This week’s KC Royals Midweek Musings discusses the (temporary) lull in baseball’s labor disputes, change coming to baseball in Korea, the continuing saga of a KC pitcher, and other odds and ends.
Some KC Royals musings while anxiously awaiting baseball’s belated Opening Day:
No labor fights…for now. Baseball’s most recent labor disputes have at long last ended. But the conclusion of labor-management hostilities is, unfortunately, just the calm before the storm.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement, the comprehensive compendium of all accords, large and small, controlling the terms and conditions of player employment, expires December 1, 2021. Eighteen months may seem sufficient for the clubs and players to hammer out a new deal, but these are parties who’ve rarely operated expeditiously or efficiently in matters of contract.
And the fact their most recent negotiations were so acrimonious won’t help. Bad feelings on both sides are sure to carry over when the clubs and union get back to the bargaining table.
The main issues of contention will be difficult to resolve. Simply put, the players want a path to more money and the clubs want to minimize increases in the players’ take.
The players, for example, don’t like the current luxury tax, which they see as functioning, at least in part, as a form of a salary cap. Caps have always been anathema to the union and that’s not likely to change. The players may find an ally or two (maybe more) among owners, many of whom don’t particularly like the tax and work hard to avoid its consequences.
The union is also highly suspicious of free agency, which has worked in the last few years for only a handful of the most premium players, and against deserving, but less stellar, free agents (example: Mike Moustakas). Expect the union to bargain hard for some type of reform.
Service time manipulation, which the players clearly perceive exists to their detriment, will also be a union target. Service time tinkering’s negative impact is greatest for high-performing players, so there may be room for some accommodation.
The union will assuredly pursue restrictions on tanking.
Unfortunately, labor negotiations often don’t start until it’s too late. Hopefully, the clubs and union will get together well in advance of the CBA’s expiration and forge a deal. If they don’t, prospects for a strike or lockout will be high.
Korean baseball to welcome fans. If all goes according to plan and the government of South Korea approves, it looks like the Korean Baseball Organization will soon open its gates to spectators. The KBO started its pandemic-delayed season in early May without fans but is finalizing procedures to admit them for the first time in 2020.
MLB should pay close attention to how the KBO started its season, how it’s maintained it without interruption, and how it manages fans.
Ex-Royals in Korea and Japan. Speaking of the KBO, former KC Royals pitcher Aaron Brooks continues pitching well for the Kia Tigers. In 10 games, Brooks is 3-3 with a 2.51 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.
Ben Lively, another former KC hurler, was injured a few weeks ago and hasn’t pitched recently.
As discussed here last week, Alcides Escobar and Nori Aoki both play for Japan’s Tokyo Yakult Swallows. They’ve each played nine games; Aoki is batting .286 with a home run and four RBIs and Escobar is at .207 with three RBIs.
Eric Skoglund. The saga of Eric Skoglund continues. The pitcher whose two best KC appearances are also his only two big league wins in three seasons found himself DFA’d after COVID-19 halted spring training, but before MLB froze big league rosters. Anyone who presumed that meant his end as a Royal was mistaken.
The roster freeze was lifted a few days ago and the club outrighted Skoglund to its Tripe A Omaha affiliate (he had to clear waivers first). He didn’t make the 60-man Player Pool; considering Tuesday’s cancellation of 2020 minor league baseball, he’ll presumably be on his own until spring training rolls around next year.
A good KC future was difficult to project for Skoglund, a once-vaunted hurler whose time with the club seemed short just a few months ago. Now, he seems to have been reprieved, but the reasons why are a mystery.
Simulation update. With real, live baseball set to resume in late July, it’s unknown whether baseball-reference.com will continue the Out of the Park Baseball 21-based 2020 season simulation it’s been conducting. If the site elects to discontinue the sim, the end can’t come too soon for the virtual KC Royals.
The club’s skid continues–the Royals now have last place in the AL Central all to themselves and are 31-55, 26 games behind first place Cleveland.
Ryan O’Hearn and Jorge Soler top the team in home runs with 11 apiece and Brett Phillips and Adalberto Mondesi have 10. Whit Merrifield‘s .315 average leads the club; Nicky Lopez is closest among the regulars at .269.
Joining the Indians as division leaders are the Yankees, A’s, Cardinals, and Dodgers, while the Braves and Nationals are tied in the NL East.
The sim is updated every day around noon.
That’s it for this week. We’ll be back next week with more KC Royals Midweek Musings. Until then, stay safe and healthy.