Kevin Mather resigned, but the structural and cultural issues of MLB remain

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​Back when general manager Jeff Luhnow was fired by the Astros for his role in the sign-stealing scandal, I wrote a piece for Baseball Prospectus titled “Jeff Luhnow is gone. Jeff Luhnow is everywhere you look.” The idea was that, while Luhnow, physically, was no longer a part of the Astros or Major League Baseball, from an ideological point of view, his influence was spread far and wide. Getting rid of the man was not the same as getting rid of his ideas, and less than a year later, the minors shrunk and efficiency was put even more at the forefront of the league, just as Luhnow and his former acolytes had been angling for.

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It’s too late to save Minor League Baseball, but it’s not too late to punish MLB

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Major League Baseball is moving right along with their plan to disaffiliate around one-quarter of Minor League Baseball’s teams. Last week, they announced the new league names — basically placeholder descriptors before we end up with the Class-A Waffle House League or whatever — and which ones the remaining clubs now find themselves in after reorganization. No real opposition to the move exists — sure, fans of MiLB teams are furious, and some of those teams themselves are even suing, but there is no organized path to stopping MLB from doing whatever they want here.

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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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Kelly Loeffler might be saying goodbye to the Senate and the WNBA

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Obviously the day’s most significant news of a truly wretched person leaving their job behind centers around the White House, but there should be room in our hearts to celebrate the same happening elsewhere, too. Not only is Kelly Loeffler no longer a United States Senator once the newly elected Raphael Warnock is sworn in, but according to ESPN’s reporting, the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream are looking to sell, and that whoever buys them would also be buying up Loeffler’s share of the team.

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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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Cleveland chose to trade Francisco Lindor, they did not have to

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The Cleveland Indians finally made the trade that we’ve known was coming for years, and dealt star shortstop Francisco Lindor. That it was to the Mets is the only real surprise here, but their ownership recently changed from the Wilpons to Steve Cohen, who is looking to make splashes and reinvigorate a fan base that at this point mostly associates sports with feeling first- and second-hand embarrassment.

As you can imagine was going to happen, this is being framed in some corners as a trade that just Had To Be Made by Cleveland, because they are a poor small-market team that just can’t operate like those mean old teams in large markets that swoop in and force the little guys to trade their best players. Buster Olney, the longtime ESPN reporter who has over one million followers and plenty of TV time to boot, tweeted that Cleveland “had to dump money” in response to the trade. “Had to.” Is any proof offered for this? Of course not: that’s Olney either assuming this is the case because it’s what Cleveland has been insinuating about their finances for years, or it’s what whomever his source in Cleveland told him was the case, and Olney rolled with it instead of questioning it.

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Cleveland won’t stop selling Chief Wahoo merchandise

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There are now more (and official) details on the story first written about in this space on Monday: The Cleveland Indians will be no more, as early as the 2022 season. They will instead become the Cleveland… something else to be determined, at that point. They’ll remain the Indians for the 2021 season, though, rather than go the route of the Washington Football Club, which is a bit of a weird decision for Cleveland, since they already have a C block logo for their hats and alternate uniforms that say “Cleveland” on them in their current scripts. It wouldn’t be very hard to just go by Cleveland for a season while they figure out what the long-term name is going to be, but alas, just like with Chief Wahoo, the organization isn’t in a rush to change the thing they are willing to admit is racist.

The more worrisome point to come out of owner Paul Dolan’s announcement on the matter was actually regarding that part of Cleveland’s identity that was supposed to be dead and buried back in 2019. In 2018, when Cleveland announced that the Chief Wahoo logo would be phased out — a move that happened only because, in what was a very poorly kept secret, the organization wanted the All-Star Game and MLB wanted them to lose the logo — it was clear that they planned to continue to manufacture and sell Wahoo merchandise locally. They wouldn’t do so nationally — you couldn’t find Wahoo-branded gear on MLB.com anymore — but if you went to the stadium, or local shops, you could still find licensed gear with the awful racist caricature of a Native American on it.

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You still can’t believe what MLB says about 2020’s revenues

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A little over a month ago, I wrote a piece titled “You can’t trust MLB’s crying poor,” with the thinking being that the league’s discussion of the debt that they had accrued and the losses they suffered wasn’t in line with the reality of either situation. Part of the reason for writing that was not just to tackle the idea head-on at the moment, but also because it was necessary to understand what was happening in that moment in order to also understand what was to come.

One of those items in the “what was to come” bucket turned out to be “Bill Madden columns,” as he’s been repeating back whatever he’s told by MLB clubs about finances and debt for the last month-and-a-half. In October, he wrote that this offseason will be a “bloodbath” for MLB players in a column in which he repeated the kinds of revenue loss claims that caused me to write a rebuttal in the first place:

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