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March 08, 2022
Major League Soccer’s Revenue Machine + MLB’s Continued Lockout

In This Episode

In Renee’s final episode with Takeline, Kevin Baxter of the LA Times joins the show to talk about how Major League Soccer continues to grow and Hannah Keyser of Yahoo! Sports checks in to give an update on Major League Baseball’s lockout.


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Jason Concepcion : A.D. And LeBron are two of the top 12, 15 players in the NBA. Y’all won a championship very recently. I would cut off both of my feet to win a title. And whatever happened afterwards would be worth it. Hello and welcome to Takeline. A great show today where we’ll talk to L.A. Times sports reporter Kevin Baxter about MLS’s new season, which has been moved around because of the World Cup. Later, Hannah Keyser of Yahoo Sports joins us with an update on MLB’s lockout and whether or not more of the season than is currently been canceled is in jeopardy. But first, we have some, some large news, some large and somewhat sad news to get to. Today is Rene’s last show. Renee speak to the people.


Renee Montgomery : Yeah, man, today’s my last show and I wanted to make sure that we came on here and had one last hurrah with the gang’s all here. So proud of what we built. We were just talking about it it before we started rolling. But just crazy proud of what we built here would Takeline .The the listeners like you guys tapping in all the time. So, love Jason, love the whole group. Everything that we’re building here its just as as time moves on and things move on and I had to as well in a sense of just building in different things. But man, did I love what happened here. Takeline is forever a part of my heart. So yes, you guys, you know this is this is just a I’ll see you in a little bit. Not bye forever. But.


Jason Concepcion : That’s right.


Renee Montgomery : This will be our last show


Jason Concepcion : When we went through the process of trying to put this podcast together and we had done chemistry tests with multiple people, and then we did a chemistry test together and I was like, man, Renee is good. I was talking about it with Carlton ugh Gillespie’s our former producer thats now moved on to a writing program with Disney


Renee Montgomery : Shouts to Carlton!


Jason Concepcion : And some other folks, Caroline included. I was like, man, I don’t know if we end up landing Renee, but whatever happens, we’re going to be seeing her. Ugh because it was pretty obvious and it has been pretty obvious, obviously.


Renee Montgomery : Well, listen, our chemistry test was like a whole show, so he’s like literally after our chemistry tests, people had told us, like, you know, that felt like a real show, like right off the bat. Our first test was like, Oh, this could work. Like, I saw it. I felt it. I don’t know if you did, but it was like,it was lit from the jump.


Jason Concepcion : Oh yeah, for sure. It was obvious. Well, Renee, it’s not goodbye. See you later.


Renee Montgomery : Perfect. Yes. And we’re going to still have a show. So let’s get. We’re going to have a show today. It’s going to just be. So let’s get right to it.


Jason Concepcion : All right, well, energy shift, incoming.


Renee Montgomery : Yes.


Jason Concepcion : Some scary and anxiety inducing news, as much of the news is at the moment. In Russia, it was recently revealed that Brittney Griner, seven time All-Star for the Phoenix Mercury, has been detained in Russia outside of Moscow at the airport. She was pulled aside for allegedly having a vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. And she has been in Russian custody for a number of weeks since February at this point. Griner was traveling in Russia to play with her team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, and it’s believed that Griner may have been. You know this again, she has probably been in custody for several days. A lot of WNBA players make extra money playing in Russia, where the pay is quite good. This is obviously a scary story in the way that interacts with larger global events with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions that have been placed on Russia by the E.U., the U.S. and NATO partners, and the overall tension between the West and Russia. Renee, you’ve played over in Russia.


Renee Montgomery : Yeah.


Jason Concepcion : You know Brittney. What? What’s your reaction to this story?


Renee Montgomery : Well, my reaction really, like my first thoughts was when I was playing in Ashdod, Israel, our city got bombed. There was different things going on, you know, like civil unrest in their country. And so the city I was in got bombed and the sirens were going constantly. So when I started to watch what was going on with Ukraine and Russia and you started to hear the sirens, it well actually my snook, my mom, it triggered her because every time she would call me, she would hear those noises in the background. They didn’t know what was going on, but they had to evacuate my team. So we went into a shelter in place at first. They had to evacuate my team. Then we went to Tel Aviv because that was a distance away from Ashdod. And I could just remember the uncomfortableness of being in another country. And there’s stuff going on with the country and I’m isolated from my family. I’m isolated from everything. And so I remember almost understanding that, OK, I’m not in direct danger. Like, maybe if somewhere I’m close to gets hit, that’s dangerous. But I remember feeling very isolated and that’s the only word I can use because in America it wasn’t as big of a topic and wasn’t a lot going on. But in Israel it was. It was huge news. And so it’s just I can’t imagine I say all that to say, I just can’t imagine what B.G. is going through because I wasn’t necessarily directly a target. I was just in a city that was a target, and I felt isolated and I felt like, you know, very uncomfortable about the situation. So for her to be, you know, this is her, it’s not even just the city. This is Brittney Griner has been detained. She’s the one. I just, man, I just the first. My first thoughts are her family and her wife, which her wife had, you know, put out a message that was saying, please give them their privacy. So it’s kind of tough because, you know, you don’t really know what the situation is. But that was just my first thoughts, Jason, off top that I can remember being in Ashdod, Israel and have situations happen and how I just wanted to get home, you know?


