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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 12/12/21

The lockout continues to take center stage; some thoughts on the top remaining free agents that the Yankees could be after

MLB: DEC 02 Major League Baseball Lockout Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sports Illustrated | Stephanie Apstein: One of the most fascinating aspects about the lockout has been Major League Baseball’s decision to refuse to acknowledge that its players exist and purge them from all league-run media. As Stephanie Apstein notes, “Team websites yanked down articles about current players and scrubbed their headshots from rosters. The league’s television network reruns ‘Field of Dreams.’ Its Instagram has posted only about the Hall of Fame, its TikTok only about celebrity first pitches.”

In this piece for Sports Illustrated, Apstein argues that the player’s union should use this as an opportunity for the players to put themselves into the center of the conversation on their own terms. All too often, the battle between the league and the union is framed as “millionaires versus billionaires,” in part because the media tends to only talk about the “outliers” who make millions. But if, for example, Michael Fulmer had a Zoom call with reporters about his experience as a plumber in the offseason to pay the bills, or how Jesse Chavez’s wife is a longshoreman “so that one of them can have a steady income,” they may be able to turn that narrative on its head and finally get fans to understand why the league’s economy is broken — and in the process, rally the league’s fanbase to put pressure on ownership.

CBS Sports | Dayn Perry: As the lockout drags on to Day 11, it’s instructive to look back at the 2020 fiasco that was the negotiations for the pandemic-shortened season. For starters, as much as the league likes to talk about the fact that there have been 26 years of labor peace, in truth that’s not at all accurate — after all, the two sides were unable to come to an agreement last year, in large part because the owners decided to run out the clock before Rob Manfred imposed a 60-game season.

Second, ownership made it clear that not only do they mislead the fanbase about the teams’ profitability — they don’t need to release their finances because they are a private businesses, after all — they are more than willing to hide their own financial records from the players. In essence, this results in them demanding concessions in order to keep the business afloat without actually proving that these concessions are necessary for anything more than lining ownership pockets.

Third, owners continually make offers that are dead on arrival, repackaging previous offers so that they seem different but in truth actually aren’t. This tactic has been recycled this year, as the league did not submit a single proposal to the player’s union in the days leading up to the lockout.

Last, and certainly not least, it appears that the player’s union is united and ready for a fight, from the highest-paid players in the game like Max Scherzer all the way to the Quadruple-A players barely hanging on to a spot on the 40-man roster.

New York Post | Joel Sherman: Although providing a few reasons that one could use to defend the Yankees’ pre-lockout inaction — namely, the high payroll, the relative silence from other big-market teams like the Red Sox and Dodgers, and the fact that they already have a strong core to add some of the 200+ free agents return to the market when the lockout ends — Sherman notes that the Yankees cannot sit on their hands once the lockout does end, as the team has holes at shortstop, first base, center field, behind the plate, and in the rotation.

Noting the team’s previous offer of $25 million for Justin Verlander, the Yankees are prepared for a payroll of at least $250 million, Sherman sees them at least checking in on Freddie Freeman, Carlos Correa, and Trevor Story, though he believes all three will sign elsewhere. If that were to happen, the Yankees would need to look at alternatives, both in the trade market (e.g., Matt Olson) and in free agency (e.g., Anthony Rizzo).

This isn’t baseball news, but we do want to shout out the New York City Football Club, who won their first MLS Cup by defeating the Portland Timbers by a score of 4-2 in penalty kicks. In the process, NYCFC — a team partially owned by the Yankees and which plays its home games at Yankee Stadium — brought home the first title to New York since the New York Giants won the Super Bowl in 2012 ... before the team even existed! Hopefully some of their postseason luck will rub off on the Yankees in 2022.