It’s Valentine’s Day, and I still don’t know which team to give my heart to.
The other day I said, “We should go to Miami, visit family, hang out at Versailles, and see a Marlins game.” Then it struck me (again): how can we plan a trip to see the Marlins when we don’t know which team we want to see them play? How can I plan anything when I don’t know which team(s) I’ll be following this year?
I noted previously that I feel like my life has been in limbo because of this Free Agency Shutdown. Every day I google “Manny Machado” and “Bryce Harper” desperately hoping for news. This, in fact, occurs several times a day. It’s beginning to feel like I’m living the same day over and over again. And I feel like all of the social media posts and articles on Spring Training are mocking me. Spring Training should be a joyous time of year – not a time of desperation and unease. This is not the Valentine’s Day we are looking for.
Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune is apparently feeling the same way. Yesterday he wrote,
“After reading Manny Machado was spotted with Kyle Schwarber at the baptism for Albert Almora Jr.’s son, I want more Manny news. I want to know where he is at all times and who is with him. Like the Stanley Cup. Or a Kardashian. Going out for food. Hanging out by the pool. Attending a school recital. Seeing the new Rebel Wilson rom-com. Driving for Uber. Where’s my MannyGram app?”
He also had a great solution to our dilemma:
“Maybe Machado and Bryce Harper should sign with Netflix. Put them in an RV and have them travel to major-league ballparks around the country. They could talk to fans about why owners charging a markup of more than 1,000 percent on beer can’t cover the cost of a top free agent. They could confront owners, asking on camera why teams couldn’t use their talent and what a fair price for their services might be. Let them surprise kids at Little League fields along the way, too, offering playing tips, signing autographs, explaining how arbitration works and the way free agency is supposed to go.”
Rosenthal went on to discuss free agency and labor issues in MLB (I’ll stop quoting him, though, just read the article). And this is where the Baseball Sociology comes in: this is not about players’ greed or owners’ stating they are losing money. It’s about workers rights, the labor market, and business negotiations. One hundred free agents remain unsigned. Is the free agency system “broken,” as Justin Verlander suggests?
To analyze this fully could result in an entire dissertation or multi-volume encyclopedia set. But it’s important to know the facts. We’re coming up upon the 50th anniversary of the infamous trade of Curt Flood from the Cardinals to the Phillies, which set us on the path to free agency. We’re also heading toward the end of the current MLB collective bargaining agreement (in December 2021), which means a lot of negotiations are coming.
Here are a few sites to help put the free agency issue into perspective:
- Baseball Hall of Fame, “Four Decades Later, Free Agency Still Fuels Baseball
- Baseball-Reference.com, “Free Agent”
- Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), “Our History”
- MLBPA, “50 Years Later: Curt Flood’s historic sacrifice for fellow players”
- Major League Baseball, “Pioneer Flood changed economics of baseball”
- Society of American Baseball Research, “Marvin Miller and the Birth of the MLBPA”
- Sporting News, “Lockouts: A history of MLB work stoppages”
- Forbes, “Baseball Has a New Free-Agent System and Players Hate it”
- New York Daily News, “Don’t you dare blame the players for MLB’s free agency disaster”
Of course, the best source of information on free agency and players’ rights in Marvin Miller’s book, A Whole Different Ball Game: The Sport and Business of Baseball. This book is a must-read!
What’s missing from that list, however, is information on how this impacts the fans. Because right now, all I want to know is: which team will be my Valentine?