Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thoughts on Things I Would Like To See In the New CBA

2016 is the last year of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA) between Major League Baseball(MLB) and the MLB Players Association(MLBPA).  Negotiations for a new agreement will be starting anytime. I am sure groundwork is already being done.  Here are some changes I would like to see in the next agreement which may or may not have a ghost of a chance of happening:

1.  Minor league representation.  Current affiliated minor league players are in the worst of all possible worlds, bound to work/play for just one organization while having no collective bargaining representation.  MLB can continue to fight a current class action lawsuit filed by former Giants farmhand Garrett Broshuis and others, or they can do the right thing and do something about the shamefully low pay and harsh working conditions of the minor leaguers.  Ironically, it is the MLBPA that may have more incentive to block representation by the minor leaguers.  The simplest way to accomplish it would be to include affiliated minor leaguers in the MLBPA.  Since there are more minor leaguers than major leaguers, current MLBPA members may fear getting outvoted by minor leaguers.  This could be circumvented by by weighting the votes.  Bottom line is the minor league players need a seat at the bargaining table.

2.  Pay raise for minor leaguers.  Current pay for most minor leaguers is about $1200 per month only for the 5 months in the season.  It is time to recognize that ball playing is a full time, year around job.  I would suggest a yearly minimum salary structure starting at around $20 K in the short season leagues with graduations up to around $50 K for AAA players.  I am thrilled for Brandon Crawford and his family being set for life, but if Brandon Crawford can get paid $75 m for playing MLB, then MLB can easily afford to pay it's affiliated minor leaguers a fair wage.

3.  International draft.  This may seem terribly regressive compared to #'s 1 and 2 above, but the current system is unfair to American players who are subject to a draft.  Bonus pools quickly became a joke with ridiculous manipulations by all teams, but mainly large market ones.  I would advocate for a separate international draft with similar bonus pools as in the current Rule 4 draft which seem to work quite well and seem fair to both teams and players.

4.  Elimination of the Rule 5 draft.  Yes, there are success stories that come out of the Rule 5 draft, but in the vast majority of cases, the players end up getting lost in the shuffle and actually lose ground in their fight to climb the ladder to MLB.  In most cases, they are eligible for minor league free agency just one year later.  Move minor league free agency up a year.  If the organization wants to keep the player, they can negotiate a better contract.

5.  Draft lottery for the top 10 picks.  There is at least a sliver of suspicion that some teams are doing complete teardowns as a planned strategy to get a series of top 5 draft picks.  It's not quite the same as intentionally tanking games, although that may be happening too, but it's coming awfully close.

6.  Create a subcommittee to study head protection for catchers and pitchers with a mandate to recommend a plan within 1 year.  IMO, it is not a question of if, but when someone is going to die on a MLB baseball field due to head trauma from pitched or batted balls.

7.  Some type of movement toward better strike zone accountability for the Umps.  I don't think we are quite ready for electronic ball and strike calls, but the current system where the ump gets to call whatever he or she pleases is blatantly unfair and lowers the enjoyability of the game.

8.  Some type of adjustment of the usage of instant replay in situations where a runner's foot may instantaneously come off a bag due to momentum and other similar situations where the game has been changed dramatically by instant replay and not for the better.

I am sure I am missing something here.  What would you like to see changed in the next CBA?


  1. I think there should be a single draft each year that includes U.S. born players and international players. Allowing the international players to be free agents while requiring U.S. born players to go through a draft is patently unfair . Let's level the playing field.

    1. I totally agree. Let the international players have the same structure as our U.S. players. Why should they have an advantage? This would also make the draft a little more exciting with more talent in the mix. Maybe allow teams to trade their picks with each other for rounds 1-3. That is one of the most exciting things for me during the NFL draft is hearing about the last minute trades during the draft.

  2. I'd like the lottery to be along the lines of the NBA weighted lottery and anyone who wants to get into professional baseball (International players) would have to be included.

