Major League Baseball Players Association Boss Tony Clark started his annual spring training trip of visiting every team today and told the press just because Manny Machado signed a guaranteed $300 million dollar contract it doesn't mean the current free agent system is working. Coming on the heels of Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright's proclamation that the players are getting ready to strike if something isn't done about free agency, I've come to a simple realization: MLBPA and all its members are dumb. I mean as dumb as a box of rocks.
MLB players have gone on strike 4 times: 1972, 1981, 1985 and 1994/95. Each time I felt they were justified. In 1972 the owners refused to put half a million dollars into the pension fund to keep up with inflation. Can you believe that now? The first ever strike was over "only" half a million bucks!
In 1981 the owners wanted every team that lost a free agent to be able to take a player from the roster of the club that signed them. In essence they wanted to take away free agency rights and reconfigure them into trades. Obviously this would have killed the value of free agents and the players wisely refused.
The strike of 1985 is largely forgotten since it only lasted 2 days and all games missed were made up later in the season. This time the issues were salary arbitration and once again pension fund payments. After the bitterness of the 1981 strike each side decided to compromise quickly, the owners on the pension and the players on salary arbitration.
The strike of 1994/95 was the big one, the one that led to the cancellation of the World Series (and basically killed baseball in Montreal, but that's a post for another day). This time the owners were determined to get a salary cap in place, however the players were equally determined to stop it. The players came out on top and no salary cap was introduced. The way revenues have shot up in the past 20 years it is easy to see no cap was necessary.
Since then MLB has enjoyed labor peace and all the benefits that go along with it. Club revenues are at all time highs and players salaries are as well. Everyone is prospering. So why would current players want to kick the bee hive and threaten a new strike? Because it takes forever for free agents to sign? I have to side with the clubs in this one, it's the players and their agents that are causing the problems. Not the other way around. Good Grief.
Several years ago long guaranteed contracts for multiple millions of dollars were tossed around like candy. Not surprisingly teams have soured on these deals because they rarely pan out. Alex Rodriguez, Joe Mauer, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Chris Davis just to name a few were or are still on the books for huge money over many seasons after they failed to be productive.
It took awhile, but teams have finally learned it doesn't make much economic sense to hand out such deals. That isn't ownership trying to screw the players, it is just smarter business. So now most players are being offered shorter deals, but still with high salaries. For example last year Jake Arrieta had to "settle" for a 3 year $75 million deal with the Phillies instead of the 8 year $200 million deal he was looking for. And he had the nerve to bitch about it. If you saw him pitch for the Phillies last season, you noticed Philadelphia overpayed him by about $60 million. Still that's better than overpaying him $160 million.
Obviously players are not happy about receiving contract offers for less years and they are willing to hold out for bigger deals hoping some team finally caves in. I guess they see it as owners trying to screw them out of cash when in reality after seeing the devastating effects of paying no longer productive players top dollars, owners are trying not to screw themselves. It's not collusion, it's a market correction. It's better business. Simple economics tells you that.
Of course most players have no clue about simple economics, they have the MLBPA to handle that for them. However the MLBPA is not led by an economist or a lawyer or anybody that has any background in labor negotiations. It is led by Tony Clark, a former player. He doesn't understand economics either. That is why he still thinks the system is broke after Manny Machado signs a $300 million dollar contract.
Machado and his fellow superstar free agent Bryce Harper (along with Harper's agent Scott Boras) are the one who held up free agency this offseason. The big names need to sign first before teams know what they have and what they don't have to spend on the other free agents.
Harper was not going to sign before Machado because he wants the biggest deal in baseball and he was not going to take a chance Machado would receive more money. The ego of Scott Boras alone couldn't handle that.
Machado wanted two things this offseason: a long term high dollar guaranteed contract and for that offer to come from the Yankees. He ran into a few problems with his wishes. First the Yankees are already stacked with talent and didn't feel the need to shell out hundreds of millions for more. Second not every team in the league was ready to guarantee a king's ransom to a player who isn't a fan of hustling. So he waited until the Padres caved in. Machado gets $300 guaranteed over 10 years and he has the option to opt out of the contract after five. What a deal. If he plays like garbage he still gets $300 million. If he plays lights out, he'll pocket $150 million over five years and then get to hit the free agent market again for even more money.
Sure Tony Clark, the system is still broke.
Is this what MLB players are willing to strike over? Superstars are still getting long term huge money deals. Players of a lesser caliber are still getting big money on an annual basis, just less years guaranteed. If they play well, they can hit free agency again for even more money. If they don't play well, they will have to settle for a deal that is more closely related to their production. The horror!
I am all for MLB players being paid the big money that they are worth. That isn't the problem in baseball. The problem is too many players (I'm looking at you Chris Davis) have seriously underperformed for the deals they have signed. Now teams are getting gun shy over handing out such contracts and the players are pissed. Take a look in the mirror boys, you are the reason offseason deals move at a glacial pace. It's time for a dose of reality before you strike over an issue you have created.
What do you think? Are the owners being too stingy? Are the players expectations too high? Is Scott Boras an egomaniac who will let his own ego get in the way of his player's financial well being? (The answer to that is yes, it's a fact. Don't even bother trying to argue about it.) Please let me know in the comments below.