After yet another pitcher, this time Alex Cobb of Tampa Bay, goes down from a liner to the head, it’s hardly unreasonable to say that pitchers need to wear helmets on the mound. I suppose a full face guard is ideal, but even a batting helmet would be tremendously helpful. Or does a pitcher have to die on the mound to create the necessary change?
With respect to this…
I guess what I don’t understand is why extremely successful players like A-Rod and Ryan Braun would take the risks associated with further connections to an organization like Biogenesis. Acknowledging all that is wrong with MLB’s approach to steroid usage (uneven enforcement, unclear metrics, invasive procedures, excessive moralism, etc.) it’s nevertheless true that MLB is waging a war on steroid usage, and that this war is broadly supported by the journalistic commentariat. Even if A-Rod, Braun, and the rest are innocent, they’re running serious risks. I can appreciate why marginal players would seek the risks as worth it, given the huge financial difference between marginal- and marginal+ careers. But A-Rod and Braun, already under suspicion and with Hall of Fame credentials in question? Barry Bonds, an elite player, made the decision to move to PEDs in the 1990s, and it paid off for him. Now, however, we’re operating under a much different administrative and normative framework; it’s hard to imagine how A-Rod, Braun, and the people around them saw this as a winning long-term strategy.
Pierce is right on the money. The experience of going to PNC Park, including just being in downtown Pittsburgh and walking around the ballpark neighborhood, is second to none in all of baseball. I’ve been to Fenway and while I respect the history there, PNC is a more enjoyable experience all around.
A fight over health care benefits between unionized workers and management at a factory in Pennsylvania has gotten the attention of Major League Baseball’s players, who are urging the workers to “stick together” against an effort to double health premiums without increasing benefits.
The dispute is centered at a VF Majestic factory in Pennsylvania, where all of Major League Baseball’s jerseys are manufactured, and it set to heat up when a three-year labor agreement expires Friday. The workers, affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, haven’t authorized a strike and are hoping to avoid one as they push back against Majestic in upcoming negotiating sessions. Heading into those negotiations, the workers received advice and support from Michael Weiner, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association.
In fact, the Twins starters’ inability to miss bats isn’t just bad by 2013 standards — it’s spectacularly, historically awful. The last teams’ starters to strike out hitters at such an infrequent rate were the K-deficient Royals and Angels staffs of the early ’80s. But league-average strikeout rates were much lower 30 years ago than they are this season, when they’ve reached an all-time high. According to FanGraphs, if you line up the Twins starters’ strikeout rate against league average this year, then compare that number to other rotations in previous seasons, you get … the worst strikeout rate by a starting staff in the history of baseball.
It’s really amazing to watch major league batters strike out at astounding numbers except when they play the Twins when they never strike out. Can the Twins become the adjusted lowest strikeout team of all time. Only by watching thrilling pitchers like Scott Diamond and Kevin Correia can we find out!
The following is a long discussion between myself and Ted McClelland, spurred by his Slate article on baseball player salaries and social cohesion. Mr. McClelland graciously offered to conduct an e-mail debate on the question, and to allow me to post the results of this debate on the blog. My initial questions are in bold; his responses and counter-questions are italicized.
I’m all for the FCC being completely fine with David Ortiz saying “fuck” in his speech before the Red Sox game yesterday. On the other hand, it would be nice if the FCC would more generally assume people are grown-ups and allow the language used in everyday life to be part of mass media on a more general basis. I’m not sure that reserving the word for political occasions where the agency’s head deems it appropriate has much value.
Edward McClelland has been thinking very hard:
The deregulation of the American economy that began in the 1970s has increased the salaries of professional athletes enormously while reducing those of blue-collar workers. In 1975, pitchers Andy Messersmith of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dave McNally of the Montreal Expos appealed to arbitrator Peter Seitz to strike down baseball’s reserve clause and allow them to sell their services to the highest bidder. The Seitz decision, which was upheld by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, began the era of free agency in professional sports. After increasing arithmetically for the first three-quarters of the century, salaries rose geometrically during the past 25 years of the 1900s and have continued to balloon in the 2000s.
Because the reserve clause was eliminated at the insistence of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the Seitz decision is considered a victory for organized labor. It wasn’t. It was a victory for the laissez-faire marketplace.
Labor unions are cartels that increase their members’ salaries by bargaining collectively, thus winning a more lucrative contract than workers could negotiate on their own. Baseball players are entertainers with specialized skills. They didn’t start earning their true market value until they were allowed to negotiate individually with owners—the antithesis of collective bargaining.Marvin Miller, the former United Steelworkers of America economist who became executive director of the MLBPA, was a talent agent, not a labor boss.