    I think it's foolish, and practically criminal, what minor leaguers get paid. It's not like they can live and train properly on that kind of money. In fact, I'd say the following for all affiliated minor-league clubs: Short-year: 20K All other levels 50K/year which is about what you'd pay an inexperienced staff accountant.

    As for balls & strikes. I'd at least like more accountability. But I'm really starting to lean toward technology and having pitches called by PitchFX or the equivalent. That still leaves the umpire to deal with swinging strikes, check swings, foul tips, dropped balls, plays at home, etc.

    1. I'm with you, Moses, on using technology for calling balls and strikes. I can't even watch basketball anymore because the whims of the officials have such an impact on that game, and I detest the crazy strike zones that some of the MLB umpires have for the same reason.

  3. DrB, would you agree to include a one-time amnesty clause like the NBA? This is where each team can buy out the contract of a player and it will not count towards the salary cap or salary tax. This is so that a huge contract like Barry Zito can be taken off of the books where that the team can go out and get another player. A huge contract can cripple a team. For example, if we were to go and sign Zimmermann for 6 years and in year 4 he has to have TJ surgery and will miss 12-18 months, it might be advantageous of the Giants to buy him out and move on from that contract. I think if it is a one-time thing per team it would be nice. I would not like it if teams could use this clause multiple times in say a 5 year stretch. What do you think?

  4. One way the minor leaguers could co-exist in the MLBPA is to have two bargaining units; each unit is fairly independent of the other while both sit under the MLBPA umbrella.

  5. Re: #7. I would advocate electronic balls and strikes equipment for minor league umpires to help train them to know the actual strike zone. (Bonus - It would also teach hitters the actual strike zone.)The electronic equipment for such would probably be very expensive so there would likely be resistance from MLB to locate equipment in every city. But if this equipment was located in one or two cities per league the umpires would eventually rotate to these locations wherein they can learn their individual weaknesses calling pitches. The end result would be future MLB umpires knowing the strike zone. There would be no electronic equipment used in MLB games (this would satisfy the purists who like the "human element" in baseball.) Personally, I would like to see electronic equipment in both the major and minor leagues.

  6. I guess I am the minority here. I am not too concerned on what minor league players make. At the end of the day these minor league clubs have to earn revenue as well. As a real world example here is data below from Forbes in 2013 on the Giants and AAA Grizzlies (our AAA at that time). The revenue of the Grizzlies is barely 2% of the parent club and they ran at a negative 1.6 million over that year. So, I do not see how if a major league minimum is around 450-500K that you could pay a minor league player 50K+. I am not by any means stating they should get beggars wages but around 20-30K sounds about right. I found another report that on top of their wages they get on average about $100.50 per day for food which seems pretty generous. It is also true that a lot of players find families in their area who are willing to give them room and board out of respect to the clubs. If you told me when I was 20 that I could get paid to play baseball for a few years and if I turned out to be good enough to make the major leagues that I would be set for life I would say "when should I pack?". Some of these kids have college degrees and could spare a few years to follow their dreams. The kids that chose to sign straight out of high school may not have the same opportunities if they cannot reach the pros.

    1. Fresno Grizzlies

    Team Value: $24 million
    Revenue: $6.3 million
    Operating Income: -$1.6 million

    2. San Francisco Giants

    Team Value: $2 billion
    Revenue: $384 million
    Operating Income: $68.4 million

    1. Revenue streams from MLB. It would not significantly impact their profits. It would smart investment in player development for many reasons.

  7. The $100.50 food per dime goes to Major leaguers on the road, while Minor leaguers get about $25. And since the MiLB teams act as elaborate training facilities for parent clubs who assign and shift their rosters, I don't see why the MLB teams should not foot the bill for paying their organization's employees.

