The Rundown: Manfred Says Lockout Likely, Velazquez Nearing Top AFL Honors, MLB Agrees to House MiLB Players, Harper and Ohtani Earn MVP Awards
It looks like a lockout is on the horizon, not that we expected anything different. League commissioner Rob Manfred said as much yesterday, though he tried to paint it in a positive way that might make Scott Boras proud.
“I can’t believe there’s a single fan in the world who doesn’t understand that an offseason lockout that moves the process forward is different than a labor dispute that costs games,” Manfred said, per The Athletic’s Evan Drellich (subscription required).
“We’re focused on making an agreement prior to December 1.”
As Manfred continues to stress that a deal is there to be made, it’s really just a whole lot of posturing to accommodate the fans mixed in with a little pressure to force the hands of the players union. I don’t think there is anybody who doesn’t believe that the game is going to go dark two weeks from today. Baseball insiders have been talking about it for months and nothing positive has come from the MLBPA or any of its reps. If you’re looking for your litmus test, that’s it.
Rob Manfred on hypothetical of a lockout: "We locked out in 89, 90. … I don’t think 94 worked out too great for anybody. I think when you look at other sports the pattern has become to control the timing of the labor dispute. … It’s about avoiding doing damage to the season."
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) November 18, 2021
The owners have not explicitly called for a lockout, but it seems like a formality at this point. It probably takes less than an hour on a Zoom call to finalize that verdict and, though it’s possible an agreement could be reached, it seems less likely with each passing day. There is also probably no chance either side will ask for an extension unless a deal is imminent, so, barring a flurry of contract proposals and counter-proposals during the final week of the month, expect this to be a December to not remember.
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf believes negotiations will come down to the wire but expects an agreement.
“Look, these deals get made the last week,” Reinsdorf told NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer. “It’s the same thing with players’ contracts in arbitration. They all settle [on] the last day.”
That’s coming from the same guy that led the 1994 work stoppage that canceled the World Series, arguably the sport’s most embarrassing moment. His track record, therefore, makes it a little tough to believe but give Reinsdorf some credit for his shrewd ability to read the room.
The damage the White Sox chairman did by stopping the game in ’94 goes beyond the absence of its championship series.
- Singlehandedly killed the Montreal Expos franchise, which was 74-50 and steaming for its only championship in a season where they were head and shoulders above every other National League team
- Ended a potential .400 season by Tony Gwynn
- Matt Williams was on a pace for 61 home runs
- Put an abrupt end to the baseball career of Michael Jordan
- Bo Jackson, Goose Gossage, and Lloyd McClendon were pretty much forced into retirement
- Helped usher in the PED era
- Destroyed what could have been his own team’s curse-breaking shot at the World Series and alienated his fanbase, many of who have yet to recover or forgive him
Excuse me if Manfred and Reinsdorf aren’t giving me the warm fuzzies this holiday season.
Also of note, the Sinclair RSNs were a big part of discussions at this week’s owner’s meetings. A chance exists that the broadcasting company could go into bankruptcy or fall short of meeting its revenue commitment to the 42 teams in its inventory, which of course includes the Cubs.
Cubs News & Notes
- Nelson Velazquez is closing in on the AFL MVP Award. His meteoric rise this year has been awfully impressive.
- The 22-year-old outfield prospect has had the best season of his professional career and should be protected when 40-man rosters are announced today.
- Velazquez had three hits and was one of the top performers yesterday. He leads the league with nine home runs and 40 hits and has posted a .385/.480/1.191 slash line.
- The AFL championship game will be played Saturday evening and Caleb Kilian may take the bump for the Mesa Solar Sox.
- If you’re jonesing for a trip to Wrigley Field, the Northwestern Wildcats are hosting the Purdue Boilermakers at the Friendly Confines tomorrow. I may make the trip myself.
From the Front Office
“Certainly, [the qualifying offer] is something we have to factor in [when negotiating with free agents]. You just have to weigh it accordingly as you think through it. I wouldn’t go past that. It’s just something that, it’s a calculus we have to do if we’re going to swim in those waters.” – Jed Hoyer
Odds & Sods
On this day in 1979, Nolan Ryan became the first MLB player to be guaranteed $1 million per year when he signed a four-year deal with the Astros for $4.5 million.
Bryce Harper and Shohei Ohtani were named the NL and AL MVPs yesterday.
Ohtani won by unanimous decision.
A Caesar’s Sportsbook lost a million dollars on a $30,000 wager when Ohtani won.
If there is a work stoppage, Hal Steinbrenner could be this year’s Reinsdorf.
The Tigers’ pursuit of Carlos Correa looks like it is getting closer to consummation.
St. Louis native Max Scherzer said he “would entertain” an offer from the Cardinals. That’s significant because the Redbirds allegedly tried to trade for Scherzer at the deadline, but the ace wasn’t willing to forfeit his no-trade clause to finalize the deal.
The Giants are reportedly in the mix for free agents Nick Castellanos, Chris Taylor, and Marcus Semien.
Outfielder Starling Marte is said to be the hottest commodity on the open market. At least a half-dozen teams are making him a priority.
The Mets are reportedly interested in a reunion with starter Steven Matz.
The Flushing franchise officially announced Billy Eppler as their new GM, giving him a four-year contract to run the team.
José Berríos re-upped with the Blue Jays just because he “really liked it” in Toronto. That’s a refreshing take.
There are a lot of intriguing names who could be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft, including a couple of the game’s top 100 prospects.
The first clip from Peter Jackson’s “Get Back” was released yesterday. The three-part documentary will be available for streaming on Disney+ starting Thursday.
Hitting for the Cycle
MLB owners will provide housing for 90% of minor league players starting in 2022.
They Said It
“I left a pretty good job with a pretty good future to try to get this industry to the point where we can make deals without labor disputes. I don’t think there’s anybody who understands any better than I do, that from the perspective of the fans, they don’t want a labor dispute and that’s why our No. 1 priority is to make a deal.” – Manfred
Friday Walk-Up Song
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word by Elton John – Any extended work stoppage could do some serious damage to the game’s already dwindling fanbase. Let’s hope the owners are serious about getting something done, though I don’t see the players budging on any issue that will affect their pay.