This one’s been making the rounds the past 24 hours or so. Brett over at Bleacher Nation did some awfully deep digging into the CBA to find out what a second year over the luxury tax threshold would cost the Cubs in total. It’s…dense, but worth your time.

If you can’t make your way through it, and again it’s dense, basically not only would the Cubs incur slightly more in penalties straight from the luxury tax, but their revenue sharing totals or rebates and other things would also get clipped. It is an easy path to see where it might cost them an additional $40M-$50M, not just the few million in salary and luxury tax. It’s complicated, but it’s there.

The first reaction you have to reading this…good god is this CBA fucked. Now you see why all work stoppages really end up about being owners vs. other owners, and it’s also galling that owners will happily agree to a system that costs them money as long as that money doesn’t go to labor. But that’s an America-as-a-whole problem, because our country is evil and stupid. We’ll leave that discussion for another time.

You could read this and totally absolve the Cubs of blame here. I wouldn’t expect any team to not “miss” $40M or more. Even if I think the Ricketts family could easily absorb that (and they probably could), that’s a lot of filthy lucre. But it doesn’t absolve them to me.

For one, as transparent as the Cubs were about the rebuild and process , this is the kind of thing they’re close-lipped about. It’s easy to see why, because other owners and Rob Manfred wouldn’t want anyone going out of line and saying what the real reasons are as it would only be ammo for the MLBPA in the next negotiation, and make everyone look bad. You could easily see the union taking that and saying, “Even some of your owners think this deal sucks!” It’s understandable, just not likable. Tom Ricketts is happy to take this bullet because he’s going to make his money anyway.

Second, it’s hard to feel any sympathy when you’re out there admitting that your renovation costs went $500M over budget. Especially when almost all of them aren’t aimed at people like you and me. I’m never going to step foot in a luxury suite. I’m never staying in Hotel Zachary. It’s unlikely I’ll even eat at that Big Star, even though I do love me some Big Star tacos. Hey, the wider concourses and bigger concessions and nicer bathrooms are great, but they feel like lowest on the totem pole when it came to what the Cubs really wanted to get to in remaking the park and neighborhood.

You go $500M over budget, that’s not just cost overruns. That’s incompetence. Which is usually a word that follows Crane Kenney around. And that’s playing a role here, no matter what the CBA rules are.

Third, this CBA isn’t exactly new, and the Cubs had to calculate for this from the way back. They had to know the really good team they were building even in 2014 would get expensive. And while some of the contracts haven’t worked out, it’s not like they weren’t part of the plan. They told Jon Lester before he signed that Jason Heyward was part of their plan too the following year. Maybe they didn’t see Heyward having such a huge free agent year in St. Louis and driving his price up, but it couldn’t have been that different than what they budgeted.

They knew that Arrieta was going to be a free agent after ’17 and need replacing, and it was clear in 2016 that he probably wouldn’t be worth the investment. Does that Darvish contract really look so bad now and was it really so unpredictable? What’s the other outlandish deal out of the blue we’re talking about here? Quintana is cheap. Kimbrel isn’t making that much in comparison. These can’t have put them over the edge.

This all should have been part of the plan. And if it’s the revenue they aren’t getting from Marquee, fuck even a wayward drunk like me could have told them three years ago that having your own network doesn’t work out to YES or NESN-like proportions anymore. Someone probably should have within the organization. But much like the Hawks, they were too busy snorting their own geniusness. That’s just bad planning.

Fourth, might it not be easier to get under the tax next year? One, it should go up a little bit, and second all of Lester, Quintana, Chatwood come off the books. That’s some $48M right there, which obviously gets partially eaten by arbitration raises but still, there would seem to be more wiggle room then if you bite the bullet now. The Cubs are only on dock for $96M for 2021, and even if we allot some $70 M to the arb-eligible players, that’s way south of the tax.

