This Isn’t The Player’s Fault

Last week, MLB players were supposed to start Spring Training. Currently, they are sitting at home, waiting. Due to an ongoing lock out, Major League Baseball has been put on pause, with the threat of part of the baseball season being cancelled. As with all things such as this, there is a lot of acrimony involved, and unfortunately, a lot of the negativity is being directed towards the players. This is wrong.

The players are not to blame for this fora number of reasons, but the biggest reason is this: The players are not on strike. The players are ready to go back to work immediately under the parameters of the most recent Collective Bargaining agreement. The owners have locked out the players in an effort to further restrict player’s abilities to make money while maximizing profits for teams that are not currently putting in an effort to win games.

The idea of fans backing the owners seems ridiculous, especially in the day and age where information is so readily available. That would involve fans using critical thinking skills, and not just blindly rooting for a logo though. It’s not just the idea of rooting for billionaires over millionaires, either. That’s a lazy narrative. What you are rooting against is people’s ability to maximize their ability to make money against people trying to suppress it in an effort to line their pockets, knowing that people are going to continue blindly rooting for their team.

Owners have the high ground on this because fans are too lazy to see what is going on for what it is. Here is a breakdown of what the owners are looking for:

Further Shrink the Minor League SystemIn terms of finances, MILB is a drop in the bucket for owners of the Major League teams. Each team has four minor league teams that they use to develop future major league players. Up until recently, you could have as many teams as you wanted, and that’s why i’m forced to use the word “further” in the first sentence. Up until a few years ago, minor league teams were generally independently owned by local businessmen and would sign deals to every few years to act as affiliates for the major league teams.

This changed a couple years ago when MLB announced that they were standardizing the minor leagues across the board so, and you are going to hear this term a bunch coming up, the cheaper teams wouldn’t be at a competitive disadvantage.

They decided that every team could have four, standardized across the board in terms of level of play. That meant that 46 minor league teams were left in the cold without a major league affiliate, and therefore, were up a creek when it came to their ability to draw fans and make money without affiliated team prospects available. Some teams became summer league squads for guys who weren’t signed to any team and were paid a stipend by Major League Baseball to do so, which, why not just leave the teams in place if the league is going to pay them, anyway? But alas…

It’s also worth pointing out that most players are stunningly underpaid in the minor leagues. For every first round draft pick in the organization that can afford their own place to stay as they work up the ladder, there are a dozen players who are getting paid less than minimum wage to play. That means that players sometimes have to sleep in their own car, or need to live in a one bedroom apartment with four other players and mostly have to exist on a diet of dollar value menus at fast food places.

Why do they make so little? Because Major League Baseball went to a Republican led congress a few years back and got it put into law that they don’t have to pay minor league players minimum wage. The poverty line for a single person in the US is around 12,440 dollars per person. The average minor league player makes less money than that. Owners also refuse to pay minor leaguers when they are at Spring Training, which means each player in the organization is spending at least 1 month playing and training unpaid.

The owners are already screwing over the people that are foundational pieces to any organization, so what do they care? Well, they care enough to be trying to force into the new Collective Bargaining Agreement the ability to put a cap on the number of players a team can have, total, in their minor league system. Not just teams, but players. They want the ability to make the number 150 total players total, which means they want to cut around 30 players positions off per team. At the poverty line of 12,440 dollars, 30 players is a hair less than half a million dollars per season. They are basically trying to nickel and dime their way to spending less money on their minor league system, which again, feeds their major league team with talent.

They say they might not even enact this, but they want the ability to. Vladimir Putin also said he wouldn’t invade Ukraine, but he deserved the ability to.

Why are they trying to save a measly amount of money in the long term? That’s because last year, articles by ESPN and The Athletic shed light on how piss poorly the players were bring treated. Forgive me if you have heard this playbook before, but a billionaires led conglomerate was actively under paying people and then daring them to quit and find something else, knowing that the general public wouldn’t give a damn about the underpaid person because they were at the bottom of the food chain.

Anyway, in light of those articles, Major Leagues Baseball began taking steps to ensure that teams provided housing for minor league players during the season. At some point, teams decided it was going to cost 400k-500k annually to hours a minor league system for the seven months the season lasts. How do they get that money back? They cut enough players off minor league rosters to make that number a wash.

The bottom line above winning should not be shocking though, if you’ve been paying attention.

Limit the amount of money pre-arbitration players can make: This issue has existed for a long time and is something the owners refuse to make active concessions on, because it’s the part that makes them the most rich. It’s also a spot where the owners are nickel and diming the players over a few million dollars in a billion dollar annual business for the sake of not making the cheap teams have to spend money.

As things currently stand, Major League Baseball salaries are incredibly unfair to players in their pre-free agency time in the league. Players coming up to the big league roster will often make around the league minimum for their first three full seasons in MLB, and then go into the arbitration process. The first year, the player will often only get a miniscule raise, with only a moderate raise the year after that.