  8. I get just as frustrated as anyone with the strike zone but, you know what? To me that's part of the game. Yelling at the umpire has been around since the beginning of time and is one of the things to me that make it fun. The umpires have always been a part of the game. Yes, they should be monitored and consistently bad umpires should be fired. I would absolutely HATE the balls and strikes being called electronically, it would make the game sterile. It's the players job to determine the umpires tendencies and adjust to them if necessary. Even at the bases I miss a good old shouting match between the manager and the umpire, replay has taken that away. I agree though that they need to not be so picky about a foot coming off the bag for a microsecond, that was not the intent of replay. I also think that if they can't make the call in less than 60 seconds then the call on the field should stand. Baseball has a beautiful flow to it that replay reviews can destroy. Also, they need to look at the path the runners take to the base on a slide. With the catcher having to set up in front of the plate runners are coming in almost from the direction of the dugout and it makes it impossible to make the tag. If the catcher is limited in where he can be then the runner should be limited in where they can slide. On the bases a runner should not be able to overslide the base in order to take out a fielder. If they do they should be out and the runner at first out as well.

    If they really want to speed up the game then eliminate the break between innings. They will always be able to find a way to fit in a commercial but the two minutes or more that everyone is just standing around between innings again interrupts the flow of the game. I remember when I was younger you'd be at a game and the one team is running onto the field as the other is running off. This would speed up the game more than anything else they can do.

    1. The problem with the strike zone situation is that umpires are about as close to lifetime employment as there is in life. Sandy Alderson fired a bunch of them because they stupidly offered their resignation because they were unhappy with what he was doing, so he selectively accepted the resignation of the ones he wanted to get rid of, but the courts eventually gave them all back their jobs. Just look at clearly bad umpires like Joe West, Angel Hernandez, Tom Izzo, all come to mind pretty quickly as umpires who are bad.

      And perhaps it's a case of the bad apple ruining the barrel, but I'm getting tired of umpires screwing up games with bad calls. Of course, one thing that automated calling would do is eliminate the catcher's ability to fool umpires into strikes, and there would go a large part of Posey's defensive value.

      I agree that if the replay judges can't figure it out within a set time limit, the play should stand. Watching players stand around waiting for a ruling is not exactly entertaining (unless they are scratching themselves :^).

    2. Umpires could be graded. Don't keep up to a certain expectation you are gone, same as any job. I would just hate to lose the human aspect of the game.

    3. I think that they are graded, but the main problem is that they can't be fired, they have a lifetime job and no incentive to get better or even stay the same.

    4. But the lifetime job part of it is what needs to change, not going to electronic balls and strikes. If they consistently score low then back to the minors with them, or get fired just like any of the rest of us would if we performed badly at our jobs. Just like players get sent back to the minors or released if they do poorly,should be the same way with the umpires. That would certainly be an incentive to do well.

  9. This is a great post! Though I wish you would have just edited this post with the two following thoughts in your next post, to keep everything together.

    I agree that there should be minor league representation. They have been screwed long enough. I like your idea of splitting things up.

    My worry about raising the salaries for minor leaguers (and I'm not advocating for keeping a bad pay system going) is that teams could decide to reduce the minor leagues even further. There used to be leagues down to at least D, but to reduce costs, teams have cut back to their current system. For example, the Giants have six teams, not including their Latin American one. If each team has 25 players (plus there are players in instructional league and DL, but let's go with this), that's 150 players. That's $900K (at $6K), a drop in the bucket. If the average under this new system is $36K, say, for easy math purposes, that's $5.4M, roughly $5M ($4.5M to be exact; easy math) more. Still a drop, but now $5M has to come out of somewhere.

    If it was just a matter of telling teams to suck it up and pay the money, that would be great. But teams have avoided paying money all these years and there is an alternative with history and existing processes: the Arizona Fall League. What's to prevent the MLB to collectively decide to collapse the minor leagues, getting rid of all the organizational players who populate the teams, and keeping only their top prospects around, say, Advanced A and above?

    Again, I'm not justifying keeping things the way they are, but just paying the players is only one alternative, an AFL system run for the upper leagues could be another. We just don't know what will happen.