I would like to suggest that the connection between striking down the reserve clause and the stagnation of American blue collar wages is… murky. What follows is a long discussion of how perturbed McClellan is that Alex Rodriguez is paid a lot of money by the tremendously wealthy, successful businessmen who own the New York Yankees. Thinking about this makes him sad:
As baseball players accumulate plutocratic riches (Rodriguez will have earned a third of $1billion by the time his contract expires), I find myself wondering why I’m supposed to cheer for a guy earning $27.5 million a year—he’s already a winner. When I was 11, I hero-worshipped the Tigers’ shortstop because I could imagine growing up to take his place. Obviously, that’s not going to happen now. Since my past two jobs disappeared in the Great Recession, I can’t watch a professional sporting event without thinking, Most of those guys are set for life, while I’ve been buying my own health insurance for 5 1/2 years…. I know we’re never going back to the days when Willie Mays lived in Harlem and sold cars in the offseason, but the market forces that have overvalued ballplayers’ skills while devaluing mine have made it impossible for me to just enjoy the damn game.
Here’s the thing; while there are obviously problems associated with determining the “value” of the skills of professional athletes, it’s not at all obvious that Alex Rodriguez is overvalued, or that Willie Mays was appropriately valued. Compensation, obviously, depends on how law and organizational rules structure the ability of owner and worker to negotiate; changes in those rules can have dramatic effect on how much players get paid. I don’t know why people still need to point out that investment in Justin Verlander isn’t irrational if the Tigers win, the owners make money, and franchise value increases.
McClelland is unhappy that he has to pay for health insurance, and has determined that the solution is a set of rules that arbitrarily suppress the value of extremely skilled workers. Such rules will be of no direct material benefit to McClelland, although they’ll surely make billionaire team owners happy; perhaps McClelland hopes that elaborate demonstrations of fealty to these billionaires will land him a more lucrative position.
[SL]: This seems to be the “logic” that buttresses a lot of anti-union sentiment, but once again money generated by professional sports that doesn’t go the player does not then go to teachers or cancer researchers or starving orphans — it goes to (generally obscenely wealthy and lavishly taxpayer-subsidized) owners. If you find yourself longing for the good old days where the almost all of the money generated by the labor of players stayed with the owners, you really need to think harder. (I’m guessing that McClelland is one of those guys who thinks it’s a massive scandal when someone buys an SEC QB a pair of shoes.)
[EL]: Whenever you see someone write, “Labor unions are cartels that increase their members’ salaries by bargaining collectively,” you can pretty much assume that they don’t know what labor unions actually do or why they exist.
In discussing one legend, Jackie Robinson, the writer Roger Angell reminds us what a legend he is as well, whether writing about baseball or his life.
Free agency in baseball is basically dead, at least for high-end players. Players’ current teams are buying the best players out of free agency with long-term deals that will keep most of them on the same team for the majority of their careers. Just this week there was the 8 year deal for Justin Verlander and 9 year deal for Buster Posey. Then last night word came that the Rangers were extending Elvis Andrus for 8 years at $120 million. Personally, I think that’s a staggering amount of money for a good but not great player, albeit one that is only 24 and likely to get better. But they have the money and they want to lock in players. Jonah Keri has much more on this. I don’t see this as a bad thing at all. Players are getting paid big money. Owners get bankable stars. Fans get to root for a player over a 15 year period, like in the days before free agency. The only downside is that some of these contracts are going to become albatrosses over time. Unfortunately, I think that probably includes Felix Hernandez in Seattle.
Anyway, it also means that the days of the Yankees buying everyone might be over, or at least limited to the occasional Jeffrey Loria salary dump, as Jonah suggests. I certainly think that’s a good thing.
Also, Opening Day!!!
Given that there’s no longer any reason to display even mild interest in the NCAA Tournament, it’s time to look ahead to Major League Baseball. The structure of the ESPN Baseball Challenge system appears to have changed, but our challenge remains essentially the same:
League Name: LGM
The prize, as always, is a gift of the victor’s choice from the LGM store. However, I have grown so frustrated and angry at M. Ricci’s four year winning streak that I am willing to offer the following additional “bounties” to the man or woman who deposes Ricci:
- A blogpost at LGM, from a blogger of your choice, on a topic of your choice.
- A podcast at LGM, from bloggers of your choice, on topics of your choice.
Hopefully these boons will be sufficient to break the terrible tyranny of M. Ricci over the LGM Baseball Challenge.
The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels are closing in on a trade that would send outfielder Vernon Wells and a large amount of cash to the Bronx, sources told Yahoo! Sports on Sunday.
While Wells has a no-trade clause, he informed the teams he would accept a deal to the Yankees, one source told Y! Sports.
The 34-year-old likely would play left field and move into the Yankees’ injury-battered everyday lineup. They are expected to start the season with Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter on the disabled list.
Someone get Brian Cashman on the phone. Chone Figgins is also available and he’ll definitely keep the Yankees under the luxury tax line!