A Note From Paul:
As you may have noticed, the posting has become a bit more sporadic around these parts as my “big step back” has certainly afforded me some nice decompression time, even if it hasn’t completely removed me from the equation. Since this site started in 2005, it has always provided me the cathartic outlet to write about the Indians and, while this has never been the most…um, interactive site on these Interwebs, this has been a labor of love to foster an intelligent place to read and dissect the Indians and since I think that I’ve accomplished that to some degree, it is not something that I’m willing to simply fade away.
Truthfully, this desire to keep the site active is tied to the fact that I think that this place provides an alternative to the website for the only newspaper in a one-paper town posting “stories” that simply link to an out-of-touch and irrelevant writer like Ingraham or (worse) post a reader comment as a “story” with a headline as groundbreaking as “Indians Still Need to Get Better – Comment of the Day” to stir the pot of discontent or attempt still dictate public opinion in a town with a major inferiority complex by appealing to the lowest common denominator.
At this point, I’m proud that the amount of RSS “followers” that subscribe to the site dwarfs the numbers that similar sites (and even mainstream media members) boast and the Twitter followers (as infrequently as I’m on Twitter) show that there is interest in continuing to visit this place more frequently than once every couple of weeks. With that in mind, I’m going to start to fold in some regular contributors to the site and the obvious first addition is Al Ciammaichella, who has filled in for me in the past on Lazy Sundays and who has written extensively on the Indians’ farm system. Al’s writing is insightful and entertaining and I think that he’s a welcome addition to the full-time cycle of stories that will continue to post here. The posting still doesn’t figure to be nearly as regimented or as regular as it has been (so hit up the RSS feed or follow on Twitter), but in this age of instant information and 140-character “analysis”, this site will remain what it has always been – a place for similarly-minded Indians’ fanatics looking for something more, in terms of insight and analysis.
With that, here’s Al with a great piece on the newly signed CBA and the impact that it figures to have on OUR Cleveland Indians…
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Union quietly negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement over the past few months, and announced on November 22 that they have a deal that will extend labor tranquility for the next five years. This ensures that MLB will continue to operate without a work stoppage of any kind since the 1994/1995 strike wiped out the ’94 playoffs and the beginning of the ’95 season. It’s the longest such streak in professional sports, which is a good thing. Some of the provisions in the new CBA though, seem somewhat short-sighted and may serve to hurt small-market clubs like the Indians. In fact, the deal takes options off the table for small-market clubs and does virtually nothing to correct the massive revenue imbalance that currently exists between the big-market teams like New York and Boston and the smaller-market clubs such as the Indians and Pirates. Given an opportunity to fix a clearly broken system, the players looked out for their own salaries and the owners took an opportunity to line their own pockets at the expense of amateur athletes.
First, let’s hit the high points in the new CBA. One change that I fully endorse is moving up the signing date for Rule 4 draft picks from mid-August to mid-July. Most of the high $$ players signed at the deadline anyways, with several of them having deals in place in advance but having to hold off on announcing them because MLB didn’t like them going over the “suggested” slot. The earlier signing date means that more players will sign in time to make their professional debuts the sam
The second change that I’m in favor of is increasing the use of instant replay to fair/foul and trapped/caught balls in the outfield. The goal is to get the call right, and hopefully this will save baseball the potential of further embarrassment by the on-field performance of an umpire. Ball/strike and safe/out calls are still not reviewable.e year they are drafted, rather than having to wait until the following season. This means they will develop a little quicker, and really means that we’ll get to see them play sooner, which is my major reason to like the change. The mid-August date always seemed arbitrary and pointless, so might as well have an arbitrary date earlier in the process.
To throw a bone to the small market clubs out there, baseball has instituted a “competitive balance lottery.” Basically, it’s welfare.
So the teams in the 10 smallest markets get entered into the lottery (good), as well as the teams with the 10 lowest revenues (bad). I understand the small market idea, but I have no clue why MLB wants to reward teams for not making money. While it is true that revenue is to a point tied to your market size, teams in small markets can still perform well and make money (see Tampa Bay for the latest example). So I like the idea, just not a huge fan of the execution.
