The Pirates don’t want draft picks, they want to manipulate service time

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​On Tuesday, the Pirates announced that top prospect Oneil Cruz would be optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis to start the season, rather than breaking camp with the big-league club. This despite Cruz’s brief stint in the majors last season, in which he hit a homer and collected three hits overall in nine at-bats, and, more importantly, despite his playing well enough at Double-A last summer to earn a promotion to Triple-A, where he hit five homers in six games with a line of .524/.655/1.286 before getting the call to the bigs at year’s end.

Sure, the samples are small, but Cruz has legitimate power, and should be able to hold his own at shortstop despite the concerns about his size — as has been noted all around, Cruz, at 6-foot-7 and 210 lbs., would easily be the largest shortstop you’ve ever seen. Baseball Prospectus rated him the number one prospect in the Pirates’ system earlier this year:

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A’s price hike reminder tickets aren’t related to payroll

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During the lockout, if you looked in the Twitter mentions of any major MLB reporter pushing out updates on the negotiations between the league and the union, you would find fans complaining about how the players were greedy and it was going to cost families more to go to a baseball game because of them. This is simply not true: ticket prices and player salaries aren’t connected, even if they have both grown next to each other for some time now. And our most recent reminder of this fact is the way the Oakland A’s are currently operating: by selling off much of what isn’t nailed down to other teams, and then raising ticket prices for the 2022 season, anyway.

SF Gate’s Alex Espinoza wrote a story on this earlier in the week:

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Bernie Sanders threatened MLB’s antitrust exemption, and an old task force better support that

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A little over one year ago, I wrote about how it’s too late for the United States Congress to save Minor League Baseball like some of its members had hoped to prior to MLB’s disaffiliation of dozens of teams, but that there was still time to punish the league for their monopolistic actions. The punishment that would work best was and is the removal of MLB’s antitrust exemption, the existence of which allowed them to get away with shrinking the minors without anything stopping them from doing so in the first place.

While there was basically silence on the issue coming from Congress from the time I wrote that last February until now… well, now is a little different, because Senator Bernie Sanders is making the removal of MLB’s antitrust exemption a priority. Legislation has been introduced, and as Sanders explained on HBO’s Real Sports, it’s not just because of MLB’s removal of 40 minor-league clubs, but also the owner-imposed lockout that was clearly designed to just break the union and gain further control and power over the players.

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MLB would definitely shrink the minors again

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In reaction to the news that Major League Baseball has already been found to owe damages to minor-league players thanks to the class action Senne v. MLB suit, Maury Brown reported that we could see more MiLB clubs “dissolve” as a result of these increased costs:

In total, the increased cost with the minor leagues has raised concerns – both within MLB, and with some minor league owners – that additional contraction of minor league teams might take place when the current agreement between MLB and MiLB expires.

In speaking to several minor league owners, and sources within Major League Baseball, the idea that the number of affiliated teams could drop further is not being denied. When pressed in a meeting between minor league owners and MLB as to whether the number of teams could drop when the current agreement expires in 2030, Major League Baseball would not commit to it.

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Minor leaguers secure another win in Senne v. MLB

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The class action lawsuit, Senne v. MLB, has yet to actually go to trial — that won’t happen until June 1 — but the Senne side representing minor-league players and fighting for back pay has already racked up a few wins against the league. They won class action status in the first place in August of 2019, and had it upheld on appeal, too, in both the Ninth Circuit and Supreme Court. The latest W comes by way of a federal judge who declared that minor-league players are year-round employees, and are owed damages for not being classified that way in the past.

The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reported the news on Tuesday night, and included info on Judge Joseph Spero’s decision:

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If MLB’s owners wanted a deal, they have a funny way of showing it

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It should have been obvious that Major League Baseball and the Players Association were not close to a deal on Monday night. Still, though, fans can hardly be blamed for letting their optimism be abused by league sources and overly credulous media members; after all, they just wanted to watch some baseball when they expected to be able to watch some baseball, and belief that a deal was imminent helped to keep that particular dream alive.

The league leaned on their favorite reliable mouthpieces and also the likes of Bob Nightengale, who has, let’s say, something of a reputation for hurrying information out on Twitter without vetting it as much as it should be, in a way that isn’t necessarily reflected in his longer form published work, in order to inflate this sense that a deal was imminent — the idea, as was more plainly revealed the next afternoon, was that the league wanted to be able to act as if a deal was close until the players decided to instead face God and walk backwards into hell.

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Understanding 1994, the owners’ leverage, and a shift in media tone

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The benefit of assuming that there would be no deal by the time MLB’s self-imposed bargaining deadline passed is that, now that there is officially no deal and the first two series of the 2022 season have been canceled, there is less catching up to do around these parts than elsewhere. The downside to that level of preparedness is that “where to begin?” in a post-cancelation world is a much more open question: we’ve got much to think about.

Let’s start simple: by recapping a bit. On Monday, Baseball Prospectus ran a feature of mine titled “1994 Explains What ‘Labor Peace’ Never Could,” with the idea behind it being that the owners’ goals in 1994, and how those goals ended up playing out, are far more instructive to us in the present than the decades of “labor peace” are. You can’t think about what’s happening now in terms of how CBAs were negotiated in 2016, or 2011, or even in the aughts. The owners have a goal here, and it’s to crush the union. That, to them, is the goal. It’s the only “fair” outcome in their minds, and anything less is worth sacrificing season to avoid.

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It seems unlikely the 2022 MLB season will be 162 games long

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Let’s rewind for a second, to one week ago. Last Friday, I wrote about how the Players Association had issued an ultimatum to MLB, saying there would be no expanded postseason in 2022 without a full 162-game schedule and full payment for those games. The conclusion:

The union is saying, loud and clear, that they want to play 162 games. Whether they want to play them because they want their full salaries isn’t quite immaterial, but it’s not the most significant point to draw from the declaration. The union is separating itself even further from the idea that it has anything to do with the threat that the season will not start on time. We’ll see if it’s all as convincing and/or panic-inducing to the league as the “when and where” strategy of 2020 was, but for now, we do know that there are plans to potentially meet for bargaining every day next week in order to sort things out before MLB’s imposed “the season won’t start on time if we come to an agreement after this” date of February 28.

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Rob Manfred said some unbelievable stuff hoping you’d believe it

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On Thursday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the media following the quarterly meeting of the league’s owners. There… well, he said a lot of Manfred things, but none more Manfred than his declaration that owning an MLB team is a worse form of investing than the stock market. I don’t want to tackle how that looks from a Business Point of View, because it’s the kind of lie the wealthy who own sports teams want to be told in order to let them continue to operate in this exclusive, money-printing club with little questioning of where their money comes from, but I do want to discuss why we should consider this a lie in the first place.

I’m not even talking about an in-depth look at whether the numbers provided by the investment banker hired by MLB to tell the league they’re all good boys and girls who have been mistreated by the wicked press and players ring true or not. Just like, look at MLB’s history when it comes to how they talk about money, and how they hide how good the owners actually have it, and extrapolate from there.

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Mailbag: What is the players’ leverage in bargaining?

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As we’re in the midst of a lockout, there are surely questions that need to be answered about the state of labor negotiations and the processes involved. I’m happy to answer what I can, so please, if you have something in mind, ask away: you can send me an email at marcnormandin at gmail, respond to this newsletter email if that’s the format you’re reading it in, or ping me on Twitter.

Today’s question comes from @ERolfPleiss on Twitter:

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