Generally during this time of year Major League Baseball fans such as I mull over their favorite team’s impending moves for the upcoming season. We’ll sit around the metaphorical stove and keep ourselves warm with loads of firewood, black coffee and baseball chatter. But right now, it’s quiet… too quiet.
There has been some movement, but it’s as quiet as a bloop hit over a shortstop’s head. My favorite teams, the Chicago White Sox and the San Francisco Giants, have maneuvered a bit, but no huge stuff. The White Sox have added Kendall Graveman. Not exactly a household name, but a good pickup for the bullpen (or the arm barn, thanks PETA you big dummies). Chances are this means Michael Kopech moves to the starting rotation and the end of Craig Kimbrel’s storied 2-month White Sox career – that’s a joke. Big time moments ate him up.
The Giants have done a bit more. First, they have some cash. Buster Posey surprised them by retiring, thus leaving a lot of room to sign players as he was due 22 million for 2022 (catchy and he’s a catcher – it all fit so well – like a glove one might say). They re-signed one of their better starters, Anthony DeSclafani, agreed to a 2-year extension with Brandon Crawford (that was in August), and retained Brandon Belt.
But that’s really it. No team is jumping in and signing big name free agents. Yeah, the Tampa Bay Rays just gave Wander Franco half of Tampa and all of St. Pete with an eyeball-popping 11-year, $182 mildo contract with earning potential up to 223 mildo, but it was an extension.
WHY IS NO ONE SIGNING BIG TIME FREE AGENTS?
Yell all you want, but it’s really not healthy to do as you’re gathered around the hot stove with friends. First, it’s rude. Second, we still have COVID floating around. Keep it quiet. I’ll tell you why in three letters – CBA.
No, it’s not the Continental Basketball Association. That doesn’t exist anymore thanks to the evil villain known as Isiah Thomas. The CBA is the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a pact made between the baseball team owners and the MLBPA – The Major League Baseball Players Association, the strongest players union of all professional sports. It’s end is nigh, there has been no movement thus far promising an agreement and the current one ends at 11:59PM December 1.
This cloud of doom has rendered the Hot Stove so cold a fan can press his hand on it and not burn a single whorl of their prints. Sure, the teams can sign players but it’s with the obvious stipulation “yeah we will give you the 29 mildo we just put on the table… but only if you play.” As such, player’s agents for the big-time players such as Kris Bryant are just kind of holding back. It’s the “yeah, your house looks really good but your foundation is a complete disaster, we’ll come back and consider living in your fine domicile once the foundation is set.”
And let’s face it, no matter what any baseball fan may want to say, the money on both sides is obscene. Owners watch as their team’s value goes up and up every year, and players watch as the elite players get megabuck contracts. Witness the Wander Franco deal as stated above. And the most-valuable franchise – naturally, the New York Yankees – is worth an estimated 6.75 billion bucks. FYI – the Tampa Bay Rays are worth an estimated 1.14 billion, which puts them second to the bottom of the list. Only the Miami Marlins are “worse” at “only” an estimated 1.12 billion.
Let’s look at what the owners and the MLBPA each want to put ink doing on a new CBA agreement.
What do the Owners want?
Pretty much all the owners want is to expand the playoffs a bit. A longer postseason means a lot more cash in their pocket. Oh, and the universal DH. Frankly, both sides should be okay with having designated hitters. It’s really painful watching pitchers try to hit… until they do then it’s super exciting. But that wait is like watching a burlesque show where the dancer has on enough clothes they’ll be toasty sitting outside during an Alaskan winter. Get on with it already. Let’s strip the National League of putting a pitcher up to the plate.
A quick summation is the owners want leave everything pretty much the way it is. They’re happy. Money’s rolling in so why change what’s working?
Usually when one side is already content it means the other side is really not content at all. Such is the case for the CBA.
What does the MLBPA want?
Changes in ‘competitive integrity’ which is a sticky issue. Feeling is a lot of small market teams do not put forth the effort to field a competitive team, therefore making the big money markets far more able to get to the playoffs. Essentially, this is true. At the beginning of every season you can tick off at minimum a third of the teams who simply don’t have a chance. So, the player’s union wants to have incentivize smaller market teams to spend. Sounds a lot like revenue sharing, which conservative owners are not fans.
The players want the younger players paid faster. This does not mean get their paychecks 2 days early. What they want is to close the loop on service time manipulation that allows a team to hold back the start date of young stars to prevent the clock starting on their 6-year major league service time most complete to become free agents.
Don’t say “Salary Cap” to the MLBPA. That’s something they never want to see become expanded. The pre-set spending limit currently in place is a real sticking point to players. The MLBPA feels if the big market teams spend as much as they want, then the smaller markets will bump up their spending too. Personally, I didn’t see it going that way… until that Wander Franco deal. So maybe the MLBPA is right? That deal did not help the owner’s cause.
What happened the last time both sides decided to stiffen their backs and not agree? One of, if not possibly, the dumbest maneuvers in professional sports history – the loss of a champion. Yep, in 1994, we as fans lost the World Series. The World Fucking Series. I have an official 1994 World Series baseball in my collection and looking at it to this day makes me shake my head.
So who will be the loser? Ultimately it’s the fans. Both sides have their points, but rooting for the owners over the players and visa-versa is no victory for the fans. For now, we just sit at our stoves, rubbing out hands together to keep warm, and hope for an outcome that will let the pitchers and catchers report in mid-February and the 2022 season start on time March 31.