MLB: Where is baseball going, does baseball know?

MLB, the New York Yankees, and all of baseball are in transition. It could be called a war between MLB and the Players Union (MLBPA) or a war between the newbie analyticals and the baseball traditionalist. Sometimes, conflict is in the background, sometimes right up front when MLB changes that rock the baseball world.  This is a complicated situation, to say the least. This is for sure because baseball today is not the same game it was in the ’20s and ’30s, and comparisons can’t be made. Baseball is evolving, and there will be no stopping it, like it or not.

Anyone that does not believe this wait until December 1, 2021, when the present baseball collective bargaining agreement ends and will be taken up again. These two entities no longer work together, they work against each other, and there is a 50/50 chance these issues at hand will not be resolved without the first baseball strike since August of 1994 that led into the 1995 season.

Aside from the collective bargaining agreement, the last several years have seen many changes in the game we all love. Because of the lack of trust between the owners and players, the 2020 pandemic season could not be resolved to lead Commissioner Rob Manfred had to dictate a 60 game season. They did resolve some issues, and they lead to a host of changes in the game, some that the fans like and most that they don’t. The universal DH, the man on second after the ninth inning, the seven-inning doubleheaders, the relief pitcher having to face 3 hitters, and others. The only one not to remain in the 2021 season is that the NL has gone back to pitchers hitting. At some point, this has to become universal across both leagues.

Some changes in the game have just happened without the powers to be having their hands in it, and those changes will cause even more changes. A good example of this is in the past few years, pitchers have gotten better, a whole lot better at a disproportionate rate than hitters getting better. In years past, pitchers used to be encouraged to complete games; today, that is a rarity; managers across baseball actually discourage pitchers from finishing games. Today the relief pitcher is every bit as important if not more important than the starters. Starting pitchers now pitch differently than they did in years past. Years ago, when pitchers were expected to see the opposition lineup three times or more, they saved some of their best pitches to use later in the game. Today knowing that he is only expected to five or six innings, he puts it all out there, maybe even in the first inning.

Across baseball, hitting is down, and for a good reason. Better starting pitchers that go five or six innings, and then the hitters face flame-throwing relief pitchers in each inning that follows. When you have to face a new pitcher every time you come to the plate, you are at an automatic disadvantage. Less hitting and fewer runs scored creates less excitement in a game that most fans already feel is too long and tedious. Some of the changes already installed have addressed this issue, some see them as successful, and some are annoyed by them. By having a relief pitcher face, three hitters, you are reducing the number of relievers used in a game, encouraging starters to go deeper into games. The man on second rule has shortened the length of games; you aren’t going to see many games that go over 12 innings.

Like the drug era, all the changes that have happened will make comparing stats even more difficult. How successful would Babe Ruth have been hitting with a robot umpire? How successful would Mickey Mantle have been hitting today’s starters and the arsenal of one inning flame throwers? MLB in the minors is experimenting with several new changes to satisfy the issues of the day. Robots to make umpiring more accurate, moving the pitching mound back a bit to give the hitters a better chance to see the ball a bit longer and improve hitting, and a host of other changes to the game. Whether the traditionalists like it or not, the game will continue to change. The trick will be balancing it to satisfy the most people and ensure the game’s growth that has seen a slide over the last few decades. The future of baseball is on the line.

 

 

Yankees News/Rumors: Yankees ink another Montero and MLBPA playing with fire

The New York Yankees yesterday inked Fidel Montero, an outfielder out of the Dominican Republic. It is their second signing of a Montero in international free agency. On the first day of the signing period, they signed shortstop Hans Montero, who signed for $1.7M. Hans was their top target in international free agency. Furthering their efforts to produce great teams in the future, yesterday’s signing of the second Montero shows their commitment to the future.

The Yankees entered this signing period with the 2nd lowest amount of bonus-pool money, due largely in part to a 1 million dollar hit after they signed Gerrit Cole, who declined the qualifying offer from the Houston Astros late in 2019.  The Yankees have managed to sign five players. In addition to the two Monteros (not related), they signed two other players from the Dominican Republic and one from Venezuela.

