‘Funnyball’ contract negotiations aren’t that funny – Boston Herald

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Collusion?

Coincidence?

Caution?

All the above?

The Red Sox and Yankees made baseball history before the first pitch of the 2022 season. The Evil Empire and the Galactic Alliance simultaneously lowballed their biggest home-grown stars.

“Moneyball,” meet “Funnyball.”

Do we have “peace in our time” when it comes to the 121-year baseball war between the American League teams in Boston and New York?

John W. Henry is a dead ringer for Neville Chamberlain.

We’ve come a long way from Theo Epstein trashing a hotel room in Nicaragua because the Red Sox were outbid by the Yankees for Jose Contreras.

Or the Yankees swiping A-Rod after he was unofficially signed by the Red Sox. Never did not being willing to pay someone work out so well.

In the 24 hours before the Red Sox and Yankees began the season in the Bronx, we learned that neither Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, nor Aaron Judge would see their contracts extended before the 2022 season. The sides in all three cases are reportedly “nine figures apart.”

Fans in Boston and Gotham are being told the players are being unreasonable.

One player’s “lowball” is another GM’s “best available offer.”

Talk of collusion was considered lunacy. Until it happened. We were told in no uncertain terms that baseball owners would never work in tandem to artificially lower player salaries. They are competing against each other.

From 1985-87, owners did just that. They conspired against the top free agents in the game to make sure salaries remained lower than they would otherwise have been in a free market.

The collusion was driven by MLB. Concerns about TV money disappearing pushed then Commissioner Peter Ueberroth to lobby GMs for lower long-term deals.

The best interest of the game and all that. The players denied “free” agency were eventually awarded $280 million. That’s about $671 million in 2022 Joe Biden-inflated dollars.

There were rumblings of collusion four years ago ahead of the 2018 season before things eventually got moving in the free-agency market.

In March, owners and players agreed upon the most lucrative CBA in baseball history. Just wait until the avalanche of sports-betting cash hits their coffers. The players got higher minimum salaries and a boost in the competitive balance tax threshold.

Some are getting paid. Shortstops Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, and Corey Seager signed deals this offseason totaling 19 years and $570.3 million. Correa’s three-year contract includes opt-outs after this season and next. Seager’s deal is worth $32.5 million per year, while Correa’s salary is $35.1 million in Minnesota through 2024.

Freaking Minnesota.

Those deals average $26.2 million a year and 6+ seasons.

That is your floor for Bogaerts, who has been in the Red Sox system for 13 years. If the current rate of inflation holds, that price increases to $28.3 million in 2023.

The comps for Devers are not nearly as lucrative. Devers is only 25 and has at least 2 more seasons before he reaches his maximum physical ability. He has legitimate potential to swing the most potent home-grown bat in Boston since the one that belonged to Jim Rice.

State Run Media in Boston has begun to posit the question of whether the Red Sox should keep Bogaerts or Devers. This age-old ploy deflects the focus from ownership and puts it squarely upon the players. One must be the “bad guy.”

Henry has other concerns. Three of the top five scorers on the Penguins will be free agents after this season. Henry and his third wife are not made of money, even if it looks that way from their 217-foot yacht. Or the Gridiron Club dinner.

We hope the Yankees make the wrong call on Judge, whatever that may be. Scribes loyal to the House of Steinbrenner quickly offered unattributed quotes explaining how poorly Judge misjudged in refusing the Yankees’ offer of roughly $233 million over the next eight years.

Judge wants more. A lot more. He, too, will get it. If he stays healthy.

The CBT threshold is $230 million for 2022. The penalty is 20%. Your Boston Red Sox are projected to spend  $11,665,999 over that number, according to spotrac.com. They no longer carry Pittsburgh as their given name. The Yankees, meanwhile, are $27,488,333 above the limit. Their profligate spending has sobered up the most drunken of sailors.

There remains nothing but money to prevent the Red Sox or Yankees from paying anyone – especially three players who are so pivotal to their respective franchises and fanbases – what they will earn on the open market once they become free agents.

There is no fear of insolvency on East 161st or Jersey streets.

Collusion is a loaded term. Its mention triggers cries of “conspiracy.” These days, the difference between “conspiracy” and “truth” has decreased to about six months.

The thought of the Red Sox and Yankees working in tandem to lowball their most popular players at the same time is batty.

It’s about as crazy as being asked to believe that Tom Brady was headed to the Dolphins as a player-owner before the Brian Flores lawsuit.

Amid that illogical conjecture, no one has yet to ask or answer the most important question: “Would the NFLPA allow one of its members to be part owner of a team?” Clearly, there would be a grievance filed on behalf of the other players given the manifest conflict. We know how the NFL operates. The fate of Brady player/owner would/will end up in the hands of either Roger Goodell or the Supreme Court.

Good luck with that, Tom.

Still, that story remains viable in the eyes of millions.

It is a given (barring unforeseen catastrophic injury) that Bogaerts and Devers will get new deals worth at least what they are seeking now.

It’s just a matter of time and place.

And if that place happens to be somewhere other than Boston, I and many others will no longer give a damn.

Bill Speros (@realOBF) can be reached at [email protected]



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