Please don’t try to rehabilitate Jeff Luhnow

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Listen, I understand what the New York Post’s Joel Sherman was going for in a recent piece on the Astros, I really do. He tried to couch it all, and repeatedly, in language that protected him from saying the sign-stealing the Astros performed in 2017 was acceptable. His goal was instead to point out that what Jeff Luhnow built was more than a team that stole signs through an elaborate ploy involving technology en route to a World Series championship. And that’s true! Jeff Luhnow, as general manager of the Astros, did help build a team that continues to be competitive to this day, even two years removed from his direct influence at the top of baseball operations.

Here’s Sherman on Luhnow:

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Thom Brennaman is not owed an MLB broadcasting job

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​Thom Brennaman doesn’t inherently deserve to be a broadcaster for a Major League Baseball team. That is both the long and short of the matter, but I guess we can go longer than that, too. If he is truly putting in work to make up for his hot mic usage of a homophobic slur last summer by joining the board of a children’s home that specializes in taking in kids thrown out of their home for being gay, then that’s great! I’m certainly not going to argue that point, and I’ll grant him at least a little benefit of the doubt here, that he feels some remorse about the whole situation beyond “it cost me my job and that’s bad.” Actually embedding himself a bit here in the community he offended is a good way to change the mindset Brennaman had that allowed him to so casually — and with obvious familiarity — throw out an anti-gay slur when he thought his mic was off.

However, none of this means he deserves to go back to being an MLB broadcaster. There are just 30 full-time play-by-play and color commentator jobs each, plus a handful of national broadcasting gigs. Why does Brennaman deserve one of those slots? He didn’t necessarily deserve one even before he got himself in trouble with his actions: the Brennaman broadcasting pipeline isn’t like the Buck one, in that Thom isn’t his dad nor is he Joe Buck, and yet, he was an announcer in multiple sports, with a grip on one of the few full-time jobs that exist in the market at the highest level.

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Be mindful of why you’re seeing leaks from MLB collective bargaining

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As more news of the ongoing collective bargaining between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association comes out, it’s important to remember that the news itself is part of the negotiation process. Leaks come out about salary negotiations and free agent discussions every winter with specific intent, not just so fans have something to pass the time with, and the talks between MLB and its players are no different.

A central part of two of my more recent Baseball Prospectus features touched on this: both were reactions to reported leaks from this year’s collective bargaining, and were I a betting man, I’d wager that both leaks came from MLB’s side. For one, the PA actively attempts to avoid leaks — remember just last year, when the PA only entered into the negotiation leaking game to put a stop to MLB’s tidal wave of negative info dumping? That’s how they operate, keeping the negotiations private as intended until they’re pushed to a point where doing so is no longer tactically sound. MLB, on the other hand, is constantly waging a public relations battle and thinking a number of moves ahead; ergo, they leak just enough to further whatever their goal happens to be. And second, both pieces of reporting assumed the reaction from the players’ side, without even an anonymous quote to go on. If one side isn’t talking, or isn’t giving you anything on the record, that’s what you’re going to have to do.

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(Curt) Flood the Hall

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Marvin Miller is now officially in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and your mileage may vary on how happy his extremely — extremely — belated induction to that institution made you. One thing I think we could all agree on, though, is that Curt Flood deserves to be in Cooperstown, too: and yet, he is not. Flood, who fought against Major League Baseball’s reserve clause to the detriment of his own career, was a labor pioneer for the sport, and his role in helping to establish free agency in MLB cannot be overstated even if he didn’t get to experience its benefits for himself. Continue reading “(Curt) Flood the Hall”

Someone should do something about all of the payroll disparity

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USA Today published an opinion piece by reporter Bob Nightengale on Tuesday, titled “MLB’s payroll disparity has become laughable, threatening the integrity of sport.” Don’t worry, it’s not a screed bemoaning the spending of the Dodgers, the team that is heavily featured in the intro to the piece. Nightengale is pointing out how much the Dodgers spend (a lot) as well as some other heavy spenders, in order to contrast them with all of the teams spending under $100 million, in some cases, much, much less than that.

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The question isn’t ‘Can the Angels keep Ohtani?’ but ‘Will they?’

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Buster Olney’s latest for ESPN (Insider subscription required) asks the question, “Can the Angels keep Shohei Ohtani?” with the implication from the second part of the headline “A payroll crisis looms in Los Angeles” being that the question is really “Can the Angels afford to keep Shohei Ohtani?” Yes. Yes they can. Alright, see you all next week.

OK fine let’s get into this.

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Advocating for minor leaguers works

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​When Advocates for Minor Leaguers formed back in early 2020, the idea was to give minor-league baseball players a voice. Fear for job security, fear of having no one in their corner, fear of retribution: all of these have kept minor leaguers silent, even in the face of horrible living conditions, working conditions, and exploitation. What Advocates for Minor Leaguers hoped to do, then, was give these players an outlet with which to share their issues with the public, anonymously if needed, and let pressure mount from there to force change to occur.

It’s been successful thus far, with issues large and larger pointed out by Advocates for Minor Leaguers across the last year-plus, the latest of which is the lack of pay for players in extended spring training. As of less than one week ago, just over one-third of the league bothered to pay players in extended spring training: that’s right, loads of minor-league players who just went through spring training unpaid but didn’t get assigned to a full-season squad are continuing to play and work daily on the diamond, but for free.

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Some voters want to revoke their Hall of Fame votes for Curt Schilling

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I wasn’t planning on writing about this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame vote results in this space, but then, something wonderful happened: some voters reportedly reached out to Cooperstown in the hopes of having their ballots changed so that they no longer were voting for Curt Schilling. The last straw, as it were, via Matt Spiegel, came because Schilling supported those storming the Capitol back on January 6:

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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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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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