The Deep Freeze

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Appropriately, Chicago is about to experience its own blend of snowmageddon as a heavy snow storm is heading into the area. I get to stay home as school has been canceled for Friday, but I’d definitely prefer staying home with some news to report.  Alas, MLB continues to operate in a deep freeze a mere week before pitchers and catchers report.  And that is no fun for anyone.  Definitely not for the currently unemployed players, probably not for the players under contract but keeping an eye on what their next contract might look like given this baseball economy, and certainly not as fun for us fans either because we have nothing to talk about except for how remarkably fucked this winter has been.

You’ve seen both ideas from Anno to try to fix the current baseball climate, as well as my fear that baseball might end up in trouble in the long term if a compromise cannot be made.  Ever since the Cubs built up their bullpen, the biggest transactional news for our favorite team has been Justin Grimm losing his arbitration case…

Now, the Cubs are among the most spendy teams this winter, having pounced early to shore up their bullpen while keeping tabs on free agent starters including Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn.  You know that we would greatly prefer that Tom Ricketts tells Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to just pay Yu Darvish already.  But that is not the M.O. right now, as teams are in some weird quasi-collusion to wait out the free agents, so much so that they’re now resorting to an independent spring training camp to keep unsigned players ready for action…

This hasn’t happened since I was in high school, the last time that MLB had a work stoppage.  And we seem to be headed towards another one as baseball’s economic system appears to be broken if nobody can reach an amicable deal.  The one that Todd Frazier just got from the Mets doesn’t count as a good deal to me, given that most people agree he was grossly underpaid for the type of player he could be.  This deep freeze is NOT GOOD for baseball.  Not for the teams that could use the right players to fill a gap or push them over the edge to become legitimate World Series contenders.  Not for the fans who want to see the teams field the best talent possible.  And certainly not for young athletes who are trying to decide which sport to specialize in, when the path to baseball stardom is already so difficult and expensive.

I invite you to read this thread:

The system as it is currently set up favors ownership immensely, and is akin to many salary structures in both non-union and union-affiliated companies, where employees are paid by seniority rather than by their merits.  We know now that there is an aging curve in all sports, including baseball, and it makes sense to get the production from the athletes when they are young.  It just so happens that young players are also very cheap by the very salary structure that was collectively bargained.  This reminds me of how my father, who was a very capable computer and information technologies specialist, eventually got phased out because companies could hire someone much younger and right out of college for way less than he was being paid.  But it’s very hard for fans to sympathize with the labor force in baseball when said laborers are getting paid way more than most fans will ever see in their entire lifetimes.  Coincidentally, that’s what ownership and MLB are banking on as they battle the union on current and future issues with the next CBA negotiations looming in less than four years.

Fans will cry that ballpark tickets (for, say, a championship-caliber team like the Cubs) are too expensive, but the owners know that they can charge those prices due to demand.  They will charge you what they think they can get away with, because most of you will pay it because you want to see the Cubs play.  Whether that money goes directly into the billionaires’ pockets or towards the players you want to see is unrelated to the ticket price.  Again, it’s hard to have sympathy for guys who make life-changing money in a calendar month, but this is why labor unions fight (even sports unions).  How much money does a billionaire owner really need?  How much money is a Kris Bryant worth if he wasn’t actually restricted by artificial salary suppression?  And honestly, why would a team want to pay for a franchise-changing free agent when they can make about as much money sucking up revenue sharing and fans still come through the turnstiles anyway?

I just needed to rant because I’ve been waiting for the Cubs to sign Yu Darvish or just decide to use Mike Montgomery as the fifth starter for what seems like two months now.  But if you are going to be frustrated about ticket prices, think how much more frustrated you would be if you understood that less than half of that money will go towards Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo or all their teammates combined.  Suddenly, it doesn’t seem all that fair, and that’s probably why you keep reading about minor league players (who get paid poverty wages) fighting for fair pay, or Bryant filing a grievance because of service time manipulation, or maybe understanding why Justin Grimm went to arbitration because of a few hundred thousand dollars.  Eventually the players will realize they’re being screwed, and indirectly, the fans are getting screwed too.


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About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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