19 Comments

Molly, isn’t it time for MLB to do some sort of window like they do in NFL and NBA? Their free agency is exciting madness and MLB is a snooze fest. Plus it benefits nobody to sign so late. What can MLB do to make it exciting and beneficial to the game?

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It sounds great but I think it would simply benefit the billionaire owners who could lowball and then wait out players until the deadline approaches. The sheer number of NFL free agents makes that less of a concern.

And totally agree that free agents signing even as late as Valentine's Day isn't good for anyone, except maybe the agents who make a couple million more.

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A silly idea but I'd kind of like to see how it works: Any player who is extended a qualifying offer but is unsigned by the start of spring training is randomly assigned to a team that has made any player a qualifying offer. (Or simply extend the deadline to accept the qualifying offer to spring training, but I want to see what sort of chaos the Spring Training QO Lottery Drawing would cause) The unintended consequences would probably be "no-one ever offers a QO again", although that might not be so bad itself.

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Sorry, but if I'm a free agent, I'm a free agent. I can sign with who I want, when I want. It's on me if waiting is stupid for my future.

You're essentially supporting a ban on a player because he didn't like what he was offered. It will just end up a return to collusion but I guess the KBO would like it. Marvin Miller worked way too hard to see leverage returned to the owners.

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Amen!

"Spring training used to have more purpose, players would always tell me: they used to be more like open tryouts. These days, most rosters are pre-determined before training camp begins."

I wish more fans understood this.

Spring Training is mostly a health check. Analytics and prediction models have advanced to a point where, for example, if we "know" Smith is expected to have an ERA of 3.8 and Jones is expected to have an ERA of 4, Smith has the 5th starter role*. What happens in a handful of 2-3 inning starts half of which are against guys who won't make major league rosters doesn't change that. However an injury to any of the starters opens a spot for Smith, so he needs to get ready.

* Though 40-man roster and minor league options considerations could flip the decision.

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"After 11 years and 1,159 games in the minors, Boston’s Jamie Westbrook collected his first big league hit."

The kind of tidbit that Molly Knight notices and acknowledges. Yet another reason why I subscribe.

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Boras/players may have made strategic mistakes, but not implicating the owners is a failure. They maintain an anti-labor employment model and are always finding ways to suppress costs. Please tell the whole story.

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Fair point. But that’s the reality, whether we like it or not, that Boras and his clients have to navigate.

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Really like your stories on the biz of baseball, and especially the ones about agents and players. And also the contract incentives that can mean so much to the players. Continued good work Molly! 👍

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“Also, before baseball players became millionaires, most of them had off-season jobs as welders or teachers or plumbers so they could support their families.”

Or grave diggers!

https://www.freep.com/story/sports/mlb/tigers/2020/07/13/richie-hebner-baseball-detroit-tigers-digging-graves/5384478002/

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founding

Thanks Chris. This was fascinating.

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I wonder when all players stopped having those sorts of second jobs I suspect a big issue will be when more and more players started coming out of the college game before turning pro..

I think all this started happening at the same time as the Curt Flood and Andy Messersmith and Tommy John cases upended the reserve clause system.

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Apart from money, I think the greater expectation of training probably changed the off-season significantly. One year the Tigers’ catcher Lance Parrish showed up for spring training having seriously muscled up over the winter, and Sparky Anderson was mad about it! His tune changed when Parrish started whacking homers all over the place.

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this is how a marketplace works - sure, mlb could set a deadline for free agent signings, but as many have observed this would give owners a decided advantage over the one they already have - the players can draw a good conclusion from this fiasco: if the marketplace (the owners! in a collusion of sorts) is telling you that the offer you wish for does not seem possible, you perhaps should not assume your agent is being realistic (honest?) about the situation, AND run a huge risk (missing Spring training & having a terrible start to your season, or maybe even a terrible full season) by waiting longer for that offer to appear

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Maybe it says something about my politics, but I am totally pro-players on money issues, based on the feeling that owners gouge them and us whenever possible, and yet I do not mind bad things happening to Scott Boras and those he represents. Not injuries--nothing like that. But when a Boras player has bad numbers, I tend to think it's payback from the gods for them relying on him.

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I hear ya.

It's easy to blame the owners for their unwillingness the spend. But the system including the luxury tax levels are what everyone agreed to. Also advanced analytics have made GMs and POBOs a lot smarter than they were a decade ago. Is anyone looking at Snell, Montgomery, or Bellinger and thinking DAMN, I wish I'd signed him to a 5-year deal?

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It is interesting how Snell and Montgomery took different approach to their (shortened) pre-season, to getting ready to face mlb hitters:

Snell did not try to pitch at least a couple games in the minors before doing an mlb start; no, after some non-game prep, he went right into the fray for the Giants and was a disaster from the very beginning. Only later - after those complete debacles on the mound - and an injury (likely also the result of no Spring training) did he pitch any minor league games, but had yet another debacle in his return. It was just in his last start for the Giants that he pitched decently, and then injured his groin in the 5th inning.

Montgomery did pitch in a couple minor league games before joining the D’backs and pitched okay for them at the start. But he too has failed in his more recent starts (yet his season ERA is still way better than Snell’s!).

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It's a shame to see what's happened to Snell...not so sure about Montgomery. I went to a Snell rehab start a few weeks ago in AAA and he was unbelievable...absolutely unhittable. But the lack of a proper spring probably set him up for this groin injury after a few starts. It brings to mind the approach Kershaw is taking - no hurry, no rush...get the whole body ready.

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Brilliant writing Molly. I agree with every word you wrote. I'm a big Jordan Montgomery fan after his time with the Cardinals. He looks so lost right now. Sure hope to see him regain his form. He's an easy guy to root for.

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