Hey, I was nominated for a SABR Research award (and you can vote for me! If you want to.)

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There’s a large part of me that is very much, “well, we’ll see what happens” when it comes to awards voting — no inherent desire to make a lot of noise about voting for me when there is a time to do so, for instance. I’m going to make an exception on this occasion, though, at least as far as sending a single newsletter notification on the subject goes, as I was nominated for a SABR Analytics Conference Research Award, in the category of Historical Baseball Analysis/Commentary.

The reason for the exception is that there is no nomination for an award, nor is there even the article that was nominated for one, without this labor newsletter. Sure, it’s now entering its fourth year of existence and I haven’t bothered to name it yet — and I promise you I never will — but it’s vital to the work that I do. The way I write and research and react here allows me to form my thoughts, gain some coherence, connect dots, and then end up writing pieces that are longer than what I send out here a couple times per week, for outlets like Baseball Prospectus, Defector, Fair, and more. Blogging isn’t dead, even if it feels like it, and the way I operate here is very much in the blogging style, which keeps myself and the audience (hey, that’s you) up to speed on what’s happening and what it means, and lets me build towards putting all of the what’s happening and what it means together for a larger audience later down the road.

The nominated article, titled “1994 Explains What ‘Labor Peace’ Never Could,” ran at Baseball Prospectus at the end of February of last year, amid the unnecessary lockout. I knew quite a bit about how 1994 went down and what it meant then and its repercussions for the future, but the level of detail I was able to put into this piece existed because of work I had done in this space in the three years prior. I’ve joked that this newsletter and the site it’s hosted on are like a little baseball labor wiki, given how much linking to previous work and sourcing there is contained within, but the process of putting all of said sourcing and such together is what gets me to the place where I can write, ahem, an award-nominated feature (on Rob Manfred’s bullshit).

So! Thank you for reading; having an audience makes sure this is more than just a preparatory journal for the freelance work that also helps pay the bills. If you want to vote for the piece I wrote, you can do so here, at Baseball Prospectus, which is hosting the voting mechanism along with a few other SABR-approved locations.

There’s some truly excellent work that’s been nominated, and I’m not just being polite when I say it’s an honor to be in the company that I’m in this year. Thanks for reading, for sharing my work, for the mailbag questions, for your fellow distrust in what MLB’s lords are saying and doing. It helps keep all of this and the labor-related bees in my head going.

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MLB spending is up, and yet

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We’re one season into MLB’s most recent collective bargaining agreement, and spending seems to be up. That’s good! It’s up in a couple of ways, too: as Maury Brown pointed out (by way of the Associated Press) at Forbes, the collected spending of the luxury tax clubs exceeded $5 billion for the first time, and that’s over $600 million more than they spent in 2021. A whole lot of cash goes into those figures, though, beyond just player salaries:

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MLB sets revenue record once again, despite exec fears from 2020

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Major League Baseball is back from the pandemic, and by that I mean MLB’s revenues are once again setting records. After a brief pandemic-related break in what had been 17 consecutive seasons of record revenues — first the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign and then 2021’s lower than usual attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic still, you know, existing — the league pulled in at least $10.8 billion in 2022, according to Forbes’ Maury Brown. That’s ahead of the previous record, set in 2019, of $10.7 billion in revenue.

Brown mentions that, “the business of baseball rebounded out of the pandemic faster than a ball off the Green Monster at Fenway Park,” and I want to focus on that for a moment. The reason being that MLB executives anonymously whined about how long it was going to take them to be able to recover from having to pay players what they eventually ended up paying them during the shortened 2020 campaign. Let’s rewind for a moment, to May of 2020:

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Steve Cohen probably doesn’t care about a possible grievance

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Don’t confuse the headline for the idea that Carlos Correa, his agent Scott Boras, and the MLB Players Association shouldn’t bother filing a grievance against Mets’ owner Steve Cohen for publicly commenting on an unfinished free agent contract that ended up never being consummated. If they feel that the public, on-the-record comments — which are not supposed to exist until a deal is done, which is why you see general managers and owners playing coy all the time while we wait for press conference time to roll around — harmed Correa’s market in any way, they not only have a right to file a grievance, but a case they could win.

