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Volume 25 No. 6

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Indians P Andrew Miller, a prominent voice in the union, said that he "hopes that MLB's plan to introduce a pitch clock" this season "doesn't lead to a 'big fight or some sort of ugly showdown,' even though players are overwhelmingly opposed to the idea," according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Miller, one of four elected MLBPA reps, said, "We want games to be quicker so it doesn't have an effect on viewership. We get it. We're in the entertainment business, and if we're not putting the best product out there, we're at fault and we need to make an adjustment. I think we all accept that we can be better with pace of play and make the game more appealing to viewers." But he added, "We're just not necessarily for the changes MLB wants to make to get to that end goal. A lot of guys don't like the clock, and I don't disagree, personally." Miller: "This is not something we want to turn into a big fight or some sort of ugly showdown about us trying to make a point. MLB thinks they have a way to speed up games. It's really important to them. They've made it abundantly clear. We just don't necessarily love the way they're doing it" (ESPN.com, 1/19). In Denver, Patrick Saunders noted several Rockies players also had a "skeptical eye" to the some of MLB's proposals. Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado said, "I’m not too fond of trying to make too many changes in the game. Baseball is a slower game, it’s a slower-paced game, that’s just what it is. I think when you try to make too many changes, I think it can cause problems." Rockies CF Charlie Blackmon: "You are asking guys who have been playing the game at a high level their whole lives, to do something completely different. So I’m going to be resistant to change right out of the gate, no matter what it is" (DENVER POST, 1/21).

MEET ME AT THE MOUND: YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Cwik wrote MLBers have "legitimate concerns about how the rules will impact the game." Astros P Lance McCullers Jr. tweeted, "You can't limit mound visits, especially from the catcher, when everyone is using adv tech to steal signs. You have to change them too often to try to keep things as 'even' as possible. And I'm not talking about signs when a man is on second" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/19). However, Red Sox Chair Tom Werner said, "It's pretty clear that there’s too much dead time in the game. It’s really not about pace of play but trying to have less dead time." He added that it "would be 'common sense' to cut down on trips to the mound by the catcher or manager." Werner: "I’m hopeful the union and owners will come together on this. I think it’s something that the fans are expecting" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/20).

MAKES SENSE: In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been "trying to find ways to improve pace of play," and implementing a 20-second pitch clock "seems like the easiest solution at the moment" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/21). In N.Y., John Harper wrote the implementation of a pitch clock "hardly seems worth getting into a big fight about." It is "silly because a 20-second pitch clock is a logical start toward speeding up the action, which most everyone agrees would be a good thing, yet it’s not likely to have any sort of dramatic effect on the way major league games are played." There is a "strain in relations between players and management/owners that some fear could lead to at least the threat of a work stoppage" when the current CBA expires in '21 (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/21).

MARKET MADNESS: ESPN.com's Buster Olney noted many factors have contributed to MLB's "stagnant winter market, from the impact of the luxury-tax threshold to the growing trend of teams opting to be really bad rather than merely mediocre (i.e., tanking)." Another is that three of the teams with the greatest resources -- the Dodgers, Cubs and Yankees -- are "run by baseball operations executives devoted to efficiency" (ESPN.com, 1/21). Rangers President of Baseball Operations & GM Jon Daniels said, "The market, for whatever reason -- for a variety of reasons, probably -- has moved much slower than usual. By just the number of players out there, not just the free agents but a number of trades conversations still ongoing, I would expect that between now and Opening Day things would change somewhat. How much and when is a little hard to forecast" (Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/21). ESPN.com's Olney noted the working relationship between the MLBPA and MLB "might be at its worst since the labor stoppage" of '94-95. Some agents believe the union will continue to "entrench on issues such as pace of play in order to register unhappiness over the stagnancy in the free-agent market." If that theory is accurate, the "strategy makes no sense." The idea that the "market slowdown is due to collusion, some longtime agents believe, is laughable." One agent said, "I don’t think for one instant that this is collusion. (The union) negotiated the terms of this CBA, and it’s up to us (the agents) to adjust and give the best possible advice to our clients based on the market" (ESPN.com, 1/21).

U.S. Soccer presidential candidates Hope Solo, Kyle Martino, Eric Wynalda and Paul Caligiuri on Saturday during a forum at the United Soccer Coaches Convention "went after the soccer establishment" and together made the corporate types "seem drab and detached," according to Eric Adelson of YAHOO SPORTS. The candidates' approaches to the forum "varied tremendously." Solo, who appeared first, was the "most blunt," painting the USSF as a "tone-deaf dictatorship." She was "spirited and strident from the opening salvo." Solo said, "The Federation has failed you." Solo then "went after" SUM President Kathy Carter and USSF VP Carlos Cordeiro -- two fellow candidates -- for "failing to sufficiently help the women’s national team in its fight for equal pay." Martino was "both well-versed and folksy," while Wynalda was "more off-the-cuff." Caligiuri "may have been the most pleasant surprise," but most candidates "appeared nervous at times." It was clear throughout the forum in Philadelphia that U.S. Soccer has "both an elitist problem and a communication problem." Club coaches interviewed after the forum “generally panned Cordeiro and Carter as establishment voices.” They want a "fresh look, a ground-up approach, and someone who is generally unencumbered." Saturday's event would have been "better if it was a debate, which was the initial plan." Solo said after the forum, "I was ready for a debate. I wanted to ask Kathy Carter directly, 'Where was she in our fight for equal pay?'" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/20).

