In the absence of actual baseball news of any sort, the combination of the Olympics and Premier League Football in full swing makes it difficult to find any new lanes of interesting things to write about for me. The truth is, the MLBPA and the MLB/owners are miles away from resolution if the “breaking news” of the MLB requesting assistance from a federal arbitrator and the MLBPA soundly rejecting the thought is any measure.
Then in a flash, the Brian Flores lawsuit makes shattering news about ingrained and systemic racism in the NFL. The lawsuit is worthy of a read outside its reporting. The headlining complaint about racism stemming from text messages about the new coaching job in Buffalo (I don’t follow the NFL at all, so apologies if some of this sounds absent of genuine knowledge) inadvertently going to another coach before Flores has interviewed smacks of “ticking a box” with obviously no genuine interest in his services. His lawsuit chronicles the history of severe under-representation of blacks in positions of high leadership on the field and clearly in ownership. Without trying to be a judge, the facts are the facts; they are reprehensible. Sadly, those facts transfer directly overs to the overwhelmingly white-owned and white-led teams in baseball. This lawsuit should shine light across the sporting world as a much-needed point for introspection. If past is any measure, there will be cheap words about all that’s being done, yet little in the way of equity. Despite all this, what caught my attention occurs on pages 34-36 of the lawsuit.
Flores claims that he had been offered from ownership $100,000 for every game his team lost so they could get a better draft position. I suppose such a payoff, almost certainly illegal, would need to be of a high value given the personal disgrace Flores would face for guiding a losing team, not to mention dimmed chances at future employment for someone as a minority. It would only be valuable if he could be set for life and well beyond. By that measure, a hundred grand looks like a pittance. Flores clearly declined that path and lost his job for winning.
One of the main complaints the MLBPA wants rectified is finding a way around teams tanking (intentionally losing in order to acquire higher, thus better, draft picks. Our own superhero Max Scherzer is a prominent voice in the negotiations, even taking to Twitter to voice what the players feel. We all know the tanking strategy occurs in baseball. I think there is something interesting about what Flores was offered versus the natural ebb-and-flow of success. I have repeatedly argued that in the present system of 30 teams there really are three meaningful classifications regardless of league or division: the top 10 are winners, the bottom 10 are losers but win by getting higher drafts, and a middle 10 that are trapped in purgatory, unable to increase visibility in the post season, but not bad enough to improve with the best up-and-comers. Sometimes a decision to play the youth is the right decision to see who is ready to step up – and clearly that could lead to poor team performance and higher draft picks. I separate that from tanking, and certainly much different than paying a head coach/skipper for just playing bad. Just ask the “Black Sox.”
The present system of MLB and owners making fortunes on the backs of the players, many minority, is in need of a re-think. After dropping the fly ball in the last CBA, the players are right to fight hard to rectify a number of glaring issues about the game, especially intentional tanking and getting much more money to younger players, who power a huge amount of WAR, and thus, gate proceeds and team value. I am certain the high visibility of the Flores lawsuit will generate immediate leverage in the negotiations. I hope the MLBPA is successful at shaking the olives from the branches.