The Urena Express: 3/9/22

Steven Urena

By Steven Urena

Hello, my “Expressers!” It’s been a while! How’s it going? I’m well, thanks for asking.

Well, we got a lockout. Fun fact…a “lockout” implies that the owners shut down all organized baseball activities and facilities. A “strike” means the players refuse to play. Since baseball does not start until the end of March, players cannot strike.

The owners have the leverage right now because players in free agency can’t sign with a new team, players don’t have access to coaches and facilities, and players won’t get paid when the season starts. Eventually, players will have the upper hand because the owners do not make money if they do not play. 

What a mess, right?

If you still don’t know why the MLB and MLBPA are still in negotiations, here is a quick video for you to watch. No, MLB players don’t just “want to get paid more.” It’s a bit more tricky than that.

On the one hand, you have athletes making a ton of money playing a game they love. On the other hand, you see these same players fighting for what is right and refusing to be taken advantage of by the owners.

Ben Verlander (Fox Sports MLB Analyst) made a great point on Twitter.

“This is NOT Billionaires vs. Millionaires. Anyone who says that and adds needs to ‘get over it.’ They’re wrong. 71% of MLB players make less than $1 million. 66% make less than $600k. 16% make less than $100k. That’s all moot. Pay me what they’re worth!”

I want a raise every year. You want a raise every year. Why wouldn’t MLB players want a raise? Especially when business is booming, we pay an arm and a leg for tickets, parking, food, beverages, and merchandise. Being a baseball player is not a sure thing. One of a million things can happen that prevent you from being an everyday big leaguer. These guys want to get paid more money (especially since revenue is up) and earlier in their careers (when they are younger and producing). This “I’d play for free” bologna is bologna.

Let’s take it from the top.

I’m old school and don’t feel like baseball needs to change. However, I do understand that the times are they a’changing. I’m just not on board with everything. God forbid people nowadays are bored, uncomfortable, or challenged. Especially our youth. I am 100% fine with challenging the norm, evaluating certain aspects of baseball, and making changes. I’m just not okay with changes taking place because people whine and complain. The whiners and complainers don’t know baseball like us. Therefore, they should not have a say in how baseball is played and operated.

At times, I feel baseball is being changed to please people that don’t really like baseball. If there are folks out there that don’t follow baseball, do we believe that they will begin to watch and follow when games are shortened because of a pitch clock? Will MLB gain more fans if home run celebrations are embraced and not frowned upon? Is the ban of the shift going to create so much more action than ratings will go up? Maybe. Maybe not. I just don’t like this notion of pleasing people that don’t love the game.

Again, I’m old school and feel that if people don’t want to watch, then don’t watch. However, I’m smart enough to know that baseball is a business, and MLB’s main objective is to make money. The owners feel that the changes will create more fans and, in turn, create more revenue. If baseball is not making money, the product will stink. I certainly don’t want that because I love baseball. That doesn’t mean I have to like every aspect of the changes.

Baseball is broken, and it starts with Little League and travel ball. Baseball has become a “rich kid sport.” When I was growing up, we played Little League, and if you were good enough, you also played all-stars. The other half of the year, kids played other sports or got to be kids. The fee back then was probably around $50, and my folks got a discount because they had three kids playing at once. Some travel ball parents pay up to $300 a month to play on a team. That does not include cleats, glove, bat, helmet, uniforms, tournament fees, ump fees, and the cost of traveling with your child. If kids don’t play baseball, chances are they will not watch baseball. Baseball used to be available to almost any kid that wanted to play. Now, kids play because their parents can afford it or because their family is willing to make big sacrifices.

Youth baseball is broken, and I don’t think it will ever get fixed. I will write more about this later.

Let’s dive in.

14 Team Playoff
I could live with this, but the MLBPA was not in favor of it. The MLB wants 14 teams for one reason. Money. MLB projects an additional $100 million in revenue for expanded playoffs.

