Friday Focus – A Leak is Worth a Thousand Plans

Friday Focus

If you were to take a canoe out on a pond in your backyard and it sprung a leak, you could probably paddle back to shore and get it fixed. Even if you miscalculated, chances are you could swim back to shore and worst-case scenario you lose a leaky boat. Lake Erie, yeah, you might want to be pretty sure it’s watertight before you take a vessel out.

From day one of the shutdown, one thing has dominated the conversation, leaks. Each side is doing it and each of them have one main reason for doing so, public opinion and public pressure. Typically, campaigns like this have a defined end game and they ultimately cause little sustained damage to the opponents. What we’re seeing here is a multi-faceted leaking effort that will leave permanent bruising on all parties involved.

The reporters are hungry for content, that’s true, but please don’t blame journalists for reporting, it’s after all what they do. For instance, if someone leaked to me that player X knew what Filipe Vazquez was up to and kept their mouths shut, I’d have, in my case, a self-imposed duty to report it after fact checking of course. That should not be confused with trying to create drama or attempting to embarrass the organization.

The players have leaked primarily responses to the plans put forth by the owners. The owners have leaked strategic parts of their plans. Each cause a reaction in the public eye because again, journalists are going to ask questions and seek reaction, that’s kinda the gig.

Now, if nothing was leaked all along by now, we sure would have some questions, like are you guys even trying? Here is where it gets out of hand though, see they’ve responded, on both sides, so poorly to the leaks that again we are forced to ask, hey are you guys even trying.

Two and a half months have passed, and after all the leaks and plans and rouge statements, our question is exactly the same with the added bonus of badly bruised reputations and speculation of levels of greed at play.

At some point, this all turned from health and safety and became a mini CBA negotiation. In fact, the only nugget we’ve really heard about health and safety was the ridiculous no spitting rules. Even that silliness was met with Bryce Harper saying spitting is part of the game. He isn’t wrong, but how he said it aloud without feeling like a complete moron is beyond me. That said, proposing it seems just as stupid. Bluntly put, if this is that dangerous that a guy standing in left field spits on the ground and other players are at risk, screw all this. If it’s that dangerous why are we even discussing it?

The answer is simple, MLB leaked things like this to show how deep they were thinking about safety, and to force the players to respond, just like famous bait taker Bryce did by the way. Force the players to say some of the safety proposals were too aggressive and they lose the right to say MLB didn’t try to protect them should someone get sick.

Next up is leak a preliminary proposal of revenue sharing. Why you ask? Again, simple, to get players to publicly start making this whole thing about money. Along comes Blake Snell following the lure like a Bass to a spinner. He took it further than the owners could have ever hoped, saying he didn’t want to play for one penny less than his contract. Dream come true right here if you’re MLB, the players (even if just one vocal fella) took the bait and now it’s all about greed. Sure, some will deflect back on the owners, but they were no longer on an island when it comes to money.

The latest leak showed a tiered breakdown of player salaries. Very fair on the low end, in other words if you are on the 40-man and make under a million, this is a pretty appealing offer. More than a million and it starts to look worse. If these negotiations were being held in good faith, this proposal would have been taken as a first step and the two sides would hammer out their differences. No, this leak too had intentions and I’m waiting to see if it worked. See this proposal was intended to start a Civil War (Sorry for stealing your comparison Craig but it applies) within the ranks of the MLBPA.

I’ve done this before but let’s go over it again so it’s clear. 10% of the players, make 50% of the payroll in MLB. The other 90% make up the other half. So, it stands to reason there are a whole lot more on the low end of pay scale than the top end. If MLB can get something close to this up for a vote, it could very well have a chance of passing simply because a bigger percentage of players fall into the group of those who come close to the pay, they expected on a pro-rated basis. Don’t think it’s possible? Please do see the NFLPA events that literally just occurred. That’s exactly what the NFL did, they pitted immediate gains for lower paid players against less potential gains for top tier players. Guess which group has more members? Guess who won?

What they want is someone to speak up and say it. Now, MLBPA does a much better job of shutting up that level of player than the high-priced guys, so it won’t be as easy. And Tony Clark won’t ever let this go up for a vote unless there is an overt ground swell from the underlings.

Nothing in this entire event has been straight forward, and when both sides shut their mouths, that’s when you know the “real” negotiating is happening. This leak game is as old as time and the internet has helped it become more effective than ever. Leaks now spread like wildfire and no longer require duping compliant journos into doing the distribution.

I still believe they will find a way to get through this, there is just too much to lose if they don’t. I mean a golf match with two aging pros and two NFL QBs just pulled a 5.8 rating. Any sport that doesn’t sense the hunger and move mountains to take a slice probably doesn’t deserve to expect jumping back in next year. That said, I’m anxiously awaiting the eye of the storm. The quiet sanctity of real negotiation when the leaky faucet is finally turned down to at least a drip. Each side has been beaten up enough, time to start healing.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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