Hans Montero stands between 5’10” and 6’0” tall; the shortstop Montero recently turned 17 years old this past Christmas Day. A right-handed hitter (and obviously thrower), he projects to stay at short through the majority of his career. Most talent evaluators will indicate his smooth action and play-style. He posses average plus speed and has the ability to hit the ball of all fields.

Fidel Montero is an outfielder with great promise. Fidel stands 6′ 1″ and weighs about 175 pounds. He was originally listed as a shortstop but has played in the outfield during the last few seasons, where he has been making a name for himself. He had a breakout season in 2019 as a 15-year-old. He has been listed as one of the most complete talents internationally. Ben Badler of Baseball America says that although he has great raw tools, he shows inconsistency, something the Yankees will have to fix.

MLBPA resists health discussion

Continuing to be confrontational leading up to this year’s renegotiation of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement), the players union seems to resist anything the owners want to do. Now they don’t even want to discuss moves to make it safer for players and staff. As the U.S. grieves another 3,500 deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday, the Players Association is bringing forth criticism of any plan of action for keeping on-field talent safe and healthy.

The Biden Administration scheduled a call with MLB, the owners, and the MLBPA (players union) on ways to make it safer for all involved, including a delay so that all players and staff could be vaccinated before the season starts. The MLBPA wouldn’t even take part in the phone call. The union is standing firm for no special rules and a return to 2019 play. With the union’s reluctance to even talk about health, they could be playing with fire.

MLB Analysis: MLB and MLBPA just don’t like each other, you will pay

After last year’s contentious negotiations between MLB and the players union, MLBPA, that went nowhere and ended up with the Commissioner mandating a 60 game season, it should come to no one’s surprise that the union and owners don’t like each other at all. Although there are many underlying issues, the big problem between the sides is that the players see everything the owners do leads to a salary cap that the players vehemently oppose. The owners see everything the union does is to milk more money from the owners. Yes, it’s all about money.

As a fan of the game, you can’t believe what either side says about anything; it’s all a ruse that leads back to it’s all about money. If the owners say up, the players say down, and all this contentiousness leads up to the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) that expires at the end of this season. The owners have basically had their way with the union for the last several years, but that has come to an end, with the union trying to show strength by objecting to anything the owners want to do. Who will pay in the end are, of course, the fans. Because of all of this hostility, there is a 75% chance that the new CBA’s lack of agreement will likely lead to a baseball strike.

The last baseball strike was 26 years ago when the 1994 season came to an early end on August 12th. The fans were left with no postseason after watching their favorite teams all season long. It also caused the 1995 season not to start on time. Unless these two sides can find some common ground and not be as greedy on both sides, we are headed for another baseball strike.

To refresh your memory of the MLB 1994 New York Yankee season, the strike may have prevented the Yankees from winning another World Series. When the season was halted, the Yankees under Buck Showalter were 70 and 43, 1st in the East. Wade Boggs was hitting .342; pitcher Jimmy Key was 17-4 on the season. And reliever Mike Stanley was winning games at a .800 rate. The strike prevented Showalter from a World Series win; it prevented Key from a 20 win season. It also dismayed fans beyond belief. It was like reaching 200′ from the top of Mt. Everest and being told your time had run out, and you had to go home.

In the latest episode of the drama, the owners wanted to start the season a month later with a 154 game season with full 162 game pay for the players. As always, this ended up with another disagreement between Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred and the MLBPA executive director Tony Clark. Clark immediately refusing the owner’s request for a delay. The owners sighted that it would give more time for more arms to be vaccinated and create a safer environment for players, staff, and fans.

The union sighted that it was too late to delay the season, as players had already rented homes or had their cars on trains headed to Florida or Arizona. Of course, that was a factor, but only a minor one; here is where we get back to money. The union rejected it because it did not include pay for canceled games, delays, or if the season had to be canceled altogether.

