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.

16 comments on “Connecting the lawsuit of Brian Flores versus the NFL and the on-going MLB lockout

  • Jimmy P

    Minority hirings are an important and necessary step in pro sports. Change needs to come.

    The requisite “minority interview” can be problematic, particularly when a team has a clear favorite candidate. Then you have to conduct a half-hearted sham interview, the ticking off of boxes, a waste of time for everyone involved. It’s a hard thing to solve. I guess the current system is better than nothing.

    Big picture, you look at the numbers and clearly something is wrong. When you get down to the specifics — case by case by case — it is more difficult to identify the Bad Guy.

  • ChrisF

    I agree with the nitty gritty problem of identifying the bad guy. Its really a systemic problem that leads to a personal and personnel problem. The fact that its easy to not be able to point a finger makes passing the buck seem acceptable, which of course it is not.

    I just hope this really give some power to the players to fix some much needed changes in tanking and compensating the youth appropriately. It is shocking that the team can control players for so long only paying a pittance, then choose to not hire expensive FAs – its a win on both sides and it stinks. I hope the MLBPA makes a much bigger claim to the stakes of the game.

  • T.J.

    The Flores case is intriguing on many levels. Focusing only on the tanking component, and its relation to MLB competitiveness, change is clearly needed in MLB and the NFL. The older method of assigning draft positions based on record doesn’t work any more…the temptation to “lose” for draft capital is there whether acted up or not.

    While a lottery will not solve every problem, an implementation of one should improve both the perception and reality of competition at the bottom of these leagues. I would go for an even weighted probability for the top 25% of picks, which equates to about the top 8. Each round can be “redrawn”, so the team getting the 8th spot in round 1 could get the 1st spot in round 2.

    This would likely work better in football than in baseball, for multiple reasons. Baseball would require additional changes. But, improved competition benefits the leagues, the players, and the fans, and should always be a top priority.

    • Brian Joura

      Can’t remember where I saw it but I came across a proposal to have the draft order start with the teams with the best records not to make the playoffs and go down to the worst, rather than starting with the worst team and working your way up. I like this idea.

      We’ve got to stop rewarding teams for being bad while also rewarding teams that are trying to win.

      • TexasGusCC

        That was an idea floated out also. I understand its purpose, but now you have completely taken away something that was put in place to legitimately help weaker teams.

        • Brian Joura

          And to that I say — good!

          It just seems to me that the reward system is out of whack. Why should we incentivize losing? You don’t want to be a weak team – go out and compete in the marketplace to get better players, rather than sit around and wait for them to fall in your lap just because you were bad.

          • Name

            But think of the alternative, do you really want a system where the rich keep getting richer and the poor get poorer?

            The draft wasn’t intended to be a reward system. Besides limiting salaries, a reverse order draft is intended to redistribute talent for a more even playing field. Teams with bad records have less talented players and thus giving them better talented players help even the playing field.

            The problem with respect to its current state in baseball is mainly because of the extreme lag time it takes for some draftees to make the top level, compared to the other major sports like football and basketball where draftees are immediate contributors, so drafting a player doesn’t make a bad team better now, it makes them better 2-4 years down the road, when they could already be a good team due to other factors like FA, trade, natural progression.

            If we wanted a more fair system (besides everyone being a purely unrestricted FA), i would advocate for abolishing the draft and moving towards the pool system (which could still be determined by W/L record) used for international FA. To create a “draft-like” system, the signing period would be set over a certain number of days, and each day a team would only be able to sign a certain number of players. This would allow every player to be available to every team but prevent one team from hoarding all the talent.

            IE, on the first day, teams would be able to sign 1 player (essentially round 1). If there was a player like Bryce Harper a team could decide to use their entire pool to sign him but then they wouldn’t be able to sign anyone later. Or you could decide to more evenly spread out the pool money.
            The on day 2, teams would be able to sign 2 players (rds 2+3), day 3 it could be 3-4 players, and so on and so forth until say 10 players. Then after that you could hold a normal draft for the remaining players as those guys don’t get much bonus money.

            • BrianJ

              On principle, I’d be in favor of abolishing the draft. I’m not sure how practical that would be.

              The way the system is set up now, it rewards losing and it will be a better game if that changes. No one is suggesting giving the team that wins the World Series a better draft pick, so I’m not sure how the changes I proposed would be making the rich get richer.

              This idea that we have to make things easier for a certain subset of teams makes no sense to me. We don’t say that you can’t throw a curveball or a pitch above 92 mph to crappy hitters so why should we make it easier for crappy owners to compete?

