Happy Pi Day. One of the local supermarkets here has a sale today where you can buy a pie for $3.14. I like apple pie, please…
MLB and the MLBPA have reached some agreements on some rule changes. No, these are not going to be changes to the sacred rules that govern on-field play; any change along those lines would demand a convocation of important figures and august leaders equivalent to the Diet of Worms. However, it is significant that they did reach agreement on some things because in the recent past – – and in the distant past – – MLB and the MLBPA would not agree that night came after day or vice versa.
- The optimist sees all of this as a sign that the two sides know they will each need to compromise on issues when the new CBA must be hammered out in 2 years.
- The pessimist sees all of this as the spending of a few small things the two sides can agree on meaning there are fewer seed crystals for an agreement later.
- The pragmatist sees this as a set of small steps in a positive direction.
I like the first area of agreement a lot. Starting now, there will be a single trade deadline – – July 31. There will be no waiver-trades in August. Frankly, if they moved this back until July 1 it would be fine with me. Too many teams throw in the towel too early in the season rendering too many teams and games less than important in the final weeks of the regular season. I understand that the job of a GM just got a bit harder because final decisions on making a playoff run must be backed up a month and because a significant injury in August cannot be addressed with a trade. System depth just got more important to contending teams.
Another rule change involves a change in the voting process to select the All-Star Game participants. It too will be implemented this year; it involves a two-step voting process; in the grand scheme, this just does not matter.
Next year, the major league roster will expand to 26 players and will limit teams to 13 pitchers. In addition, the September rosters will only expand to 28 teams with a maximum of 14 pitchers. That too is a step in the right direction – but does not go far enough.
Here is why MLB and the MLBPA need to stop finding ways to disagree with one another. The 2019 season is about to begin in 2 weeks – not counting an opening game in Tokyo between the A’s and Mariners. There are 30 teams in MLB, and I want to set a very low standard for teams to achieve in order to be successful in the eyes of their fans. Here is the standard:
- My team will play .500 baseball for the 2019 season.
As Derrick Coleman would say about that level of expectation, “Whoop-di-damned-doo!” However, even with that low a standard, I think that fans of at least 40% of MLB teams would be happy to see that outcome for 2019. Of course, there must be teams with losing records in order for there to be teams with winning records that go to the playoffs and the World Series. But it takes more than a .500 record to be a playoff team – – absent a stunningly unusual set of season circumstances – – and I think these teams will begin play in April with zero expectation that they will even win 81 games let alone the 90 game or so that the top teams will win. Here is my list of thirteen “little-to-no-hope teams:
- Blue Jays
- White Sox
[Aside: If you twisted my arm, I could add the Giants to this list thereby covering 47% of MLB teams.]
[Second Aside: Note that four of the five teams in the AL Central are on my list above. That should make for a real nail-biter of a race in that division.]
Granted, this is not as unbalanced as the NBA; but it is not an ideal set-up. Not meaning to pick on the Mariners or their fans, but when the ceremonial first pitch is thrown in Tokyo for that opening game in about a week, what percentage of the Mariner fanbase is seriously considering that game to be the first step toward this year’s playoffs?
When MLB and the MLBPA sit down to negotiate the next CBA – and they better start soon – they are going to focus on “economic issues” involving distribution of league revenues and alleged collusion to limit salaries for aging players and the economic effect(s) of the luxury tax and revenue sharing in MLB. Of course, those will be contentious issues and it will take time to find avenues of compromise. However, I think that the two sides also need to address bridging the gap that exists between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in MLB.
Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:
“Plungers: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s request that sportsbooks in Nevada and other states refrain from taking bets on spring training games was shrugged off by the gambling industry. As it should have been. But think about it. Who is throwing money at Grapefruit and Cactus League games? People who need help, most likely.”
I agree with Professor Molinaro here; betting on Spring Training games – and/or NFL Exhibition games – is not remotely interesting to me. But Commissioner Manfred is off-base asking sportsbooks to take those games off the board. It is almost as if Manfred thinks that by doing so, people will refrain from betting on Spring training games. If he does believe that, he needs to be introduced to a few local bookmakers; those entrepreneurs will take action on Spring Training baseball or junior league curling if there is sufficient demand. It is not as if the sportsbooks are creating the marketplace.
Finally, consider this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times related to baseball and wagering:
“Yankee Stadium could soon host sports betting if New York legislators pass pending legislation.
“If the Reds covet a parlor of their own, ‘The Rose Garden’ has a nice ring to it.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………