You'll hear a lot of talk about money over the next week, and none of it will sit well with you.
It's a side effect of these private news streams we've all curated — or as they're collectively known, social media. When an instant and infinite platform is available to anyone who wants one, the information gatekeepers that used to guide us, allowing only the most distilled details to pass through, are obsolete. And while you could make the case we're all more informed because of it, we're also more ... hysterical? Maybe "agitated" is a nicer word. We presumably all know life is messy, but those who want a reminder need only log in.
It applies, too, to the negotiations between MLB and MLBPA in advance of the 2020 season. While earlier episodes of labor strife might have focused on the major checkpoints, highlighted by a contentious moment or two along the way, this one is delivering all the dirty details almost in real time. Unlike ever before, you're getting to see how the sausage is made. It's a cliched analogy, but an apt one because ... ew.
Let's look at some questions considering how these negotiations might impact Fantasy Baseball.
Does hearing the MLBPA's dislike for the new proposal make you think there will be no season?— Jason Bouffard (@JBouff632) May 26, 2020
I was a neurotic kid. Some of my greatest fears included contracting rabies and wearing out the knee area on a new pair of blue jeans (a phenomenon I called "white knees"). I worried about these things the way a normal kid might worry about a test or a class presentation — which isn't to say I didn't worry about those things as well.
It's not so crippling anymore. I've worked hard the past two decades not to let worry play a major role in my life. It still pops up from time to time — basic survival instinct and all — and I'm sure those closest to me would still describe me as neurotic about a handful of things. But if there's one thing I've learned to do better than most, it's not to stress about a thing until it's an actual thing. It drives my wife, a planner extraordinaire, crazy.
So when I see others on social media entertaining every what-if about some sliver of a story and then stirring up outrage by jumping to the worst possible conclusion, my first response is usually irritation. It's like they're broadcasting an internal monologue with which I'm oh so familiar, and it only serves to make us all a little neurotic.
It's not healthy, it's not fruitful, and speaking in a broader sense, it's not grounded in reality. A key to my calm, to overcoming negative thought patterns in a way that isn't just denial, is to recognize that the what-if rarely, if ever, comes true. You're better served, then, just letting things play out, at least after taking inventory of what your actual involvement in the thing is. There isn't a phrase in the English language more liberating than "we'll see." It's my favorite of all the phrases!
Will the owners and players land in a place they can live with, accepting less than they thought they were getting for the sake of getting the season off the ground? I assume so because all involved parties seem to want to, and in these labor disputes, that's usually enough.
"While I'm disappointed in where MLB is starting the discussion, if this is truly about getting the game to our fans, I have confidence we will find common ground," Cardinals relief pitcher Andrew Miller, a member of the union's executive subcommittee, told The Athletic.
But you know, maybe this is the time they don't. Too many hurdles, what with the global catastrophe and all. We'll find out soon enough. But sweating how the sausage is made isn't going to change anything. We don't have a voice in these negotiations, so we don't need to be living and dying with every counterproposal.
MLBPA is said to be "very disappointed" with Tuesday's proposal by MLB, but like, what were you expecting? Nobody comes to the table conceding everything they're willing to concede. It was just the tipoff in what figures to be a week of brutal negotiations, of which we'll be filled in on way too much. Both sides use the press against each other. People will make definitive statements that aren't actually definite. Feelings will be hurt. Trust will be lost. But an agreement will likely still be reached. If you're going to wade through it all, you have to keep in mind that until it's done, it's not done.
Or as Jayson Stark of The Athletic puts it:
"I've covered a lot of labor negotiations. One thing I've learned is not to overreact to the play-by-play. These things always look bad ... until they don't."
So we'll see. That's good enough for me.
Would you prioritize drafting players from certain divisions with teams expected to play only regional games? -Brandon McShane, via Facebook
At last report, the proposed schedule would see teams play their own division and the corresponding division in the opposite league (so the NL East playing both the NL and AL East), thus minimizing cross-country travel. To ensure home/away balance, each team would need an even number of series against each opponent, which would presumably mean four against those in the same division and two against those in the opposite division. Assuming three games per series, it adds up to 78 games, which is about how many the league is looking for.
In other words, each NL East team would play exactly one series at each AL East park. Likewise, each AL West team would be playing exactly one series at Coors Field. Even in a half season, a single series is just a drop in the bucket and a sample too small to project for. So while much the focus has gone toward which venues in the opposing league each team will visit, it won't really matter unless there's a cumulative effect, meaning all the venues in a division are similarly hitter- or pitcher-friendly.