You might be somewhat familiar with this process if you’ve ever watched your favorite team hold a player in the minors at the start of the year, and claim things like “they need more work” or that “we just don’t have a spot for him on the roster, yet.” Then randomly, five weeks into the minor league season, on nearly the same date every year, a player is suddenly ready for the majors. You are correct, that’s not a coincidence. There is a cut off date in which a player can no longer be eligible for a full season of credit in the league, and thus meaning the team gets to keep him for an extra year without paying him. The league calls these players “Super 2 eligible.” Most people call these players “financially screwed over.”

The players union is trying to close that loophole. The owners are going to hang on to it for dear life. This is how they screw over their most talented young players and often force them to sign below market contracts to keep them around long term on a salary that is much lower than if they player hit the open market.

Take Wander Franco, for example. The Tampa Bay Rays phenom joined the MLB roster last year at 20 years old. He immediately showed why people thought of him as a generational talent who could be one of the five best players in baseball within the next couple years.

Almost immediately, the Rays tried signing him to a long term deal, which they did manage to do. He signed a contract for 11 years/182 million dollars, a life changing amount of money, to be sure. But how much money would he make if he waited until free agency? In 2022, he would make around 600k, with only a moderate raise to around 800k in season two. His contract will pay him around 16 million dollars annually so he makes a ton more money in the first two years. He would move up to around 2 million in year three, then hit arbitration for his final three season, making around 5, 12, and 20 million if he continues as he showed. Over the first six years of his deal with Tampa, he will make 99 million. Not signing the deal would leave him with around 40 million, meaning in his pre-free agency years, he will make 50+ million more.

But then free agency would hit and the free market would dictate his worth. If he is one of the ten best players in baseball in six years, and he is hitting free agency at the age of 27, then he would easily get a contract in the area of 10 years/375 million dollars. So take that 37.5 million per year, and multiple that against the final five years of Franco’s contract that he is currently on. His current contract will pay him the 182 million. But playing out the string and going to free agency would pay him 227 million with an additional 187.5 million dollars on his current contract.

Now I frame Franco because he is the most recent example of this happening. Why do players do it? The old saying is “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Being guaranteed that kind of generational wealth is a big deal, especially for players that are coming over from the Dominican Republic whose family comes from meager means. That kind of money guarantees a secure future for his family and himself.

It also protects him in case for some reason he isn’t as good down the road, or if an injury derails his career. For some players, this protects them financially for the very long term future.

It has a secondary effect though, and this is what the owners are trying to push in their agenda: it suppresses the salary of all other players in that same position, meaning that any player who wants to bet on himself and make their bank in free agency is going to do so in a world where contracts are brought down artificially by early signings. In doing so, the owners can bring down the average salaries of their teams by as much as tens of millions of dollars.

This also gives teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates what they want, and that is cheap players who, if they don’t sign contracts that are only advantageous to the owners, then they will be lowballed, then traded so as the team doesn’t have to pay money to field a competitive roster. There are several teams in the league who have absolutely no interest in making their teams good on the field if it means spending money, with the Pirates, Orioles, Marlins, and Guardians being obvious current examples.

And THAT is what the owners want.

You see, MLB owners have been spectacular at one thing over the years: lying to make themselves sound like they aren’t making money in order to make it seem like player salaries are out of control, and what leads us to the third and most important thing the owners are fighting for.

That’s why, thirdly: Owners are trying to suppress their de facto salary cap by lying about their finances.

In negotiations, owners want to raise the luxury tax from it’s current level of 210 million all the way to….214 million. For those not aware, the luxury tax acts as a kind of salary cap, but is more like an electrified fence. You can get close to it, you might even get over it, but there could be consequences. Some teams don’t mind going over the 210 million luxury tax and just pay the fines because they are more interested in winning baseball games. Those teams are the Yankees, Dodgers, and probably soon the Mets and Padres. By paying luxury tax fines, they are essentially telling the teams that don’t try “here, peasant, here’s a couple million extra to put in your pocket to stay non-competitive forever.”

The teams that cross this threshold are more interested in winning championships than they are of limiting their spending. Why? Because they are still making a ton of money, they are just casual enough about it to outwardly show it.

If there is anything billionaires love more than oppressing the people that make their money, it’s to claim poverty in the face of opulence.

Here is a fact: in 2022, every MLB team will get 60 million dollars from their national television package. Each team will receive an additional 25-50 million dollars from their local television deal. Before a single thing happens this year, each team is in the operating black by around 85 million just in television revenue each season. This doesn’t count merchandise sold. Sponsorships. Game tickets. Any of it. 85 million to small market teams, and as much as 100 million to large market teams.