    I like the idea of an International Draft. I think your idea is better than integrating the two. Gives lesser teams double advantage getting the lead picks in both drafts. While merging both drafts have merits (like, probably reducing the outlay of total bonuses paid), the idea is to allow the poorer teams (either money or losing games or both) some advantage, and merging the drafts will require teams to judge well scouted US talents vs. barely seen international talents, and that could end up hurting these poorer teams if they chose wrong.

    One problem is that Japanese and Korean teams get to post players, so I assume what you mean by International Draft is really Latin American draft.

    I love your idea of eliminating the Rule 5 Draft and making them free agents sooner. By that point, players are pretty much not getting much of a chance from their team, so set them free and maybe another team can figure out how to bring out their potential.

    1. I agree with the minor league players portion. The extra money has to come from somewhere. So either something has to change at the MLB level with payroll and/or spending or changes have to be made at the minor league system like OGC said. I doubt any of us would agree to drop a minor league club to support the raises. So unless the raises are very small the minor league clubs will have to generate more revenue to handle the raises. At the end of the day this is a business, not charity work. The Giants have big pockets but it is more of an issue with lower income teams such as the Rays. Coming up with extra few million to give minor players might not be possibility in their business model.

    2. This is the exact same argument that rages around raising the minimum wage. The opponents argue that it will cost jobs. The proponents say no. Both sides have some semblance of evidence to support their point of view. As short-sighted as MLB owners are at times, I do not think they would do anything as short-sighted as contracting their minor leagues. As for small market teams, the Giancarlo Stanton contract proves, at least in my mind, that any MLB team can afford anything, and I mean anything, they really want, so I'm not buying that argument either.

    3. First, let me make clear, if it were up to me, the minor leaguers would be paid an income that would make it easier for them to focus on being the best player that they can be. But that does not make alternate scenarios impossible to happen.

      You make some good points, it would be short-sighted, and teams have money. Counterpoints is that teams and the MLB have done shortsighted and selfish things before (Collusion 1 and 2; various strikes) and they have had money for a long time, we are talking sextupleting the salary mainly because teams have not even upped salaries much over the decades.

      I've thought of obstacles, thinking of this further. There are a lot of contracts involved with minor league teams and facilities. Don't mean that they could not plan behind the scenes to implement such a reduction in the minor leagues in a few years.

      Look at it this way. The median bonus allotment among the 30 teams was roughly $7M ( Add in spending in rounds 11-40, lets be generous (plus there's the 5% teams can go over without penalty and the $100K free pass on those) and call that $8M. Now with this raise in the minimum, you are asking teams to spend an additional (roughly) $4M on the players who will eventually just be what we all call "organizational" players who will never ever sniff the majors. So the balance for teams is this: commit to spending an extra $4M on player destined to amount to no significant player or spend, say, on extra scouting and analytics that enable you to better identify the top prospect to select, because the odds of finding one with even the first pick is still under a coin toss.

      Let's look at examples of what other sports have done. Neither the NFL or NBA have such an extensive minor league system. Over time, both leagues have reduced the draft rounds, the NBA significantly reducing it to just two rounds. The NBA has a developmental league, the NFL has no such development league.

      Here's another alternative. The MLB could decide to centralize the drafting and development of players. They could run everything, and just keep things to a minimum, much like the AFL, just top prospects. As they don't really care when surprises like Duffy happens, something that delights fans but only the hardcore fans, as most don't really know, don't really care. They can set up a system where after X number of years, players are draftable, and teams could select them, much like the draft today, only they would have a much surer idea of how good the prospects are. Then these drafted players can continue to participate in the minors but "owned" by a team. In the aftermath of shutting down all these leagues, the minor leaguer owners will start up independent leagues, much like the Western one that operates out here, and they will occasionally feed a Duffy or Piazza to the majors, but mostly nothing, like most of the time now. And these leagues will pay even less than what teams are now.

      I'm not saying that this is a better outcome or the one I prefer. I'm saying that these are real possibilities that you need to be aware of as a consequence of upping salaries. They deserve higher salaries, but I don't know that the MLB will necessarily continue to allow their dreams to continue if the costs are bumped up that high. It's a business and adding the money won't improve their product on the MLB field, so you can bet that they will consider all the alternatives. I've listed a couple I've thought of.