So now we have a 162 game season with no expanded postseason, no universal DH. It is basically a return to the 2019 season rules.

All of this gobbledygook doesn’t seem believable on either side of the issue. If either side was concerned about health, which both sides say they are, why didn’t the union request a delay in the season to protect players? Why did the owners wait until the last moment to ask for a delay when they knew it would be rejected?

One player’s agent paints this MLB scenario:

“Players get to spring training. They go to the market to stock the refrigerator of their rentals. They go out to dinner, some go out to bars, some go to the mall, some to other things. Cumulatively that will exponentially increase the odds of some player getting (COVID-19) and transmitting it.

“How long before a camp is closed? How long before games are canceled? How long before spring training is delayed? What happens if it then drags into the season? More importantly, what happens if someone becomes seriously ill? How is any of those things defensible if it was all avoidable?”

The bottom line is that there is no way to know if, by delaying the season, any of this could be avoidable, but it certainly would make the likelihood less probable. This is just another example of how MLB and the MLBPA could not come to an agreement for the benefit of the game.

MLB News/Rumors: Do you know the rules for the 2021 baseball season?

The question was, do you know the MLB rules for the 2021 season? Your answer is probably not. After reading this article, you will have some information but probably won’t know any more than you do now for what the rules ultimately will be for the season. The reason for that is the contentious relationship between the owners and the players. MLBPA, the MLB Players Association (players union), represents the hundreds of MLB players. MLB represents the owners of the 30 MLB teams.

If you remember, before last season, the owners and players fought for weeks over the length of the season and the rules of play, along with what the health protocols would be. Don’t expect this pre-season to be any different. Part of the reason is that the players want to show strength going into a year when they will revisit the player’s CBA (collective bargaining agreement), which expires after the 2021 season. It’s entirely possible the long era of labor peace — or, more accurately stated, the long era of the MLBPA permitting itself to be dominated by ownership without a genuine fight — may be at an end. Although there are many issues to be ironed out, the union’s main request will be for the players to receive a greater share of MLB revenues.

Here is what we know for sure at the moment. Pitchers and catchers will report on February 17, with the rest of the players following the 21st. The regular season will start on April 1 and be 162 games with no universal DH and no expanded playoffs. July 11-13, 2021, will be the MLB Draft. July 13th will be the 91st All-Star Game; it will be held at Truist Stadium, the Atlanta Braves home. July 25th will be the Hall of Fame induction ceremony that will see Derek Jeter and others inducted after the ceremony was canceled last year. August 12th will be the Field of Dreams game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. And on August 22nd will be the Little League Classic between the Los Angeles Angels and the Cleveland Indians at Williamsport, PA.

Those are the only things we know for sure, or do we? Like it or not, the coronavirus will still be the deciding factor on dates, whether fans will be allowed in stadiums, and what health protocols will be in place for players, staff, and fans alike.

Right now, the owners want a 154 game season starting almost a month later, the players have rejected that. The owners would like to see a universal DH, the player on second after nine innings, and an expanded postseason. The players have rejected that as well. As it stands now, the players are firm on returning to the rules for 2019.

The Players Association released this statement:

“Late last week the MLBPA for the first time this offseason received a proposal to delay spring training and the opening day for approximately one month.

Under the proposal the end of the season would be delayed by one week, the regular season would be shortened to 154 games, and all 30 teams would be required to play several doubleheaders. Players would also be required to accept previously rejected proposals that link expanded playoffs with expansion of the designated hitter.

Although players salaries would not be innitially prorated to a 154-game season MLB’s proposal offers no salary or service time protections in the event of further delays, interuptions or cancellation of the season.

The MLBPA Excutive Board and player leadership reviewed and discussed the owner’s proposal over the weekend and today. The clear-cut result of these deliberatons is that the players will not accept MLB’s proposal, and instead will continue preprations for an on-time start to the 2021 season and will accept MLB’s commitment to again direct it’s clubs to prepare for an on-time start.

