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Bruce Dowbiggin

Rays Of Sunshine In MLB’s Pointless Lockout

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If you’re a baseball fan planning on going to 2022 spring training to see your favourite team you might want to pause before booking a flight or hotel room. In case you didn’t see the news, MLB has locked out its players again as the two sides jockey for a new collective bargaining agreement.

“We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time,” says MLB owners commissioner Rob Manfred. “This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive. It’s simply not a viable option.” Sure. Go with that.

Understand that for baseball fans the words collective-bargaining agreement are as welcoming as a reminder that you’re due for a colonoscopy. Labour actions of the past  have ruined seasons and— in the case of the Montreal Expos— doomed a franchise. (See: 1994 lockout )

“The Expos were widely regarded as the best team in baseball that season, prohibitive favorites to win the World Series for the first time in franchise history. Once play resumed, the cash-strapped Expos tore apart their contending team, shipping off their best players in trades for lesser prospects in most cases.” By 2005 they had moved to Washington.

Since that 1994 disaster MLB has managed to avoid losing playing time to strikes/ lockouts. But the pressure has been building since the sport rejected the notion of a salary cap in favour of a much-less-restrictive luxury tax on free-spending terms. While the NHL, NBA and NFL operate more stringent salary cap systems, baseball has gone its own way in controlling salaries.

Concurrent with that has been an explosion of revenues for MLB, sending salaries and franchise values into the stratosphere. (See my book Cap In Hand for a full history of salary-cap economics and how a return to freer player markets is the future of the business.)

In a sign of how loose the financial reins have become, Max Scherzer’s $43-million annual salary with the New York Mets is more than the entire payroll of two MLB teams. With no minimum payroll, Pittsburgh and Baltimore are free to lap up their 1/30th share of MLB’s lucrative digital/ TV package, logo rights and other baubles.

Meanwhile players are concerned that while the stars become rich as Saudi princes the working class of the sport is not getting a proper share of the revenues. They claim owners are using devious practices to delay players getting to arbitration and free-agency. And they decry owners tanking for better draft picks or simply to make money.

None of this says that an early solution is imminent should the sides get past the next few weeks. The only lever for players is cancelling games, and there are none scheduled till next February (spring training) and late March (regular season). Likewise players are paid their salaries only during the regular season, meaning no player will lose any money till the games begin.  Translation: They’re not panicking either. So expect the real negotiating to start in February as camps set to open for 2022.

The hiccup in the debate over highly paid superstars and exploding payrolls is the Tampa Bay Rays. The definitive “small MLB market” Tampa has found a way to get to the 2020 World Series and the 2021 ALDS using a formula that involves dumping their name players (Evan Longoria, Blake Snell, David Archer) and culling prospects and rejects from other clubs.

While teams like the Blue Jays, Mets, Yankees, Dodgers and Angels are profligate spenders on big names, Tampa throws around nickels like they were manhole covers. The Rays are so frugal that they’re proposing their summertime games be played in Montreal.

You want more? The cash-strapped Rays traded their stopper at the 2021 trade deadline— even as they led the majors in wins. They virtually invented the notion of reducing the value of starting pitching by creating the “bullpen” day, in which they start a relief pitcher and followed him with a series of other situational pitchers. Picking through the bargain bin they found inexpensive rejects and burnouts on other staffs and thrust them into their lineup.

As Mack Cerullo of Yahoo Sports noted, the Rays used 39 different pitchers last season; of the nine relief pitchers on Tampa Bay’s opening-day roster, only three remained at season’s end. The team’s three All-Stars, Joey Wendle, Mike Zunino and Andrew Kittredge, made a combined $5 million last year. Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena and Austin Meadows, the heart of their batting order, made less than $3.7 million among them.

Despite cutting corners the Rays had the No. 1 ranked system in baseball starting 2021. By season’s end prized rookies Wander Franco, Arozarena, Luis Patino and Shane McClanahan were all keys to TB getting to the ALDS. When they get too expensive the Rays will likely trade them for prospects or let them walk in free agency.

