MLB = Pravda?

Baseball Prospectus’ Derek Jacques has been watching the MLB Network and believes he’s found evidence that the on-air talent is whitewashing history:

However, there was a stray phrase in one segment of Tuesday’s Hot Stove that made me do a double-take, and risks dampening my enthusiasm for the network as a whole. The segment was about the Yankees‘ history of spending on high-profile free agents. In it, reporter Greg Amsinger divided the Steinbrenner era into four parts–1973-1981, when the team spent on premier free agents like Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage and Dave Winfield, and won championships; 1982-1995, when the team “join[ed] other franchises in self-restraint and a change of philosophy that led to a title drought in the 80s;” 1996-2000, when the team built from within and used mid-market signings to become a champion again; and 2001-present, when the Yankees have been on a fruitless spending spree with no end in sight.

If the quotes didn’t give it away, it’s the description of that second part that rubbed me the wrong way. Set aside that the description doesn’t quite fit the time period carved out–the Yankees spent freely on the market for all but a short part of that fourteen-year period–the fact is, there’s a very specific term for the “change in philosophy” that caused the Yankees to briefly join other franchises in “self restraint.” It was called collusion, a dark period when baseball’s owners brazenly violated their labor agreement with the players, and had to be ordered to pay nearly $300 million in damages as a result.

I’m hoping that the “c-word” just slipped Amsinger’s mind while preparing the segment. Otherwise, it’s a real unpromising sign of what we can expect from the MLB Network going forward. Collusion wasn’t self-restraint, it was an illegal agreement between baseball’s clubs to restrain each other. More importantly, the collusion era is old news–if the MLB Network is going to put a glossy pro-ownership spin on embarrassing events that happened over 20 years ago, how can we trust them to report reliably on current events?

Just because this was inevitable doesn’t mean that it isn’t disappointing. No, I don’t expect MLB Network people to sling crap at the people who pay their salaries on a regular basis, but as Jacques notes, the refusal to reference stuff that happened two decades ago is inexcusable. Are Amsinger and the talking heads permitted to mention baseball’s color barrier? The Black Sox scandal?

(link via BTF)

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  1. The Common Man said...

    I saw that too, Craig, and was amused/disappointed.  If MLB isn’t going to talk about collusion, it obviously also isn’t going to have anything critical or meaningful to say about the way steroids was/is being handled.  And that’s disappointing, as I was hoping to watch the MLB network all day, every day, except when The Office and 30 Rock are on.

  2. pete said...

    Everyone, aside from people like us, has pretty much forgotten that collusion even happened. I’d put the percentage of baseball fans who would have any idea what you’re talking about if you mentioned the collusion scandals at around 5%, and even that number may be high. At this point, a mention on its own wouldn’t do—they’d have to actually explain that it happened if they were going to reference it.

    It’s really a shame that so few people seem to remember the collusion in the 80s. The dialogue surrounding salary caps,  “evil” agents, and “greedy” players might be a little more intelligent and balanced if more people did.

  3. Scott said...

    The Black Sox Scandal was a PLAYERS effort, not an owners effort.  It will probably get an hour-long retrospective.

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