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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Considering the “success” of sports during a pandemic

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​If you’re just talking about in terms of players falling ill with coronavirus, professional sports leagues in America have done a pretty decent job of having seasons despite the presence of an ongoing pandemic. Major League Baseball had some early scares when the Marlins and Cardinals both dealt with outbreaks, but then, until Justin Turner tested positive and then decided it was fine that he got out on the field to celebrate the Dodgers winning the World Series, things were mostly uneventful on the players testing positive front for the league.

The NBA did the best out there, which should not be a shock given their season took place in a bubble, but the WNBA also deserves a nod for their own success navigating the pandemic. The NFL is a mess, but of course they are: that’s what happens when you combine the hubris of MLB with even less care given to the actual health and safety of the players.

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Peter Ueberroth doesn’t deserve the passive voice

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The Society for American Baseball Research is 50 years old, and to celebrate, they’re putting together all kinds of lists 50 entries long. One such list is the top 50 Off-Field figures in MLB history, and I just want to start things out by saying I’m very into the idea of this. Seeing Roger Angell, Claire Smith, Marvin Miller, and yes, the San Diego Chicken receive recognition in the same list is a lot of fun! There is an entry that made me double-take, though — not because of the person’s inclusion, which is absolutely merited. But because of how they were presented within it:

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WWE might have finally pushed their workers too far

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World Wrestling Entertainment has long trampled on workers’ rights without anyone in the labor movement so much as lifting a finger in opposition. Their classification of workers as independent contractors isn’t new by any means, and neither is the lack of benefits for their performers, but WWE was basically left alone to do what they wished in this regard for decades. Now, though, they might have pushed too far, as the Screen Actors Guild is finally taking notice, and promising to begin protecting WWE’s independent contractors.

What brought on this sudden change in approach? That would be the firing of Zelina Vega, real name Thea Trinidad, for her refusal to hand over the keys to her Twitch account to WWE. Per a new edict from the world’s largest wrestling company, the third-party streaming accounts hosted by services like Twitch were actually under the jurisdiction of WWE: the plan, going forward, was to control those accounts, negotiate advertising partnerships themselves, and then divvy up the money generated by those platforms between WWE and the performers themselves. This is, in short, theft, as explained earlier this year:

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Tommy Heinsohn, union man and labor agitator

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On Tuesday, former Boston Celtics’ player, coach, and longtime announcer Tommy Heinsohn passed away. He was 86, and while best-known at this point in his life for the extremely, let’s say, Celtics-friendly announcing style he employed, he was a legit basketball legend in Boston thanks to his three careers in the sport: Heinsohn is in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, one of just four individuals to accomplish that feat, and had a championship ring for all 10 fingers.

Heinsohn was also a labor agitator as a player, if you’re wondering why you’re reading about him in this particular newsletter. He was the president of the players union back in 1964, which ended up being a monumental year for the players. You see, like with the Major League Baseball Players Association, the National Basketball Players Association was a union without league recognition in its early years. They had actually formed back in 1954, but it took 10 years for the NBA to actually meet with and recognize them as a union. And this eventual recognition was managed in no small part thanks to the actions of Heinsohn himself, in his role as union president.

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Jeff Luhnow is suing the Astros, claiming he’s a scapegoat

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Former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is suing his old team as well as Major League Baseball, according to the Los Angeles Times. Luhnow has been on something of an “I’m innocent!” tour of late, with regards to whether he knew anything about the Astros’ elaborate sign-stealing operation, and all of that was likely a way to plow the road for this lawsuit.

You are probably wondering why I’m bothering to write about this instead of just laughing it off as a desperate move by Luhnow to clear his name — and I cannot tell you how much I wish I were able to do that — but there might be a nugget of truth in here somewhere. Not regarding his innocence, of course: Luhnow definitely knew something was up, I do not care how many thousands of carefully curated text messages he brags about to tell you the opposite is true. The part of Luhnow’s suit that got my attention had to do with MLB and the Astros negotiating a punishment. Per the Times:

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The MLBPA can still file a season-length grievance against MLB

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Evan Drellich published a piece at The Athletic last Friday, the focus of which was on Major League Baseball’s desire to delay the end of the current collective bargaining agreement because of the coronavirus pandemic against the MLB Players Association’s desire to… not do that. You should read the whole thing, but within was a note about the potential grievance the PA can still leverage over MLB, for putting on a 2020 season of just 60 regular season games, and that’s what I want to focus on at this time.

Here’s what Drellich had to say about it:

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You can’t trust MLB’s crying poor

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Now that the pandemic-shortened 2020 season is over, Major League Baseball has gone right back to where they were when they were negotiating the playing of a season in the first place: complaining about how expensive baseball is. Commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t even wait for the World Series to conclude before granting an exclusive interview to Sportico where he could discuss how much debt the poor owners had taken on just to give you, the fans, something to watch during the coronavirus pandemic.

Manfred claimed that MLB would post up to $3 billion in debt for the 2020 season, raising MLB’s total debt to over $8 billion. That sounds bad, just in an inherent, Billion-with-a-B sort of way, but there are quite a few qualifiers you need to consider before you contribute to MLB’s GoFundMe for a 2021 season.

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