STL sports chat with Ben Frederickson

STL sports chat with Ben Frederickson

Bring your Cardinals, Blues and St. Louis sports questions, and talk to Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson in a live chat starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

    I would not lump soccer and lacrosse together like that.
    One (soccer) is the world's sport that is catching up in America.
    I would not put lacrosse in that category.
    But sure, the longer baseball sits and fights the more opportunity every other sport has to gain ground on baseball, or pad its lead.
    Baseball suffers from a false sense of security when it comes to its national relevance, I'm afraid, and it would not like the look of the landscape if it fights its way into a lengthy shutdown.
    Don’t you think it’s reckless for schools to play college football this year? 8 Alabama players have already tested positive for Covid.
  • I don't see a realistic alternative.
    Shut down college football until there is a coronavirus vaccine?
    Because until there is a foolproof plan that stops the virus in its tracks -- a goal that could be years away -- what we are going to continue to do is have to weigh the risk/reward of moving forward in the safest ways we can come up with.
    And here's what people seem to keep forgetting: What is deemed necessary to you, to me, to someone else varies greatly depending on who is asked the question.
    Is opening a factory OK? A church? A protest? A newsroom? 
    Is the line between pro sports and college sports?
    And so on.
    College football is going to try to move forward, no matter what you and I think about where the line is. There is so much money and power -- including political power -- tied up in it. The question will be how well the precautions work to keep the spread of the virus down, and -- this is a scary thought -- how severe some of the cases become.
    College football is like corporate America in that it's simply trying to figure out a way forward that doesn't capsize a very big business.
    This truth makes it that much more obvious that the players involved are not simply student athletes, but vital cogs in a revenue-generating machine.
    Should we make changes to the college system? Yes.
    Is that obvious truth going to be what stops college football from moving forward unless coronaviurs stops it? No.
    Would it be better for a league to start their season then have to cancel it due to the virus or to just shut down until the virus is mostly gone? Imagine the NBA having to cancel two rounds into the playoffs. Might delay next season.
  • Fair question, but there's no timeline for "when the virus is mostly gone." We can work to stop the spread. We can work to put precautions in place that keep people from getting it. But people are still going to get it, and recover from it or not until there is a medical solution.
    The whole idea of "people only care about the players, not the owners" should be seen as ludicrous to anyone in St. Louis. An owner ripped away our NFL team, not players, but we didn't continue watching the Rams. Showing that ownership does play a role in whether people watch or not.
    In general, though, labor disputes in baseball have been successfully pinned on the players. I think that's changed here, in front of our eyes. It's partly on Manfred, who royally screwed up last night's ESPN interview. It's partly on the players using their voice via social media, too. I hear from as many people mad at the owners as I do people mad at the players. I think it's OK to be made at them both :)
    Your comment re: Dewitt's tonedeafness was spot on. It used to be easy to tell the difference between MLB and the NFL. Not so much anymore. One cabal is like the other.
    When spring training was canceled, I asked DeWitt about how the conversations that led to baseball's return from the pandemic would influence the future labor negotiations, and I was impressed with his answer. He praised the cooperation between the owners and the players and stressed the need for give and take on both sides during a time of national crisis. Something seems to have changed for him, based on his latest comments.
    Following the strike in '94, we got the gimmicks of interleague play (dealbreaker for me) and steroid fueled home run races to bring back fans. Next up? DH is just the tip of the iceberg. No idea is too dumb. You ought to love this.
    Of all the things that's wrong with baseball right now, the DH should be last on the list of worries. But I do like your dedication!
    I’ve never understood how the owners can insist, with a straight face, that they must break even at a time of a pandemic and a cratering economy, while the players must assume the risk of contracting a serious illness while receiving a reduced salary.

    The owners are engaged in a business venture. Not all businesses make a profit every year; some manage to break even, some suffer losses. In bad years, business owners sometimes have to borrow money to cover the losses. That’s what banks are for, and MLB owners can surely obtain loans to get them through a season in which they don’t break even. And the wealthiest franchises will be able to absorb the loss without turning to banks for help.