If I keep going, trading Kris Bryant to avert this also robs you of a big chance of postseason revenues. I don’t know how much they are but I know they’re something you’d notice in either direction. And it does so for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t add up. You’re still telling me you have to move your most important player because your luxury suites were too expensive because you can’t get a fucking decent estimate, and that shouldn’t wash with any fan.

Of course, that would still involve not tying yourself in to any huge commitments next season, which would still make for a pretty boring offseason now. And we’re in the midst of that. But it would involve not, y’know, moving along the best player you’re ever going to have and seeing what the next CBA has in store.

It’s a more complicated situation than we realized, but the Cubs are still fucked in the head.



If you’re the NHLPA, or any member in it, headlines like this shouldn’t exactly settle well:

Now, there may have been a time in my life where I truly believed that all that meant was that everyone was happy, everyone realized the damage that could be done by yet another work stoppage, and that everyone was interested in growing the game together. That was a wonderful time in my life. I work really hard to get back there, even though I know the road there is pretty much impossible to navigate and pass. It’s gone forever, and all that’s left is this broken down old man (yes, Shawshank was on late last night on IFC. Why do you ask?)

But when a billionaire is smiling and excited…well, one, flee the fucking room if you’re a woman, and two, the only other thing that gets them excited is the thought of more money. Seriously, that’s the only way their heart pumps, and this is how you get the state of the country today. Now again, maybe they’re just happy they can continue making money at this pace without a work stoppage, but you all know I’m more suspicious than that. I’ve been through this once or twice.

There definitely seems to be an element of relief in this, which means that the owners A) genuinely feared a strike by the players, B) feel like they gained something. Which means they had something to lose, which means the NHLPA actually had some leverage.

And we know what that leverage was. There’s an expansion franchise coming on the books in two seasons, which meant a strike the season before that carried over would have put at risk their start date. There’s also a new TV deal coming the season after that, which means talks for that start relatively soon, and you wouldn’t exactly be dealing with a position of strength with NBC or ESPN or Fox or wherever this goes if you weren’t playing games or a large threat of not playing games was hanging over the talks.

Now that said, this is almost certainly what the players were looking at. They want that TV deal to be bonanza too, or as close as hockey can get to a bonanza, and then grab more of the booty for themselves. That’s fair. They erred in not somehow including expansion fees into the last CBA as part of shared revenue (perhaps placated by the 25 extra jobs), and maybe that’s something they could have come after if they’d walked off the job. Don’t smirk, because the owners came after back-diving contracts in the last CBA that used to be legal, so we know retroactive action is on the table.

Maybe the TV deal will be much bigger, and maybe the tweaks the PA and the owners are working toward has enough included for the players with that TV deal that they feel they shouldn’t get in the way. That’s what we can’t know.

LeBrun in this piece says the two sides could hammer out an extension with tweaks to the CBA in the coming months, but I’ll believe that when I see it. The owners now don’t have any urgency and the players discarded the one card they have. While the players say their one bitch is escrow, I find that hard to believe and also don’t see a way around it. It also only really affects players up the scale on the payroll, though no one likes getting shit taken out of their paycheck (even when it’s for the things that everyone needs, but that’s another discussion).

Maybe the players have a plan to just go to a fixed amount that the salary cap is calculated from, instead of a formula that can change from year-to-year or month-to-month even. Maybe they’ve gotten more creative. Still, when you have smiling owners you know something is bad. And while the players may think they have pulled off a real coup here by letting the US TV deal play out unscathed, and they’ll just get a bigger slice simply because, it seems like they’ve forgotten whom they are dealing with here.

And we’re still talking about a system that has multiple restricted free agents waiting for contracts, who are the ones who are going to carry this league. That’s proof the system isn’t working correctly, and also proof that no matter what they say, owners will continue to spend money to win (at least most of them), if only to the cap. Perhaps they should have played on that more?

-There is one aspect of escrow the players take up that I’m not convinced I agree with. You can see it here or here. It’s this idea espoused by Jonathan Toews and others that the players have no responsibility in growing or marketing the game. I just can’t get there.