(Although the Rays tarnished their Scrooge reputation by signing the brilliant young Franco an eleven-year, $182 million contract extension, with a club option of $25 million for a twelfth year.)

Which begs the question: why are the tall foreheads of MLB shutting down the sport to save a system that has worked so well for Tampa? There is a ready template to compete and prosper in smaller markets. Why is this news to other owners? Likely it’s easier to lock out players than do the heavy lifting of the Rays. With no threat of losing a franchise via relegation (as in soccer) or being cut off from the MLB gravy train why bother?

So prepare for months of crocodile tears from owners that MLBPA’s demands “would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive”. And prepare to hold your nose when they say they’ve solved the Grand Old Past-Time.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Force Play: The Vaccines And The Damage Done

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Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent.  https://share.hsforms.com/16edbhhC3TTKg6jAaRyP7rActsj5 

Warning: This article could contain Covid-19 heresy. Readers are asked to take precautions. The Whit Merrifield crisis is over. The Toronto Blue Jays latest infield acquisition from Kansas City got a COVID-19 vaccine and can now play in his new team’s home games. Provided he doesn’t get COVID-19 all the same. Or have a freak heart problem. But we digress.

Canada has not allowed dozens of unvaccinated MLB players to play against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre— including Merrifield when the Royals visited in July. (Similar bans affected unvaxed NBA and NHL players entering Canada.) But Merrifield wanted to play in the MLB postseason, so he relented to Trudeau’s pressure and took the shot.

Merrifield’s stubbornness mirrors how pig-headed Canada has been in employing its standard— vaccines uber alles— that clearly has little remaining basis in The Science®, if it ever did. Newly released documents obtained by former NY Times reporter Bari Weiss show that “in the days leading up to the implementation of the (Canadian) travel mandate, transportation officials were frantically looking for a rationale for it. They came up short.”

Further, “no one in the ‘COVID Recovery unit’, which was responsible for enacting the policy, had any training in epidemiology or public health… instead, the director-general has a degree in literature.” The real decision, said a member of the unit, came from above. “A senior official in the prime minister’s Cabinet or possibly the prime minister himself had ordered COVID Recovery to impose the travel mandate… I’m not at liberty to disclose anything that is subject to cabinet confidence.” 

It’s the same in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration documents newly obtained show the agency knew almost nothing about how well mRNA boosters might work when it okayed them. Or why travel lockdowns work. As we reported here in “Revise, Hide, Resubmit” White House Task Force member Deborah Birx simply lied to the the president about having evidence to prolong lockdowns. “We had to make these (moves) palatable to the administration by avoiding the obvious appearance of a full Italian lockdown… We were playing a game of chess in which the success of each move was predicated on the one before it.”

Dilbert cartoonist/ social media star Scott Adams sums up the confusion of ordinary folks.”Regarding vaccinations, people I don’t trust say they have access to data I am not allowed to see, and because of that I should be concerned about the risks.”

Not that it mattered in Whit Merrifield’s case. It could have been 2020 as far as Health Canada is concerned. Even as we learn that multiple vaccinations do not prevent re-infection (POTUS Joe Biden is five shots in and sick again) or that the scientific evidence for vaccine efficacy was always missing, Justin Trudeau still stands like a Stalinist wall against revising earlier bans on the un-vaxxed.

What are the odds he’ll revisit his Convoy-inducing policies? He only just relented on allowing Canadians to fly domestically without a vaccine. The PM himself goes maskless in Costa Rica, begging the question why he adheres to a liberal standard on holiday while the plebs— and baseball players— back home must obey his diktats on Covid prevention.

The Science®, people!! No jab, no journey to Canada’s Blunderland. And No Talking!!