    Thomas Boswell has run the numbers. In his column in the Washington Post yesterday, he figures the difference between the latest proposals by the owners and the players was about $800 million in player salaries. That works out to $25 million per club.

    That’s not much, Boswell says, when you consider that the average MLB franchise has increased by more than $1 billion in the past six years, from $811 million to $1.852 billion. And in the past four years, the owners’ revenue has increased 15 percent, while player salaries are up only one percent.
  • Boswell made great points in his column and I agreed with his take.
    Even using the back-of-the-napkin numbers, the owners can clearly afford to meet the players at the player's most recent proposal -- a decision that would negate the risk of a grievance because it would be an acceptance of the proposal offered by the players.
    The owners' proposals have been for show more than for serious negotiation, a reshuffling of the money that ignores the players' commitment to the pro-rated salary they felt they agreed upon on March 26.
    And still the players have said, if you don't like this plan, give us a plan with however many pro-rated games you want to play, and we will be good to go.
    And now the owners are balking, fearing a grievance while leaking news of positive COVID cases within the game, something players have called out as a distraction device.
    The players are not without missteps here.
    There is no excuse that Manfred and Clark went a week without an in-person meeting during this crucial time.
    None.
    That raises questions about the true willingness to negotiate on both sides.
    I appreciate your views on DeWitt’s comments. If you can explain, why didn’t the PD cover this story with more than a simple article repeating what DeWitt and Mo said? Was it because you were on furlough and were unable to write a commentary? It received much more national play than local coverage. The perception is that the top brass at the PD do not want to challenge DeWitt directly.
    I'll start at the end, if that's OK. That perception about the paper and/or the top brass at the paper is wrong. DeWitt made news, and that news was covered. Yes, it was a topic I would have written a column on if I was allowed to write columns the past two weeks. I wasn't allowed to write due to a two-week furlough that ended Monday morning. In short, furlough sucks.
    Hey, Ben-Fred. No specific questions from me today. Just wanted to say how much I appreciate all of the outstanding work you do (newspaper, website, social media, radio, podcasts, etc.). The St. Louis sports media scene is very lucky to have you. One of the best, brightest and hardest working for sure. Hope you and your family are staying safe during this bizarre time for our nation.
    Hey, thanks! I'm afraid its often quantity over quality sometimes, but I appreciate you reading and listening.
    MLB attorneys have admitted in a letter to the MLBPA, that the March MOU requires pro rata pay on a per game basis.
    And the owners are quick to cite an old email to Players Association counsel that says playing in empty stadiums without an additional paycut from the prorated salary option would not be economically feasible in the eyes of the owners.
    In the end, perhaps a neutral party has to sort through what that March 26 agreement really meant, but we know enough now to know it was not as specific as it needed to be.
    Both sides should have locked in that language.
    Ben, at this point I don't care who's fault this all is. As far as I'm concerned they are both to blame. I have absolutely no empathy for either side and if they were to come back with an abbreviated season I'll probably not watch. Management and players alike don't care about the fans and if you think they do you're just kidding yourself. Let them keep squabbling like a couple of eight year old's, they are only shooting themselves in the foot.
    I think more and more people are beginning to agree with you.
    Baseball had a chance to be a great example, and a chance to potentially be the first league back.
    It blew it, no matter what happens from here.
    Hi Ben. Great news that Gary Pinkel is on the ballot for the College Football HOF. Do you get to vote? The number of ballots they send out seems huge. Your thoughts on his chances? Thanks
    What are your thoughts on "asterisks" in sports? Should champions in 2020 (assuming they complete postseasons) be counted as just as valid as last year?

