Tuesday, June 9, 2020

"[T]here is no indication that the two sides can negotiate a settlement. Without one, Commissioner Rob Manfred can impose a regular-season schedule as he sees fit, which would mean a roughly 50-game season, at full, prorated pay, to be completed by the end of September, with the playoffs and the World Series in October."

This we know: Mother Nature is a maniac, the cockroach is immortal, and a 50-game pennant race - (aka: the Shane Spencer Memorial League) - will be a sad, unfunny joke. 

In the 50-game season, Cody Bellinger hits .400. Geritt Cole pitches five innings - and goes the distance! A once-around-the-league rookie wins MVP. Hey, maybe Oddibe McDowell can make a comeback! 

But I prefer Shane Spencer, the former miracle outfielder for the 1998 Yankees. Down the stretch that year, he hit 10 home runs in 67 at bats, batting .373 in August and September. Joe Buck called him "Roy Hobbs." A future Yankee plaque in Monument Park! Another Yankee in Cooperstown! And then, over a painful seven-year career, Spencer hit .262, mostly in platoon roles. 

Imagine the potential 2020 season:

A 50-game race... played in joyless, empty ball parks... enforced with massive logistical travel issues... with players quarantined from their families... and the relentless shadow of a COVID second wave, always threatening to wipe out everything... 


Well, today's Gray Lady says what we all know: Time is running out.

The players agreed in March to take prorated salaries based on how many games they played in 2020, and they have not budged from that stance. Their refusal to do so has exasperated (Commissioner Rob) Manfred, whose latest proposal, on Monday, is sure to be rejected by the union.

Manfred's plan calls for playing 76 games, with players receiving 75 percent of their prorated salaries. Doing cocktail napkin math, that means a player who is normally paid $1 million will get about $400,000, (after the agent takes his cut.) Stars will lose tens of millions. That's a killer for the union, whose members believe they were screwed in the last bargaining agreement, when the owners neatly treated luxury taxes like a de facto salary cap. 

Before last winter, when the free-agent market rebounded after two sluggish off-seasons, many players and agents had suspected owners were colluding against them to hold down salaries. That suspicion is raging again.

It's easy to blame greedy players. Hey, you'd play for free burgers, right? But the owners built this labor relations shithouse. In recent years, as Yankee franchise revenues skyrocketed, the team's payroll diminished. Hal Steinbrenner simply pointed to the luxury taxes, yanked out his pockets and said he had to cut costs. The media danced to his tune. What a scam. 

Remember how the free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper visited New York City, begging for an offer from the richest team in sports - a uniform both grew up wanting to wear? The Yankees toasted their interest and then turned their backs. While we can argue whether that was wise or foolish, the union noticed. 

And now the 2020 Shane Spencer Memorial League hangs in the balance. The NBA and NHL seem to have staked out seasons, and the NFL is slogging forward, (though, frankly, I'll believe it when I see it.) Baseball's owners are paying the price of pissing away trust with players, fans, farm clubs, cities...

If America can figure out how to reconfigure bloated police departments nationwide - and we must - maybe it's time to also reassess the big tax breaks given to billionaire team owners, via publicly financed stadiums. The world after  COVID needs serious changes. Yep, Mother Nature sure is a maniac. So is Momma Karma. 


JM said...

I liked Shane Spencer. He, like Sanchez, started out hot and then cooled. But unlike Sanchez, he was never really given a chance to be a regular. And when he finally was, he was doing very well, thanks, but an injury put him in the whirlpool for quite a while and he was never given another chance.

Oh, well. The Yankees will do that to some young players.

Hiya, Clint.

Anonymous said...

@JM, Shane Spencer was never one of "Torre's boys". As we all know, Torre hated platooning or pinch hitting and played favorites. If you weren't one of his boys, you never played, as Kenny Lofton will tell you.

As far as the season, why should players risk their health and probably their lives, and the lives of their families, to get paid only 75% of "pro-rated" salaries? So, let me get this straight, the owners want players to take what amounts to a 25% PAY CUT to play this year? WTF??? Since players are risking their lives, they really should get their FULL YEAR SALARY, even if they only play 50 games.

The Hammer of God

Publius said...

Apropos of baseball's enduring contribution to American culture, perpetual labor war...Spencer was 1995 scab, wasn't he? Seem to recall a story about the players hesitating to vote him a share of 1998 postseason money, despite his contributions, because he'd been a scab. I think they gave him his money eventually, but it wasn't a feel good story.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Yeah, in fairness to Torre, Spencer did himself no favors.

He had a pretty crowded outfield to beat out—in 1998, the Yanks also had Bernie, Strawberry, O'Neill, Ledee, Raines, and Chili Davis, for example—and the 2000 injury was really devastating, and of course nobody's fault.

But there was also a lot of nonsense, like he and Karim Garcia beating up a pizza delivery guy in 2004, and then Spencer drunk driving and getting caught fighting in a bar when he was supposed to be rehabbing in his last chance with the Mets that year. Less than total devotion to the game, no?

Pity, though, that that little thunderstorm did him in, in 2001. Apparently, everyone in Arizona's park thought he had hit a three-run homer to give the Yanks a 5-1 lead over Schilling in the 7th inning of Game 7. If he had, that was ballgame.

Instead, that fast-moving storm knocked his flyball down, and then wet the field enough for all the ninth-inning shenanigans. Too bad.

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