St. Louis Cardinals: Maybe the league needs to crash and burn
By Matt Graves
Things have been really bad for the St. Louis Cardinals and the rest of the MLB lately. The best thing may be for the league to fail so it can rebuild.
This is not a good time to be a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. Not that the team itself has been doing anything specifically malignant, but the labor relations between the owners and players as a whole just make it awful to follow.
We’ve gone through all the back and forth that the owners and players have gone through. To this point, the players are the only ones who have made ANY notable concessions towards a deal. The owners have repackaged the same deal over and over (albeit with some olive branches in some of the offers). The players began with an offer of 114 games fully prorated and then dropped down a whole 25 games to 89 games of fully prorated salary. This put the players and owners at about $4M a team apart.
At the “end of negotiations” where the MLBPA told the owners, “let us know where to play and when to show up.” This was a motion of solidarity by the players to basically say to the owners that their negotiations were not moving the needle, and that it was just time for the owners to implement a season.
However, the roller coaster doesn’t stop there.
I was confused about this at first, but what it means is that the MLB wanted the players to sign away their right to file a grievance against the league for not acting in good faith.
What a term that is, “good faith.” It’s been the buzzword during all of this that has had the biggest variety in how it has been interpreted.
It seems that it was the belief of the MLB that if they implement what they want (a 50-game season at full pro rata), the players would file that grievance, leading to no baseball in 2020 and a lawsuit against the MLB that would be litigated by a third party. MLB wants to avoid this at all costs.
If what Heyman says is true, the owners are being backed into a corner where they are screwed if they do and screwed if they don’t. Something has to break eventually.
It seems that with the abundance of players speaking out, the narrative has changed back in favor of the players. They are ready to play, and are cutting into the MLB’s strategy of stalling. Why does the MLB want to stall?
This is from an article I wrote a week ago.
"I think the owners are trying to push back the date the deal is made as long as possible so that they don’t start the season July 4 and play 50 games over three whole months. If that happens it’ll be clear that more games were possible and the reason fans were deprived was money.If they don’t agree till later and the season starts in August, 50 games between two months will be relatively normal. That way they can push the blame for a ridiculously short season back on the players for being “unruly negotiators.”"
The longer time has gone on, the more clear this is. The owners are trying to do whatever they can to make the players look like they are standing in the way of the season starting. However, when the players come out and say, “let’s play,” and the MLB says, “not so fast,” it isn’t a good look.
That’s really the rub of it all here. None of this is a good look for the sport. The fans are the ones who are getting the short end of the stick in the end.
On Pat McAfee’s daily show on Wednesday, Buster Olney said that labor relations are “worse” now than they were in 1994.
The 1994/’95 strike damaged the game for years, and that was during a time of prosperity. Now, during a time where social injustice and a pandemic are still ravaging the country, baseball could’ve been a shining beacon of hope.
Rob Manfred and Tony Clark met this week face-to-face in Arizona to talk more personally about a deal, but this question from Joel Sherman above remains. Where is the sweet spot?
However, there is something to say about all this crashing and burning as a benefit. Scrap 2020, figure out a good plan for 2021, and begin CBA negotiations. It could be best for the sport as a whole.
One of the main problems that the players have right now is that for years, veterans have been getting paid the most because of prior performance and rookies have their low-paying rookie deals.
In 2019, Jack Flaherty made $562,100 as the fourth-best pitcher in the National League. Based on FanGraphs’ value estimator, Flaherty was worth $37.9M. His 2020 salary is going up by less than $50k. That’s a cherry-picking value that is just one example, but Flaherty is going to continue to be underpaid until he hits free agency (or is resigned).
Whether or not the MLB figures out a plan for 2020, there is a huge need for systemic change with the way young players are compensated in the sport. If the league were to crash and burn, it would let them rebuild it in a better way. Hopefully a way where the owners and players aren’t at odds every time money is brought up.
I don’t have a direct definition of what I mean by “crash and burn,” but I would say that no games could be played while this rebuild was happening and the only way out is with a new CBA that everyone can be happy with.
The main thing is clear: fans are not being put first right now and no matter if or when an agreement is made, the damage to the sport has been done. Fans have already said they just want 2020 to be canceled rather than having some sort of shortened season. With every other major sport coming back in at least some capacity, that is the worst-case scenario for the MLB.
The MLB failing in 2020 is not something I want to happen, but it could end up being what’s best for the longterm health of the sport. Fans are being thrown back and forth from depression to optimism by the battle of public opinion around all this; it’s just supposed to be about what is happening on the field.