The Rundown: Negotiations Often Reveal Strange Currencies, Hendricks Mentioned as Trade Candidate, Start of Regular Season Could Be in Jeopardy
“I need a chance, a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance, a word, a signal, a nod, a little breath just to fool myself, to catch myself and make it real, real.” – Strange Currencies, R.E.M.
My experience in labor negotiations is very limited, to say the least, but even as a rank amateur I’m sometimes flummoxed by the dealings between baseball’s owners and the players union. At my day job, I do a self-review every January. My boss critiques it and writes a rebuttal in February, then he determines any merit increase and/or bonus I’m entitled to in March. I then sign a document, my pay is adjusted, and I hope next year will be better. As Frank Sinatra would say, “That’s life.”
Or as I usually say with more than a spoonful of dark humor, “What a great time to be alive.”
Once when I was about 11 years old, I did enter into a pretty intense back-and-forth with my father about the compensation I felt I was entitled to for doing my designated household chores. I had to wash the dishes twice a week, take the trash out to the curb on Wednesday nights, retrieve the trash cans the following morning, and in the summer I had to cut the front and back lawns every Saturday. If it snowed in the winter I shoveled, no matter how much snow there was, and no matter how cold it was.
I also had to keep my bedroom clean, keep up with my homework assignments, and earn satisfactory grades to be eligible to collect my weekly allowance. For everything I described, I was paid $1.00 every Monday morning, plus another buck went into my passbook savings account. At the time, my friends were earning twice that from their parents for less work. Naturally, I felt slighted.
My hand to God, negotiating anything with my father was an incredibly defeating endeavor. He negotiated contracts for a living and he was one of the best. I remember our 1975 labor discussion like it was yesterday.
- “I would like my allowance doubled, Dad.”
- “On what grounds?”
- “All my friends get $2.00 a week so I should, too. Plus I have more chores than they do.”
- “That’s not going to happen, Michael.”
- “How about $1.75?”
- “It stays at a buck.”
- “How about I pay you 50 cents and you sleep in the garage every night?”
- “Even in the winter? I’ll freeze to death.”
- “OK, I’ll give you two bucks a week but you have to pay me $4.00 each month for rent. The rent payment entitles you to sleep in the bed I’ve provided for you.”
And that’s where it ended. My dad owned our house, controlled the family finances, never lost a negotiation, and I walked away with essentially the same agreement that was already in place.
I am reminded of that afternoon whenever I read about the current CBA negotiations. As I’ve stated in the comments section here at Cubs Insider previously, the owners always win, and the extent of that victory is usually predicated on how long they can keep negotiations going. They use a very effective technique to leverage the agreement to their side, and it’s the word “no” or some restructured form of it.
It seems no matter what proposals the players make, Rob Manfred and his billionaires’ club take it under advisement for a day or two and then come back with a different proposal that is essentially the same as their original offer, just phrased differently. To that end, the players, who keep acquiescing on non-core issues, will have sacrificed much for little, and, if the season is delayed, they’ll immediately lose any financial advantages they might have gained.
It’s frustrating to watch it all unfold, especially when a bargaining session lasts all of 15 minutes. Somewhere, however, my father is smiling because he loved entering any negotiation with a definitive upper hand against an opponent who effectively had no tangible leverage. He never cared if he was the good guy or the bad guy as long as he won.
The scoreboard now reads six meetings, five in-person, since Rob Manfred locked out the players on December 2 with the first one not occurring until January 13. As a baseball fan, I’ve now reached the point where I no longer care about the outcome of the CBA dispute. I want to root for the players, but they’re as limited as I am in negotiating labor agreements.
And I’ll say this: I think the competitive balance situation is far too overblown, though that’s the only issue on which I side with ownership. I believe the MLBPA is going to get so hung up on this one bullet point that it will end up gutting them elsewhere, which is typical of their previous negotiating tactics. Prove to me that tanking exists with something better than circumstantial evidence, and I’ll change my tune. The players need a whistleblower like the NFL’s Brian Flores.
