As we enter what should have been the second weekend of MLB Spring Training games, a number of things happened Friday that I wanted to update you on this morning.
First, there’s this rumored proposal:
Sources: As the two sides look to jump-start the CBA talks, the union has approached MLB with an offer to re-open talks on the 14-team postseason field, with the idea it can exchange this for more flexibility on the CBT numbers and other issues.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 4, 2022
While this might be a good idea on the part of the players, giving MLB something it truly wants in exchange for something the MLBPA truly wants, there’s this caution:
Thing about going from 12 to 14 teams… beyond the particulars of teams backing in, and potential to *not* invest in winning when they can slide in, there’s this:— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) March 4, 2022
Expanded playoffs is the MLBPA’s one true bargaining chip. Going to 14 removes the ability to use it again in 5 yrs
So players have to be very, very careful about what they offer and what they get in return. Or else in five years, when the CBA is up again (and why don’t they make these 10-year deals so we don’t have to go through this again every five years?), owners will try to be draconian about things like the CBT and players might find themselves in the same position (or worse) than where they are now.
Clearly, many fans would rather have baseball sooner than later and I understand that. One further issue with a 14-team playoff is the “ghost win,” a proposal to give the better team a “win” they didn’t really earn on the field, in order to make the first round weighted toward the better team. The way it would work: The higher-seeded team in the first round would only have to win two games to win a five-game series, while the lower-seeded team would have to win three. While I understand the concept, the idea of a “ghost win” in the postseason is abhorrent to me — a win when it’s the most meaningful should come on the field, in my view. Do you really want a system like this? I don’t:
The only way to have a 14-team playoff format remotely uphold integrity of the regular season would be: 1) top seed gets a bye; 2) division winners start with 1 win and get all home games in 1st round; 3) in LDS/LCS, division winners start with 1 win when facing a wild card.— The Captain's Blog (@williamnyy23) March 4, 2022
In that poll, I’d have voted for choice 1. The other thing about a 14-team playoff is:
A 14-team playoff field would make life more interesting for MLB's mediocre teams. It'd also generate TV $$ for owners, who likely have an idea of how much they could sell this for already. But it's a 162-game season. The more teams you let in, the less the season itself matters— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) March 4, 2022
If, for example, the Yankees are going to make the postseason every year (and they likely would under a system like this), why should they spend more money to help them get there?
Regarding the Rule 5 Draft, Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark give quite a few reasons why MLB might wind up cancelling it this spring:
The problem with the draft, in which teams select non-roster players from other clubs for their 40-man rosters, is that the calendar has shifted. The draft normally takes place in early December, a few weeks after teams determine which players to protect on their 40-man lists. But Major League Baseball postponed the draft indefinitely after locking out players on Dec. 2, and staging it in March or later would result in a number of issues, executives said.
Executives spoke to The Athletic on condition of anonymity, saying the league is not authorizing them to speak publicly on matters that might be related to collective bargaining. The league will need to decide how to address the draft with the players association once the parties reach a new collective bargaining agreement.
The calendar also becomes a greater factor if a deal to end the lockout is not reached soon. It no longer seems impossible that the minor-league season could start before a deal is reached. And it would be difficult to find anyone in baseball who thinks it makes sense to hold a Rule 5 draft after the minor-league season already has begun.
On to the Cactus League, where another five days’ worth of games were cancelled late Friday:
⚾️ The 2022 Cactus League season continues to be delayed. pic.twitter.com/X1c0yRoFsE— The Cactus League (@cactusleagueaz) March 4, 2022
Mesa Mayor John Giles issued this statement:
2022 would have been the first full season of spring training in several years. While it’s not completely off the table, we are disappointed to lose any portion of the season. The pandemic and changing economic conditions make it so that it is difficult to compare to previous seasons. There is no doubt that spring training brings a boost to local economies, and we are most concerned about our small businesses and the hospitality industry that adjust their operations to accommodate the influx of additional customers this time of year. The good news is that Mesa has plenty of great weather, fun outdoor adventures, arts & culture amenities, shops and eateries that those who are coming to Arizona for Spring Training can still enjoy. Those with plans should keep them, spend time in our small businesses and enjoy exploring Mesa!
A 2018 study by Arizona State University — fairly recent since there’s been only one full Spring Training since — estimated the value of the Cactus League to the Phoenix-area economy:
The typical Cactus League visitor attended three games, stayed four nights in Arizona and spent a median, or midpoint, $405 per day, according to new information provided by Arizona State University researchers.
Six in 10 fans came from out of state, and one in four visited other parts of the state while they were here.
Collectively, baseball fans from out of state pumped an estimated $373 million into Arizona’s economy from late February through the end of March, according to the more conservative of two Cactus League impact studies, both released by Arizona State University researchers on Monday.
That’s a significant amount of money brought to the Valley by out-of-state fans, and none of that will exist in 2022, most likely. Even if MLB and the MLBPA settle soon, any Spring Training games played in Arizona will be fewer than usual, and likely mostly attended by locals since a lot of people have cancelled travel plans.
I’ll leave you with this note:
That factor alone certainly won't facilitate an agreement, but both sides have to know how ugly it would become.— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) March 4, 2022
That idea does put some time pressure on. The longer things go... the bigger chance we might lose the entire 2022 season.
As Josh has said in his editions of Outside The Confines: “End the lockout, owners. Play baseball.”