The league average for team salaries is around 115 million dollars. The Marlins, Pirates, Orioles and Guardians are currently going into the season having spent 148.6…combined. Nine teams in the league have more money invested into their current roster than these teams do, combined. The league defends these “poverty teams” who are pocketing tens of millions of dollar in television money who don’t want to spend the money on the team, but instead only want to pocket the profit.

If you are fan of these teams, you should be mad at the owners. They purchased a team, turned it into a scummy apartment complex, then claim poverty even though they are making money and not putting any money into fixing it up and making it better. Yet, so often, the fans blame the players for being over paid. The players aren’t being over paid, the league is using these “slumlord” franchises to justify why everyone else shouldn’t have to spend money, and fans who don’t put more than a minute of thought into it decide that the owners are right and the players are at fault even though, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, the players aren’t the ones responsible for the stoppage.

Owners get away with this because fans can’t comprehend the fact that players make the money they do. The problem is, economics say they should be making more. Much more. Every fan, deep down, thinks that players should “shut up and be happy they play a kids game” because deep down ,they are stupid and deluded enough to think that with a little practice, they could do the exact same thing as the players. That’s the insane fallacy of being a fan. You take your glove to the game like a rube, hoping to catch a foul ball. You go to the batting cages once a year and you put the pitching machine at little league medium, you could tip a couple 55mph pitches, and tell yourself, yea, I could definitely still play. I made the all star team when I was 11. These guys are overpaid. I could do their job.

I’m here to tell everyone reading this: SHUT THE HELL UP. YOU CAN’T AND IF YOU THINK YOU CAN, YOU ARE A MORON. I’ve seen some of the people on my twitter and facebook feeds blaming the players, and these are people that can’t be trusted driving a car 75 miles per hour because their hand eye coordination is dog shit. Why should any of us think they can handle barreling up a 98mph fastball at nipple level? We shouldn’t. You can’t. Quit pretending you can.

Professional baseball players are an elite level of athlete only matched by skill position football players, hockey goalies, NBA backcourts. The game comes at you faster than the average person could react to. An average MLB pitcher can throw a ball that will start coming right at your face, but will break down to the lower outside corner of the plate, while you have fallen and rolled up into the fetal position, piss slowly flowing down your cargo shorts.

You need to stop trusting and believing the owners. None of them have suffered catastrophic losses due to Covid. None of them have lost money because players should be making more money, and a few have broken through and actually done so. Why any of you believe them is beyond me.

Well, how do they make money then? Thanks for asking. I’ll use the Cubs for comparison because i’m very familiar with the level of shitty, sleezy greed they operate under.

In 2020, the Cubs claimed biblical(their words) losses due to not having fans in the stadium and games being lost. This is predicated on a lie in the first place. They didn’t really lose money. They just made less than they made last year, because there weren’t as many games played. They only lost money on ticket revenues. With a full stadium, the Cubs make on average of roughly two million dollars per game in ticket revenue. By not having fans, they also didn’t have to run any provisions during the game. They only had to run a bare bones staff and only a fraction of the people who would normally be working the game were actually employed during the season.

Because only 37 percent of the season was played, they only paid 37% of the player salaries. That means they only paid 55 million dollars in player salaries. They made 40 million of that back in television revenue. They made millions back in television revenue. Also, to make extra money, MLB extended the playoffs by putting more teams in, which the Cubs played in, earning more revenue. The more likely scenario is that the Cubs losses were either in the 4-6 million dollar range or they turned a small profit to negligible loss.

It’s also worth noting that the Cubs had one of the higher team slaries in the league that season, and any losses they really had were roster related. Teams like the Pirates and Orioles were running out non-competitive teams at a fraction of the salary, meaning that the slumlord teams probably made money on the season.

So how did the Cubs claim biblical losses? Easy, the team is two businesses but the money all goes to one family,: The Ricketts. The Cubs were able to claim biblical losses because they were investing money in things like their own television network, and buying all the buildings in the Wrigleyville area and building a hotel. They were also making money from said television network and tax incentives for renovating the stadium. But because the Cubs are divided among two separate businesses, the team can claim they lost tons of money because if you look strictly at one part of the business, they might have. But they also made money every time a commercial played on their network. Every paid infomercial. Every big company that gave them money to put a restaurant in their buildings they had purchased. They made that money, but because it wasn’t specifically for Chicago National League LLC or whatever they call it, they claim losses.

I say all of that to say this: Billionaires get where they are by being corrupt, amoral, and ruthless. They don’t give a shit about you, and they don’t give a shit about the team. They give a shit about the bottom line. They only care about money. Stop believing that they are the good guys. The good guys are the ones who are riding buses in the minors, chasing their dreams in spite of being paid less money than the average Taco Bell employee.

The good guys are the ones who chase their dreams in spite of one in a million odds to ever make it. The good guys are the ones on the field every day playing that thing you call a “kids game.” They are the ones who are away from their families for weeks at a time for your entertainment. You don’t root for Jeff Bezos to succeed. You don’t root for Russia. So why root for the owners?

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