On Tuesday, I ran part one of this two part story. As I detailed then, I get questions (seemingly daily) about what is deemed to be good and bad about how baseball is administered. The answers are my opinion, but given how often I’m asked, maybe it’s time to roll them out here for all to discuss.
The prior installment was about what is not so good with Major League Baseball. Here’s what I see as recent good activities.
1) Labor Peace – Baseball was the first of the Big-4 sports to have unionized players, and with it, MLB seems to have finally figured out what the others have yet to fully do: mutual respect breeds labor peace. The league and the union for the players have now reached three consecutive labor agreements without a lockout or strike. That’s been a by-product of a solid working relationship mostly through Rob Manfred for the league’ and Michael Weiner on the players’ side. The latest agreement (sorry, it has not yet been released in its entirety, but a summary of it is here) sees an incredible array of changes. Everything from an overhaul of the Drafting system and bonus slots, to testing for hGH, to expanded playoffs, and more. The key that the NFL, NBA, and NHL have yet to fully grasp is that MLB and the MLBPA now seem themselves as partners. Watch the news and see how often unilateral decisions that impact the players (e.g. Bountygate investigation), and whether you see anything of that nature being done in baseball. If it impacts the players in MLB, you’ll see it addressed jointly…. As it should
2) MLB Advanced Media – This may be the smartest thing that the owners collectively decided to create. As I wrote for The Hardball Times in 2005, Launched in 2000, MLB.com was funded by the clubs in an agreement that had them each investing $1 million a year over four years. The cost was targeted at $120 million. To the joy of the owners and MLB, the website started generating excess revenue in only the second year of its existence, allowing them to invest only $70-$75 million before beginning to see a return on their investment. Since then, MLBAM has become a cash-cow for the league’s owners. Because it’s centralized, all owners equally share in its profits. That includes the influx of revenue from MLB.TV and mobile app “At Bat”, which has been Apple’s highest-grossing app on App Store for several years running.
3) The Baseball Winter Meetings – When the throng converge in Nashville, TN this year, it will mark the 111th annual Baseball Winter Meetings. Nothing compares to it in all of sports. While most think of it as GMs, Execs and Agents all huddling together to conduct player transactions, it’s far more. There’s a massive trade show and job fair that goes along with. Thousands of those working in all facets of baseball attend each year. With that, a large media presence is also part of the event. For approx. one week, the Winter Meetings becomes Baseball Mecca.
4) MLB Network – The league had talked about creating their own network for some time, but leveraging (stong arming?) cable carriers by telling them that they wouldn’t get MLB Extra Innings unless they made MLB Network part of their channel selection was a business master-stroke. Since 2009, baseball fans that have access to MLB Network have had a 24/7/365 location to get their MLB fix. It will continue to gain traction, especially if the day comes when the league-owned network decides to air…
5) Expanded playoffs – This season sees the addition of two more Wild Card teams added to the playoff mix. Even increasing the number of playoff teams from 8 to 10, MLB still has the lowest number of teams in the postseason than any of the other Big-4 sports. By having the Wild Card teams do a one-game play-in, it also address a weakness in the prior playoff picture where Division winners were paired up with the #4 seed in each League. Now, all Division winners get a breather while the Wild Card teams duke it out for the right to advance to the Division Series. The one game play-in also will force managers to decide whether to use their ace in the pitching rotation for that game, another aspect that gives teams incentive to win the Division. Throw in that it will be another set of games that the league will reap broadcast revenues from, and expanded playoffs are a win for MLB.
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Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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