Chicago Cubs 2021 season

Labor > Management/Ownership. Always.

I hope MLBPA can include in their advocacy is support for the MiLB players and how poorly those players are treated.

I think ownership was trying to head some of that off at the pass by announcing last summer that they were going to start providing housing for MiLB players.
I think I remember that the Cubs season ticket holders need to put in their deposits for next years tickets in December. Is there ANY chance that they made a couple of signings before the lock out in order to retain some disgruntled season ticket holders?
Some points yes, others no. Never a clear cut always.
That's fair.

Perhaps I shouldn't have used hyperbole, and I'd be deceiving myself if there weren't additional related labor fights at play nationwide right now (John Deere, Kelloggs, etc...), that are fueling that hyperbole for me.


Houston, Texas
Big Jon Lester just announced his retirement. Wish he could have gone out as a Cub. Still, I hope they bring him back and have a “Jon Lester day” some time during the upcoming season.
Read something where he say he may work with the Cubs pitchers in spring training but isn't interested in being a full time coach right now.
Labor > Management/Ownership. Always.
While I totally agree, there is an awful lot that the two sides need to be working together on in order to ensure they still have an expanding pie to be fighting over, and this process is not inspiring confidence.

There are two main factors for why the player's share of MLB revenue has been sharply declining in the past several years:

1. The aging curve and the peak value years for a baseball player keep getting younger. It's a bit of a mystery why this is, but especially for a hitter, their peak used to fall around age 30, a point after which most MLB players had already achieved free agency, whereas now the peak falls at 25 or earlier, often before players are able to access salary arbitration let alone free agency. This is just a real bind for the union, which built DECADES of labor strategy on ensuring that once the team control dues had been paid, veteran players had access to the only true free market in American pro sports. That bonanza is collapsing, partially because the crop of 29 year old baseball players is just less valuable than they used to be, but also

2. The incentive for MLB teams to maximize the quality of their rosters on a year-to-year basis has totally collapsed. Between tanking, service time manipulations for top prospects, the effect of the luxury tax, and the soon-to-increase scourge of playoff expansion, teams at every level of the standings are regularly as a matter of course not putting their best team on the field, which is to say they are putting the cheapest team on the field that will suit their stunted, lowered goals. It's collusion without the collusion.

#1 is what it is, and it's just a problem for the players. #2 is a rolling, growing catastrophe for the sport, and the one thing that looks guaranteed to come from this new CBA (other than the universal DH, which would have enraged me 10 years ago but I've come to accept it) is the 14-team playoff, for which the extra TV money is already written into the contracts, and which will make the season, the bread-and-butter of the sport, mostly meaningless.

Then of course the other non-financial area where collaboration is needed is in the rules of the game to fight back against slow, boring, Three True Outcomes baseball. I'm hopeful Manfred and Theo Epstein are barking up the right tree there. We'll see.

There is no chance, in my view, that games aren't missed this season. Another headwind to endure. You put it all together with the existing trends of a rapidly graying fanbase and thinning attendance and it paints a portrait of a dying sport.
I don’t think the age curve has changed. For the vast majority of baseball’s history (ignoring the steroid era), players have generally peaked between ages 24-28.

I think what’s changed has been management’s understanding of the aging curve with regard to handing out big free agent contracts. This really wasn’t a factor in roster configuration until the 70s and then got thrown all out of whack from about 93 to 2009 with steroids and guys in their mid 30s still playing like they were kids.

It’s different for every player and there are most certainly guys who are better in their 30s than in their 20s - Willie Mays, Honus Wagner, Joe Morgan, Roberto Clemente, just to name a few.

In fact, I think the player who peaks in his 30s is more common than management probably wants to admit and that baseball has probably overcorrected to some degree. I think you can look at last year’s Giants as a team that acquired a bunch of 30-somethings for less than what they were worth and rode them to a bunch of wins, and that maybe that might be a sign of things swinging back the other way to where veterans will be more accurately valued.
I don’t think the age curve has changed. For the vast majority of baseball’s history (ignoring the steroid era), players have generally peaked between ages 24-28.
That it has changed has been extensively documented, but pointing to the steroid era as a potential explanatory factor I think is probably pretty sensible.

Regardless, when combined with service time manipulation on the front end, free agency is no longer structured in a way that allows players to reap their full value over their careers.

