This MLB offseason is one in which baseball "assaulted the monolith" upon which the MLBPA was built -- "free agency," according to Jeff Passan of YAHOO SPORTS. Even if teams "did not collude" in suppressing the contracts handed out, the "severity of the damage is apparent." If free agency is "not altogether destroyed, it is at the very least imperiled and handicapped." Players are "shook" and agents are "on tilt." If the union has a plan, its "rank-and-file doesn’t know it." Royals 3B Mike Moustakas signed a one-year, $6.5M contract to return to the team after initially turning down a $17.4M qualifying offer, and one prospective free agent next offseason said, "I don’t want to get Moosed." Passan noted the depth of the "market shift this winter remains somewhat unclear." Few pundits "expect it to hurt" impending free agents like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but what about Rockies CF Charlie Blackmon or Blue Jays 3B Josh Donaldson? For every "universally lauded deal," there are a "dozen that either underwhelmed or didn’t meet outside expectations." Mets RF Jay Bruce signed a three-year deal for $39M guaranteed. For that outlay, the team "could have filled" holes by signing Moustakas, OF Carlos Gonzalez, P Lance Lynn, 1B Logan Morrison and C Jonathan Lucroy (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/12). In St. Louis, Derrick Goold notes as all teams have "embraced more analytical approaches to evaluating players and the Hedge Fund Age officially on us, decisions are 'data-driven.'" Goold: "That means players are being judged for the VALUE of their production not just the AMOUNT of their production. ... If all teams now see players through these same statistical prisms then they don't need to talk about collusion, the computers are putting them there. The data drives them to it" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/13).
NOT GETTING IT DONE: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale names MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark as having the "worst winter," after he was "widely ridiculed by players and agents for the flaws in the collective bargaining agreement." They are "infuriated that Clark and the union's executive team didn’t see what was coming with the luxury tax threshold turning into a salary cap, and teams surrendering before the season even starts." The union has three years to "retrench before their next trip to the negotiating table, but the fallout from the past two collective bargaining agreements will cast a pall on their membership until then" (USA TODAY, 3/13).
Former Big3 Commissioner Roger Mason Jr. "denied he was fired ... because of alleged corruption and said the working 'environment has been hostile and racist,'" according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. Multiple outlets yesterday reported that Mason was "dismissed because of his ties to two Qatari investors who allegedly owe the 3-on-3 league millions of dollars." Mason said, "I was terminated by Big3 in retaliation for legal claims which I made last week in a letter sent by my attorneys to Big3 Basketball alleging that the League had breached my employment agreement." He added, "The violations of my agreement centered around Big3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz, who has been engaged in a malicious, defamatory campaign of disparaging me in an attempt to prevent me from the performance of contractual duties and responsibilities. He has made countless unfounded attacks on my integrity, character, and leadership. The work environment at Big3 has been hostile and racist resulting in the departure of valuable League personnel." Mason also "contends Kwatinetz, who is white, used a racial slur when he referred to black athletes." Big3 co-Founder Ice Cube has been "named the commissioner for the league" (USA TODAY, 3/13). In N.Y., Hannah Withiam notes Mason's name "surfaced earlier" yesterday in a letter from Big3 management sent around the league "explaining Mason's firing as the consequence of an investigation into his questionable ties to Qatari investors Ayman Sabi and Ahmed Al-Rumaihi." Mason was also "believed to have received benefits from the investors, even while they were defaulting on their financial commitments to the league" (N.Y. POST, 3/13).
ON THE ITINERARY: In N.Y., Benjamin Hoffman notes the shakeup "came at a particularly awkward time" for the Big3, as the league had "announced the schedule for its second season just before" reports of Mason's dismissal surfaced. Mason leaving is "not expected to delay the season, which is set to begin June 22 in Houston, and the league’s letter said two major sponsorship deals would be announced in the next seven days." The league's '18 schedule calls for an "eight-week regular season." A playoff round is "scheduled for Aug. 17 in Dallas with the championship game to be held in Aug. 24 at Barclays Center" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/13). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman notes Big3 has "booked a July 20 date at AmericanAirlines Arena, the first time" the league "will appear in South Florida." The 10-week season "will make stops at other NBA venues in Houston, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Brooklyn, Boston, Dallas, Atlanta and Oakland." All stops will "feature four back-to-back games and will take place on Friday evenings" from June 22-Aug. 24. The games will be "broadcast live on either" Fox or FS1 (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 3/13).
THE ATHLETIC's Phil Taylor wrote under the header, "With So Many Teams Chasing Ping-Pong Balls Instead Of Wins, NBA Needs To Take Action." Rather than "trying to eliminate the practice, the NBA would be better off trying to reduce the incentive to lose for the sake of draft position, and the most practical way to do that is to change the rules of the lottery." Starting with the '19 Draft, the teams with the three worst records will all have a 14% chance at landing the top pick, but the league "may have to go further, to the point of putting a limit on how often a team can draft that high." A rule that "prohibited any team from drafting in the top three more than once every three years, for instance, could change the calculus enough to make sacrificing multiple seasons not worth the potential reward" (THEATHLETIC.com, 3/12).
GETTING IT RIGHT: In Boston, Gary Washburn noted "improving the relationship between players and officials has been the league’s goal the past few months." NBA VP/Referee Training & Development Monty McCutchen said that the league "wants to begin 'analytically tracking' progress by officials and how well and effectively they are communicating with players." The players "fully realize they aren’t going to like all of the calls, but seek consistency and the ability to dispute calls under emotional control without fear of a technical foul." A primary issue that has "escalated player-official bickering is the influx of new and younger officials," who tend to have "shorter leashes with players and at times have escalated disputes" (BOSTONGLOBE.com, 3/10).
NOT SO MINOR LEAGUE? In Boston, Christopher Gasper wrote what the G League is missing the "presence of top prospects" for the '18 NBA Draft. The league "shouldn’t be primarily a landing spot for players who fall through the cracks." It should also "provide a bridge from high school to the NBA for highly touted prospects who are interested in a hoops higher education, not the kind found in a college classroom." The G League "should be a place where high school prospects who want to get (legally) paid for their talents can play instead of being conscripted into the college basketball industrial complex." The league "evolving into a legitimate alternative for wannabe one-and-done stars is a win-win-win scenario" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/11).