In one aspect, hockey players have created the unwritten rules or culture that individuality is bad or that anyone who stands out in a dressing room is a problem. Call it the “PK Subban Clause.” (include the racial undertones if you want or not) It’s the players who enforce this idea that everyone has to be the same and completely dull, and that anything with flash and sizzle is to be stamped out and discouraged from ever starting.

Except it’s flash and sizzle that sells, and perhaps if more players had a personality and weren’t afraid to show it, and spoke up in the press in ways other than tired cliches, people might take notice. Hell, you don’t even need the media now. Every player has access to Twitter and Instagram, and can be their own bullhorn if they want. You can get directly to the fans. How many do?

If the players are going to throw all their toys out of the crib over escrow and revenue not increasing how they were promises, are they really going to trust the owners to do that and give them more money? How many times do you have to be bit by the scorpion before you stop taking him across the river? Don’t expect them to do all the work for you.

Secondly, the players are the ones who could easily get rid of fighting and the other bullshit that holds the game back, but they don’t. And while they may think it’s an element that makes the sport unique and intriguing to the outsider, if that were the case we’d have seen major growth from the sport already. They keep the goons and talentless hobos in the league by blanching whenever the idea is brought up to get rid of it. “Part of the game.”

Well, no one watches your game. So maybe it’s not all that necessary?


You thought we were done with this in the winter. But oh no, fucko…

You may remember we went through all this in the offseason, when Theo Epstein said that they would listen to any offer for any player, which basically meant that if the Angels offered Mike Trout to the Cubs for Bryant, they’d have to take that seriously. Most people took it to mean the Cubs were actively shopping Bryant, which was hardly the case. In reality this is a great way to get eyeballs on your article, which is the name of the game these days.

I want to believe this is the same thing, and it likely is. Whatever my complaints about Theo and Jed Hoyer’s latest work, in no way are they now stupid enough to believe they can get anything more than 75 cents on the dollar in a trade for Bryant. One, no team would ever trade three good players on their roster for Bryant, and if they would those three players would not equal one Kris Bryant.

Second, any trade for any kind of “futures,” even if those futures are right on the cusp of the majors, would essentially be punting the next two seasons or more, which is not where the Cubs are. Because the main problem with trading Kris Bryant is that you no longer have Kris Bryant. Again, I don’t know how often and how much I have to stress this, there are only like two or three or four players that fill in the gap of Bryant–Trout, Bellinger, Betts, and we’ll throw Yelich on there, except Bryant has been Yelich-good for longer.

The real issue is that if the Cubs let Bryant walk or move him because they won’t sign him to what he deserves, you should turn in your fandom forever and raise a giant middle finger to the Ricketts Family (though we all probably should have already, but that’s life as a fan).

The fear within the walls of Wrigley, if they even rise to fears, is that Scott Boras has decided to make them an example of what will happen when you tinker with service time when a player is coming up, and we’ll take Bryant away to exact his revenge. This is utter bullshit, because Boras clients just take the best offer that’s out there. Or maybe they think Bryant himself has his heart set on leaving to go be a Dodger or Angel or Diamondback, something closer to home. Again, I’ve never heard anyone suggest this, but it’s the kind of thing you can convince yourself of if you’re trying to rationalize not paying him.

There’s always been a doomsday scenario with the Cubs in 2021, leading in to the 2022 season. Anthony Rizzo, Bryant, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber all will be free agents. If everything went according to plan, it could cost north of $100M to keep four players. Of course, Lester’s salary will be off the books by then, though you’d definitely still be stuck with Heyward. And we know how miserly the Ricketts family has already gotten. Also, Epstein’s contract is up at the same time, and he may just decide he’s taillights.

However, even speculating on what ownership is going to want to do, or can do, is kind of folly, because the CBA expires the same season. We have no idea what the luxury tax system will work, even if there will be one, if there will even be baseball considering there very well might be a strike, and an arduous one. Trading Bryant because of fear of a salary in a system you can’t possibly predict would be the height of idiocy.