This is anathema to the players, but I think they ought to be taking owners up on the concept of tying free agent eligibility to age rather than service time. That would completely eliminate service time manipulation in one fell swoop, give the players a line to defend in negotiations moving forward rather than having to play offense against the system they fought to set up, and it would make MLB a younger game, which presumably is in line with other changes to the game that would make it more watchable and benefit everyone. It's a bit of a virtuous cycle.

The owners proposed 29 as an age which would give them far more team control than they have now, obviously unacceptable, but what about something like 27 plus at least 3 years of service time or something? The union needs to get creative, they are occupying low ground currently.
The 29 year old proposal was patently ridiculous, giving owners 9-10 years of control for a superstar like Bryce Harper before he ever got to free agency.

The current 6 years of team control is also incredibly punitive to late bloomers like Tommy Pham or Josh Donaldson, basically shutting them out of free agency before they ever have a chance to capitalize on their best years.

The solution is some sort of sliding scale based on both age and service time.
The best plan for baseball fans is the plan that ensures to the greatest extent possible that the best ~750 baseball players in the world are all on active MLB rosters to the greatest extent possible.

So anything that discourages prospect stashing is better.

Anything that discourages tanking is better. Way too many teams going with bad 23 year olds instead of mediocre 28 year olds. The 28 year old should be in the Majors and the 23 year old should be at AAA. Not the other way around.
The solution is some sort of sliding scale based on both age and service time.
So anything that discourages prospect stashing is better.

Anything that discourages tanking is better.
Agree on all counts. Here would be my negotiating strategy.

- Changes to the way draft picks work to address tanking is obviously needed. A great idea I heard was to set the draft order based on wins after a given marker, either the team being eliminated from the playoffs or their 81st loss, or something of that nature. The idea is that it still gives an advantage to the worst teams since they will arrive at the threshold first and thus have the most opportunities to collect those wins. But in closing out lost seasons teams would be chasing wins rather than losses, changing incentives around prospects and the bad for the game tendency of bad teams to trade everything that isn't nailed down at the deadline. It's the best designed anti-tanking measure I've heard, it perfectly fits with baseball's long season of fairly coin-flippy games, and provides a reason to do what's right and keep the prohibition on trading draft picks. Get this right incentive-wise and the probably inevitable international draft only enhances the benefits.

- Work with the owners on an age based free agency model. Something to the tune of 27 + 3 years service seems like it would capture the historical line pretty well (obviously do better if you can). Rather than cockamamie game-able incentive structures to induce teams to put their best teams on the field it would just end service time manipulation forever with the stroke of a pen.

- Attack the penalties of the luxury tax rather than the dollar threshold. Specifically, the escalating penalty structure every year over the tax that "resets" if you drop below for a season compels the sport's richest teams to constantly be shedding payroll and rotating out of the free agent market. Ownership implemented a salary cap under the players noses. If you're arguing over what that dollar threshold is, you've already lost and accepted the new capped reality. Get rid of the repeater penalty and make the tax just a stable cost of doing business for rich ambitious teams.

- For the love of god hold the line at a 10-team playoff. Returning to 8 would be better, but that's not realistic and 10 does hit a bit of a sweet spot serving the dual purpose of bringing more teams into the pennant race while also genuinely encouraging division races to avoid that one-game crapshoot. And there's an option to feed MLB's desperate desire for more playoff TV inventory while putting even MORE emphasis on the regular season: make the Division Series 7 games. Ownership has even shown some interest in the idea of more home games in playoff series for the team with the better record which is a fine idea.

- At both major and minor league levels, shoot for increases to the minimum salary over messing with the arbitration access process, which ownership is irrationally crazy about. Use that overemphasis against them and just get money for everybody. This is also to the benefit of the sport at large by making it more attractive to young multi-talented athletes.

- One area where the players and owners incentives align for a quick short-term cash boost is expansion, which in baseball I think is a worthwhile idea. There are lots of promising expansion markets (Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville, San Antonio, Austin, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, Montreal) and expanding to 32 teams while holding the line on playoff expansion would actually boost the importance of the regular season.

- And finally, the place players need to stand down is on rule changes. The players hate and distrust Manfred, and they have their valid reasons to do so. But he is acting in their and the game's favor trying to return baseball to the faster and more athletic game it was for a century before three true outcomes creep started to overwhelm things, and it's necessary to preserve a bright future for the game. Players should accept and be a partner in that initiative and be vocally supportive of the goal.

It's a lot of stuff, but I think the situation is more dire than folks realize. Dire, but not doomed. I still very much believe in baseball being America's Pastime for generations to come if it can make the right moves.