J.D. Martinez Calls Out MLB to Fix Glaring Problem in Baseball

Rob Bradford
March 02, 2020 - 12:19 pm

FORT MYERS, Fla. — J.D. Martinez is perturbed. And he isn’t alone.

When Major League Baseball Players’ Association chief Tony Clark came to JetBlue Park last week he was met with a particular concern that Martinez can’t shake: Major League Baseball seems OK with too many teams being fine with the idea of not winning.

“In the new CBA we have to figure out a way to make teams competitive,” Martinez told WEEI.com, referencing a collective bargaining agreement that expires after the 2021 season. “I believe we are losing a lot of fan bases in certain cities because ther are no rewards for winning. There's more of a reward for losing in today’s game than anything. I think we’re losing a lot of fans because teams are more motivated to lose than they are to win. Right now you can figure out the top three or four teams in the league and what teams are going to be competing for the World Series. That’s not how it should be. That’s what the game needs to get better at, making it more balanced.

“(Commissioner Rob) Manfred goes on record by saying salaries have no influence on whether teams are trying to win or not, which is totally wrong. If that was the case then get rid of the luxury tax. They don’t do that. Why? We have to figure out a way to reward teams for competing and not reward them for losing.”

Clark, of course, has been hit with a myriad of concerns from the players as he tours these camps. But the one Martinez brings up seems to have legs when it comes to the MLBPA wanting to make it a priority.

At least that is the vibe Martinez gives off.

“Of course,” he said when asked if the topic was being broached with Clark. “Everybody is on the same page. I think you heard players lash out the last couple of years about free agency and how teams aren’t competitive. There’s a new way and it’s either tank or go all in and that’s not the way it should be.”

There is no doubt a player like Martinez has a vested interest in teams paying money, with the slugger earning the right to enter free agency after this season. But he also sees how his game is trending in more than a few markets when it comes to sustained interest.

J.D. Martinez points to the dugout during a Red Sox game.
Photo credit Getty Images

Martinez grew up idolizing the world champion Marlins in 1997 and 2003, now wondering what his fandom would look like if he lived life following this recent version of the Miami club.

“Take away rewards from teams for losing,” he said. “That whole idea isn’t working. Look at the game today, it’s so split in half. You have your outlier like Tampa, but those are rare. To me, teams are losing a lot of fans and MLB is losing a lot of fans.

“Manfred’s idea of adding more playoff teams, that’s not it. To me, it’s stop rewarding them for losing. Start rewarding teams for winning. You win, you get rewarded. Every time nowadays you sign a player and you have to give them a draft pick. No. Why? It enables teams to do more of that. They don’t want to give their draft picks away because that’s what they value more.

“Think it about like this: You’ve got little Tommy who lives in Pittsburgh and he’s six years old. When he’s six we’re rebuilding in Pittsburgh. We’re on a rebuild program. So now little Tommy goes four years without ever getting influenced to go to a Pirates game because they’re not good. I’m not trying to pick on the Pirates, I’m just giving an example. That’s a generation you might lose to another sport because maybe the Penguins might be good. So all of a sudden the kid is more attracted to hockey because when you’re a kid that’s what you want to see. You want to see the team that is in the playoffs. That’s what the buzz around the city is. So when you have half the teams shutting down you’re going to lose generations. They don’t feel it now but I have a feeling they are going to feel it in the future.”

So, what is the solution? In Martinez’s mind, it’s simple: A floor tax. Just as teams are penalized for going over the competitive balance threshold, they should be whacked for not spending to a certain level. 

Considering MLB’s revenues have grown four-fold since the last CBA was negotiated, proponents of this idea have some ammunition.

“Put a luxury tax on the floor. Put a floor tax,” Martinez said. “You want to go under, you’re going to get penalized. Now all of a sudden the Marlins can’t go out and trade their entire outfield. Now you have to keep players who are relevant so it forces you to be relevant. You’re not sitting in there tanking. The teams take advantage of it. They get the money at the end of the day and put it right in their pockets.

“You put a floor, you make them tax it. To me there's no reason teams should not be spending money in today’s game. You look at this game, from our last CBA agreement I think the average was $2.5-3 billion to over $10.5 now, but the tax is the same. Where is that money going? There is a lot of money that is being put in. The problem is that the players get the bad rep because they say all these players are being greedy and they want all the money. The problem is that the owners are making four times the amount they made so where is all that money going?

“(Manfred's job), as the commissioner, (is) to protect the actual game, the growing of the game. He’s missing out on generations. Generations are not going to experience baseball in all these places because their teams aren’t relevant. There is no interest. Kids want to see relevant teams. An adult might say, ‘OK, we’re rebuilding and it’s going to be OK.’ That’s an adult. They have already been fans.”

He has a point.

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