    Also on that point imagine the Blues winning their first cup in the pandemic year and now being legally allowed to have a parade. Yikes.
    I'm for them, in certain instances, but not the one you mentioned. Every team will be playing on an even, altered field in the upcoming championships -- if the leagues get that far. Asterisks should be used to mark an unfair advantage, a cheater, things of that nature. There should be an asterisk on the World Series Astros. There should be one on 100 percent proven steroid users who make the Hall of Fame. Maybe not an official asterisk on their plaque, but certainly an explanation of if they were proven to use or admitted use of PEDs. But for the 2020 champs? No. Each team had the same shot of winning. 
    Wow. I hadn't thought much about that Blues hypothetical. I'm glad it happened the way it did, because that parade will go down as one of the absolute coolest events I've ever covered.
    Benfred, obviously taking 2020 off is horrible for baseball. But if it is inevitable anyway, do you think the Cardinals specifically could benefit from the year off in terms of their roster? Would Fowler and Cecil's deal be pushed back or would this year count in their deals? Also, do you think Carlson, Gorman, Liberatore, etc. would be any closer or do you think without minor league games there is much difference on when they would have been ready anyway?
    This is a confusing question.
    I understand the Fowler and Cecil contracts are not good.
    No disagreement there.
    But to wonder if they are so bad the entire organization would be better off skipping an entire season so two players don't get the chance to play, or not play?
    The answer is no, the Cardinals would not be better off -- if the question is about what would be the best for fielding a competitive team.
    Using this logic, the team's highest-paid player, Paul Goldschmidt, would be one more year away from his prime.
    Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright could be gone.
    Neither Dexter Fowler nor Matt Carpenter would be gone. Both are signed through 2021, not just 2020.
    The younger players you are hoping would come up and contribute would be returning from a a lost season of playing, and who knows what that would look like.
    How much of a conspiracy theorist are you in relations to sports? Do you think any leagues will "influence" their playoffs?

