Kenley Jansen sure knows how to close out a baseball game.
How to win his way into a baseball fan’s heart is apparently another matter.
The Dodgers reliever made an appearance at the team’s annual FanFest on Saturday, where fans get a chance to meet and greet their baseball heroes.
A number of teams host similar events this time of year, and fans turn out by the thousands to rekindle their passion for the game they love and the players they idolize.
Saturday, Jansen did his best to throw cold water on that relationship, saying he’s so frustrated at the lack of free-agent signings this offseason that players should consider the ultimate form of protest.
“Maybe we have to go on strike, to be honest with you,” told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
Perhaps Jansen looked at the throng of fans who had forked over hard-earned money for a chance to meet players like him and realized that may not have been the place or time for such a statement, because he immediately tried to soften his stance.
“Maybe I could say that, for me, maybe we should go on strike and fix that,” Jansen said. “Maybe not. I think it’s a thing we maybe address that to the union. I’m not going to say that to you guys.
“I’m going to have that talk to the union, and we’ll see how it goes from there.”
Jansen was only 7 years old the last time MLB players went on strike during the season, so maybe he can be forgiven for not remembering the damage the walkout had on the game. It resulted in the 1994 season coming to a halt in August and forced the cancellation of the playoffs and World Series that year. It took several years for baseball to return to its pre-strike attendance levels.
So with players earning the type of money that wasn’t even fathomable in 1994, fans can’t help but roll their eyes upon hearing a player who is in the second year of an $80-million contract talk about the need for a strike.
While the possibility of a strike isn’t a threat anytime soon — the current labor deal between players and owners runs through the 2021 season — it’s understandable that players are getting frustrated that more than 100 free agents remaining unsigned just weeks before the start of spring training.
Granted, some of this year’s top unsigned free agents — such as pitcher Jake Arrieta and outfielder J.D. Martinez — are in the second half of their careers, and teams have every right to be cautious about offering five- or six-year deals for more than $100 million to players whose best seasons may be behind them.
What’s different about this year’s free-agent crop, however, is even the so-called gap fillers — veterans who fit a need on a club and whose contracts don’t radically change a team’s salary structure — aren’t being signed.
In some years, there’s a trickle-down effect. As the more expensive free agents are signed, it establishes the salaries for other free agents. And as the top free agents come off the board, it sometimes drives up demand for the dwindling supply of other free agents.
But this year, only six veteran free agents have signed deals, and none are considered among the top stars in terms of talent available on the market.
Players aren’t crying collusion just yet, but agent Scott Boras criticized the league’s “noncompetitive cancer,” saying some teams are willing to rake in record profits without spending money on the best talent.
But when general managers look at recent World Series champions like Houston, the Cubs and Kansas City, they see a similar formula — strip the roster of high-priced veterans, stockpile draft picks, develop young talent, and add free agents only when ready to compete for a championship.
Meanwhile, the Yankees (2009) and Dodgers (1988) haven’t been able to buy their way to a title in several years.
While the players’ frustration is understandable, it’s hard to argue with the models of recent success. Seems hard to believe the threat of a strike a few years down the road will change the strategies of front offices around the league.
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