MLBPA wants a 12 team format. Players fear that teams will spend less in free agency with so many teams in the playoffs (they can get in the dance with so-so records). I’m sure players are also worried that good teams do not want to risk losing early to a team that barely belongs in the playoffs. Imagine being a 100 game-winner and losing to an 82 game-winner that got hot at the right time? It doesn’t seem fair. I know, don’t choke, but it happens sometimes, and players want to avoid this.

In a 12 team format, the #1 and #2 seeds will get a first-round bye. The #3 seed will play the #6 seed, and the #4 seed will play the #5 seed in a best of 3 series. The higher seed will host all 3 of the games, and all the games will be played consecutively. Winners go on and play the #1 and #2 seeds. I like this system. More teams get in, it makes September baseball more exciting, and the #1 and #2 seeds will have a clear advantage.

Service-Time Manipulation
MLBPA wants to grant a full season of service to Rookie of the Year finishers (even if they start the year in the minors). This allows players to get paid more money and get paid sooner. Under the old CBA (collective bargaining agreement), players played for the league minimum their first full three seasons, were eligible for arbitration their next three seasons, and finally free agency after their first six years.

The MLBPA wants their players to be eligible for arbitration after two seasons in the majors. They also want to put an end to teams keeping players in the minors longer than they should with the intent to slow down their service time and pay them less as long as they can.

It’s a dirty trick the MLB plays, and it needs to stop.

Pitch Clock
Fine. Do it. I know “baseball is “timeless,” but I can adapt. If this helps get the ball rolling, I’m ready to roll. I don’t see how this can hurt the MLB. Get on the bump and get ready to pitch.

Bigger Bases
Let’s do it. It’s a slightly larger base. After some time, it’ll be hard to spot the difference. Defenses will have a slight advantage, but I can’t see this hurting baseball. Players will have more room to run and avoid the players covering the bases. No one likes to get stepped on, and collisions are never fun. Bring it on!

The Shift
This one is a head-scratcher. How can you tell a team where to position its defense? I don’t get it?! The reason positions were created in baseball was because they wanted to put defenders where the other team is most likely going to hit the ball. When teams implement the shift, they’re putting players where the hitter is most likely to hit the ball. So how can you make a rule that does not allow teams to strategize? It’s like telling a football team that they cannot “stack the box” (putting players upfront to prevent the other team from running the football).

The defense is making a choice to give up one side of the field. A lot of players stick to their guns and hit against the shift. Especially because no shift stops a ball from going over the fence. Hitters are making a choice not to lay down a bunt or hit the other way. So why not give the defense a choice to play where they want? Seriously, isn’t applying this rule almost like telling a basketball team they can’t play man defense? Or telling a soccer team they can only put a certain number of players on defense? It’s insane!

Here’s my take on what the ban will do to stats. Batting averages will definitely go up. With less players on one side of the field, there will be more holes. I don’t think the ban will decrease strikeouts. With no shift, players will hack away more freely and will likely take more “home run” swings because they don’t have to worry about the possibility of trying to beat the shift and slap the ball the other way. Home run hitters usually strike out more because of their feast or famine approach. Home runs will go up.

Temple City & The Company of The Ages

Temple City & The Company of The Ages (available thru Amazon. Click on pic)

Universal DH
Can I get an amen? This one has been long overdue. Nobody likes to watch pitchers hit. They stink at it, and pitchers have gotten hurt (running the bases, bad bunts to the face, and tweaks/pulls). Let’s just put an end to it. If the MLB wants more action, here’s a good way to get it.

Some folks say the pitcher hitting makes the game more pure. It forces managers to strategize and play small ball. That’s dinosaur thinking. No one cares for that anymore. Most people who want to see more small ball can’t even tell you what small ball is really about. Let’s add another hitter that can knock it out of the yard. Home runs are cool. Bunts are boring.

Lockout
I’m predicting a month. I think we’ll lose a month of baseball.

Contact Steve Urena at:
Email: theurenaexpress@gmail.com
Twitter/IG: @theurenaexpress

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