    I imagine Adam Silver wants LeBron in the Finals for TV ratings. And Manfred wants Yankees domination to overshadow his tenure a bit. And imagine the Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup finals...
  • I like a good conspiracy theory, but this is a reach.
    Certain players get more wiggle room with officials. 
    That's always been the case. 
    But commissioners rigging postseasons? I don't buy that one.
    The way that each side is handling the negotiations shows how out of touch they are with the fans. We have millionaire and billionaires fighting about money, when even the lowest paid guys make more in 1 year than the average Americans do in 10. When a family of 4 is out $200 just to get into the door to watch a game..... the cost have gotten out of control. I think they owners and players are about to find out the fans have our limits and have other options to spend our money.
  • We've touched on this discussion in the chat before. The best way to make your voice heard as a fan is to speak through your wallet. Support the teams and leagues you feel deserve support, and don't support the ones that don't. If baseball wants to make this all about the money, and that's exactly what it's doing, it should not be surprised if fans react the same way.
    With racial tension being a major issue, I want to revisit a trade that at the time probably wasn't a big deal but looking back on it is most likely the most impactful trade in STL Sports history. That is trading Bill Russell to the Celtics for Easy Ed. Some say that if that trade never happened, St. Louis wouldn't have spent 55 years (and counting) without an NBA franchise. Do you think that trade was racial motivated due to St. Louis's racism at the time?
    That case can be made, and it has been made in the past, but I don't think it can be said that it was the sole reason.
    The Hawks gave away the draft rights to future Hall of Famer Bill Russell for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan, two future Hall of Famers themselves.
    Macauley had an ill son who needed a lot of help, so it made sense to get him back home.
    No one was complaining when the Hawks won it all in 1958.
    Hindsight, however, shows Russell was the kind of player you just don't trade, period. Boston became a dynasty thanks to him. The 12-time All Star went on to win 11 titles.
    Here's how former P-D columnist Bryan Burwell wrote it once: "(St. Louis Hawks owner Ben) Kerner probably knew that the best way to box-office success in a racially charged city like St. Louis in the 1950s was to continue fielding teams that relied heavily on white stars, not black ones. So he probably felt forced into making the deal that would send away one of the greatest players in NBA history, a player who would have likely guaranteed him a long run of championships."
    On the bright side, if there’s no season this year or next year it takes care of the problem of carpenter and Fowler
    two of the many Mo blunders
    Why stop there? If the Cardinals never played again, they would never have a player with a regrettable contract. I mean, sure, there would be no games. But hey, think of all the money that could be saved!
    Hey Ben, good afternoon. Hope you are well sir... I heard something on the radio recently, Jamie Rivers was talking about re-signing Petro and then also keeping Parayko and how that would all work. He wanted to sign Petro (as I do, if we can) but said one of the reasons was Parayko was 'not' in the same class as Petro in terms of all around player. He commented he hoped Parayko would 'get there' but still needed to improve his game.. I'm not sure what he's been watching. Parayko, if not the best shut down defenseman in the league, is in the top 3. He changes games with his defense. He has a game changing slap shot.. yes, he should use it more, but he also needs more power play time. He's one of the best skaters in the league, for a defenseman, and skates out of trouble constantly. That's also a game changer. It's strange to hear someone say he's a 'work in progress.' The only thing this guy needs is #1 defenseman minutes. I'm not sure with all his assets he still seems to be 'under' appreciated.... Your thoughts Mr. Ben
  • I don't read that description as a knock on Parayko. The just-turned 27-year-old is the captain in waiting. He's gotten so much better in front of our eyes, and there is still room for improvement. That's not a bad thing. It's a great thing.
    There's still a ton of untapped potential in his offensive game, I think, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Pietrangelo is a proven captain who has taken his team to the promised land and is trying to do it again in the midst of his most impressive offensive season. Colton has become a shutdown defender. I think he can be more than that, though, and I think he'll get there. But better to have both -- and find a way to make it work -- if you're actively trying to keep your championship window open. 
  • What do you make of baseball losing it's "exclusive window"? Going forward, there is significant talk the NBA shifts it's season to end in July or even August. The NFL might play earlier in the summer. MLS is now a thing some people care about. Do you think baseball is losing their major advantage of being the talk of the summer in sports and is there really anything they can do about it?
  • I think it's something the league should be concerned about, absolutely.
    Baseball can't can't stop other leagues from stepping on its turf, but it can help itself by playing -- and trying to reinforce and grow a fan base that could have other leagues increasing its competition for eyeballs and income.
  • Any news on the MLS front? Charlotte should be announcing team name this week or next and than STL will be on the clock.
  • Nothing new from me at this time.
  • Ben -- Can we agree that Rob Manfred looks incredibly weak and feckless right now? When you come out and "guarantee" something one week and totally walk it back when the union calls your bluff, well, this guy most fold awfully easily in negotiations. What's the old saying? Under promise and over deliver? He has failed royally. Kudos to the players for standing up to him and the rest of the owners.
  • No disagreement here. Baseball, across the board, should be ashamed of that display on ESPN last night. The other leagues had their leaders detailing plans of a hopeful return before players in those sports offered their side of things. It was unity. Harmony. But baseball? More of the same backbiting that the country has no tolerance for right now. Beyond that, how can Manfred be trusted by the public (let alone the players now)? He said himself his previous guarantee meant nothing. That's not a great move as a business leader.
  • Ben, I’ve read several of your columns and comments regarding “Team STL’s “ lawsuit against the Rams and the NFL. The following is presented for your review and comments if you’d care to comment.

    You state that when Team STL wins their lawsuit that we should take the compensatory damage monies and go on about our way. You also state that we should not seek another NFL franchise for St. Louis.

    My problem with your assessment is that the City, The Convention and Visitors and of course, the Lawyers are the only ones who make out. What do the fans that supported the Rams and the ones that should count the most and incurred the most damage, receive?

    No disrespect to Baseball but, the NFL is THE biggest sport in the USA. Franchises are worth BILLIONS! Also, a city with three major league teams, with one of which is the NFL, is a MAJOR League city (no disrespect to the MSL but it isn’t a major league).