We do not make this decision lightly. Players know first-hand the efforts that were required to complete the abbreviated 2020 season, and appreciate that significant challenges lie ahead. We look forward to promptly finalizing enhanced health and safety protocols that will help players and clubs meet these challenges.”

The owners and Major League Baseball countered with:

“In light of the MLBPA’s rejection of our proposal, and their refusal to counter our revised offer this afternoon, we are moving forward and instructing our Clubs to report for an on-time start to Spring Training and the season, subject to reaching an agreement on health and safety protocols,” said the league.

Bob Nightengale and others have said that 7 inning doubleheaders and the universal DH will be back in 2021. How they came to that conclusion, I have no idea. So as it stands now, the baseball rules will be as they were before the pandemic in 2019. But like with everything else, everything is subject to change before the season actually starts. Stay tuned.

 

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MLB wants the return of seven-inning doubleheaders and a runner on second in extra-inning games

The 2021 MLB season is starting to take shape. After Liam Hendriks signed with the Chicago White Sox this week, several deals were agreed upon on Friday, including DJ LeMahieu to the Yankees. And now, the owners and the players association are beginning to discuss on-field matters.

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, MLB will propose the return of seven-inning doubleheaders and extra-inning games beginning with a runner on second base in 2021 to the union.

From a time of play perspective, both approaches were successful in 2020, and both, especially the seven-inning doubleheaders, will help MLB navigate through potential COVID-related suspension crisis.

Per Nightengale, the MLB Players Association is expected to approve both ideas. But, as you can imagine, they will probably want something back in return.

Will MLB allow the universal DH rule? Will players accept expanded playoffs?

To this point, MLB still doesn’t know whether there will be a universal DH or an expanded postseason with the rosters remaining at 26 players.

As the players want the return of the universal DH rule, and there is goodwill on MLB’s part regarding that specific point, it is expected that both sides reach an agreement as long as the MLB PA agrees to play, once again, with expanded playoffs.

In 2020, the postseason had 16 team, but MLB’s idea this time around is to lower the number to 14, according to Nightengale, “with the best record in each league receiving a first-round bye,” per Rotoworld.

As it turns out, and after an ugly 2020 that had the season pushed back because of coronavirus and some ugly negotiations between MLB and the union, the 2021 campaign is expected to start on time.

Commissioner Rob Manfred recently sent a memo to teams urging them to prepare as if spring training was starting on time in February, so that’s the plan.

MLB: Commissioner tells teams to plan for spring training to start on time and a full 162-game season

Too much ink has been spilled in the last eight or nine months explaining how MLB and the players association, together with the COVID-19 pandemic, managed to cut the regular season calendar to 60 games in 2020. For weeks, even months, they couldn’t agree on essential, minimum requirements.

This time, however, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, informed clubs on a conference call Monday that they “should be preparing for spring training to start on time in February and to plan on a full 162-game season being played.”

The threat of the virus hasn’t gone away, but MLB learned a lot about social distancing, health and safety protocols during the 2020 season. And with talks about eventually letting fans into stadiums to enjoy the games, it appears that this time, every factor is pulling in the same direction.

A few weeks ago, reports came out about MLB and its 30 ownership groups hoping to delay the start of the 2021 campaign with the intention of allowing more time for players, personnel, and fans to be vaccinated.

MLB free agents could start signing after the news

Naturally, the MLB players association said it has no interest whatsoever in forfeiting salary for a second consecutive year. Fewer games would mean less revenue, and players losing more money.

According to Rotoworld, the reported conference call could potentially spark some movement on the free agency front, as teams now know that the odds of a full, semi-normal season happening are high.

Indeed, after the reported conference call, the Chicago White Sox made a major signing, filling a need in their bullpen by adding All-Star closer Liam Hendriks to a lucrative three-year deal with an option for a fourth.

With spring training a little over a month away, teams should be starting to look at free agents to fill their roster needs.

