St. Louis Cardinals: Andrew Miller makes players’ expectations clear
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Andrew Miller is an executive in the MLBPA. Ahead of the season, he made clear what players’ expectations are.
This past week, fans got a relieving message about the potential of the St. Louis Cardinals’ upcoming season. After it had been reported weeks ago that many owners believed there was no chance that the 2021 season began on time, Evan Drellich of The Athletic reported that spring training was still likely to start on time.
Before that report, the stage was being set for more negotiations. Much like over the summer, owners don’t want to pay the players full salaries for games where there aren’t fans in the stands. The way they are hiding that want is by arguing the players must have the COVID-19 vaccine before the season can begin. However, this time players can argue that because they already got through a 60-game season, there is no necessity for that to be the case for a full season to happen.
The report from Drellich would seem to mean that the two sides are on the same page, but digging deeper may not lead to that conclusion. Digging deeper, it seems like the report from the MLB about everything starting on time just looks like good marketing.
Still six weeks away from spring training, the MLB left the door open with a line that said, “As we get closer we will, in consultation with public health authorities, our medical experts, and the Players Association, determine whether any modifications should be considered in light of the current surge in COVID-19 cases.”
So, it seems there are still plenty of hurdles left before things get going.
Back on the players’ side, the Cardinals are lucky enough to have a high-ranking player in the MLBPA in their own clubhouse in Andrew Miller. Miller, entering his 16th season in the MLB and final season under contract with the Cardinals, is one of the few Association Player Representatives. This is no small thing, as it is only Miller and Max Scherzer who have this title. In short, Miller is a bit of a big deal among player leadership.
Let me take a brief moment to say this is one key reason why the Cardinals couldn’t just “not play” Miller as he approached his vesting option this past season as that would’ve been an easy way for them to have a grievance filed against them.
Back to relevancy, it’s clear that when Miller speaks about league issues, he speaks for more than himself. On Wednesday, Miller spoke with Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch about the upcoming season.
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Overall, the message was clear. The players have the expectation that the league will “stick to the schedule that’s out there.”
The MLB is just about to get started again, but before they even pick up a baseball, the NHL and the NBA will have gotten their seasons going with the NFL currently in their playoffs after the 16-week season. If those leagues can figure out a way to play their seasons safely, why can’t baseball?
That question doesn’t have a good answer that will make sense to the players or fans, but it’ll be what the owners try to come up with a reason for. At the end of the day, it seems that barring government rules that prevent teams from playing in the same space, there is not much in the current CBA that will give the owners much room to stand on against the players.
Not to try and pull too much from Hummel’s piece linked above that I strongly urge you to read, but this quote from Miller really laid it all out clearly.
"“Baseball teams are businesses and there’s a lot of money on the line and we understand that fans in the stands are an important part of that. But it’s my understanding that there’s nothing that says they have to make a certain amount of money or they have to have a certain number of fans available in order to play the season. There’s all sorts of sacrifices being made that are not exclusive to baseball. But we expect to play. And we expect to play 162 games.”"
I’m sure I’m missing some angle, but it seems the owners are going to stand behind requiring players to have the vaccine (a large undertaking) to begin the year. However, the easy response to that is that none of the other leagues were forced to play under those conditions, so why should baseball?
The biggest difference between the MLB and the rest of the major sports leagues playing right now is that baseball plays almost every day. That is a gripe that can make containing breakouts more difficult, the Cardinals and their 11 doubleheaders played this season should prove on its own that the players are willing to make sacrifices to make this season happen.
At the end of the day, Miller made his point—the players’ point—very well, and just like over the summer, the players won’t give in easily. Rob Manfred had to step in between the two sides over the summer and implement a season without an agreement. That may not be a viable option this time.
The biggest loser of the summer negotiations were the fans, and another round of hard-nosed negotiations will just raise the likelihood of even bigger issues following the 2021 season. A new CBA already looks like it won’t be easily agreed to and the next two months could make that even worse.