    The settlement that we receive when we win the lawsuit must include an NFL expansion franchise within twelve months. Otherwise don’t settle. The city and the fans deserve it.
    I'll clarify a few things first.
    I never said Team STL is going to win its lawsuit. I don't know if it will win. I don't know if the lawsuit will get settled, either. All I know is what I've reported, that the option for arbitration is now out the window, meaning there will be a settlement or a trial. And yes, there is always a possibility that whatever is decided in the trial is changed upon appeal. I don't have a crystal ball, and I don't know how this could change based on ongoing discovery and depositions.
    It's important to remember this was just one of several lawsuits that stemmed from the relocation. PSL holders got money back. A class-action lawsuit over tickets and merchandise was settled by the Rams. So, some of the fans you mentioned received something back, and that's before whatever benefits a potential relocation lawsuit win would create for city/county residents after things are sorted out.
    I understand there are hopes that this all ends in some sort of olive branch from the NFL in terms of an expansion team or relocated team. I just don't agree with that notion, and I don't think it's very realistic. My opinion is that the region should move on from the NFL, which has proven itself to be a bad business partner that cares little about the region. If the NFL wants to come back, and there is no sign it does, then it can pay its own way on everything, without help from the region. If that happens, swell. But I won't hold my breath, and I don't want the desire for another NFL team to cloud the lawsuit.
    Ben, I am not going to pretend to read the mind of P-D brass, and I am not part of the group that thinks DeWitt is cheap or believes he should be ripped for everything, but I have to agree with some other posters. The P-D does seem to going very, very soft on Cardinals management in this dispute. The players are taking all the risks when play returns, along with support staff, and DeWitt is playing it like the team is losing money. Goold is the beat writer and I know he has to be as objective as possible but disappointed that the columnists are not taking a bit more of a shot at him. I would appreciate a response.
    My columns on the topic are easy to find. They're in column form, podcast form, chat form. If you have specific questions about my coverage, I'll answer them. Always have. Always will. If you are asking why I didn't write a column about DeWitt's comments, specifically, I answered that earlier. I was furloughed for two weeks and was not allowed to write. My furlough ended yesterday.
    I am generally not a Bill DeWitt basher. I think he has been a very good owner overall for the Cardinals. The record speaks for itself. But his recent comments are a reminder why I never really will trust management. Saying baseball isn't really as profitable as people think, when him and his group paid $150 million for the franchise and it now is worth more than $2 billion? When baseball just finalized a new rights deal with Turner with a 40 percent jump? When he bought a house in LA during the shutdown for $8.4 million and we all know that isn't his primary home? Give me a break. Let's call a spade a spade. Can we at least agree his comments are ridiculous?
    I weighed in on them earlier. Ridiculous. Out of touch. Tone deaf. All of the above apply. Poorly timed also comes to mind. He had a chance to be a voice that pushed baseball toward a solution, and he became part of the problem.
  • I tend to look for nuance in debates, but with what's going on with MLB, it's hard for me to place blame anywhere but on the owners and management. Baseball is not a revenue sharing sport. For the past several years, as revenue has soared in the game, ownership has not sought to pass that on to players. Rather, ownership and management have collectively sought to suppress salaries via analytics. The quest for "value" has led to teams acquiring less talent than what's available because they look for greater ROI, even if that ROI doesn't lead to more wins. Tanking has influenced the salary decline as well, and Rob Manfred (who has steadily revealed himself to be grossly incompetent) didn't help matters by approving a sale of the Marlins to a cash-poor group that could not afford the price they paid, and immediately shed payroll, turning the publicly-funded new stadium into an echo chamber.

    So, after years of hoarding profits and attempting to drive salaries down, the owners want the players, who will be taking enormous risks by playing, to share in the losses? Nonsense. I'm glad the players didn't cave, and if owners have so badly run their teams that they can't sustain losses for one season, then they need to get out. No one looks good in a squabble between billionaires and millionaires, but just because people are suffering financially doesn't mean it is on the players to hand the owners a win. The players were losing this debate until Tony Clark called Manfred's bluff (once again proving that he the Bud Sielig runs strong in him). Now, it's on the owners to make this season happen or take the heat for a lost season.
    Don't forget that players have been told for years that their problems with the current CBA are irrelevant because they agreed to that agreement.
    That has been the owners' mantra time and time again.
    But now that the owners don't like what they agreed to on March 26, they are threatening to take their ball and go home.
    Telling contrast, isn't it?
    Any idea on when they will announce St. Louis MLS name / colors? I know it was supposed to happen in March or April but the virus put this off. Do you think they would wait till August 20? A year from announcing the awarding of the team?
    Charlotte will be announced first. After that, the clock for STL starts.
    Gotta run, gang. Thank you for jumping back in after two-week delay. We will continue to have these on Tuesdays at 11, back on our regular schedule. Cheers.
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