At the end of the day, you don’t just produce Kris Bryants. They’re generational talents, and that’s why we call them that. If he costs $35M, or $40M a year, you pay him and figure out the rest. The Angels figured that out with Trout. The Dodgers certainly will in time with Bellinger. The Red Sox will be sorry when they don’t with Betts (I suppose I have some time for a Betts-for-Bryant deal, but if the Sox don’t want to pay Mookie they’re not paying Bryant, and vice versa).

This is utter nonsense, and it will be if the Cubs actually listen and consider it. Thank you for your time.

Everything Else

I don’t expect to get much out of Gary Bettman press conferences. His address at the start of the Final is never quite like Roger Goodell’s at the Super Bowl, though he never says anything much ever either. Something about being a commissioner, you just have to be really good at saying nothing. Unless you’re Rob Manfred, and you end up saying the wrong thing a good portion of the time. But hey, better than Bud Selig… I think?


A good portion of Bettman’s presser was about replay, as apparently we’re supposed still be in a rage over Timo Meier’s hand-pass even though the Blues didn’t lose another game that series (like they were supposed to). Bettman hit all the right notes about “balance” and “pace and rhythm” of the game and such. But you know, the more I think about it, the more there is a limit to what you can review and how it might not be something that keeps expanding until infinity. Maybe.

One, I still pretty much think that the challenge system is ridiculous and far inferior to an additional official in a box with a bank of screens communicating with the refs on the ice via headset. However, the challenge system has kind of relegated the offsides review to the hail mary that it usually is. Coaches banking a delay of game penalty on it has kept them from just throwing any challenge out there and losing just a timeout. That really shouldn’t be discounted. As far as losing that timeout of goalie interference, well, one would actually have to define what goalie interference is and they haven’t gotten there yet.

Still, when it comes to goals, what are we really talking about here? Kicked in, goalie interference, crossed the line, high stick (which seemingly never gets called). Right now, that’s it. That doesn’t seem a huge scope of things that adding hand-passes and whether the puck went out of play before a goal would make this a mountain that a bunch of rich people will die on of possible reviews (Topical!). And the puck going out of play could probably mostly be solved with the nets above the glass being white instead of black, as the lighting in most arenas makes a ripple on a black net really hard to see but much easier on a white one.

That seems possible. Restrict it to hand-passes in the offensive zone and let’s go. All goals are reviewed anyway, we’ve already gotten accustomed to that. I still don’t know why all sports haven’t employed a 30-second limit on reviews (well, I know why the NFL did because they figured out they could cram in another ad or two). If I can tell on my couch after a look or two if something is clear or not, so can they.

As far as reviewing delay of game calls or shots to the head…again, a 30-second clock or simply a video ref radioing down without the need of the refs to go to a phone would solve a lot of this. Yes, NHL arenas can’t get loud but if European soccer refs can manage, so can NHL ones. But that would depend on how seriously the NHL wants to crack down on hits to the head.

I also still contend that moving one ref or both off the ice and to a perch above the glass would solve a lot, as they would spend no time protecting their face or trying to get out of the way of play and could actually watch the action full-time. But I’m not going to sit on a hot stove waiting for that one.

-Bettman also addressed the CBA, which is looming. I’ll give him that he doesn’t pin peace on the NHLPA exclusively, while still firing an opening salvo, saying that both sides have things they’d probably like to change but overall everyone is doing well.

For the most part, you’d have to say both sides are doing well. The owners have the 50-50 split they’ve craved. and players at the top of the chain are getting theirs. Young players, except for the truly elite, are still eating it, but that’s more a fight between players before it even gets to the owners.

So a couple simple things I would want the players to try and get without a lockout, as if there’s any hope of avoiding that. One is an NBA-style mid-level exception or two. It’s vets that are getting squeezed out by teams only concentrating on top end talent and then young, cheap talent. We see a raft of players on PTOs come training camp that really should have contracts. Something like $3-$4 million, or two $3M slots, for players that are over 27 or have seven years in the league or thereabouts.