    4. Without writing an entire book here, the NBA and the NFL are basically in collusion with the colleges to use the colleges as a de-facto minor league system. I don't see that happening in baseball for a number of reasons. It actually ought to end for basketball and football if the colleges had an ounce of principle, but they obviously don't(I consider the NCAA to be the most hypocritical organization in all of sports and possibly of all all organizations in the entire world. The IOC might give them a run for their money except that IOC dropped all pretext of amateurism a long time ago).

      Ever since Branch Rickey, the most successful MLB teams have been those who scout, sign and develop their own players. That will continue to be the case.

      Believe me, I fully understand the arguments on the other side, but with as much money as is pouring into MLB now, it is becoming increasingly untenable for them to continue to deny a fair wage to minor league players. That is going to be fixed one way or another. MLB can either be a proactive part of the solution or they can be dragged kicking and screaming to the solution as they were with the Reserve Clause back in the days of Curt Flood and Andy Messersmith.

  10. I love your idea of eliminating the Rule 5 Draft and making them free agents sooner. By that point, players are pretty much not getting much of a chance from their team, so set them free and maybe another team can figure out how to bring out their potential.

    It is not just suspicion. It has been clearly done in the past, the Braves under Cox when he was GM, any team GMed by Dombrowski (Expos, Marlins, Tigers; probably won't happen with Boston though), the Nationals to snag both Harper and Strasburg, and I'm sure there are others if I think more about it. The problem is separating the arsonists from the incompetent (who are bad for more than 5-6 years, Pirates, Orioles, Royals, Devil Rays). So I like the idea of a lottery to screw up the arsonists, but then it would hurt the incompetents. Like, I felt sorry for the Warriors all those years they were the worse and ended up picking many picks later. That probably delayed the franchise's recovery at least 5-10 years (though they lucked out with Mullin).

    So I think making a lottery of the first ten picks is extreme. Either lottery the first five picks (my research found that they were pretty much equal in odds in picking) or split the lottery in two, 1-5, then 6-10. The only problem (and most schemes tend to have some countering problems) is that teams might tank to get into the higher lottery if they are on the cusp.

    Also, you didn't address this, but the odds of each team should be weighted in some way. The NBA has a even declining rate by rank. Thinking about it, maybe weigh it by the number of losses by each team, making them virtually equal. To separate them out some, could square the number of losses.

    Yeah, it's been a matter of time, baseball has just been very lucky so far regarding protection for pitchers and catchers. Something needs to be done, and quickly, great suggestion.

    Strike zone consistency has to be improved. And there is currently no accountability, Sandy Alderson tried to do this a dozen or so years ago, even firing some of the worse, but the courts screwed that up and they were all brought back in. I don't mind catchers getting the edge with proper technique - that's a skill - but when umpires miss off the edge by 3 inches, that's ridiculous.

    Perhaps being home plate umpire should be a reward and not a privilege? The MLB could work with the Umpires union on what is a fair level of minimum performance for calling balls and strikes, maybe over a five or ten game period, and for those umpires who don't reach the minimum, their turn as home plate umpire is skipped. To emphasize and encourage compliance, part of the umpire's salary can be separated out for home plate service and thrown into pot, and if the umpire handles all his calls at the minimum, his salary is not affected, but if he misses a home plate turn because of poor performance, his pay for that game would go to the other umpires in his group.

    I understand your problem with replays catching situations like the foot coming off, but I think in this case, it is a matter of taking the bad with the very good, which is fixing the blatantly wrong ones. It was not like umpires were not calling them before, if a runner clearly took his body off the base and is tagged, he would have been called out even before replay make more of those plays obvious. But I sympathize with you on this, perhaps we could only allow the out to be called if the protesting team specifically stated whether they thought that they beat the player to the bag or caught the player off the base, and the replay judge will only answer that specific challenge? Thus if they thought the former and it turned out to be the latter, the runner would not be called out because he did beat the play at the bag.