Okay, strictly speaking it's about the MLBPA's chief Tony Clark objecting to how the Cubbies are treating Kris Bryant, which is to say...treating him exactly like every team treats every rookie.
Which brings us to why Clark is all cheesed off. It’s widely accepted that even if Bryant proves this spring that he’s ready to break camp with the major league club, the Cubs will send him down to Triple-A for a few weeks. That’s because if, at the end of the 2020 season, Bryant has accrued six years of service time, he’ll be able to become a free agent, but if he’s accrued five years and 171 days of service time, he won’t, allowing the Cubs to control him for another year.From a fan standpoint, it's equally a no-brainer. The Baumann/Clark objection here, that the Cubs aren't going to "burn up" a year of Bryant's entry level contract, is a familiar one to Edmonton Oilers fans. We've been complaining about management burning up ELCs for years, from Taylor Hall† to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to Nail Yakupov...and those are just first overall picks! To say nothing of the folly of burning a year's eligibility on Magnus Paajarvi, Jeff Petry, Leon Draisaitl, etc. "Don't burn ELCs when you're going to finish last in the league" says Oilers blogger Derek Zona, which is advise that Cubs fans probably are taking to heart.
Holding back Bryant this April will give the Cubs another prime year from their blue-chipper at the cost of missing his bat for only a few early weeks in a season in which they might not contend anyway. From a business standpoint, it’s a no-brainer.
†Bonus line from Brownlee about why he's glad Hall's ELC got "burned up": after four straight seasons out of the playoffs, telling Hall and Paajarvi to wait a year as part of the big picture might be a tough sell for the majority of fans. With the Oilers just adding a ninth playoff missing season, I'm not sure fans are as happy watching Taylor Hall have to play losing hockey for half a decade as Brownlee suspects.
The NHL salary cap is a major factor to consider, though. Unlike the Edmonton Oilers, if the Chicago Cubs discover in 2021 that their payroll has ballooned to $120M and they've only signed 30 players, they can just spend another X million on the 10 players they still need to sign. If X happens to be another $120M, so be it. The ultimate impact is on the bottom line of the team, which is the most profitable in the Majors. It's different in a salary cap league, where if the Oilers discover 15 guys have eaten up $60M in salary (well, cap space, specifically, but let's not get confusing here) they only have $9M left to sign the remaining 5 spots, meaning those last 5 spots have to average $555,000 a year where the league minimum is $550,000 ($575,000 next season). In other words, they'll have to fill those spots with the worst players available. The Cubs don't.
Regardless, however, there is a real "salary cap" in the form of the revenue generated by the Cubs organization to fund the payroll. So therefore Cubs fans, knowing that they can't just sign the 40 best players in baseball and be done with it, have to realize that the more money a player makes with the organization, the less in in the kitty to go and get other good players to play with him. For Cubs fans, this is the important consideration. They may be Bryant fans now because the 6'5" third baseman is with their team, but that's the main motivation. Few Cubs/Bryant fans today will be Cubs/Bryant fans when he moves to another team [assuming he does, which isn't something you can say for sure about Bryants -ed], so in a battle between their loyalties the Cubbies will win every time [which isn't something you can say for sure about Cubs -ed]. Michael Baumann tries to make the argument that fans should be rooting for Bryant or the MLBPA because of the Major's protected legal status, but his moralistic argument is impeded by his massive factual error:
Believing that professional athletes make too much money is the logical equivalent of preferring for that money to remain in the hands of the owners — who are rich already, whom you don’t know, and who enrich themselves directly off your tax money — rather than in the hands of the players you love watching and whose labor is literally the only thing of value that the owners have to sellThe emphasis above is, of course, completely wrong. Owners of businesses, even ones with court-mandated legal monopolies, are not "enriching themselves off your tax money". That's the exclusive purview of public school teachers, government bureaucrats, etc. Baumann may be trying to mae a comment about sports teams trying to secure tax money for stadium construction, but again that argument isn't going to work for the Chicago Cubs. So no, those greedy owners aren't getting "your tax money".
Owners, like an oil company or your cable provider, are the middlemen you have to go through to access the thing you want. I don’t know anyone who roots for a cable company.Grantland is the "middleman" to get the thing you want, in this case, something to read, but I digress.
But that’s why we have labor unions, right? Clark’s belated objection is nothing more than a union boss doing his job. Yet even so, the MLBPA, one of the most successful labor unions in the country, will almost certainly do nothing to end the exploitation of amateurs and minor leaguers, or the stunning underpayment of pre-arbitration players.Ah, now we get to the crux of the matter: Baumann is trying to lay out a case for why the MLBPA needs to take action to stop the Cubs from leaving Kris Bryant in the minors even though there's literally no action they can take and while they totally want the thing to happen that's happening. None of the parties involved are breaking the rules, Baumann admits, but thinks that acting within those rules (these are commonly dismissed as "loopholes" but in this case even that bit of rhetoric is too strong) is something that a union President, who has a signed agreement with the owners determining what those rules are, should be upset about. Said union President is even upset about it!
That’s because the money in baseball, though it comes in unimaginable quantities, is finite and divisible; and because the MLBPA comprises major league only players; and because its leadership tends to comprise mostly veterans. If the owners are willing to change the rules to open up free-agent expenditures in exchange for a worldwide draft and amateur spending caps, the union will sell out the kids and the amateurs faster than you can say “moral hazard.” Going to war over Bryant would mean spending either literal or social capital that the MLBPA could use to help current union members instead.
But he has no real grounds to be upset. And if you're a Cubs fan hoping that your team will be competitive in 3-8 years (you could be hoping for this year, but you're a Cubs fan, not crazy), you absolutely should love this news. Even if you also love Bryant.