Once the dust settles, we will have been denied baseball just so that Tony Clark and his union reps can sign a contract that offers little in the way of improving the deal that just expired. What a waste of our time.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cactus League had an economic impact of $644 million in 2019, boosted by popular teams like the Cubs, who hosted the five largest crowds in Cactus League history that season. Mesa Mayor John Giles said the lockout adversely affects the city and its businesses.
- Cubs Assistant GM Jeff Greenberg, who has as much pro hockey experience as the participants in the “Shoot the Puck” contest between periods at the United Center, is still in the running to be the next GM of the Chicago Blackhawks.
- Baseball-Reference says that since 1952, no pitcher shorter than Marcus Stroman has had a better season than any of his three best.
- The Cubs are one team that could be considered players for Juan Soto if the generational outfielder actually makes it to free agency.
- Kyle Hendricks is listed as a potential post-lockout trade candidate by MLBTR. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs make a play for Zach Plesac, who may also be available.
- Chicago’s minor league system is ranked No. 19 by Kyle McDaniel of ESPN, up three spots from his rankings last year.
- Once baseball resumes, Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic notes five Cubs’ storylines worth keeping an eye on ($), including the contract situation of Willson Contreras and the potential flexibility of the team’s lineup.
Odds & Sods
I bet Ron Cey still regrets this photoshoot.
Happy 74th birthday to 1984 Cub Ron Cey!
Pretty sure the @Cubs have had more third sackers with a three-letter surname (Cey, Law, Fox, Olt) than any other team since 1983. pic.twitter.com/A0b0Q2KPKo
— John – #JG20MVP (@phitter72) February 15, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
In honor of yesterday’s very short bargaining session, I thought I’d name the top five songs that clock in at 15 minutes or longer.
- Mountain Jam by the Allman Brothers Band (33:41)
- Shine on You Crazy Diamond Parts I-IX by Pink Floyd (26:09)
- Dogs by Pink Floyd (17:05)
- Voodoo Chile by Jimmy Hendrix (15:05)
- Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang (15:00) – The song has been released in various lengths and iterations, but here’s the truncated version from a 1979 Soul Train appearance.
Just missed: Do You Feel Like We Do? (Live) by Peter Frampton (14:18)
MLB News & Notes
Outfielder Aaron Judge is hoping that he and the Yankees will agree to a contract extension before Opening Day.
The Blue Jays were very interested in Reds starter Tyler Mahle before the lockout.
The league would like to place sponsorship ads on batting helmets and jerseys.
Miguel Cabrera and Josh Hamilton are among baseball’s 10 worst $100 million or more free agency signings. I know you want to look for Jason Heyward, but he did not make the list.
Negotiations & Love Songs
Manfred suggested that a new CBA would need to be in place by February 28 in order for the season to start on time. Tick-tock.
Both sides plan to hold multiple bargaining sessions next week.
It may be time to start considering what a shortened regular season schedule might look like.
Recent concessions by the two sides will fundamentally alter baseball, and not for the best reasons.
Today’s Baseball Jones
Yes, he waddled like a penguin, but Cey actually hit an inside-the-park home run at Wrigley Field back in 1983. I’m sure Dave Parker has had better defensive moments in his career.
Ernie Banks wasn’t meant to be anywhere but at Wrigley Field. Sorry, not sorry. Ernie sadly looks like World War II hero Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone trying to sell war bonds.
⏪1971 @Cubs legend, Ernie Banks (nicknamed Mr. Cub) was a CTA board member from 1969 to 1981.
The sign pictured was used on the North-South Route and was double-sided, with readings for the Cubs and Sox ballparks, since the route passed both.#BHM #FromTheArchives pic.twitter.com/WGnLuozh5z
— cta (@cta) February 18, 2022
They Said It
- “I’ll pitch whenever. I believe Kyle Hendricks deserves to be the Opening Day starter because of his consistency throughout his career, his ability to be a reliable workhorse, and his experience pitching in the playoffs! Can’t wait to get crafty and carve with him all year!” – Stroman
Friday Walk-Up Song
Got to Give It Up by Marvin Gaye – This could be the MLBPA theme song, and not-so-coincidentally, the long version of this Motown classic clocks in at nearly 12 minutes, which equals the length of yesterday’s bargaining session minus salutations and a bio break.