MLB Analysis: The NBA has burst the “bubble,” will MLB follow suit. A discussion

Jason Collins, Brooklyn Nets

For MLB, the New York Yankees, and all the other baseball teams from coast to coast, the 2021 baseball season holds as many questions as they had as they negotiated the 2020 season. The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association took many lessons from their bubble experiment at Disney World this summer. Still, the most important was a humbling admission: There is no perfect solution to the coronavirus pandemic for an American professional sports league.

They may have learned much, but one thing that will not continue is games in the “bubble.” The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to start their 2021 season with no bubble. The MLB learned a lot, too; not the least was that by holding the 2020 baseball postseason entirely in the bubble, they prevented an outbreak of the coronavirus and completed the season on time.

The 2020-21 season begins today, December 22, 2020, and runs through March 4, 2021! After leaving the NBA’s “bubble” at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, teams likely anticipated a bit of a layoff between seasons. Early reports indicated the 2020-21 campaign wouldn’t begin before mid-January at the earliest and March at the latest. Due to financial considerations, that start date has been bumped up to today. The first game will be tonight on TNT featuring the Golden State Warriors vs. the New York Nets. There will be no bubble, but there will also be no fans in the stands at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

However, for other games in some parts of the country, a limited number of fans will be allowed in the arenas according to state and city regulations. The NBA and NBAPA have come up with strict health protocols to conduct a safe season. However, the two governing bodies will not make taking the coronavirus vaccine a demand.

Now the question is, will MLB follow the NBA’s lead? With the start of spring training, no decisions have been announced for the 2021 baseball season. The MLB owners and the MLBPA (player union) will have to come together to iron out all these details. After contentious negotiations last year, you can expect the same and maybe even greater conflicts to getting the season going. The owners have already requested a shorter season, one that could lop off the first month of the season, shortening it to as few as 130-135 games. MLBPA director Tony Clark immediately shot that down.

Clark made it clear that the players union is sticking to the CBA that calls for a 162 game season at full pay. The owners feel with so much unknown that it will be difficult to complete a 162 game season after just playing 60 games in 2020. Clark and Meyers reiterated that:

“We’ve seen anonymous quotes attributed to club sources casting doubt on the start date and length of the season, “Bruce Meyer, the MLBPA’s senior director of collective bargaining and legal, said in a statement on Tuesday. “To be clear and ass we’ve made clear to the league, players are planning on showing up on time for spring training and for a full 162-game season as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement and the leagues previously issued schedule.”

So, already disagreements are arising on how long the season will be. But there are a host of other issues to be ironed out. Not the least of which is if the universal DH will be continued, if the man on second base after nine innings, if the three batter rule, and how long the season will be. In recent years the MLB and the MLBPA have had some pretty poor relations. With all the issues to be solved before starting the 2021 baseball season, look for some sparks to fly.

MLB News/Rumors: How long will the 2021 baseball season be?

If the MLBPA has any say, it will be a full 162 games for full pay. MLB reached out to the players union, asking them if they would be open to a shortened season in 2021 that might lop off at least the first month of the season. The immediate response was absolutely not. A big fat NO! MLBPA Executive director former Yankee Tony Clark reiterated what he said  at the end of the season, “the players are planning for a 162-game season and plan to show up for spring training on time.”

The beginning of the season and how long it will be has yet to be ironed out, along with many other 2020 rule changes as to whether they will be continued. Not the least is if there will be a universal DH in 2021 and if they will keep the man on second base after nine innings. At the end of this year, the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is set to expire after the 2021 season. The MLBPA is not going to seem weak, going into those negotiations. They will want to hold firm for everything they want for the 2021 season.

The CBA is the negotiated agreement that governs almost every aspect of the working relationship between management (the clubs) and labor (the players). While we’ve had a long run of labor peace in baseball — the sport has gone without a labor stoppage since 1995 — there’s reason to fear that may end with the next round of negotiations. At another time closer to the negotiation I will explain the complex issues involved.

