The MLB owners are the worst people in sports

June 15, 2020

Adam Hunger

There are major issues during the pandemic, and there are minor issues. Of the minor issues, by far the most annoying is that on any given morning when I wake up, the top sports story is about the ongoing labor dispute in Major League Baseball.

Don't get me wrong, it's interesting...interesting in the same way that trying to catch someone stealing your mail each day would be interesting. But ultimately it's frustrating, tiring, and makes you feel cynical about the world and all the people in it. Still, it's important to understand what's happening with each new twist and turn, because the owners have based their entire negotiation strategy on propaganda, and if you don't pay attention you might fall for it. With that in mind, take a look at this nonsense—it's the latest statement from the owners whining about the greedy players and how they just don't seem to want to play baseball:

Let's break this down in four easy steps, without getting too deep into the weeds.

1. First, about the March 26 deal: In it, the players agreed to prorated salaries based on the number of games played, full stop. That was a major concession already, but, to them at least, a fair one. The deal said absolutely nothing about being void if fans couldn't attend games, and the owners are lying—yes, lying—when they attempt to paint it as a "mutual understanding." As we see now, the players would never agree to that. And of course, by March 26 the prospect of games resuming with no fans was already being considered by many sports.

2. When the owners claim they'll lose billions without fans, and that players simply must agree to further salary cuts, they offer nothing to back it up. They won't open their books, and all we really know is that they set records last year revenue ($10 billion-plus collectively), and that they literally just signed a billion-dollar postseason TV deal with Turner. They tried to hide the details of that deal from the players and the public, because it looks terrible to be raking in the dough on one front and demanding salary cuts and doing the "woe-is-me, baseball-isn't-profitable" act on the other.

3. The "three successive proposals" the owners made were all the same proposal. They simply increased the number of games played, then slightly decreased the percentage of salaries the players would make. On June 1, it was 50 games at full prorated salaries—a nonstarter because there is no good reason to play 50 games except to save money. Then on June 8 it was 76 games, but at 75% of prorated salaries, which works out to about the same amount of money and is in violation of the March 26 deal. Then it was a 72 game season at 80% of prorated salaries, but only if the season was finished...again, a violation of the original deal, and again, about the same amount of money. This tweet basically sums it up:

4. In the meantime, the owners keep leaking proposals to the media, suppressing key information about revenue streams, and hiding their books. Not only that, but they try to paint the players as greedy obstructionists and, as seen in their latest statement, tacitly put the responsibility on them for the fate of other MLB workers like clubhouse staff.

The problem, as always, is that many people who don't have time to pay attention to the nitty-gritty details can be easily persuaded by one of two arguments. First, that the players are greedy, that they already make too much money, and that they should make concessions. (Somehow, this argument always fails to notice that the owners are even wealthier.) Second, that "both sides" are digging their feet in and depriving us of baseball.

Both conclusions are wrong. The owners are crying penury in the face of all evidence, and refusing to prove it even as they try to reach into players' pockets. The players are just asking to stick to the original deal, in which they already agreed to lose lots of money in the interest of having baseball. (And now they're simply done negotiating, which is understandable.) It's an open-and-shut case, and the owners are the ones to blame if we get no baseball or a season that's cut comically short. Don't be fooled by the fog of war; the owners are scrimping, and we're paying the price.

The Two-Way...Um..."Threat"??...of The Week: Christian Hackenberg

This is really something: Christian Hackenberg, former Penn State quarterback and Jets second-round draft pick, is trying to play baseball. First, here's his NFL career summed up:

"Hackenberg will be remembered as one of the biggest disappointments in recent NFL history....The Jets gave up on Hackenberg after two seasons, and he became only the third quarterback selected in the first or second round of the common-draft era (since 1967) to not play a game in his first two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information."

He had stints in Oakland and Philly and Cincinnati afterward, was jettisoned by each in short order, and then tried and failed to play in something called the "Alliance of American Football."

So, not a scintillating c.v. But now he wants to play baseball, which is fine in theory. It would be a cool story if he could make it work, and his agent claims he has "a ton of natural arm talent." What does that mean? Well, apparently he can throw a 90 mph fastball. Where that information comes from, I'm not sure, but it's probably from his people, which means it's probably exaggerated. And, as anybody knows, 90 mph isn't so hot in MLB anyway.

But here's the funniest/saddest part, via that same ESPN article:

Hackenberg played baseball at the Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia. He pitched mainly in relief, showing a live but erratic arm -- a lot like his quarterback play. In high school, in 25 2/3 innings, he struck out 33 batters, with 40 walks, five HBPs and a 7.36 ERA, according to Max Preps.

Let's repeat that:


That is not great. That is extremely not great. When a player is able to play a professional team sport, typically that player was a star in high school, because those players are the best in the world. This is how sports work.

On one hand, it feels bad to be crapping on somebody's dream, far-fetched as it may be. On the other, he had a 7.36 ERA in high school. Anyway, I'll be rooting for him, and if you love underdogs, this is the under-est dog you'll ever see.