At the time of writing, there were actual negotiations going on between MLB owners and players ahead of yet another fake deadline the owners set up that they can’t actually enforce. By the time you read this there could be actual hope. Or yet another dive straight into the dirt. Just be warned.
I’m as tired as you are about going back and forth with the actual details of one side’s offer versus another and what the offers actually mean and reading tea leaves and all the other bullshit that comes with it. So let’s leave most of that behind for another day.
But the nugget that did pique my curiosity was the owners’ insistence of adding a third punishable tier to their improved luxury tax thresholds. Currently there are two, but last night they wanted to add a third for teams that go $60 million over the threshold. This seems patently ridiculous, because no owner is going to go that far over the threshold. We haven’t seen that. The Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox have been chickenshit when it comes to going over the luxury tax at all for the most part, and they’re the most eligible to do so. If not them, who?
Ah yes, the newish owner of the New York Mets, Steve Cohen. The one who likes to talk a big game (or just talk) about how he’ll run the Mets like they should be run, as a fan who just happens to have one of the world’s largest checkbooks. Sure, he might air out his own players on Twitter, but at least he cares, right? I assume being a Mets fan involves a lot of bending over backwards (and forwards) anyway.
So the owners want to add this third level of tax, just in case Cohen does indeed go even more loopy after signing Max Scherzer to a three-year$130M deal. Which is just as petty as it gets. The luxury tax is already a cudgel to keep owners in line, even though fewer and fewer of them want to actually spend the money anyway. But the idea of the tax was that the other teams would get money from a team going all guns blazing into the free agency market. If Cohen wants to go Brewster’s Millions, all the cheapskates benefit.
But that’s not apparently enough, and neither is this new level of punitive fees for Cohen. No, the owners are still pushing this 14-team playoff system with no balancing or weighting for teams that win their division. They’re basically saying to Cohen, “You can spend all you want, but we’re going to make it so it’s more likely your team crashes and burns at the first hurdle in October and some 87-win collection of old Metallica t-shirts and used mufflers has basically the same chance you do!” It would only take a couple years of spending lavishly, putting together 100-win teams and seeing them go up in flames because Sixto Sanchez or Aaron Nola got hot one day and your bullpen fell apart the next one. You might start to wonder why you bothered in the first place, which is exactly what this cabal of jackals wants.
The argument is that if Cohen were to go nuclear, perhaps the Phillies and Braves and Nats would feel they have to to compete, at least in a normal world. And that’s not fair, so we’ll make up this participation trophy playoff system. But there aren’t really small markets and big markets anymore. Sure, some teams have better local TV deals, but the main income for teams is their national TV deals, and everyone’s in on gambling. Every team is owned by a billionaire. Gene Autry isn’t around anymore. Every one of them can afford to pay players whatever they want. They just don’t want to. And if they really can’t afford it, there will be another billionaire lining up to take that team off their hands to cash in on national TV deals and get their real estate heist wherever they can.
Perhaps the MLBPA is already aware of the divisions within ownership. There’s certainly a group of one they’re trying to corral before he even gets started. They should be tearing at these cracks to get more of what they want.
And we know Cohen won’t keep quiet forever.