Turns out most divisions are pretty balanced, venue-wise. Even the NL West, where Coors Field is, also offers Oracle Park in San Francisco and Petco Park in San Diego, which are both especially pitcher-friendly. The divisions with the most extreme tendencies are actually found in the AL. Three of the five venues in the AL East are decidedly hitter-friendly (with a fourth, Fenway Park, at least being so for right-handed hitters), and three of the five in the AL West are decidedly pitcher-friendly. And then there's the AL Central, the only division with two teams in the early stages of a rebuild and a third, the White Sox, just coming out of one.
Still, the players who would most feel those tendencies are the ones playing in the same division, not the opposite division. I realize teams play a significant number of games against their in-division rivals during a typical 162-game season, but it'll be a larger percentage than ever this season. So I would say stock up for AL West pitchers, stock down for AL West hitters, stock up for AL East hitters, and stock down for AL East pitchers. I would also say stock up for AL Central pitchers, especially those on the Twins staff, who won't have to face the one stud lineup in that division (i.e. the Twins).
Of course, we're still talking about marginal gains and losses that don't need to be applied across the board. I've already identified specific players who I think gain or lose value in this scenario. You can.
If MLB does have a season but no minor league baseball, what effect will this have on player development? -Em Bee, via Facebook
It's a question I've addressed in various forms throughout this shutdown period, but people keep asking because it's a complicated issue without a concrete solution.
Just for accuracy's sake, I should point out that the minor-league season hasn't been canceled yet, but as Jon Heyman of MLB Network put it Tuesday, "everyone is behaving like they expect it to be." The minor leagues involve so many more cities than the majors that it just doesn't seem feasible to get a season off the ground.
But of course, organizations wouldn't want to waste a year of development for their top prospects, which are also some of their top assets, given the economics of the game right now. They also need minor-leaguers handy for roster depth. Active rosters will be expanded, yes, but the general belief is that it won't be to much more than 30. Reinforcements will be necessary.
I've always favored the idea of a taxi squad, and it only seems to have gained momentum over the past few weeks. The specifics remain elusive, but I'm imagining each organization putting together a team of its 20 best prospects, from across all levels, then having it travel alongside the major-league team and square off against opposing taxi squads.
I don't know how feasible it is — and there may be separate economic issues that arise — but this scenario would allow for honest competition without expanding the threat to more cities and venues. It would allow organizations to continue developing their top prospects while also creating a reserve pool of game-ready players should the need arise for one midseason.
Can you explain some of the league settings you'd like changed with a shortened season? (i.e. double match-ups, different playoff scenarios, etc.)? -Michael Villafana, via Facebook
Chris Towers actually wrote a column , but I'll take this opportunity to share some of my own.
The biggest issue I can see — and it only applies to Head-to-Head leagues — is not having enough time for oddities to work themselves out. If the highest-scoring team gets off to a 1-3 start, the owner can normally rest easy knowing there are 27 weeks in all. But when there are only 13, at least two of which are devoted to the playoffs, it puts him in a difficult spot right away.
That's the most obvious example of an oddity that wouldn't have time to work itself out, but it applies on a player level, too. In a typical season, I would suggest waiting six weeks before jettisoning a slow starter — one in which you have a real investment, anyway (meaning not just a late-round pick) — but six weeks this year would be half the season. Players will come around when they come around — the length of the season won't change it — but you may not be able to wait it out. It could force you to do something drastic or dumb. Or you may end up losing because of inaction. You'll basically just be guessing from moment to moment and have to rely more on luck than ever.
Some of these oddities will impact the real game as well. There's a reason why the strike-shortened 1994 season, which was still 114 games long, saw Tony Gwynn flirt with a .400 batting average and Matt Williams on pace to challenge Roger Maris' single-season home run record. Weird things can and will happen over a small sample size.
One way the real game plans to combat it is by expanding the playoffs, which your league could do as well. Of course, it would mean devoting even more of those precious weeks to the playoffs, but maybe treating half the season like a tournament this year would be a fun change of pace. You'd spend the first few weeks just sorting out seeding and then put all the teams in or all but the two worst teams or whatever. Yeah, there's a chance the lowest seed could bump off the highest seed with a fluky performance in Round 1, but that's how tournaments work. And if you make it a more modest eight-team tournament, you could still theoretically do two-week matchups to reduce the luck element. You'd devote the first seven weeks to seeding and the final six to the playoffs.
If you want a more traditional playoff format, though — and this is the way I'm leaning in most of my leagues — doubling the matchups, meaning having each team play two teams in a given week, makes sense. I don't like it as the norm in a full-length season because it kind of takes away from the purity of Head-to-Head, where it's just you and one other person matching wits, but we have to accept that some things will be suboptimal this year. Doubling the matchups wouldn't address the issue of player performance, but it would better ensure the highest-scoring team doesn't start 1-3 — or even 2-6.