Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

2-14-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Just about every year I see today, Valentine’s Day, as the ramp up to Spring Training. It’s also my Birthday, so usually I’m showered with Pirates gear but this year, the news is so dark on MLB most chose to just avoid it.

That’s as good a transition as any, since we can’t possibly avoid talking about the elephant in the room.

1. The Heart of the Matter

These two sides are miles apart, and it looks like neither is willing to move much more than incrementally, but it’s important to remember much of what is being negotiated is new to the table. Changing the way young and statistically outstanding players are handled has never been attempted, so when the players ask for 105 million, that’s 105 million in new spending being requested. The owners want to reinstate the luxury tax which expired when the last CBA did. It’s something not often thought about by the fans but to the players this is a big ask by the owners, where most of us consider it something that just stays in place.

Functionally that’s correct, but think of it through the eyes of the players and you’ll get why they feel this way. It would be like your company saying you have a freeze on increases through 2024, then in January of 2025 they come to you and casually mention they want to extend it another 5 years or so.

Now, I can argue there aren’t many teams touching the ceiling anyhow, but I’m playing devil’s advocate a bit here, just to say, not everything is as cut and dry as it seems.

The heart of the matter is that these two sides have sacred cows they aren’t likely to give up on, and poison pills they aren’t likely to swallow. The longer this goes, the more likely it becomes that the owners decide to unilaterally up the ante. I think that’s more likely than seeing the owners give up on extended playoffs, revenue sharing or a luxury tax.

2. You’re Still the One

What’s really funny about Mitch Keller is that no matter how bad he’s been in his first couple seasons of MLB, when it comes to someone that could really step up and become a top of the rotation option it’s still Mitch Keller. It’s not just the training videos, or the added velocity, nope, it’s more about the skill set and projected ceiling.

He’s not the only one who could become a quality pitcher, but out of who’s expected to start the season in the rotation, he’s the only one with top tier potential. Roansy Contreras is another but I don’t expect him to make it at the start.

Thing is, I know 90% of fans have already decided what Keller is, just as the same amount have already decided Contreras will be Rookie of the Year and Cy Young finalist in his first full season of action. But Mitch isn’t some definitive bust yet, he’s just a kid who’s running out of chances. Thousands have come before him and thousands will follow him, but teams don’t give up on talent like this in year 3.

3. Love in an Elevator?

I wonder if this lockout drags on as it sure as hell looks like it will, and given that members of the 40-man won’t be able to play, will many members of what we expected to see in Altoona start the year in Indianapolis.

We often worry about what this missed time could do for players like Cruz, Swaggerty or Contreras, but what about the upside of what it could do for guys like Matt Fraizer? This is absolutely not going to be normal and I’m honestly curious to see how they handle it. The AAA season will be 150 games in 2022 and that in and of itself will cause more movement on the roster, but this time in history it could create some logjams in places that weren’t so apparent.

4. Don’t Know What Ya Got, Til it’s Gone

look, nobody should be telling you they know all of this smoke is going to create a fire, AKA Cap System, but these two sides are as far apart as I’ve seen since 1994 and while I’m not predicting that we’re going to see the owners shoot for the moon and institute a salary cap there are also plenty of facts that show it’s not like assuming you’re a fortunate meeting away from dating Beyonce.

  • Owners have already voted for one, all of them. It’s not a good enough one, but one that would lay the structure to tighten it into what would be in the future. Yes it’s been pulled off the table, but forever that hurdle and the narrative that they can’t agree on it has been destroyed.
  • Streaming will eventually (no, not anywhere close to this year) eat into the gross inequities in the game. In other words, at some point as streaming takes over more and more of the broadcast payload, we’re going to see those multi million dollar contracts return to the mean and since MLB owns the streaming rights and the proceeds are already shared league wide, guess what more streaming means for the game?
  • This stoppage won’t go on for years. A year tops. When every proposal is seen through the lens of the players having to agree, I always chuckle to myself, because of course they don’t. The owners can last a year, easily, and after that should the players still not settle, they’ll just move on. Roster with prospects and wait for scabs to cross the line. Chatter about starting another league I’m sure will crop up, but it’s all just as silly as the XFL. This isn’t what I want to happen, nor do I think we’re close to this, but this thing isn’t just going to go on into 2023.
  • The longer this goes, the weaker the players will get, because while they’ve saved a bit in a fund to support a work stoppage, most players don’t make 30 million a year. Owners aren’t going to be telling their wives no because of this, players might. The pain will be felt there first, and at some point, MLB is still the only place in the world where a baseball player can make the kind of money these guys do.

It does the players no good to refuse to relent on things the owners consider non starters, especially when they have nothing but their talent to offer in return. I see a complete dropping of several issues very soon, or a very long process that ends in a drastically different league. Take from that what you will. It’s just my opinion.

These people running around saying you can’t even speak of a cap because the owners pulled it off the table are missing the point. The fact it’s been voted on is something most didn’t see happening. If you ask me that’s why the players have their Irish up so much right now too, they never saw some of these teams getting on board with it. (And yes I’m Irish, I’m allowed to say it) What’s really funny is how many of these “protectors of truth” will tell you they understand negotiations, but can’t fathom that negotiations aren’t often linear. They also without blinking will tell you it’s 100% plausible that a league could exist with a spread of 350-450 million dollars from top to bottom in payroll. Sometimes things are presented for the pure appearance of threat. In other words, just because you read that something was removed on January 13th, doesn’t mean it’ll stay removed when they sign. If you don’t believe that, you quite literally don’t know how negotiations work, and instead just picked your winner before hand and want to justify your belief system.

Things are asked for with the sole purpose of seeming to move dramatically toward the other side.

How this thing winds up has so many variables left to decipher, I can honestly say if anyone tells you they know what’s coming, they’re a liar.

There are a number of places that can tell you what’s been proposed, and what the counters were, after that, it’s all opinion on where it’s going. I suggest you look for that from people willing to look at the entire picture and haven’t decided which side is evil vs altruistic.

5. Can’t Live Without Your Love & Affection

I’ve talked about this before, but these players, these clubs, this league simply can’t survive without you. And this early in the process, they can’t think of you without forgoing things they truly feel are non negotiable to the cutting room floor. The vocal element that wants the league to do everything it has to do to in order to “fix” the league is fine with everything going on right now, save maybe the fact they backtracked off the Cap and Floor proposal at all.

Some of you have decided the players should win and because of your own beliefs about the local owner have decided each and every one of them are Sith Lords in need of a good punch in the mouth. To hell with the league and to hell with the markets that simply won’t make it.

Then you have the owner stooges, who want the players to eat turds and go back to pre free agency times where they had to bag groceries in the off season. Yes, they exist, and I too thought this wasn’t a thing before I started doing this.

For everything you can think of, someone passionately feels that way. For instance, I have more than a few readers who like to scour everything I write for all the “unfair and inflammatory” things I constantly say about Neal Huntington and Bob Nutting. LOL, for real.

The point is, out of this conglomeration and coupled with the vast majority of normal human beings out there, this league needs to come out of this with enough of you to form a fan base, and this time they kinda can’t go back to the well on roids to drum up interest.

That’s a burden both sides will talk about, but neither will tangibly address. Keep that in mind while you passionately fight for a side, cause they won’t fight for you, I promise.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

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