2-7-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
The game of baseball is in crisis mode and knowing it was coming, predicting the contentiousness does little more than give some people that do what I do opportunity to pat ourselves on the back.
That’s not really my style, but suffice to say, if you’re shocked at what’s happening right now, you haven’t been paying attention. The first time I openly predicted we would have a very contentious labor battle, was the winter of 2019, and much like Nebakanezer, the writing on the wall doesn’t reach everyone.
Let’s dig in today and see where the thoughts take us.
1. The Game Will Survive
I don’t even think we’ve reached the height of ugliness as of yet, and I’ll still confidently put this out there. That’s not to say that for some fans this is a breaking point, I understand the frustration, but as most of you can tell when I write about the negotiations, I prefer to see each side and reason through it, rather than just pick bad guys like Rob Manfred or Scott Boras.
I do that for me, not you. I mean sure you get to see all sides of the argument clearly if you choose to read, but I can’t write about this game fairly if I’ve picked a side to bury before I start. I also do it because hopefully when one side does something that simply can’t be seen as anything but wrong or underhanded, I want to have the credibility to call them out. Hopefully by not creating false drama along the path, you’ll trust me when I do raise alarm bells.
Many of you remember 1994, and what it took to bring fans back to the game after that. This won’t be much different. If we miss significant games and the changes are minimal, the league will lose even more small to mid market fans. If we miss a bunch and it comes with big changes that make competitive balance improvements, over time, it will increase fan participation.
Either way, MLB will move forward in some form or fashion, and while I won’t directly tell any individual they’re full of it when they say they won’t watch anymore, suffice to say most of them will. Quietly at first, then somewhere along the line, when it’s relatively safe nobody is looking, they’ll be back. Most anyway.
Especially if the changes are worth it.
2. Have I Mentioned Baseball Will Still Be Played?
We will still have Minor League Baseball, regardless of how this negotiation continues to evolve. Players on the 40-man won’t participate so I ‘m not going to sit here and tell you it’s all rainbows and flowers for the Bucs, it’s not. If this thing stretches out some of you would probably happily say good, another year of development without the pain of watching the MLB team struggle.
If this were 2020 or even 2021, I’d be right there with you, but this year the Pirates are poised to have several rookies make their debut and a fresh crop of 40-man members who really need to play. Like, now is not the time for Travis Swaggerty to miss his 3rd season of baseball since being drafted. It’s not ideal that Oneil Cruz would be forced to just sit there along with Roansy Contreras. Look, I’m not going to list them all, but if this were to be a really extended event, you could feasibly see some guys who did get to play, catch up to, if not pass some guys on the 40.
That said, the logjam it could create might be the pixie dust Cherington needs to conglomerate enough talent together at one moment in time to really have a shot at primarily building his team.
Either way, should you so choose, baseball will be available to you and in the case of the Pirates organization, it won’t be bad baseball.
3. The Case for Trading Kevin Newman or Cole Tucker
First of all, there won’t be many of you upset at seeing either moved, even if yes it’s for more prospects.
Aside from that, there are other players just about ready to take the spots they play by force. It’s clear just from looking at the construction of the depth chart that at best 2023 will be a year where one, not both, of these players is the starting second baseman. More likely one, not both are a bench piece.
So if one, max, is going to be here, why not move one now while they possess enough years of control that someone can reasonably expect they could “fix” them?
Let Cruz, Castillo, Castro, Marcano and Bae have the space, because they might not even be able to hold off the next round.
Maybe this is ultimately how the club secures a back up catcher. No matter what, this is a suggestion based on the overall strength of the positions they play.
4. Kudos to Jesse Rogers at ESPN
It’s rare when a national writer will broach the subject of a salary cap, it’s even more rare when they’ll do it to a player, let alone a player who’s actually involved in the negotiations. Enter Jesse Rogers who did the deed, asking Andrew Miller point blank why a Cap wouldn’t be a good thing for MLB? Read it here.
It’s a window into the mind, and you’ll note the answer has a whole lot of deflection built in. Like ask NBA and NHL stars if they’re happy with a cap! Or we’ve just decided that system wouldn’t be best for us.
I especially love this line from Miller. “The Rays have won but we’re not necessarily happy with the way that they have always operated.”
If I start a business making nails and selling them for 5 cents a piece, then someone else finds a way to sell them for 3 cents, we don’t typically ask the new company to please start selling them for 5 because it’s not the way we want them to operate.
What’s painfully obvious is that the idea of a system with a floor and ceiling has become such a bad word we no longer see anyone who can bother to adequately articulate why it’s bad.
This interview means more to people like me than almost anything that would ever come from it. Mad respect for this reporter actually asking the questions.
5. Altoona Slide
If this lockout continues as I expect, I’d love to see the organization have the Curve play in PNC for a series or two. It’d be really great for the general Pittsburgh Baseball ran to really get a chance to put their eyes on some of the future, and it’d give these kids a chance to experience what they’re fighting for.
I leave it at Altoona because it’s doable by bus, but I’d be quite happy if the club found a way to get these guys in front of fans. Take them from the “14th ranked prospect” to “I saw that guy crush a ball off the Clemente Wall” and really build the belief that what’s being built isn’t fool’s gold.
I’m sure someone smarter than me will tell me why this couldn’t be done, or even shouldn’t be, but these are my thoughts and I’d like to see it.