Second, get rid of the cap recapture penalty. It was a stupid idea in the first place that I can’t believe the union went along with, and punished teams and players for what they did under a different system. It’ll open up flexibility for some teams, and end this ridiculous saga of players having to be on LTIR for four years or whatever that is just silly. Those are two things I would want, which wouldn’t break any owners.

Of course, the owners, if they were ever to agree to any of this, would want something in return. But fuck ’em. They’ve got enough.

Everything Else

You’ve probably heard all the complaints and conspiracy theories about baseball’s offseason. Be it tanking teams, teams that are only “tanking,” collusion, analytic front offices, whatever the cause you might think has led to everyone being quite bored. But if anyone actually paid attention to hockey, or if the players had a union worth a shit, the case of Andreas Athanasiou this past summer would have generated similar talk, especially considering the inaction of everyone else.

Athanasiou came off his rookie year when he played 64 games and scored 18 goals. Hardly Earth-shattering, but given that he’s perhaps the fastest skater in the league and his age, there’s certainly a lot of potential there. A player a lot of teams would certainly like to have in their holster, for sure.

And then he sat. And sat. Now, this is where you’d have to interject that Ken Holland boned himself with a lot of stupid contracts and simply didn’t have the money to pay Athanasiou what he probably deserved. This wasn’t a GM playing hardball, at least not totally. More like the hardball hit him in the head and Athanasiou was left to deal with the dizzy GM afterwards.

But then again, Holland didn’t have any reason not to even if he had the cap space. As Athanasiou was only a restricted free agent, he basically either had to take whatever the Wings offered him, or go to the KHL. It’s quite a league where your promising young players have to threaten going to play in Russia, where they assuredly don’t want to go, just to get anything near the money they’ve already earned. And according to reports this wasn’t a massive gap. Athanasiou wanted somewhere around $2 million.

Hey, we’ve been on both sides of this. We’ve been critical of Stan Bowman and the Hawks awarding contracts to their players well before they had to. The trade of Brandon Saad, the first time, was another example of the Hawks not wanting to play hardball. The system is rigged to let teams do that, and without any punishment. They can play chicken and never have to swerve.

Because no one came for Athanasiou. How many teams could have used a middle six winger with this speed and scoring instinct? All of them? Damn close. And as the Wings only had somewhere around $2 million in space, an offer of more wouldn’t have been beyond most GMs, and compensation would have been a first and third round pick.

And that’s a twofold problem. One, any player making $2-3 million per year, with exceptions, are not going to be worth a first and third round pick, at least to most GMs. The compensation levels are ridiculous. If you go above $3 million, it’s a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Think about a player making $4 million. Probably a 20-goal scorer, yeah? Second pairing d-man? Second tier starting goalie, maybe? Is that worth three draft picks? Then again, that depends on what you think of draft picks, because they develop a lot weirder than they do in baseball. It’s a hard system to judge, but GMs horde them like leprechauns to gold even though most of them don’t have any idea what to do with them.

But for someone it should have been. The Oilers are missing wingers everywhere, they couldn’t give up a couple picks for Athanasiou, who is certainly better than a lot of wingers they have? We could go down the list here. Isn’t Athanasiou the idealized version of Vinnie Hinostroza? What would have been the better signing for the Flames, him or Jagr?

But GMs don’t do it, and it’s not just the compensation. There’s a gentlemen’s agreement that restricted free agents will never be poached. Shouldn’t this be some sort of collusion? Except the compensation is in the CBA and could always be pointed to. It robs the players of all leverage until they’re 28 or so unless they want to go play in a lesser league thousands of miles from home. How can that stand? The idea of an offer sheet is to provide some sort of leverage for younger players and it’s been taken away from them by an unwritten agreement between GMs.

This would be something that the NHLPA should go after in the next negotiation. But you know how that will go.


Game #49 Preview




Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built