The latest Major League Baseball economic proposal sent yesterday to the MLB Players Association assures that the 2020 season won’t start before July 10. And it heightens suspicions that we’re facing a 50-game schedule that, in the immortal words of heavyweight boxer Clubber Lang in “Rocky III,” is going to produce a paper champion.
As first reported by ESPN’s Karl Ravech, ownership is now seeking a 76-game season, concluding on Sept. 27, that pays players 75 percent of their prorated contracts. The postseason would finish up prior to the end of October, decreasing the odds of another stoppage, and players would dip into a portion of the playoff pool money.
Ownership keeps massaging the numbers and coming up with basically the same cuts in salary. Very little ground is given, except for the temporary elimination of draft pick compensation for free agent signings.
The market could become more active without it. So there’s that.
CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa pointed out yesterday that the league’s initial 82-game proposal with a sliding scale would have paid players on average roughly 33 percent of their full salary. The same is true of the 50-game schedule with fully prorated salaries and yesterday’s proposal.
You can put lipstick on a pig, but it ain’t getting any prettier.
Multiple reporters tweeted that players remained unhappy and no progress was made. The Athletic’s Evan Drellich wrote that the union thinks the offer is actually a step backward.
Players are determined to get 100 percent of their prorated pay. There have been no indications that owners will give in to that demand.
The clock is ticking on a 2020 season. At what point does the alarm sound?
I wonder how much virtual meetings versus face-to-face sessions are impacting the proceedings. Would the latter move the needle further? Because right now, it all sounds like a scratched record.
If you’re searching for encouragement, you may have to settle for the idea that the lines of communication remain open. The sides are going back and forth. They are trying hard to avoid a cancellation, understanding the repercussions.
I didn’t read much about lingering health concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mostly the latest sparring over financial compensation. But we can keep saying it isn’t just about money.
Proper spacing will need to be done in clubhouses to provide safe distances between players. Fans likely will be kept out of ballparks. Perhaps the media as well. Travel will be regional.
But only if there’s an actual season.
In the meantime, the Orioles are left to wonder how the anticipated cancellation of the minor league season and the possible nixing of major league games are going to impact its rebuilding project.
“It’s not ideal, but I think that every team across baseball is getting hurt by this on a number of levels,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said yesterday during a Zoom call.
“Obviously, there are economic impacts and all kinds of ramifications to the sport, but if you’re a team that’s not rebuilding, your window might be closing and you’re missing out on your players maximizing their playing time during this competitive window. But for a team that’s rebuilding like ours, yeah, the repetitions at the minor and major league levels, for young players at the major league level, that’s development that’s not occurring.
“I’ve said before that the only consolation is every team is in the same boat. I’m trying to keep a glass-half-full attitude about the draft. I’m happy that we have our high picks, that we’re getting our top five rounds in, but it’s not fun that we can’t continue to add players to the system beyond the fifth round. We feel like we’re good at picking late and last year we took a lot of really good pitchers on the second day of the draft and really bolstered our system. You saw they pitched well in Aberdeen. So we’re just not getting all that.
“We’re going to try to sign as many kids as we can after the draft. I don’t know what that number’s going to be, I don’t know how these kids are going to make their decisions. Nobody really knows how that’s going to go and that process won’t start until two days after the draft is over, so we’re not going to know for a while, but we’re content with the fact that we’re getting our five rounds in and we’re going to do the best we can.”
What are the Orioles selling to the undrafted players following the quiet period?
“We’ve got recruiting materials prepared in terms of video and also some written materials about the opportunity that exists in our system,” Elias said. “We want to wait and let the draft happen first and see who gets drafted and who doesn’t, but we’ve had relationships that we’ve been building with these kids as an amateur scouting department and also our player development department is involved in those efforts as well. And we think that this is a terrific place to come sign if you’re an undrafted free agent for a number of reasons.
“We’re on the cutting edge of player development, we have a lot of track record and success with player development. We saw a big step forward from our players last year using these results. We’ve got more on the horizon in terms of things that we’re going to be introducing. And maybe even beyond that, we’re rebuilding and this is a rebuild that’s focused on homegrown players and homegrown pipeline and a strategy that will be reliant on internally grown players, so the opportunity to not only get better but actually play for the major league team and graduate to the big leagues and play for the Orioles is much greater here than it would be with a club that’s not undergoing that strategy or generally speaking relies on more of a big free agent operating model.
“So I think this is the place to be and a club like us is the place to be if you’re a player and you want to make the big leagues.”
The Orioles used the first overall pick last year on catcher Adley Rutschman based on his plus tools behind the plate and as a hitter. But they also liked his makeup, which becomes a little more challenging to grade without games played.
“It’s really important with the high picks,” Elias said. “Other than health, I think that’s the biggest thing that causes a high pick to fail, because these guys are all so talented to even be considered that high, so it’s often intangible things that separate themselves from one another.
“We put a lot of work into it. We had met with the candidates in person this winter. I did personally and there are others that we did to that we met over Zoom and it worked pretty well. There’s a lot of background that goes into it other than meetings. The scouts do a ton of background work, we talk with people around the program - the coaches, the strength coaches, the guy in our minor league system who used to play there. Just everyone.
“You end up getting a pretty clear picture and in my experience it jibes with the reality more often than not when you do your work.”
The Tigers are expected to select Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson with the first overall pick. Otherwise, the Orioles certainly would take him.
“We don’t know yet,” Elias said. “I’ll probably get that info pretty clearly sometime the afternoon before the draft. But usually when the same player is pegged to the same team No. 1 at the same list over and over and over, there’s an outcome that I think tends to happen. I think we’re preparing for all possibilities, but the level of mystery surrounding that pick this year seems lower than average.”