I know, I know, it has been quite some time. My last article was the day before COVID lockdowns were enforced. Many of us can agree it has been an odd year with several distractions, difficulties etc. All of that being said, Bigdawg is back. Six days from now is the Superbowl and we are about to approach the toughest 4-8 week stretch of sports where really there is only NBA, NHL, and college hoops. However, that means pitchers and catchers are two weeks away from reporting and settling back into their routines. I myself, will also be getting back into the swing of things. Today, we are going to talk about what is going on between the MLBPA (Major League Baseball Player Association), Rob Manfred and the lovely owners.
As we know last year was sort of like a trial year in the sense that MLB had a universal DH, expanded playoffs, 7 inning double-headers and a runner starting on 2nd in extra innings. The most popular rule seemed to be the universal DH (Designated Hitter). I did not see many complaints from fans/players missing pitchers’ step in the box, after decades of National League fans opposing the DH. Overall, the universal DH seemed like the most successful rule added and many want it to be added permanently. Rob Manfred and the owners know that, and they want to use the universal DH as a bargaining chip.
The CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) is set to expire after this upcoming 2021 season. This is where the players, owners, and commissioner negotiate nearly every aspect of the working relationship between management (the clubs) and the players. Naturally, the owners who already have bad blood with the MLBPA, are going to squeeze out every penny they can, before having to revise the CBA. Knowing that most players would like the universal DH, they recently had a proposal which included: 154 game season with full pay, season delayed a month (April 28th start), expanded postseason and universal DH. The initial feeling is that players will reject this proposal for a few reasons.
First, the 154-game season does not differ much from 162 games, but MLBPA does not like the idea of having the season pushed back. Players (particularly pitchers) have routines and if those routines are interfered it can throw a player off mentally and physically. Pitchers anticipate reporting to camp to start training around February 17th. For players who have already started training this would force them to shut down for a month and then restart to get back where they were. A lot of this has to do with COVID, but MLBPA are probably wondering why they couldn’t use similar protocols like the NBA, NHL, NFL, and NCAA. Jeff Passan, writer for ESPN, states that players have concerns about a later start day because if games need to be cancelled, it allows Manfred the opportunity to cut into players salaries.
Second, the expanded postseason is just an attempt to make up for lost money from last season. Last June, Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. claimed that “MLB isn’t very profitable.” Not much sympathy was given to DeWitt Jr. who has a net worth north of 4 billion dollars, but we understand these are how most owners think. The 2020 version of playoffs had 16 playoff teams while the 2021 proposal has 14 teams. I have heard both sides on how people enjoyed the expanded playoffs because the excitement feels like a March Madness baseball tournament. On the contrary, MLB traditionalists argue that there is no reward for doing well in a 162 game regular season if more than half the teams make the dance.
The players dislike the expanded playoffs because they feel like it is an “out” for owners. Think about how satisfying it is getting into the playoffs for smaller market teams like the Rays, A’s, Brewers, and Royals. Particularly the Rays and A’s are notorious for having incredible teams while having one of the lowest payrolls in the game. Because they are frugal, players get frustrated with business models like the Rays and A’s because it seems no matter how good they are doing they refuse to make significant trades or free agent signings. We saw it again this year when the Rays parted ways with Blake Snell and others right after making the World Series. The A’s didn’t even consider re-signing fan favorite and all-star, Marcus Semien. In other words, players do not want more teams to become less inclined to spend money or make big splashes because making the playoffs is “good enough”. They want teams to “go get that cake” as Fernando Tatis Jr. would say.
To wrap up, I am so glad there will be about 100 more baseball games this year regardless of what proposal ends up getting approved. All I hope is that the MLBPA and owners can figure it out so we can watch baseball drama not owner/ player drama. I miss this game and I am still upset MLB got impacted the most out of any major sport last year. That is in the past just like the Dodgers winning the World Series*. My Padres are coming. I love you and see you next week.