Late last week – at about the eleventh hour – MLB and the MLBPA reached an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). There were only about 24 hours left on the old agreement when the bargaining concluded and now it needs to be ratified by the owners and by the players as a whole. The term of the new CBA would be 5 years which would mean that there would be no threats or danger of strikes, work stoppages, lockouts and the like through 2021. The last time there was a work stoppage in baseball was in 1995 so when this agreement is ratified, there will be a 26-year period of “labor peace”.
In 2016, the estimated revenue for all of MLB was $9B. An off-handed interpretation of the new agreement would be that the folks representing the billionaire owners and the folks representing the millionaire players found a way to continue to bathe in the flow of $9B annually. I am sure there was more to it than that; but when I read about the things that baseball writers and commentators consider noteworthy in the new agreement, I am not so sure that the off-handed interpretation is so wrong. Let me dispense with a couple of terms in the new CBA that seem self-evident to me:
- The use of chewing tobacco and other forms of smokeless tobacco is banned in MLB. Current players who use these products are grandfathered but new players will not be users. I hope it did not take long for both sides to agree that this was a good idea.
- The All-Star Game will no longer determine the home-field advantage for the World Series. The fact that it ever did was abjectly stupid from the moment it was first uttered aloud. Home field advantage will now go to the team with the better regular season record which is as it should have been for about a century now. This issue does not put or take a single penny in or out of either side’s pockets; I hope it did not take long for both sides to reach agreement here. In algebra class in high school, we all learned that removing a negative number is a positive; therefore, I choose to call this CBA provision the World Series Algebraic Clause.
Missing from the new CBA is a provision to put a pitch clock in MLB games. Too bad… They use a pitch clock in minor league games and it seems to work just fine.
There are changes in the rules governing Qualifying Offers for potential free agents. Briefly, under the old CBA, if a player turned down a Qualifying Offer and then signed with another team as a free agent, the signing team lost a draft pick and the money associated with that pick in the signing bonus pool and took a reduction in the amount it could spend on intentional players. Now, the “costs” associated with signing such a free agent are scaled. Teams who are over the luxury tax threshold will lose a second round and a fifth-round draft pick – plus associated money in signing pools – while teams under the luxury tax limit will only lose a third-round pick. That is the abbreviated version of the changes; if you are interested in the “wherefores” and the “moreovers”, Google is your friend…
Since I mentioned the luxury tax threshold above, that number is going up over the 5 years of this agreement. In 2016, it was $189M in total payroll per club. Here is how it changes in the new agreement:
- 2017: $195M
- 2018: $197M
- 2019: $206M
- 2020: $209M
- 2021: $210M
Penalties for teams that exceed these new thresholds increase too. First time “offenders will pay a 20% luxury tax; second time “offenders will pay a 30% tax and third time offenders will pay a 50% tax. Moreover, there is a new “luxury surtax” for teams that are way over the threshold.
- Over by $20M to 40M = 12% surtax
- Over by $40M the first time = 40% surtax
- Over by $40M the second time = 42.5% surtax.
Th last thing in the new CBA that I find interesting is that “Moneyball” is about to undergo a significant change. The Oakland A’s have been recipients of the MLB version of revenue sharing based on their low attendance and revenue status. That is going to change; the A’s are in a large metropolitan area and should not be considered a “small-market team” like Milwaukee or Tampa. Some reports said that there are owners in MLB who do not think that the A’s have taken the revenue sharing money and plowed it back into “team improvement initiatives” and that those voices prevailed on the MLB side of the bargaining table. Obviously, I do not know if that is the case or how all of this came about in the new CBA. However, if those reports are correct, the Oakland A’s are a troubled franchise.
The A’s are clearly the “junior partner” in the Bay Area market. The Giants drew 3.37M fans in 2016; the A’s drew 1.52M fans in 2016 – second lowest in MLB. The A’s play in a stadium that would be paid a compliment if one were to call it an upholstered toilet. They are going to be phased out of the revenue sharing money meaning they will likely be fielding teams for the foreseeable future comprised of young players who are auditioning to go to other teams.
Finally, I used to watch Sesame Street with my kids when they were of an appropriate age for that program. Every day, the program would be “brought to you” by a letter of the alphabet – and a number – and they would feature words that began with that letter. Well if you are a Sesame Street alum and an NFL fan, you might conclude that the 2016 season is not being brought to you by the letter “C”. Four teams in the league are from cities that begin with “C” and here are their records:
- Carolina: 4-8-0
- Chicago: 3-9-0
- Cincy: 4-7-1
- Cleveland: 0-12-0
- TOTAL: 11-36-1
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………