MLB Needs a Governing Board

Major League Baseball is in trouble.

The owners’ efforts to leverage a player lockout to create a sense of urgency and get a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place has failed. On Tuesday, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that because the two sides failed to reach a deal by the second owner-fabricated deadline in as many days, the first two series of the year would be canceled.

This whole situation is exacerbated by the fact that the two sides really have no compulsion to compromise. The things the owners want run in direct conflict with what the players want, and vice versa. And while the players’ desires tend to line up more with what would improve the on-field product, that isn’t always the case. For instance, the players proposed a “ghost win” concept for an expanded playoff system that I don’t think any fan would really enjoy.

What’s missing here is a neutral party tasked with doing what’s best for the game.

One would think that baseball’s commissioner would fill this role, but that idea is laughable, at this point. He’s hired by the owners, paid by the owners, and quite clearly works only for the owners. So what the sport badly needs is an MLB Board of Directors.

What I’m proposing isn’t some weak group of advisors to the commissioner, or even a rules committee. This group would be a permanent mediator between the owners and the players to make sure that what’s best for the game is being considered.

The owners and the players would still negotiate for their two interests. Their leadership groups would still gather and make proposals to the other side. But in the end, the governing board would review proposals and decide what middle ground could be reached to keep the game moving forward. They would then create the official MLB proposal, and the two sides would accept it or negotiate with that middle ground instead of the opposite side.

So who would be on this Board of Directors?

To me, it would need to be an odd-numbered blend of the different groups that have a vested interest in the game of baseball. No current owners or players would be involved, but past executives like John Schuerholz could serve in a capacity there instead of as honorary members of a team’s front office. Players who had been retired for a certain number of years should also be involved. Veteran members of the baseball media should also have a seat at the table. I also really like the idea of having the fan voice represented, similar to the way the College Football Playoff committee has included individuals like Condoleezza Rice.

A choice would have to be made in terms of the commissioner’s role. He could continue to represent the owners’ interests as he does now, or he could become one member of the governing board. This would give the board a day-to-day operations perspective, but if he took that seat, the commissioner could not be part of the owners’ negotiating process.

If done correctly, this could drastically improve the way these negotiations happen. Frankly, the owners should not be able to outright dismiss the players’ requests for free agent restructuring and “super 2” expansion. Those are legitimate ideas and should be treated as such. But in the current dynamic, the owners know they can nix them because, honestly, no one can stop them. Yet the hostile negotiating environment that such moves creates is how we get to the point we are now.

If baseball doesn’t change that dynamic, I’m not sure how much longer the sport can avoid much darker days ahead.

17 thoughts on “MLB Needs a Governing Board”

  1. Like the idea of a board, but I do have a quibble about one of your examples. As I see it, Schuerholz had to be either aware of (and tolerant of) or willfully ignorant of the Braves’ international cheating. I would’ve liked to see more punishment for both him and Hart and not just Coppy and the organization. If you’re responsible for those under you and they do things that are so egregious, you should pay a price too. That would give others an incentive not to tolerate cheating by their subordinates. So I wouldn’t want him on any board.

  2. @ 3
    All fair points. Scheurholz has literally just an example because I thought of him first as a past executive to be used as a photo for the story. The point was people like him who are former executives that are still involved in the game.

  3. From last thread, Nick posted this link and asked if I feel better:

    https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/mlb-players-start-1m-fund-workers-impacted-lockout-83251469

    Yes, I do feel better. That’s a really nice gesture. I also read that as an admission of guilt for what people like me have accused them of. I’m dubious as to whether or not they actually care about fans, but they’re at least acknowledging they have to do something to demonstrate they’re not just interested in their own financial outcomes. Good on them.

  4. I agree with you Jeremy, but why is baseball unique in this regard? No other sport has a similar managing committee, and unless you can articulate why baseball would uniquely need such a thing, it’s hard to see why anyone would accept such a thing.

    To Alex’s question from yesterday, I am deep in the weeds of figuring out what to say about Charlie Morton’s aging curve. But here’s a fact: At his low point in 2010, he had a cumulative WAR (pitching only) of -2.76. After his age 32 season, Charlie had a cumulative WAR of -0.67, His cumulative WAR to date (5 years later) is 14.28, so he has accumulated 14.95 WAR after age 32. There are only 3 pitchers in MLB history with over 10 career WAR to accumulate a higher share of total WAR after age 32. (The share here is 14.95/(14.28 – -2.76) because you have to account for the negative.)

    They are:
    Rip Sewell (96%)
    Ellis Kinder (91%)
    Charlie Hough (90%)
    Charlie Morton (88%)
    Dazzy Vance is close (87%)

    I’ll have more to say about this if anyone is interested later.
    Note that a lot of guys who had very long careers, like Niekro (77%) and Moyer (81%), aren’t quite on this level because they had a fair amount of success early in their careers. Note also that this number assumes (implicitly) that Morton doesn’t achieve any more WAR, and should he accumulate negative WAR in the remainder of his career this value would fall.

  5. @ 6
    No other sport has such a large group of owners who just simply don’t care what the product looks like on the field as long as they’re making money. Or at least they don’t feel that way to the point that they’ll let games be missed.

  6. And to be clear, I’d be in support of any sport having such a structure if they don’t already. But baseball is the topic at hand.

  7. But that’s sorta the problem, isn’t it? If you think that’s the problem, you’re asking people who don’t care about the product to cede power. (I want to say that I’m not sure baseball owners are really less concerned about their success on the field than other sports in favor of money, but I’m open to persuasion.) The fact that baseball is the only sport without a de facto cap on salaries, for example, would seem to run in the other direction.

  8. How do players suppose that a 14 team playoff will fix competitiveness issues? The way I see it, you’ve got about a 50/50 shot of making the playoffs, so why spend a ton on payroll?

  9. North Port is in its third season and has only had one normal spring training, maybe even a stretch to call 2021 a normal ST.

  10. @10 – I think the theory is that fewer teams would tank and there would be less trade deadline dumping if there were more teams in playoff contention.

  11. @10

    That’s why the players want a 12-team playoff…which is still more than the current nine, but I think the players’ 12 is something of a nod/compromise to the fact that the owners want 14 and badly want playoff expansion of some kind.

  12. @5, I don’t see it as an admission of guilt. Neutrally, I think it’s a declaration of responsibility. Whatever guilt you attribute to them remains in the eye of the beholder, I think.

    @6, interesting! I hadn’t thought of Vance but I like that comp. Hough doesn’t work as well for me because as I recall, the first half of his career was in relief, and the second half was in the rotation.

    Jeremy, it sounds like you’re proposing a Board of Directors for baseball, which is interesting. I’m on record as saying baseball doesn’t need a commissioner – it needs a CEO.

    https://tht.fangraphs.com/can-baseball-get-by-without-a-commissioner/

  13. @14: I agree with you on Hough. I think Sewell is really an even better comp than Vance, particularly if Charlie pitches, say, 4 more cromulent years. The thing about Vance and Sewell is that neither was in the majors much before those age 32 seasons — Morton was allowed to hang around the major leagues and be not very good.

  14. The owners are just suffering, I tell you what. I just saw that the Ricketts family is looking at buying the Chelsea Football Club, a purchase that would set them back around $4 billion. It’s really too bad they don’t have the money to agree to anything the MLBPA proposes.

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