Why baseball teams are spending so much – and why it’s about to end


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Baseball teams spend like there’s no tomorrow – because there isn’t

The amount of money spent is staggering. Already this offseason, Major League Baseball teams have committed nearly US $ 1.5 billion to independent agents. $ 407 million was spent on Sunday alone. On Monday, the New York Mets handed 37-year-old pitcher Max Scherzer $ 43.3 million a year for three years, breaking the record for average annual salary by 20%. In the space of 24 hours, the Texas Rangers alone lost half a billion in two players – shortstop Corey Seager (10, $ 325 million) and second baseman Marcus Semien (7, $ 175 million). Those moves instantly gave Texas the best midfield infield. But all the same – half a balance! For two guys!

The Toronto Blue Jays also opened their wallets, handing out the two richest pitching contracts in club history. The seven-year, $ 131 million extension for Jose Berrios and $ 110 million over five years to attract Kevin Gausman from San Francisco was somewhat offset by the departures of Semien and Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, who has earned a salary of $ 115 million over five years. from Seattle. But look at the Jays, who are shedding their tired image of a crippled team from a small market (which plays in North America’s fourth largest television market). They are among the biggest spenders.

Obviously, the baseball business is booming. And yet, MLB’s first work stoppage in a quarter of a century is fast approaching – and many people fear it will last a long time. So what is going on here? Has baseball lost its mind (again)? Let’s try to decompress:

That sounds bad.

The baseball collective agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday. A lockout will almost surely follow, freezing signatures and transactions for the foreseeable future. This is why we have seen so much action in the last few days. Once the time is up, no one knows when they’ll have another chance at a life-changing salary or land the player of their dreams.

Barring an extremely unlikely 11th Hour deal, this will end a 26-year period of labor peace – remarkable enough for a sport that experienced eight work stoppages between 1972 and 1995, culminating in the 7-hour strike. month and a half that wiped out the 1994 World Championship Series (and dealt a fatal blow to the Montreal Expos). It’s heartwarming to believe that such a devastating war, started by landlords trying to impose a salary cap, perhaps rattled those who fought it in a sense of Never Again responsibility, and maybe it did to some extent. But really, baseball owners and players have made so much money over the past two decades – especially the past few years as TV rights deals continue to skyrocket – that it wasn’t really worth the money anymore. worth fighting. MLB revenue hit a record US $ 10.7 billion in 2019, the last year before the pandemic.

Now, however, players seem hardened by the idea that their slice of the pie, however rich, has actually shrunk. While homeowners’ incomes have reached unprecedented levels in recent years, their average wages have remained stable. Their anger over it helped fuel bickering over how (or even if) baseball would tighten up in a 2020 season at the start of the pandemic. The teams finally made a deal, but only after a fierce battle over the amount of “guaranteed” player salaries that owners were forced to honor when the season was reduced to just 60 games and played in empty stadiums, without ticket or concession. -buy fans. In some ways, this has toughened up the owners as well. They can now credibly say that their end of the business is not without risk.

Another thing that contributes to the economic anxiety of players is the statistical revolution in baseball. No one seemed to care when it was just curious fans opening up Silver ball and learn that the base percentage is actually a useful statistic. But it has mutated to the point that seemingly every team is now run by ruthless, efficiency-obsessed types of management consultants. Unlike the tobacco-spitting GMs of old, these guys probably aren’t romantic about baseball – and certainly not about paying too much for mid-level veterans when a younger guy can make a big deal. 85 percent work as good for a much smaller fraction of the price. These veterans are a big part of the players’ union, and they’re sick of getting run over after years of paying their dues.

With that in mind, players want to be paid more early in their careers (which in turn could help veteran free agents attract better deals). They also want to end the manipulation of duty time – the shady practice of keeping a major league-ready prospect in the minors a little longer to delay his eventual free agency – and to discourage the tendency for teams to fight for. a better draft pick (and therefore not signing good players). Plus, more traditional demands such as milder luxury tax penalties for high-payroll teams and the elimination of draft selection compensation for teams that lose a free agent – both are holding back spending.

Owners would be happy if everything stayed the same as it is today, especially when it comes to spending on gamers. But they would also like an international draft, extended playoffs (that’s more money for national television) and rule changes aimed at improving the way the game unfolds. They are always sure to disclose elements of their proposals that seem like fun to fans – like a draft lottery and letting the top teams choose their opponents in the first round of the playoffs. So, yes, there is plenty to fight for, if you are looking to fight.

But that’s probably not as bad as it sounds.

OK, both sides are asking a lot. But the optimistic point of view is that none of this seems existential. No one is demanding a radical change in the economic rules of the game, like in 1994. Or threatening the contraction of two teams, like in 2001. If everyone can keep their cool, there seems to be a deal. -space here.

And there is a lot of time. Of course, it would be nice to maintain this long streak of work and peace – not to mention the momentum of all the Hot Stove action of the past few days. But there’s nothing tangible to lose before spring training opens in mid-February. And nothing really to lose until the opening day of the regular season, scheduled for March 31.

You’re going to hear a lot of posturing over the next few weeks, maybe months. But don’t forget that free agent binge eating we just witnessed. When people spend money, it is usually an indication that they are confident in their ability to do more in the near future. That’s true for your average Christmas shopper, and it’s true for multi-billion dollar baseball teams. Let’s just hope that this spirit of generosity continues.

Max Scherzer, 37, is on the verge of earning a higher salary than anyone in baseball history – by far. (Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images / File)


Patrick Roy wants to be the next general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. They are looking for one after sacking Marc Bergevin on Sunday. Owner Geoff Molson said yesterday that the person hired will share the role of leading the team with the new vice president of hockey operations, Jeff Gorton (the former general manager of Rangers). Today, one of the Habs’ all-time greats threw his hat into the ring. “Since 1993, the team has been going around in circles,” said Roy, referring to the year he led Montreal to its last Stanley Cup. “What do they have to lose by giving me a chance?” The 56-year-old is currently the head coach and general manager of the Quebec Remparts junior team, but has limited NHL experience beyond his Hall of Fame career. He was coach and vice president of hockey operations for the Colorado Avalanche from 2013-2016 before stepping down. To learn more about Roy’s desire to return with the Canadiens, click here.

Tiger Woods is not ruling out participating in the British Open next year. Speaking to the media in person for the first time since the Feb. 23 car crash that shattered his right leg and questioned his golfing future, Woods said he was still a long way off from competing again at the highest level of the game. “I can play a par 3 course, I can hit a few shots, I can steal and putt,” Woods said at a tournament in the Bahamas he is hosting. “But we’re talking about going out there and playing against the best in the world on the toughest golf courses in the toughest conditions. I’m so far from that.” The Masters in April looks very likely, and the PGA Championship (May) and US Open (June) weren’t discussed, but Woods had at least hope for the British Open in July at famed St. Andrew’s. “This is my favorite golf course in the world,” he said. “Physically, I hope I can. Learn more about what Woods had to say about his recovery and possible return here.

You are aware. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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