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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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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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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You still can’t trust MLB, because they still don’t deserve trust

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It turns out that MLB used two different baseballs during the 2021 season, and didn’t tell, well, anyone about that decision. You can and should read the entire piece on the issue written by Bradford William Davis, but I don’t want to simply reiterate what was said within here. No, instead, this thing everyone is talking about is going to be used as a hook to discuss something else everyone is talking about. I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the curtain of the writing process.

The point we need to take from Davis’ piece, for our purposes here, anyway, is that MLB remains completely untrustworthy, and undeserving of trust, as well. That’s not a new concept, of course, but the timing of a reminder could not be better, considering we’re mere hours away from the start of a lockout of the players that doesn’t need to even happen once the current collective bargaining agreement expires, but will happen just the same. How are you supposed to believe MLB is competent, or acting in good faith, or any other positive you can ascribe to them in bargaining when they seemingly go out of their way to act in the worst possible ways? Or, if they aren’t purposefully lying and hiding the truth of things and so on, are so incompetent about how they go about their business that you can’t tell the difference in the results, anyway?

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Round-up: The Chop, Commissioners, MLB for cord cutters

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I wrote about the failure that is the Tomahawk Chop making its way to the 2021 World Series back on Monday, but I certainly have not been alone this week in publishing pieces on the subject. Rob Manfred opened his mouth before Game 1 to let some bullshit spill out, about how MLB’s teams only market themselves regionally, and therefore no one outside of Georgia should be concerned with the chop, but also, Native Americans everywhere definitely support the chop; that certainly gave some folks an angle to work with.

Clinton Yates was one of those people, for The Undefeated, in a piece headlined, “Manfred misses the mark with Braves.” The focus here is on how the chop and MLB’s insistence that this is all progress and everyone who needs to be fine with the chop is fine with it is simply an extension of white supremacy. Yates also spoke with Natalie Welch, who participated in the video MLB and the Braves are now touting as proof that the chop has the seal of approval of Native Americans:

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In CBA talks, all that matters is what’s said behind closed doors

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My latest for Baseball Prospectus took a look at the growing whispers around the ongoing collective bargaining occurring between Major League Baseball and the Players Association. It’s behind BP’s paywall for subscribers, but I can give you the gist of it and a quote before we dive in a little further:

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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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On the proposed MLB salary floor and messaging

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Surprised that MLB’s owners proposed a salary floor all on their own during the current collective bargaining sessions with the Players Association? I was a little taken aback, too, but as I wrote on Friday for Baseball Prospectus, just because the owners proposed a salary floor doesn’t mean they actually want one. What they do want is for you — fans, media, etc. — to believe that they do want one, and that it’s necessary. Which it is, of course, but not in the way MLB is proposing.

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Cleveland’s MLB team finally picked a new name

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​Back in December of 2020, it was finally announced that the Cleveland Indians would eventually be known as the Cleveland… something else. The name was yet to be worked out, but we were all assured that the organization had finally taken that next step and decided to drop the old moniker that had fostered a racist culture around the team, one that used the excuse of “honoring” Native Americans as justification for its existence.

Now, we finally know what that new name is. It will take until 2022 for Cleveland to actually make the switch to become the Cleveland Guardians — sure, it’s not feasible for them to make a dramatic, mid-season wardrobe and name change, but it’s hard to argue that it wouldn’t have been fun to see them try it — but it’s happening. There’s a new logo and people from outside of Cleveland complaining that the name isn’t good enough for them and everything. I’ll let Scott Hines handle that particular angle, other than saying that more sports team names should be inspired by Lord of the Rings-ass statues that exist in real life, even if it means we need to build more statues like that now to prepare us for future name changes.

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A’s minor leaguers can’t afford to play home games

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Back in June, I wrote about how Cardinals’ minor leaguers were struggling to pay for their hotels during home games — that they were spending more than they were making on homestands, even while staying at a discounted hotel. It certainly was not a situation unique to those Cardinals’ farmhands, just given the math involved in paying for a hotel for home games while making a salary well below the poverty line, but St. Louis’ minor leaguers were one of the first to speak out anonymously and with a team-level identifier attached.

Now, some Oakland A’s minor leaguers are saying the same thing is happening to them. Alex Schultz at the SFGATE wrote about how A’s minor leaguers playing for Single-A Stockton can’t afford to pay for a hotel during home games, even though the A’s got a bulk discount at one. The situation is the same as it was for the Cardinals’ players highlighted in June: thanks to coronavirus protocols during the pandemic, not being able to stay with host families, or stuff six of themselves into a three-bedroom apartment to rent at a severe discount, is sucking up what little pay the players usually manage to take home.

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