The final point I’ll cover here is a brief one, but one that Indians fans should care about. Any player who is arrested for a DUI will undergo mandatory evaluation by the league. I’m not clear on what this mandatory evaluation will consist of, or if it will cause the player to miss any games on the field, but this is a good thing. We all remember the Miggy Cabrera incident from spring training last year, and of course the S.S. Choo DUI from midseason that he admittedly had trouble moving past. These incidents are bad publicity for the league, the team, the player involved, and more importantly they are just plain unsafe. Hopefully this serves to stem what appeared to be an increasing tide of alcohol related incidents involving MLB employees, and we never see a Leonard Little type incident where an MLB player actually kills somebody behind the wheel while drunk. It should serve to increase awareness, decrease incidents, and allow those involved to receive appropriate counseling and move past it. Aaaaaaand I’m off my soapbox.
Now, we come to the not so nice side of the new CBA. Bud Selig stated publicly that his #1 priority in the negotiations was to “fix the Rule 4 draft.” What exactly he was trying to “fix” is unclear, as I don’t think anyone was really thinking that the draft was broken other than Selig himself. So what we ended up with was this; a “luxury tax” on teams spending more than the commissioner’s instituted limits on how much each team can spend on the draft. Here’s how it looks like on paper:
So the teams picking earlier in the draft will have more $$ to spend overall than the teams picking later, but there are some pretty severe penalties for going over your limits by as little as 6%. Also, if you miss out on signing a pick, you can’t bank the $$ for overslot signings later in the draft, you just lose the opportunity to spend the money. So if the Indians dare to go overslot on signing their 1st round pick and then go on to sign high-upside guys later in the draft for overslot, they will pay up to double for their trouble, not to mention lose their 1st round draft pick in the following season. Again, let me stress that the commissioner’s office has decided that the draft, the easiest and cheapest way for teams to add elite talent, should be rigged so that teams cannot add the most amount of talent, to the point where teams lose their 1st-round pick if they dare go over Lord Selig’s recommended spending level. Per Baseball America’s Jim Calis, a whopping twenty teams (including the Indians) would have been 16% or more over the recommended bonus pool this year, which would put them in the highest possible tax bracket and cost them a pair of draft picks. I’ve always advocated overslot spending in the draft as the best possible way for a small market team like the Indians to compete, and now that advantage is being taken away by King Bud in his attempt to “fix” the draft. You could even argue that the change benefits teams from the larger TV markets, as they can afford to spend overslot, pay the tax, give up the pick(s) and then just do the same thing next year. Because if you think this will cause agents like Scott Boras to take a step back and start asking for lower bonus money, you’ve got another thing coming. So this could actually force the higher level talent to the big-budget teams, because only they will be able to afford to select them and pay the accompanying luxury taxes. So how exactly does this “fix” the draft? A draft that wasn’t broken in the first place? Beats me. For what it’s worth, the tax revenue and lost draft picks will go to teams that don’t go over the cap. I’m going to break a personal rule here and link to a Pittsburgh paper, because Pirates writer Dejan Kovacevic really hits the nail on the head in his piece looking at the same issue. I hated Selig’s unnecessary slot recommendations, I hated how his office forced teams and players to keep the lid on deals that they had agreed to for weeks at a time, and now I hate the latest changes he’s made with respect to the Rule 4 Draft. To say that I’m not a Bud Selig fan right now would be a bit of an understatement.
As if that weren’t enough, MLB has decided to “fix” the international free agent signing process in much the same way. Here’s the new rule, in its entirety:
So basically, starting next year, teams will get to spend $2.9 million on international free agents. Per team. Total. So teams like the Texas Rangers, who have invested heavily in their international facilities, scouting, and signing will now have to go from spending $17.6 million like they did last season alone to about 1/6th of that starting next year or face draconian penalties. Much like the draft, international scouting and signings have been seen as a way for smaller market teams to get some more bang for their buck in terms of elite talent. Texas, Cincy, Cleveland, Seattle, Toronto and Boston have historically been among some of the big spenders in Latin America. With the exception of Boston and Texas, those are small market teams. New York no longer needs to worry about spending time and money in their international scouting budget to keep up. More savings for them to waste money on crappy starting pitching in the free agent market. Potential advantage, lost. Not to mention the Latin American athletes who will now be more drawn to soccer and basketball as alternatives to baseball with the bonuses drying up. So for those of you who were thinking that the team could shift draft resources to the international market, no dice.
