First Pitch: Baseball in the Wintertime

The games played during the winter don’t really count for anything in the long-run.

They just give us small samples of hope or fear for the future.

Is a hot streak in the Dominican Winter League a positive sign for a lower level prospect?

Is a cold streak in the same league for an upper level prospect a bad sign?

Is none of it predictive, because the sample sizes are too small?

And what about the games played off the field?

Do the bad signs get to be dismissed away as a small sample size?

*****

Imagine being a Major League Baseball player.

You play in a league that has seen a record level of revenue, year after year, topping $10 billion in each of the last few years.

Every single detail of your salary is public knowledge the moment the deal is signed.

No one has a clue what that $10 billion figure per year means for owner profits.

And does profitability per year even matter when we’re talking about owning billion dollar franchises in a league that has steadily increased revenue every single year of this century?

The profit comes when you sell.

Owners are quietly celebrated when a team is sold, but in a weird way, where the focus goes to how much money the new owner spent. That’s weird, as it glosses over the fact that the old owner — typically every departing owner is disliked by the fanbase — was a massive beneficiary of that large sum. And that massive payout probably came after years of that owner holding a deck of cards in his hand, and constantly telling you to Go Fish! when you ask if he has any cards to give.

We know every last cent that MLB brings in.

We even know about the money the owners have made outside of the game, separate from the players.

We know how much is paid to the players, and we’ve seen the share tip more and more to the owner’s favor.

We know how much each individual player makes, down to the single dollar for players receiving millions.

And we’re led to believe that the owners can’t afford any of it, and are actually losing money.

Like a bad used car dealer.

Except the cars are people.

People who don’t have a right to speak out.

Because they play a game in a country where over 50% of the population has a negative net worth.

And they’re paid an amount that removes any ability to complain about their job.

Because they don’t have to worry about housing, or food, or medicine for their kids, or a new roof, or any of the other number of emergencies that hit people every single day.

They just have bad bosses, and they’re exploited for their physical abilities at a highly discounted rate to make money for those bosses. And that’s not going to win over the people who have a bad boss, and are exploited in the same way themselves. The bad bosses and the overworking, underpaying jobs are lines on the list for them that are written in pen.

That’s how the owners have traditionally shut the players up. What do they have to complain about?

*****

It’s difficult to navigate a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic. It was certainly messy for MLB.

There were times over the summer when it seemed like the league was headed for a strike, rather than seeing a chance to return.

They finally came to a deal, and played a shortened season.

A big hold up was the health and safety of the players. They wanted to know how much they would be receiving to be the ones putting their bodies and long-term health at risk.

That played out as expected, with the players being called greedy for asking for money, all while the owners forced them onto the field during a pandemic for the sole purpose of making money.

The players went along with it. A lot of them got COVID-19. No one knows how many would have otherwise remained healthy. No one knows the long-term implications for the people who got COVID-19. But the players went along with it, and MLB had a shortened season with a very exciting 16-team playoff.

And then the owners immediately started talking about how much money they lost.

Suddenly, the group that wouldn’t go anywhere close to confirming or denying a certain level of profits was getting very specific about loss figures.

The group that explains away any profit figures that leak out as a snapshot of a larger picture — which shows barely any profits over time, we promise — is now talking about how one bad year decimates their business.

Weird how, when celebrating the record revenues after every single season the last few years, we never heard how this would allow MLB to offset future revenue losses.

Keep in mind that during this time, their revenue share split with the players shifted heavily in the owner’s favor. Their biggest proof of spending was documented to go down, while their revenues were documented to go up.

The owners are now proposing a later start to the season in 2021.

Here we go again, players…

I like the idea of moving the MLB season back, and wrote the other day from the owner perspective about how a long-term shift to starting and ending the season later works to today’s MLB revenue sources.

I’m just guessing the players won’t receive full salaries in a shortened 2021, citing owner losses.

Owner losses that are probably going to be passed on to the players, the fans, the cities that give tax dollars, and everyone else but the owners themselves.

So, tell me…

Where did all of that money go from all of those record years of revenue?

Where did all of the money go from the BAMTech sales?

And why shouldn’t the players strike when the next CBA expires?

The 10th Anniversary Prospect Guide returns to print! We are releasing two variant covers this year, featuring Mitch Keller and Ke’Bryan Hayes. Visit our shop to order these extremely limited items!

 

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