Thank you, MLB. Thank you for this lockout.
I know it might seem confusing to have a baseball fan being grateful for your completely unnecessary lockout of the players, but your negotiation tactic has given Rockies fans a pause in daily frustration and anxiety. It’s been a rough 2021 and we all just needed a break.
After watching the Colorado front office ship Nolan Arenado and $50 million to St. Louis to start the year off in February, fans of the purple and black were then subject to a 74-87 season to cap off a third consecutive losing campaign. Just when that ended, we watched Trevor Story and Jon Gray become free agents, one of which was expected and the other wasn’t. While Story has yet to find a new home, he will. In return, the Rockies will get one draft pick, a hole in their infield, and a four-man rotation.
A feeling of hope emerged on Nov. 2 when free agency started. After all Greg Feasel, president of baseball operations told the Nick Groke of Athletic, “We think we’re going to gain ground in ‘22.” GM Bill Schmidt said, “We just need more pieces” and “If there’s a good trade or a good signing, we’ll move on it.”
That hope slowly deflated over the course of November as the Rockies brought back some of the same players, which was good, but did not “gain ground” or add “pieces.” They let two home-grown players walk out the door, and didn’t partake in a free agent frenzy that saw teams spend over $1.7 billion before the lockout Wednesday night.
It was 30 days of frantically checking notifications, hoping for good news. Rockies fans have learned to temper our expectations, so we weren’t holding out for Carlos Correa, Nick Castellanos, or Jorge Soler. But, the Rockies need a big bat in the outfield, and now they also need a shortstop and another starting pitcher. Even if one of those comes from within the organization, they all can’t be “draft and develop” products because they don’t exist for 2022. The Rockies have to sign a free agent or make a trade for at least one of those gaping vacancies, but it really should be all three.
Each November day that came and went was another day of disappointment, distress, and then disgust. The 30 days became a part of 1,077 that had passed since the Rockies signed a meaningful free agent. Now that clock is at a standstill.
With transactions frozen, Rockies fans can retreat from the edge of their please-make-one-move seats, sit back, and relax. We can stop cursing the front office and wonder what they are doing if they aren’t making deals and rest assured knowing they can’t make deals. No more excuses. No more dread. Just nothing, which is what we are used to, but now there is a reason. I truly am grateful.
This is a slippery slope to be sure. If this work stoppage isn’t resolved and starts to delay spring training and possibly the season, my thankfulness will dissolve into sadness and anger. Only the fourth lockout in MLB history, the previous ones have lasted 12 days (1973), 13 days (1976), and 32 days (1990). However, this time, the two sides seem about as far apart as the Rockies and an NL West championship.
In addition, there have been four strikes in MLB history with the latest and longest coming in 1994. Just in the second year of the Rockies existence and the team’s final year at Mile High, the players went on strike, ending the season early and canceling the World Series. That work stoppage lasted 232 days and canceled 938 games.
Hopefully, the two sides can get back to the negotiation table and start to compromise. It’s reasonable to still believe the Rockies will take on the Dodgers on March 31, which is 118 days away.
For now, I am going to appreciate the break from disappointment. I am going to hope the Rockies front office can use this time to learn how to negotiate, learn how to calculate accurate market values for players, and can adjust their outlook to match the reality of what their roster is, what it can and can’t do, and what it needs.
Then, when baseball comes back, maybe — just maybe — the Rockies will sign a free agent.
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Inside Baseball’s Dangerous Game of Chicken | SI.com
I am always interested to hear Tom Verducci’s perspective in important baseball moments. As one of baseball’s best writers, his insight into this lockdown and the consequences it could have are worth reading. Making the point that smartphones and endless entertainment options didn’t exist in 1994 the last time this happened, on top of the fact that the game is already losing fans with “shifts and strikeouts” limiting offensive production and making games over three hours long, Verducci argues the game needs to modernize to stay relevant. He also points out areas of compromise that might be more realistic, while also pointing out the lack of pressure of an offseason lockout since they rarely end without the pressure of games being canceled.
Advocates for Minor Leaguers forms steering committee to give players a voice, push for better conditions | ESPN.com
Without a union and with notorious living and traveling conditions, minor league baseball players won’t be included in the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. With MLB announcing that teams will have to provide housing for minor leaguers earlier this year as hope, on Thursday “Advocates for Minor Leaguers announced the formation of a player steering committee, which will provide strategic advice and leadership regarding the ongoing labor battle to provide better conditions across baseball’s development levels.”
The minor leaguers have to be treated as humans first, and investments and future Major Leaguers second. They need to be better compensated for their work to get to the majors, regardless of whether they make it to The Show or not. This is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also in the best interest of teams.
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