from the take-this! dept
Whether you’re a baseball fan, or a sports fan in general, or not, regular readers here will know that we’ve covered aspects of many sports leagues and Major League Baseball in particular. As you’d expect with any major business like MLB, some of those posts have dealt with some nonsense intellectual property actions the league has undertaken, but many more of them have been positive articles about the forward-thinking folks at MLB when it comes to how they make their products available using modern technology. The league’s website work has always been particularly good, whether it’s been the fantastic MLB.TV streaming site the league operates, or even simply the base MLB.com site itself.
But that latter site has now become a petty pawn being played by MLB as part of the owner’s lockout of players that just kicked off. For non-MLB fans, the quick version is this: the collectively bargained labor agreement between owners and players expired this week without a new agreement inked. As a result, the players are now locked out of team facilities by ownership. That last bit is important, because many people have been describing this as a labor strike. It isn’t. At all. This is the owners refusing to let the players fulfill their duties. And as part of that, it seems, MLB released the following news update on its MLB.com website.
You may notice that the content on this site looks a little different than usual. The reason for this is because the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and the league expired just before midnight on Dec. 1 and a new CBA is currently being negotiated between the owners and the MLBPA.
Until a new agreement is reached, there will be limitations on the type of content we display. As a result, you will see a lot more content that focuses on the game’s rich history. Once a new agreement is reached, the up-to-the minute news and analysis you have come to expect will continue as usual.
It’s unclear precisely what game MLB is playing with this move, but the end result is a website that is almost entirely bereft of content on any current MLB player. While the stats and standings from last season are still available in their tabs, the entire main page is now filled only with content about players no longer playing. Players that are on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, for instance, or check ins with Ichiro showing up at a high school to hit home runs. Interested in Vin Scully’s thoughts on Gil Hodges? MLB.com has you covered! Want to know anything new about Kris Bryant or Mike Trout? You’ll have to go elsewhere.
The league is making noises about having to comply with federal labor laws regarding the use of player likenesses in promotional or advertising material, but that doesn’t make that much sense in the context of simply listing players currently under contract and on team rosters. Instead, this looks to be an attempt to, in some manner, punish current players by ripping away any fame or notoriety they might get via the MLB.com site. It’s also notable that each individual team site gets feeds directly from MLB.com and those sites too are changed in a similar manner. Perhaps most strangely, the headshots of all current players have been removed and replaced by generic avatars of faceless heads
It could be that MLB is just playing it really, really safe on the labor laws situation… but I doubt it. This is more likely part of the overall strong-arm tactic by team owners that are crying poor to the players’ union while beating the CBA buzzer to hand players millions and millions of dollars at the same time. And, just to add more to the mix, this all is happening at the same time MLB admitted it has been messing with the types of balls within the game, introducing multiple differently behaving balls in a league that is absolutely driven by statistics for what is supposed to be a uniform game.
Not exactly the ammo the owners need going into CBA negotiations, to be sure.