              • ChrisF

                I think this discussion highlights the need to have the draft system quite revamped for fairness across the board. There are ways, like Name has offered, that could be wholly different from the present that should be considered, even of they come outside the legacy of baseball. Failing to “win” is not a great strategy, nor does it necessarily mean winning is in the future because one has the best farm system. Look to Miami and Tampa Bay as examples.

                This all tells me the wounds run deep among fans, and obviously the players. The MLB would like nothing more than status quo, but the system is inherently imbalanced and favors the league/owners far more than the players and equity.

      • MikeW

        Why dont we have a tournament at the end of the year with losing teams. The winner gets the first pick, etc… Or base the first pick in the losing team with the best attendance. If you want your team to win, go to the park.

        • Brian Joura

          Haven’t we made the bad teams suffer enough by playing 162 games? Can’t see making them play even more. I do like the thought behind the attendance angle. Not sure if we can trust teams to report accurate attendance if there was something on the line, though.

  • TexasGusCC

    Much meat on this bone to chew on. Let’s start.

    Flores was fired following a winning season for what was explained to be “problems with the GM”. I don’t know that Flores accusations are true, but, if I had to pick without any proof, I’d say they are. That now makes it a “NFL credibility” problem.

    It was the NY Giants that hired the AGM of the successful Buffalo Bills to be their GM. He brings a coach from Buffalo’s staff that he obviously knows pretty well. But, having to interview a minority, he gives Flores the interview but there is no way he can be comfortable as a first time GM hiring a coach that just got fired for having problems his GM. So, why interview him to begin with? Maybe there might have been a glimmer of hope in case the first guy fails the background check? Who knows. Ironically, the Houston Texans just hired a black coach, Lovie Smith, who has had a few previous coaching gigs.

    Baseball has a similar imbalance of minority field general, but I doubt any of the 30 managers were told to lose on purpose. That is done much more openly by trading all your best players and saying you will rebuild. So, what’s the difference between rebuilding and tanking? I don’t think there is one.

    Not all teams can compete while rebuilding, due to financial imbalances, but all of them should use at least a large chunk of tv money on contracts. The tv money, the Facebook money, the merchandising is all open for public knowledge, so there is no reason at least that money can’t be allocated because we all know ticket sale figures, local tv contracts, and gravy money (parking fees, concessions, and advertiser income) cannot be verified.

    • JimmyP


      >> So, why interview him to begin with? <<

      Because it is required to interview at least one minority candidate. Many times, it's merely perfunctory. A box, ticked.

      I think Willie Randolph got a lot of that. As I recall, he interviewed with 7-8 teams. Of course, I can totally see why a team wouldn't hire him. Nice player though, back in the day.

      • TexasGusCC

        Jimmy, the Mets did well with Willie Randolph, as I recall. I’ve heard interviews and he’s a knowledgeable guy. His “negative” was his lack of intensity. People want to see a guy that can put on a show if need be and Randolph was not that way.

        Go down the line, and see how many ex-Yankees the Mets have had in different positions. Then, go count how many ex-Mets the Yankees have had.

  • Wobbit

    I think the draft issue in baseball is becoming less and less important. A high draft pick nets a team a “one pick advantage”, almost always an 18 year-old player years away from competing. That hardly ranks as “balancing the power.” If it has any effect for a losing team, it is maybe, like in the case of a Bryce Harper or a Mario Soto, providing a central piece around which to rebuild, but years later. The business world is changing way too fast these days for that pick to be worth losing games for.

    “Oh, great, my horrible team gets first pick in the draft.” Hardly the line most fans look to utter at the end of a miserable season. Baseball is still about the games themselves, the crack of the bat and the pop of the glove… fans want teams to compete. Any incentive to lose should be mitigated. I’ll reiterate my suggestion from last month on this site:
    Have all 30 teams in a lottery… no team gets an advantage. There are now enough billionaires that would gladly buy struggling teams and spend their money making them better… it’s not about draft order.

  • Metsense

    Deliberately losing is immoral. Rewarding a team for losing is wrong.
    The Draft , imho, is morally wrong. It doesn’t allow a person the freedom of choice of who they want to work for . The Draft should be abolished. Instead, every should have to spending a set amount money that they have to spend, (and not more) to sign 30 or more amateurs. This way the playing field is financially level for teams and the amateurs would have the freedom of choice.
    The other practice that is morally wrong concept is Trading Players. Players are people not horses! Trading star players at a good way to “tanked” and thus get rewarded for a better draft position in the name of “rebuilding “. Meanwhile the fans get cheated, getting a inferior product that year and the players of no choice and their lives are disrupted. If a team or a player wants to get out of a contract then they should buy out of that contract.
    These ideas are definitely radically different to what is happening now . I just wanted to use this forum to share my inner thoughts.

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