MLB players are wringing their hands over the supposedly slow pace of free agent signings, and there is talk of a player's strike when the current contract runs out. However, upon closer examination it is obvious that the problem isn't the owners' reluctance to sign free agents; rather, it is that the players are overvaluing their worth.
Even since Bill James did some groundbreaking research in the '80s which revealed that a player's prime is 26-30, and not 28-32 as previously believed, the owners have continued to give long-term contracts to players in their 30s, usually to their ultimate chagrin. But now, the owners have finally wised up and realized what any astute baseball observer has known for over 30 years, and that is that it is sheer folly to give a long-term contract to a player in his 30s. There are too many examples like Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez for the owners to be able to ignore this reality anymore.
Bryce Harper turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract. What in the world was he thinking? The idea that anybody in their right mind would top this is ludicrous.
One thing that baseball management has been evolving to is what Sports Illustrated has termed "the gig economy". This consists of more use of role players and less use of everyday starters, as illustrated by the Dodgers, who have won two consecutive National League pennants without any player
starting 140 games in a season and without any pitcher throwing more
than 175 innings in a season.
What this illustrates is that baseball is a "weakest link" game, in which it is impssible for one player to dominate. After all, a slugger only comes to thee plate once every nine batters, and a starting pitcher only takes the mound once every five days. It is more important, then, to have five or ten competent role players, which you can get for the same price as one superstar.
So, we see that the problem is that players overvalue their worth, pushed by the players union which is always working to raise the salaries, all of which are guaranteed. If the players union strikes when the current contract ends, it will be the players who will end up with egg on their faces.
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