the bargaining
table. Even if the owners get a hard cap of $12 million, the Cubs still
have a manager that is more than happy to throw Mark Prior‘s shoulder to
the wolves. The Kansas City Royals still can’t convert talented
throwers into pitchers, or gifted, dedicated athletes into ballplayers.
Yes, in most organizations, the Baseball side, from the GM on down, is
insulated from the labor negotiations, and they don’t really spend any
significant time thinking about it. But there is no business out there
that can run at 100% focus or efficiency with this sort of distraction
going on. It just doesn’t work that way. And given that a number of
clubs need to be doing extra work just to address their current
problems, they could use some closure.
For that matter, so could I.
Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by