Mets’ Francisco Lindor, a union leader, discusses his views on MLB economics and analytics

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Andy Martino
·5 min read
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Francisco Lindor at spring training with mask on close up
Francisco Lindor at spring training with mask on close up

Last week, we asked Players Association executive subcommittee members Gerrit Cole and Zack Britton for their views on the upcoming collective bargaining discussions in baseball.

They emphasized the need for better competition, less tanking, incentives to win and increased focus on the entertainment value of the sport.

On Monday, Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor held his first Zoom news conference of spring training and reiterated several of Cole and Britton’s points. He joins the pair of Yankees on the union’s executive committee, meaning that three of the eight top player negotiators are either Yankees or Mets.

Lindor also delivered a related critique on the influence of analytics in the game. His words on that topic should not be understood as a takedown, but rather a nuanced reflection on changes in the sport.

Like Cole and Britton, Lindor was elected to the executive committee last December for the first time. Asked why he was interested in doing that work, he cited the examples of the many labor leaders who came before him.

“Being in the PA is huge,” Lindor said. “Being able to impact the game not just on the field but also off the field. People played the game the right way, and made decisions along the way that helped me get to here. They set the path for me already, and then the path stopped. And now it’s time for me to continue that path, to help the younger players make the game better. So when the younger players come the game is in a better place than where I found it. I found the game in a good place, but I want to make it better.”

Lindor did say that there were ways in which the game was moving “sideways” rather than forward. Pressed for specifics, he addressed several areas, including the ways in which analytics have made the sport less entertaining.

He also touched on revenue sharing and tanking.

“Analytics have taken over the game too much,” he said. “Let the players play the game. Also, the game is headed in the wrong direction [in that] you’re rewarding losing. A team loses 100 games and they get money at the end of the year because the bigger market teams are the teams that decided to spend money…

“They’ve got to give money away to help the other teams in the industry. And we want it to be fair for everybody. You want the players to make money. You want the owners to make money, and you want the fans to be able to enjoy the game. You want to go to the game and watch players play the game. You want to see excitement. We have been talking about speeding up the game for such a long time, but we have guys running all over the field [in defensive shifts].”

Shifts were a particular focus of Lindor’s critique of analytics.

“Analytics are good to prepare yourself,’ he said. “The odds, the percentages, those are real things. That’s why I like analytics. I’m not against it.

“But when they’re telling you how to run the game -- ‘Take the pitcher out, because this pitcher after 70 pitches, he’s not good. Take the pitcher out.’ Or, ‘You have to take the hitter out because he doesn't hit lefties.’ Well, he might see that lefty really good. Not all lefties are the same.

“They start telling you how to play the game and how to do things. You work your entire life to make the big leagues and to have the freedom of playing the game. All of a sudden now I have to move one step because he hits the ball a step from me 80 percent of the time. Yeah. Well, maybe that was against me, but the ground was different …

“Or I have to move two steps because he hits the ball in that direction 96 percent of the time ... It’s like I have to move. They’re telling me to move. It’s like, ‘no man, let me have my instincts. Let me do me.’

“I get really mad when I miss a ball because they were telling me the other way. That drives me nuts.

“I haven’t been in this position, thank God, but if you're going to take me out in the eighth because I’ve been 0 for 10 against this pitcher, and you're going to take me out and put someone in just because he has two hits, that’s just .. no. No.

“As an athlete, as a competitor you want to go out there and beat that guy. He beat me ten times, I’ve got to beat him once at least. Heart says a lot and determination says a lot more. Analytics are good, but to a certain extent. Analytics aren’t helping players get paid, either.”

There’s a lot to unpack there, but at the core of Lindor’s comments were the pride that he takes in knowing the game, and the resentment that can arise when a front office or coaching staff uses data to force a change.

Lindor’s initial point in raising the issue was as a response to our question about labor, and the PA’s message about making the game more watchable.

“It’s making the game a little slower,” Lindor said of analytics. “We want this to continue to be America’s game and have a lot of excitement. We want everybody to make money, not just the players … and we want the fans to have a great time at the stadium. We’re performers. We want the fans to have a great time.”