Maybe not. The vaccines have short-term benefits of six or eight weeks. After that Health Canada and the CDC claim they lessen the impact of the virus— but millions still get sick or die. That’s nothing like the powers Health Canada and Trudeau attributed to them when rushing them into the market.  Increasing evidence shows that the vax cures for Covid-19 and its variants might be worse than the virus. Millions getting the virus a second, third or fifth time belies those assurances. Or the threats of expulsion that accompanied them.

Estimates now suggest as many as 40,000 certified deaths worldwide may have resulted from “vaccine injuries”.  Meanwhile, five surveys of the American public, totalling over 2,500 people, show that while 4.4 percent of respondents reported that someone in their household had died from COVID-19; 8.9 percent said someone had died as a result of Covid vaccination.

What’s going on here? Researcher/ author Alex Berenson notes that funeral giant Service Corporation is showing excess deaths persisting into year three of the pandemic. But not from Covid-19. “Smoking and obesity take decades to kill, and drinking usually takes a decade or more,” says Berenson, who was banned from Twitter for Wrong Think. “Overdoses are way up and traffic accidents are higher too, but not nearly enough to account for the overall rise in deaths.

“Gee, I wonder what could be leading to all the excess non-Covid deaths we’ve suddenly seen in the last 12 months, not just in the United States but all over Western Europe and Australia too? Something definitely changed near the end of 2020, I just wish I could remember what…”

Lincoln National Insurance has reported a 63 percent increase in the rate of death claims for their customers. “The only new thing that’s happened in 2021,” says Baylor University cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough, “is the Covid vaccine.” The one that Trudeau insists you get or lose your job or liberty to travel.

Berenson notes another head scratcher. “The poor countries that avoided the mRNA shots have largely put Covid behind them, while wealthy countries navigate their fifth or sixth or seventh waves. (India: lots of people, no mRNA vaccines, no boosters, no second boosters, no super-special Omicron boosters, not so much Covid!)”

The previous antidote for believers in The Science® was banning or censoring this research. “California’s Medical Board, has been extorting MDs not to speak out against actual COVID misinformation by labeling what we say as misinformation and threatening licenses to practice,” says Dr. Jay Bhattacharya. “Docs just sued the medical board. Read the suit. Brilliant!”

The establishment in the person of globe-trotting/ no-masking Trudeau is making a bet on many levels that it can bluff through its agenda. It is testing social will. The results may prove bracing to those like Trudeau who presume authority for themselves as a right of his class.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft YearsIn NHL History, , his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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Bruce Dowbiggin

The Cooler: Harper Attempts To Pacify CPC Over Poilievre

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As demons go, Stephen Harper always left something to be desired. While the media and his political opponents painted a picture of a diabolical schemer bent of hoarding power, Harper mostly bored ordinary Canadians. For all the strenuous efforts of newsrooms and chat rooms tapping him as Trump, The Harp lacked a certain je ne sais quoi when it came to ruthless maniacs.

So the sudden re-appearance last month of Canada’s previous PM to throw his support to Pierre Poilievre in the Conservative Party leadership race took on a sinister tone with the usual suspects. Harper’s brand of lukewarm western populism was taken out for another thrashing. CBC typically quoted a Dutch political scientist Hans Mudde as saying, ”Populism presents a Manichean outlook, in which there are only friends and foes.” Etc.

In truth it is likely Harper emerged from the business of making money to bless Poilievre’s massive lead in the CPC leadership for several reasons. The most obvious is that he recognizes the inevitability of Poilievre’s win and wishes to deny the media an electoral horse race orgy till September.

But mostly it is to signify that despite the Toronto Star and CBC’s histrionic protests, Poilievre will be a populist more in Harper’s own image than that of Donald Trump. He only appears radical to the pearl clutchers of urban Toronto.

You can understand why the Family Compact is agitated by Poilievre. With their Golden Boy Justin Trudeau imploding and Poilievre talking about removing the Bank Of Canada governor and stripping CBC of funding, this threatens to get out of their control. Not even the RCMP can bail out Justin now. Harper’s benediction is meant to still that radicalism in the mind of Tory voters.