WORK TO DO: SOCCER AMERICA's Paul Kennedy wrote thousands of coaches were in attendance at the convention, though "only a fraction of them attended any of the U.S. Soccer events." Seven of the eight candidates -- all but Cordeiro -- did "1-on-1 sessions on Thursday and Friday before crowds of 50-250." Wynalda had the "largest audience." But "no more than a half a dozen voting delegates were in attendance at any talk." Kennedy noted "no one believes any of the candidates, even Carter with her structural advantages, has anywhere close to the support needed to win on the first ballot." This past weekend was about the four front-runners -- Carter, Cordeiro, Wynalda and Martino -- "trying to knock down each of their high unfavorables" (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 1/21). In DC, Steven Goff notes Martino has "traveled the country meeting with state associations and individuals deeply entrenched in the sport." Martino said, "I can move this thing forward. I am already acting in the way I intend to govern. I admit I am not an expert in all categories. I'm making it my full-time responsibility to reach out to the membership to understand what they need." Goff notes Martino has "enlisted two of soccer's biggest retired names" -- Thierry Henry and David Beckham -- to "help mold his platform and persuade hundreds of voting delegates to choose him" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/22).

MORE TROUBLE AHEAD? ESPN.com's Jeff Carlisle reported the USSF and outgoing President Sunil Gulati face a “criminal antitrust complaint” filed with the DOJ by an attorney working on behalf of an Oregon-based youth club. The allegations are the “latest salvos in an ongoing effort to have FIFA’s system of training compensation and solidarity payments enforced” in the U.S. (ESPN.com, 1/19).

In the wake the Raiders' process in hiring Jon Gruden, the Fritz Pollard Alliance will “seek stricter enforcement" of the NFL's Rooney Rule and "will ask the league to implement other reforms related to employment opportunities for minority coaches," according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Fritz Pollard Alliance attorney Cyrus Mehri said that the group will “not seek changes to the rule itself.” Mehri said his group will “press the NFL for more stringent enforcement.” One practical application could be “requiring teams to immediately report to the league office any interviews conducted with head coaching candidates not currently employed by NFL teams” (WASHINGTON POST, 1/21). In S.F., Matt Kawahara noted the NFL “found the Raiders had complied with the Rooney Rule” and “avoided what likely would have been a hefty fine” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/20). USA TODAY’s Mike Jones wrote it is “understandable why the Fritz Pollard Alliance would disagree” with the NFL's finding that the Raiders complied with the Rooney Rule (USATODAY.com, 1/20). PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Mike Florio wrote, “How can teams essentially line up the next coach without running afoul of the Rooney Rule? Apparently, it’s the absence of formality that saved the Raiders -- and that creates the template for all other franchises moving forward.” A source said that the league “determined via its investigation that the Christmas Eve discussion” between Raiders Owner Mark Davis and Gruden did “not amount to a contract offer, given the absence of lawyers or agents and/or the discussion or negotiation of a formal offer” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 1/20).

In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote having Kid Rock perform at NHL All-Star Weekend is "offensive." It is "mystifying why this league ... would damage its reputation by inviting this barely relevant person to share the spotlight with its greatest athletes" (N.Y. POST, 1/21). In Las Vegas, David Schoen noted the timing of the NHL defending its selection of Kid Rock is "notable, as the NHL last week honored the 60th anniversary of Willie O'Ree breaking the league's color barrier." Kid Rock’s performance also will come "days before the start of the NHL’s 'Hockey is for Everyone' month in February, which seeks to 'drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities' through hockey" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 1/21).

SOMETHING TO CHEER FOR? In Boston, Margery Eagan writes in the midst of the #MeToo social media movement to raise awareness about sexual assault, it is "time to rethink NFL cheerleaders and their barely covered breasts being ogled on the sidelines by drunken men with binoculars." At least five NFL teams "manage to muddle along without such female helpers." If NFL teams "really respected cheerleaders, they’d pay them well." Football is a "hyper violent game with a lousy history of violence against women." Eagan: "Juxtaposing all that with pom-pom shakers in tight white leather boots, well, it feels wrong, especially now" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/22).

BUYING IN: ESPN.com's Jacob Wolf noted esports tournament organizer Rivalcade has "sold three franchise spots" for its Esports Battle League -- each at a $1M buy-in price. Esports Battle League is a "geolocated league that hopes to feature a multitude of esports titles," and the league "hopes to obtain three to five more buyers for its league by its targeted launch" this summer (ESPN.com, 1/21).