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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Please don’t rush to defend the Nazi salute coach

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​Well, I didn’t expect to be writing about seeing a Nazi salute performed by the coach of a Major League Baseball team in 2020, but I guess that’s my fault for not taking this year seriously enough.

Now, let’s begin by saying that A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson probably isn’t actually a Nazi. Keep an eye on him and his social media posts for a while to be sure, but maybe there’s nothing there in that regard. His explanation was released in a statement the A’s put out, and it doesn’t make much sense, but at least he owned up to making the gesture:

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Get Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ name off of the MVP trophy

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It certainly wouldn’t solve racism, but Major League Baseball needs to get Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ name off of their Most Valuable Player trophies. Just ask a number of former MVPs, both Black and white, as the Associated Press’ Ben Walker recently did:

Fact is, few fans realize Landis’ name is plastered all over the Most Valuable Player trophies. Most people just call it the MVP.

But there it is, prominently displayed on every American League and NL MVP plaque since 1944 — Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award, in shiny, gold letters literally twice as big as those of the winner.

With a sizable imprint of Landis’ face, too.

To some MVPs, it’s time for that 75-year run to end.

Maybe you aren’t familiar with Landis and his history. The short explanation is that MLB should not be able to celebrate both Landis, the first-ever commissioner of the game, and Jackie Robinson, who was the first Black man to play in what would become MLB since the previous century, because they… let’s say, as baseball historian John Thorn did, were diametrically opposed.

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Please stop both-sidesing the MLB labor battle

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With MLB commissioner Rob Manfred now saying he can’t 100 percent guarantee that there will be Major League Baseball games played in 2020, we’re about to witness a flood of “if only the two sides, equally at fault, would work together” sentiments. This was a take I was marinating even before Buster Olney woke up this morning and decided to both-sides what have very clearly been bad faith negotiations by the league:

Olney, at this point, is either willfully ignorant of reality, or incapable of comprehending what’s going on. It doesn’t matter which it is: the material damage is the same.

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Debt service, and MLB’s obfuscation racket

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Major League Baseball is concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic, and the drop in revenues that will come with a shortened 2020 season, is going to make it more difficult for teams to pay off their debt. You might be familiar with the debt service rule in MLB: it arose from the collective bargaining of 2002, and was an attempt to make sure that teams actually had the money to pay their bills by limiting their debt to 10 times their annual earnings. You might also not be familiar with it at all, because it’s barely ever mentioned by the teams or the media, and even now it being brought up is more a negotiating ploy than a real thing to be concerned about.

Keeping in line with the debt service rule isn’t something that’s going to get teams in trouble with some financial authority like a bank: it’s just an internal MLB thing that’s meant to keep teams from promising to be able to pay more than they’ll be able to. And yet, despite the institution of this rule in 2002, nine clubs were in violation of the debt service rule in 2011. MLB didn’t go after most of those teams: they did go after the Dodgers for violating the debt service rule, though, that was because everyone wanted Frank McCourt to get kicked out of the league. The Mets were in violation at the same time, thanks to the Wilpons’ involvement with Bernie Madoff, but they were allowed to keep their team, because then-commissioner Bud Selig and the rest of the owners didn’t despise the Wilpons like they did McCourt.

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Paying MLB’s stadium workers during COVID-19 suspension isn’t ‘complicated’

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Major League Baseball would like you to know something: paying stadium workers during the postponement of the 2020 regular season is going to be “complicated.” How do we know this? Because that’s what was reported on Sunday by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal:

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The Red Sox are lying about Mookie Betts, and the media is helping them do it

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The world is burning, and athletes are silent

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Australia is on fire. Like California in the United States, bush fires during the hotter months are a common occurrence, but climate change has fanned those flames, and they just keep burning. Huge swaths of lands are now devastated and dead, as is whatever lived there, be they plants, insects, marsupial, or even people. It’s horrifying on a number of levels, and the kind of thing that isn’t going to just get better by ignoring it or sending well wishes.

It’s through this lens that you need to read Howard Bryant’s latest at ESPN, in which he takes tennis players — and athletes in general — to task for the way they handle political crises:

Appropriate or not, the narrative has been typecast to return us to normalcy, with athletes’ on-field strength infusing us, teams and players arm-in-arm with law enforcement, mayors and governors. They are the ambassadors whose very presence tells you we will rebuild, that everything will be all right.

While the fires decimate the country and players voice their concerns that conditions are unsafe and perhaps the tournament should be postponed, Tennis Australia, the governing body of the sport in the country, has said little of substance to address the effects of the fires on player safety, or the ethics and morality of hosting a multimillion-dollar spectacle as the country literally burns. Health officials have graded the air quality as “unhealthy.” Even through the smoke, it appears the show must go on.

The superstars, knowing their place despite the growing voices of dissent within their own ranks, assured tennis authorities and the public at large they could still be counted on, that they would trust authority instead of challenge it.

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