If you thought this was it, and there was no way the new CBA could possibly have any more provisions that hurt the Indians, I’m afraid I have one more. The new CBA raises the league minimum salary 16%, from $414,000 to $480,000, beginning in 2012. For most teams, that won’t make too much of a difference. But as Jon over at WFNY points out, the Indians had 16 players making the league minimum on their 40-man roster, most in the American League last year. If this year’s roster is similarly constructed, that’s an additional $1 million plus in salary flexibility that the Indians lose without making a single move. For a team that has less than $10 million to play with overall, more than 10% of the FA budget is toast because of the raise. Cause, you know, it’s awfully hard to survive on JUST $414,000 a year, plus per diem. Thank God they stepped in and bumped that up.
Not all of the provisions in the new CBA are necessarily good or bad. Some I am just plain undecided on, or really don’t care about. The ones I don’t care about, such as the Astros moving to the AL, I’m just not going to talk any further about. Some though, have a potential to effect the Indians and baseball as a whole as the years go by, so I’ll at least touch on several of them here.
The players and owners agreed on a HGH testing program for the first time.
Sounds great, right? Well, it’s a little unclear on a couple of points. Not to sound like a lawyer, but what does “reasonable cause” mean? I know about probable cause, and I know about reasonable suspicion, but I’ve never heard of reasonable cause. Also, the blood test can only pick up HGH if it has been in the system in the past 3 days. So unless a player is actively using, the test really isn’t going to be effective. It’s really more of a PR move than anything, but I’ll hold off on any harsher judgment for now.
MLB has also decided to change the way they give out compensation picks for free agent losses. The Type-A/Type-B designation is done away with, and now compensation is tied entirely to the offer that the team losing the free agent makes to the player. If the team doesn’t offer at least a guaranteed 1-year contract equal to the average of the 125 highest paid players in baseball, then there’s no compensation for losing the free agent. Here’s the text of the new provision:
This would mean that a team would have to offer about $12 million or more to a player in order to qualify for draft pick compensation. So if Sizemore comes back and has a solid but not great season and gets a 3-year, $33 million offer from the Red Sox and the Indians don’t offer him at least $12 million for one season, no draft pick compensation when he leaves. This is a pretty neutral change overall; the Red Sox were known for exploiting the draft pick compensation loophole, and a lot of middling relief pitchers and #4 starters ended up garnering draft pick compensation for no real reason. If the Indians develop and lose a real free agent of note down the road, they’ll likely at least make the token $12 million offer in order to be compensated.
The third provision of the CBA that I’m undecided on is the inclusion of an additional wildcard team, starting as soon as 2012. The two wild club teams will now play a one-game playoff for the right to be THE wild card team in each league. Unfortunately, this was not in place in 2000 when the Indians finished a game out of the playoffs. It’s a way for MLB to add drama down the stretch and say that they’re more balanced than they really are by adding another “playoff” team. I’m not a huge fan, but I’m not dead-set against it either. We’ll see how it works out.
The silliest provision in the new CBA, to me at least, is the rule banning all forms of tobacco from all major and minor league dugouts and the playing field once the gates have been open to the fans. Look, I don’t use chewing tobacco. Never have. My teammates in college sure did, but I never got into the stuff, mainly because I think it’s disgusting and causes cancer. But MLB is overreacting by banning the substance from the field entirely. If these guys want to chew, let them chew. I know of very few kids who have started dipping just because their favorite big league ballplayer has a can of snuff in their back pocket on the diamond. Trust kids to be smarter than that. Trust that they can make their own decisions. Don’t take the ability to choose away from the players on the field. That’s just a gross overreaction, and is typical of Selig’s mentality.
So there you have it, sports fans. The new CBA in a nutshell. A really, really long nutshell. Selig and the players union thought it was more important to line their own pockets than to even the playing field with respect to small and large market teams, and the only player population that will suffer are the amateurs, who (surprise surprise) had no voice in the negotiations since they are of course not in the players union yet. Funny how that works out. They “leveled the playing field” in the draft and the international FA market, traditionally the two cheapest methods of adding elite talent to a ballclub, but did nothing to curb free agent spending, the most expensive method and the method in which the Indians cannot hope to be significant players. The new CBA is a win for labor peace, and a win for big-market teams like the Red Sox, Yankees and Mets at the expense of the little guys. It’s now easier to put together a ballclub if you’re rich, and more difficult to do so if you’re smart. Thanks a lot, Bud.