55 years ago, Marvin Miller became MLBPA Executive Director

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March 5 is a pretty nifty day in baseball history — really, sports history — if you’re into labor at all. And you’re here reading this newsletter, so unless you’re one of those sad people who hate reads in between posting comments where the cringiest part always comes after the “however,” you’re probably into the labor aspect of things. Anyway, March 5, 1966: that’s when Marvin Miller was elected to be the first official Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Miller wasn’t the first choice of the players: that would be Judge Robert Cannon, who, despite his desire to be the commissioner of MLB and his willingness to do what the owners wanted, despite his advice to the players being to “make no demands, no public statements,” remained popular with the players. As his SABR bio points out, Cannon never even broached the subject of raising the minimum salary for players during his time as their legal advisor. He did not care about what the players wanted, nor did he ask. Cannon thought the players were lucky to work in the industry they did, and that what the owners gave them was what was right, so, from his point of view, his advice was to not blow that situation.

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The entire MiLB season is delayed, and MLB should still pay the players

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There will be a Minor League Baseball season in 2021, unlike in 2020. (At least, that’s the plan, anyway: who knows what fresh horrors await us this year.) It won’t start until May, which we already knew for the levels below Triple-A: now, though, the Triple-A season is also going to get a late start, as it’s been pushed back another month.

The idea is that many of those players are already going to be in spring training, and others will end up in the returning alternate sites, where they will be, in theory, safer from coronavirus or spreading coronavirus than they would be with the kind of freedom just being on a minor-league team would bring. The idea is also that MLB couldn’t get the Players Association to agree to delaying the start of MLB’s season into May, but they have complete control over the minors, and can make them start when they wish. May means a better chance for fans in attendance with less potential to spread coronavirus since that many more vaccines will have been distributed by that point, and more fans means more money.

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Gerrit Cole, Zack Britton shed light on union priorities

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With the question of how long the 2021 season is going to be now well behind the players, they can, as a unit, turn toward the concerns of the 2022 season, and beyond. The current collective bargaining agreement is in its final season, and we’ve already seen the kinds of concerns the management side is expected to focus on. Even before the pandemic, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that they would not be making economic concessions in order to get labor peace, and team owners and executives spent 2020 leaking about how much a shortened regular season was going to impact their ability to address any of the changes players would be looking for in the next negotiations.

The playes have been a lot quieter about CBA-related items, but with the last spring training before the agreement expires kicking off, we’re starting to see some discussion of what the union might be interested in. SNY’s Andy Martino shared details from press conferences with Yankees’ pitchers Zack Britton and Gerrit Cole, both of whom are on the PA’s Executive Subcommittee, on the subject of labor-related concerns they have.

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The Fernando Tatis Jr. extension feels wrong, but that’s what’s great about it

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The Padres signed young star Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 14-year, $340 million extension this week, and it is a fascinating deal on a number of levels. For one, Mookie Betts, who, as one of the absolute best players in the game, would have been the jewel of this winter’s free agent class, inked a 12-year, $365 million contract extension with the Dodgers just last season. Tatis, on the other hand, has a single season’s worth of MLB games under his belt, and will be just 22 years old during the 2021 campaign. And yet, they have two very similar deals despite the major difference in service time and experience, with only Mike Trout’s 12-year, $430 million deal topping what these two will earn.

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No expanded MLB postseason in 2021, but what about 2022?

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There will not be an expanded postseason to conclude MLB’s 2021 campaign. We know this for a fact at this point, since the health and safety protocols for the upcoming season declared as much, but the league certainly tried to make it otherwise for a while there. A few proposals were sent to the Players Association in an attempt to reopen bargaining on the issue, to no avail.

We cannot conclude from this, though, that there will not be an expanded postseason going forward. All we know for sure is that the postseason this year will look like it did back in 2019, that the 2020 expansion was, for now, simply a way to recoup some revenues that would not otherwise be collected in a shortened, fan-less regular season. In the long run, though, 2020 could serve as an experiment and framework for a more permanent expansion of the postseason. And we’ll know if that’s the case sooner than later, too.