But as we wrote on May 22, 2022, Poilievre himself is unafraid to thrash about in the Trumpian waters. He’s rejecting further debates, walling himself off from the Trudeau-funded media. “Poilievre has channelled the voters’ disgust with Trudeau and the Ottawa status quo epitomized by the Trucker Convoy. That disgust includes the grandees of his own party who foisted Scheer and O’Toole on the nation .

Their 2022 candidate is the well-worn place holder Jean Charest, failed Conservative and tainted Liberal premier of Québec from 2003 to 2012. Charest’s policy chest sounds like a throwback to the days when language battles and Québec sovereignty were the burning issues. He’s pro-choice, and he knocks PP for supporting the Truckers.

In the (first) debate, Poilievre did not spare Charest. “Now, Mr. Charest learned about the trucker convoy on CBC like other Liberals… He believes I should be cancelled from this leadership race, and disqualified, his words, because I don’t share his Liberal viewpoint.”

“That is the kind of cancel culture and censorship that you would expect from Justin Trudeau, but instead we’re getting it from this liberal on this stage.” He then slammed Charest on his Quebec Liberal party’s alleged acceptance of illegal donations during his time as Québec premier. And his ties to Huawei. “The average trucker has more integrity in his pinky finger than you had in your entire scandal-plagued Liberal cabinet,”

It was red meat for frustrated Conservatives who finally see a champion in the manner of  Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a tiger who won’t back up in the face of Andrew Coyne huffing and puffing about nasty truckers. It resounds with Conservatives who refuse to accommodate themselves to a Liberal reality.

Naturally this brought out the Conservatives version of Charlie the Tuna. They want Tories with good taste, not Tories who taste good. They’re appropriating all the Donald Trump derangement beloved by Canadian pack Media. 

“Yesterday’s debate was embarrassing for our party,” said CPC leadership candidate Scott Aitchison. “The fighting, yelling and screaming. The partisan cheap shots at fellow Conservatives. We will never win another election if this is how we talk to each other and Canadians.”

Yeah. Because all the “fighting, yelling and screaming” is why Canadians refused to vote for Scheer and O’Toole. Erstwhile Ontario leader Patrick Brown, who took a powder in the debate, also played the Stop Shouting card. “After watching the debate, I can’t help but wonder: how can any of these candidates expect to unite our party and expand our Conservative coalition if they’re already adopting a scorched-earth approach?” 

Reform Party founder Preston Manning also demurred. “Stay away from the personal attacks that only poison the party well and reinforce the public’s negative perception of party politics.”

Have these people noticed that, while the CPC plays rock/paper/scissors,  the Liberals are waging drone war on them? Like Republicans— who talk tough and then support Democrats sending g $40 B in untraceable money to Ukraine— the CPC has a credibility problem.

They want to win the government. To do so they need to penetrate southern Ontario and urban areas of Montreal and the Lower Mainland B.C. The leaders of the party— prompted by the Hill press corps— insist that you can beat Trudeau by using a feather duster on him.

Poilievre— a bilingual Alberta product who represents an Ottawa riding—  dares to disagree. (He says he would fire the Bank of Canada governor if elected prime minister). He’s willing to go over the heads of the CBC chattering class and Liberals pollsters who offer unwanted advice such as: “Conservatives must ask themselves if they are falling victim to the ease of stoking and selling the politics of anger,” says pollster Tim Powers.

The outcome of a Poilievre leadership may be another schism between Reform elements and establishment Ottawa TV panel figures. But Poilievre’s attitude in the face of Trump phobia will remain much like the irascible John Diefenbaker who blew out of the West in 1957, defying the status quo, to win the PMO twice. In the face of blowback from those quivering at Liberal omnipotency Dief opined, “You can’t stand up for Canada with a banana for a backbone.”

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft YearsIn NHL History, , his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book of by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

 

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