Please stop blaming MLB’s players for the owners locking them out

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The Players Association and Major League Baseball are meeting on Monday for the second time post-lockout, with the former being the one to call this bargaining session in order to make a counter proposal to MLB’s from earlier in January. The first meeting of the new year and the lockout gave us an idea of where MLB is at this point — they are pretty clearly waiting around for the players to get antsy and cave as spring training and the regular season approach, hence their lack of movement and seemingly purposeful wasting of everyone else’s time with their last set of proposals — so now we get a chance to see if the players are even a little bit in the mood the league is hoping for, or if they’re also willing to stand by their previous proposals. Or at least the spirit of them, which was about furthering player choice while tweaking the models that already exist to remove loopholes, cut down on exploitation, etc.

We’ve got a real “both sides” thing going on here, as was discussed here on Friday in relation to Jomboy and Jomboy Media’s whole deal on Twitter, but the independent outlet and namesake is far from the only one working on this sort of thing. Bernie Pleskoff, who writes for Forbes and used to be a scout for the Mariners and the Astros, took some time this weekend to very publicly misunderstand everything going on in bargaining in order to throw down his own “both sides” complaint.

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It is unreasonable to say the MLBPA’s proposals are unreasonable

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I have seen this odd reaction of late — in my Twitter mentions, in the comments to some of my work, in other peoples’ tweets I do not feel like engaging with — that the Players Association’s economic proposals are unreasonable. This, of course, lends credence to the idea that the players are in some part responsible for the owners locking them out, which they are not. It’s worth breaking down this idea of unreasonableness, though, if for no other reason than it will give me something to link to whenever this idea pops up.

Jomboy Media tweeted out a video the other day both sidesing the current lockout, and said tweet included the text, “It’s possible we lose a full month of the MLB season because of the lockout, and it’s incredibly dumb that the league and players allowed this to happen while the sport’s popularity was growing at such a good pace”. Now, Jomboy Media is relatively new, but they are growing, and have an audience: the main account I linked to there has over 125,000 Twitter followers, which isn’t nothing, and the personal account of Jomboy himself has over 400,000 followers — more than SB Nation’s general Twitter account, if you need some context. He used that space to spread misinformation about how player representation even works in bargaining and within the union, and considering his outreach… that’s a problem!

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This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball

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“This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.” For years, this statement, or at least some form of it, followed stories published at MLB’s website. It is technically correct legalese, which as you know is the best kind of correct in that arena: sure, the stories published at MLB.com were not making their way to the desk of the commissioner’s office before their publication, but you can bet that the approval of that office mattered for whether the author would get to publish anymore stories in the future.

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The year in creating sports coverage, featuring leftism

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The end of 2021 approaches, which means another year of this labor-focused newsletter has wrapped up. It was an eventful year, for both major- and minor-league players, and the goal of this particular column, as always, is to remind you of the year that was. Let’s get right to it — each paragraph represents a month, and I’ll highlight a few pieces from all 12 of them.

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On negotiating a potential expanded MLB postseason

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The MLB Players Association is correct to not give in to the owners’ idea of an economic proposal, but at some point, they’re going to need to concede some ground on the areas the league really cares about in order to bring about the kind of changes they want on their side of things. This isn’t meant to say, “hey, union, hurry it up!” or anything — take your time, guys, get that best version of a CBA no matter how long it takes — but more as a warning that some version of an expanded postseason is likely on the way.

The owners, obviously, want an expanded postseason. They want it for two reasons. The first is that more postseason rounds and games means larger (and maybe even more) national television contracts to broadcast postseason games. The second is that teams can make it to the postseason more often without actually trying to, which will help combat the idea that a significant chunk of the league regularly isn’t putting in anything close to their best effort, or any effort at all. After all, they just made the postseason!

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Names and cultures have changed, but the Tomahawk Chop persists

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The Atlanta Braves are in the 2021 World Series, which means the Tomahawk Chop is also going to be in the 2021 World Series. Atlanta was briefly forced to confront the racist chant back in the 2019 postseason, but the lack of fans at games in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic gave them an opportunity to bury all of that talk of potential change, and now here we are. The Washington Football Team is a thing, the Kansas City Chiefs have enacted some protocols to combat the culture of racism in their fan base, and the Cleveland Guardians will officially replace the Cleveland Indians in 2022, but the Braves? They are still the Braves, and they are still chopping.

Let’s go back to 2019 for a moment. It was then that Cardinals’ reliever Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee Nation, spoke out against Atlanta’s use of the chop. The Braves’ response was… lacking:

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Maybe things are changing in the MiLB labor landscape

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It feels like we’re close to something in the Minor League Baseball labor movement, no? Maybe that’s just my optimism for a better future for those players talking, but there is a reason I’m as optimistic about it as I’ve been of late. That’s not to say I think it’s inevitable, but where in the past I’ve thought, “yes, it’s technically possible for organization and unionization in MiLB,” it’s starting to feel like it’s a thing that could actually happen at some point.

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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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