The Nationals, and selling off the future to sell the team

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The Nationals are likely to sell. That has been the feeling since at least April, when the Washington Post reported that the Lerners were exploring a potential sale, but these hypotheticals have become more real of late: Jon Heyman, in a notes column for the NY Post in mid-June, wrote that “Word is the Nats are almost sure to sell” with the Lerners hoping to pull in $3 billion for doing so. And now we’re in August, and franchise cornerstone Juan Soto is now with the San Diego Padres, while the Nats are left with some new prospects and not much else.

It’s not that the return for Soto was terrible, it’s that there was a return for Soto at all. The Nationals have kind of slowly broken down their team for a few years now, following their World Series championship in 2019 — we’ll get back to the sale thing in a moment. The Nats were very obviously a team trying to win, until they did, and then things kind of slipped from there. Washington let Bryce Harper leave via free agency for the Phillies even though he was literally Bryce Harper and entering his age-26 season, but at least there they did so because they had Soto, who had more than acquitted himself in his rookie 2018 campaign.

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Rob Manfred is lying about Minor League compensation (again)

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Admittedly, I’m not much of a math guy. I can do basic arithmetic, though, and luckily, with the way Rob Manfred spins his stories, that’s about all you need to show that something is amiss. It’s not that Manfred’s numbers used to show how much MLB teams are spending on minor-league players are inaccurate in a vacuum, necessarily: it’s that everything he says with those figures is intentionally skewed so that it looks like more is being done than is, and that compensation is already in a good place.

This is from Manfred’s letter to the United States Judiciary Committee, in an attempt to justify the continued existence of MLB’s antitrust exemption:

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MLB, MLBPA mercifully fail to come to international draft agreement

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​The threat of an international draft remains, in the sense that there will be negotiations in the future, other collective bargaining agreements around which to discuss the possibility of revamping the entire structure of international player acquisition. The good news, though, is that the most recent conversation is over, and no international draft arose from it. The MLB Players Association rejected MLB’s final proposal on Monday, refusing to give in to MLB’s desire to not only create an international draft, but to do so in a way that would create even more of a discrepancy between the earning potential of domestic and international amateurs.

Per ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez, the PA’s international members (primarily Latin-American players) were opposed to the introduction of a draft, and the union at large listened:

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A reason to be optimistic about the failure of international draft talks

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​The MLB Players Association has been pretty quiet about their feelings on an international draft, which shouldn’t be a surprise: those negotiations are ongoing, with a deadline of July 25 to work out a deal with Major League Baseball’s owners, and the PA rarely comments on ongoing negotiations in public. We know that, at this point, the PA has submitted proposals where a draft does, in fact, exist (boo), but the good news is that submitting proposals isn’t the same thing as a future where a draft is created (hooray).

We received a reminder of this during the All-Star week festivities, where executive director of the MLBPA, Tony Clark, got a chance to speak with the media, and did so in a way that… well, it doesn’t really have me feeling optimistic heading into the weekend before the deadline, but I do feel better about the chances that no agreement is reached than I did. As Evan Drellich tweeted:

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Of course Rob Manfred ‘rejects the premise’ of minor leaguers’ reality

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Some of you still hold out hope that a better commissioner for Major League Baseball is out there, that things would be different if only someone else were in charge besides the robotic, seemingly unfeeling Rob Manfred — a commissioner so actively disliked, so cold in his approach to the game, that multiple features have been published during his tenure where he has been given a chance to say, “no, no, I love baseball, I don’t hate it, go baseball, hooray.”

Rob Manfred is nearly a perfect commissioner, though, if you recognize what the job truly is: to serve as a buffer between the owners and the public. Profits are up, outside of the pandemic-shortened season no one had any control over. Selling a team still brings back a wildly profitable return. Minority investments in teams have also been opened up a bit, which helps further those franchise values, and while attendance is down, the league is squeezing out more money per customer, and they continue to find new places willing to give them money to broadcast baseball, like with the Peacock and Apple TV deals that began in 2022. Owners love the guy, because he’s helping to make them money.

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NBA, NBPA agree to pension substitute for aging pension-less ABA players

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​There is good news for former American Basketball Association players who didn’t play long enough to qualify for an NBA pension. Thanks to the work of the Dropping Dimes Foundation, 115 former players will receive a portion of $24.5 million, as agreed to by the NBA’s board of governors. The payments will come from both the NBA and from the National Basketball Players Association, and while it isn’t a pension, it still will serve somewhat like one.

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MLB, Players Association resume bargaining over international draft

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In case you had forgotten, Major League Baseball and the Players Association, rather than settling the issue during this winter’s collective bargaining, kicked figuring out whether or not there would be an international draft down the road. The deadline for this second round of discussions is July 25, so you’re going to be seeing quite a bit about the international draft and proposals for it over the coming weeks. As things stand now, the MLBPA countered MLB’s proposal before the weekend, with a source telling The Athletic that it “called for significantly more money than the league’s proposal.”

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The Braves are chopping during Ryan Helsley appearances again

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Hey, do you remember the 2019 National League Division Series between the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals? While playing at home in Game 1, the Braves, as they always do, utilized the Tomahawk Chop to engage the crowd, which led to rookie reliever Ryan Helsley of the Cherokee Nation to speak up on the matter:

“I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” Helsley said. “Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot more than that. It’s not me being offended by the whole mascot thing. It’s not. It’s about the misconception of us, the Native Americans, and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots. The Redskins and stuff like that.”

The Braves’ response was to essentially admit that the Chop was indeed racist…

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Rob Manfred mentioned MLB expansion again. However…

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“I would love to get to 32 teams,” Rob Manfred recently told ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. in a lengthy story. You don’t really need to read the whole thing unless you really want to, as it’s kind of what you’d expect: you don’t get to do a long interview with the commissioner of Major League Baseball if there are going to be a lot of tough questions and pushback. Still, though, Van Natta Jr. got Manfred to mention expansion during their talk, which was one of the early things he discussed back in his first term as commissioner, after taking over for Bud Selig:

No matter how they see the CBA’s fine print, owners seem thrilled with Manfred’s job performance. And why wouldn’t they be? Despite its array of problems, league sources say baseball has grown into a $10 billion-plus-a-year sport, up from $8 billion when Manfred became commissioner. Owners also loved Manfred’s reorganization of the minor leagues in 2020, and in the past decade, franchise valuations have more than quadrupled. Not surprisingly, billionaires want in, and expansion is coming. “I would love to get to 32 teams,” Manfred tells me.

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Senate Judiciary Committee is asking questions about MLB’s antitrust exemption

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I can’t sit here and tell you that the Senate Judiciacy Committee questioning the legality of MLB’s century-spanning antitrust exemption is going to go anywhere productive. What I do know, though, is that the lone road to removing the antitrust exemption goes through Congress, and not the Supreme Court, so this is news worth taking note of all the same.

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