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Round-up: Carlos Correa, bargaining, stadiums

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Happy New Year, it’s time for some scattered thoughts I had while I was trying to relax in between holidays.

Carlos Correa’s whole deal

Carlos Correa nearly signed a 13-year, $350 million deal with the Giants, until it was scuttled when they didn’t like what they saw in his physical. The Mets went out and snatched him to play third base for 12 years and $315 million, but that deal also hasn’t become official yet thanks to the physical he took with them. All indications are that a deal will be completed and Correa will play third base for the Mets rather than shortstop since Francisco Lindor is already around, but it just hasn’t happened yet.

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No one is ‘circumventing’ the luxury tax threshold

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Thanks to a rumor about the Padres considering a 14-year, $400 million contract to then-free agent Aaron Judge, there have been some rumblings about how Major League Baseball would have reacted to such a deal. Jon Heyman reported at the New York Post that, “sources say they would not have been allowed, as MLB would have seen the additional years as only an attempt to lower their official payroll to lessen the tax.” That’s just one side of any conversation on this, though: MLB might have tried to get rid of it, and are within their rights to given that circumventing the threshold goes against the collective bargaining agreement, but what are the chances that the Players Association would have allowed them to do so, and what are the chances MLB would have successfully erased the deal when challenged on it?

My guess is “not good,” and Ken Rosenthal’s own reporting echoes that:

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Super long free agent contracts are fine, actually

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It’s pretty difficult to envision where Major League Baseball is going to be 11 or 13 years from now, and yet, there’s been quite a bit of gnashing of teeth over contracts handed out to shortstops Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Carlos Correa this offseason. Turner’s 11-year, $300 million deal will end after the 2034 season, when he’s 41 years old. Bogaerts’ 11-year pact, which will pay him $280 million, wraps the same year, also when he’s 41. Correa’s is longer and for more total money, at 13 years and $350 million, but he’s also younger than the other two, meaning he’ll “just” be 41 when the contract ends in 2036.

We’re used to saying something like “it’s just money” when it comes to signing stars to long-term deals. They cost money, even when MLB’s owners are doing their damndest to make sure pay as a whole stays down: the stars and best players at the premium positions still get paid, even when the middle class is slowly crushed under a free agency system that has toppled over them. The thing we need to get used to saying is “it’s just years.” Turner, Bogaerts, and Correa are all signed into the middle of next decade, and their contracts will end when they’re 41, if they even last that long. Because of the length of the deals, the average annual value of the contracts — i.e. how much they count against the soft cap of the luxury tax threshold and what they are costing these teams in present-day dollars each year — is lower. Turner’s deal comes in at an AAV of just over $27 million. Bogaerts’ contract, about $25.5 million per, and Correa’s, just under $27 million.

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MLB investigating Mets, Yankees over Aaron Judge free agency story

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Major League Baseball is investigating whether or not “improper communication” occurred between the Yankees and the Mets regarding the free agency of slugger Aaron Judge, at the behest of the Players Association. The source of all of this was a story by Andy Martino, published on November 3, that discussed how Hal Steinbrenner and Steve Cohen had a “mutually beneficial” relationship, and therefore the Mets would not attempt to pry Judge away from the Yankees:

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Dusty Baker, James Click, and Jim Crane’s cruel efficiency

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Jeff Luhnow might not be with the Astros any longer, and hasn’t been for a few years, but the culture he fostered certainly still exists in some form. No, no, I’m not talking about the cheating scandal — you can put down those pitchforks and alt accounts, Astros fans — but instead the central conceit of the Luhnow-era team: everyone and everything is a tool to be used until it can be thrown away. The fast-acting poison that is McKinsey’s obsession with efficiency and dehumanization has not vanished from Houston, just because the man who introduced it has.

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Mailbag: Under the radar minor-league CBA issues

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Mailbag! If you have a mailbag question you’d like to see answered, either respond to this newsletter email, or hit me up on @Marc_Normandin on Twitter. Here goes.

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