But for now, the details of the 2021 season have to be ironed out, and for owners, it’s not starting well with the denial of playing a full season of games in 2021. In a USA Today story this week, team owners were quoted as skeptical that a full-length season could be completed.

“We’ve seen anonymous quotes attributed to club sources casting doubt on the start date and length of the season, “Bruce Meyer, the MLBPA’s senior director of collective bargaining and legal, said in a statement on Tuesday. “To be clear and ass we’ve made clear to the league, players are planning on showing up on time for spring training and for a full 162-game season as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement and the leagues previously issued schedule.”

If you recall, the length of the MLB 2020 season and how much baseball players would be paid caused long and tense negotiations before Commissioner Rob Manfred mandated the 60 game season. There is no reason to expect anything different before this upcoming season. With so much unknown about the 2021 season, don’t expect any of these issues to be decided by spring training in the headlights. There are so many unknowns from the effect the coronavirus will have on the season, if fans will be in the stands, how successful the hopeful vaccines will be, and if players will be required to take the vaccines. Much more to come on this and many other MLB subjects in the weeks to come.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

MLB: Players aiming for a 162-game season; planning to show up to spring training on time

Here we go again! The 2020 campaign was unusual every way you look at it. It only had 60 regular-season games, the playoffs were expanded, the designated hitter was used in both leagues and, most importantly, MLB teams had to deal with coronavirus and all of its consequences.

But over the spring and part of the summer, there was an ugly dispute between MLB and the players’ association on several sensitive subjects, most notably compensation and revenue share. Sadly, since COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, the two parties still need to come up with solutions to play the 2021 season, and they are already having differences.

On Tuesday, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that several anonymous club executives expressed a desire to delay the 2021 season until sometime in May. That way, players and staffers would have the opportunity to be vaccinated for COVID-19. The measure could also result in a safer environment for fans and, with luck and proper planning, maybe welcoming them in stadiums at some point.

MLB and MLB PA want different things… again

However, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic, the MLB Players Association is “planning for a 162-game season and plan to show up to spring training on time.” Of course, why would they want to play anything less than 162 games and risk further pay cuts after they already lost so much money in 2020?

Drellich is reporting that if it means forfeiting any salary, the players have no interest in MLB’s latest idea (more like a desire than a formal request) to start in May.

Bruce Meyer, the MLB PA’s senior director of collective bargaining and legal, said to Drellich: “To be clear, and as we’ve made clear to the league, players are planning on showing up for spring training on time for a full 162-game season as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement and the league’s previously issued schedule.”

It’s still early and a compromise could be reached at some point. But it’s very worrisome that the two sides are already having such different stances.

MLB agrees to expand postseason

In a last second deal, the MLB and the MLBPA have agree to expand the 2020 postseason from 10 to 16 teams. This was something that was heavily discussed during original negotiations, but was later shelved. Now it’s in place and it all came about in the final 24 hours before the season began.

The expansion to 16 teams adds a NBA or NFL playoffs type feel to it. It will have the two leagues on separate sides of the bracket with the one seed playing the eight seed, the two seed playing the seven seed, and so on. But, the first round will be just a best-of-three series with all games being played at the site of the higher seed. From there, it will be the traditional five game division series, and seven game championship series and World Series.

The top two teams from each of the six divisions will qualify for the postseason. Two wild card spots will be available in each league for the top two teams that didn’t finish in the top two of their division.

The postseason expansion adds eight new series and generates a lot more revenue. ESPN will reportedly call seven of the eight new series on their networks, with TBS carrying the other. TBS and FOX will have their normal coverage in the following series.

For the circumstances of this season, I think that the postseason expansion is a great idea. But, once we are back to a normal season, I’m not sure that this is something that should be continued. More revenue is great, but it takes away a lot in the fact of having to have a great season to qualify for the postseason. The concept is too rewarding for mediocre teams, and therefore shouldn’t be continued in the future.