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Why MLB won’t mandate coronavirus vaccines

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The health and safety protocols for the 2021 MLB season were unveiled on Tuesday, and much of the focus was on the lack of expanded postseason or universal DH, since those impact the shape of the season itself. What caught my eye, though, was that MLB would not mandate coronavirus vaccinations for players, and instead, the league and the union would strongly encourage players to get vaccinated. That seems like a policy that doesn’t go quite far enough, no?

It might be about as far as the two sides can get with the limited time frame they were working with to get the season’s protocols in order, though. MLB cannot force players to be vaccinated. Well, scratch that: MLB can force players to be vaccinated, but then they will face legal repercussions for enacting that kind of policy on their own. More specifically, they could subject themselves to an unfair labor practice claim by doing so, according to a labor and employment lawyer, Thomas Lenz, whom the Los Angeles Times spoke to back in November.

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The MLBPA was not required to negotiate the start of the 2021 season

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As of now, the focus is on Major League Baseball and the Players Association figuring out when the 2021 season is going to begin. “Figuring out” in the sense that MLB keeps sending over proposals that the PA rejects and does not counter, because they are under no obligation to do so, anyway. Still, though, that’s where all of the energy on the relations between the two sides is at the moment, which, once the season actually does begin, will lead into the actual collective bargaining talks of 2021: the current CBA expires in December, and the two sides will need a new one in time for a 2022 season.

Not enough of MLB media seems to understand just what the league was trying to do by submitting proposals on a later start date with adjustments to pay, proposals for the expanded postseason and a universal DH and so on. The two sides were not bargaining: MLB was attempting to reopen negotiations on subjects that did not require negotiations, and if the PA started sending over counters, then that would be the same as the union agreeing that the subject was open to negotiations instead of settled. Jon Heyman is far from the only media member to tweet on the subject or bemoan the lack of cooperation from the two sides on these “negotiations,” but as he had a particular wrinkle in his messaging that stood out, he’s going to be singled out here. Just consider that this isn’t about Heyman so much as MLB media in general, though:

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Nolan Arenado was never going to finish his extension with the Rockies

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In a masterclass of a cowardly news dump, the Rockies traded their star player, Nolan Arenado, late on Friday night. Arenado leaving the Rockies was always inevitable, even as he signed an eight-year extension for $260 million back before the 2019 season. The deal had an opt-out, for one, and it became clear in a hurry that the opt-out was meant to be used. And not because Arenado planned on using it, either. Let’s rewind to October 2019. Or fast-forward to then, I guess. Whatever, time is a human construct, here’s me back in that October:

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MLB reportedly pressured the Cactus League to request spring training delay

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You might have seen the news that the Cactus League told Major League Baseball that it would like to delay the start of spring training in Arizona by 30 days, due to the high infection rate of coronavirus in Maricopa County. This news broke on Monday, and on Tuesday, a different bit of news surrounding the letter was unveiled: MLB reportedly encouraged the Cactus League to send this letter, because MLB could then turn around and use it against the Players Association in order to delay spring training, and then, in turn, the regular season.

The Athletic’s Alex Coffey spoke to a very forthcoming source reportedly involved in a Zoom call earlier this month, between Cactus League and MLB officials:

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MiLB players, pandemic assistance, and a $15 minimum wage

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A new president, a new White House administration, and a Senate that could actually pass some Democratic party laws without being blocked by the Republicans on everything means we might actually see, well, some of that. Of course, this new era is also opening up with Joe Biden et al trying to tell you that they always meant $1,400 checks when they said $2,000 checks, and that they plan on reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans instead of just leveraging the power they’ve been entrusted with by voters to forcibly slap some bandages over a country that has no hope of stopping the bleeding, but hey. Optimism, or something.

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