Jason Concepcion : Yeah, I think the how quiet this has been is the thing that kind of worries me about it because you’d think high profile person like Brittney, potentially like a a case that could make a splash. And then the fact that you mention Brittney, Brittney’s wife, wants people to just kind of not make a big deal of this right now. I am sure that since February 5th or thereabouts, when Brittney last posted to Instagram, people must have known that she was potentially in custody. And so you only have to assume that there are conversations going on behind the scenes at a very tense and a very high level, which is scary. You know, not to besmirch Russian law enforcement and airport security in Moscow, but. You have to suspect on some level that this has something to do with the broader conflict that’s going on in the world, whether it’s Russia seeking to have some kind of leverage over the U.S., saying, Hey, you’re going to enact sanctions on us, but just know that you’ve got American citizens here in Moscow, you know, as a as a way to say here is one of the most notable ones, but you’ve got other American citizens here in the country.


Renee Montgomery : And that’s the thing, you know, it’s it’s the the unknown, I think is the scariest part is the what’s going on? Why don’t we know more and what’s going to happen next? And we understand and it’s this we’re not naive to the situation that’s at hand. Like there’s there’s a whole war going on. The last place you want to be is where the war is, but she’s not allowed to leave. And so, you know, I’m hearing so many different things in a sense of just tweets and and “oh this sentence carries 10 to 15 years.” “Oh, this is drug smuggling.” And all these different things, and it’s crazy because it’s it’s just like the unknown. Yes, maybe whatever they’re saying, but it’s like, OK, but when is there going to be a trial? Where is she? When are you going to find some answers? That’s just it’s the unknown that just really makes me uncomfortable. And to that point, there are other people over there and there are other people detained. You know, I’ve heard that there’s multiple Americans. And so that makes me uncomfortable too, because what’s the plan for that? What’s going to happen with that? Like, there’s so many things like I don’t have the answers to, it’s just my heart goes out to to B.G. and everyone else detained.


Jason Concepcion : Yeah. This is not the most important part of this story. But as we spoke about, a lot of WNBA players have played in Russia seasonally. When the season ends here, they’ll go over overseas somewhere. Russia is a big part of that formula. Are WNBA players who are already, you know, not making the reason they have to play two seasons in a year is because, you know, they’re just not making the same amount of money as other professional athletes. Is this going to be an economic hit? Do you think for for some players, for in a sport where players are already making less?


Renee Montgomery : I mean, let’s just take this year where, you know, she was playing for a team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, which is like one of the top teams you can play for. Their bonuses alone, like the players that already Allie Quigley already left and came home, Courtney Vandersloot Saint those were teammates of Brittney Griner. They already left and came home and the bonuses alone of which they missed. Probably this year for Euroleague and for their conference. Just that alone could be in the hundreds of thousands easily. Just and I’m talking about because I’m just going to speak on what I can speak on right now. This year, they probably left hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table by leaving before the Championship because, you know, the bonus money. So basically everybody left before they could get any bonus money. So just this year alone, players have left hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table. And who knows, like, it’s just that’s the end of the thing. Who knows when the war will end? Who knows what the effect for it afterwards will be? Who knows what? Like, that’s that’s the big thing about this whole situation is like you, we don’t have any idea what’s when’s the end date, when it’s going to be normal again? We thought because I just go back to COVID when we thought a lot of things were going to be normal and in a certain amount of time, I mean, I thought you would have never thought in twenty twenty two when this stuff happened with COVID, you would have never thought in 2022 that we would be excited that mask mandates are being lifted right now. You know, like we you would have never thought that we would be in this position. So it’s like, I don’t I don’t know what to think about the war. I don’t know what to think about when it’s going to end. And I don’t know what to think about how Europe is going to recover in general. And that’s like I said, the unknown is the scariest things to me.


Jason Concepcion : You know, one thing that I keep thinking about how this situation with Brittney has really made it real in a different kind of way for a bunch of people. I’m sure the people that are both fans of the WNBA and know Brittney and are in that community. This is a scary moment. It’s a scary moment for everybody who has loved ones and family members in Europe and the Baltic states and is of Ukrainian background. And I just I guess like, you know, I hope that as I watch the way that like Ukrainian refugees are being welcomed in other countries, I hope that we can find a way to keep that energy for other refugee groups as people flee war. Because it is, it’s been notable how the outpouring of empathy and like feeling for people who deserve it because they’re fleeing their homes in a terrifying situation. I hope we can have that for other people because it feels like a thing we don’t do enough is care about people who are just running from war.


Renee Montgomery : No, definitely. You know, it’s crazy because, you know, you hear all these things like World Peace and we need world peace. And we need this and that, and now you start to realize why people why those sayings and things like that existed, because when people have been in war before or when it was war times, that was all people wanted. And so now we’re in, you know, a war right now. And and not necessarily the U.S. its not on our soil per se, but when there’s a war in the world going on that could affect everyone. It’s like you really start to it really puts things in perspective. I’m telling you, it’s like I started to think like while you’re traveling, like, everything starts to get put in the respect of what you might take for granted beforehand when things just were safe or things felt safer right now, a war going on, it’s like things just don’t feel so safe.


Jason Concepcion : I was talking with some friends last night, my girlfriend about like stuff we were doing pre-COVID and man and we were like man. It felt like simpler, didn’t it? It felt like it’s a completely different world. And that was still like Trump era stuff was bad. Yeah, but it’s wild to think how blind we were to how bad it could get.


Renee Montgomery : How good we had it. You don’t know how it’s crazy because it’s like, no, like, we’re not saying the Trump era presidency was good, but it was. There was civil unrest here in America. Big time. There was the division, big time and then. But it wasn’t a war. Basically, it’s like. But now it’s like, Wow, there’s a war and there’s nuclear talk. And it was like, Man, we were just like, we were fighting racism honestly in 2020, and we were fighting a lot of inequalities and we still are in twenty twenty two fighting those same things. And now in twenty twenty two on top of those things that we’re fighting, there’s also a war happening in our world and that just feels uncomfortable.


Jason Concepcion : Well, our thoughts go out to Brittney and everybody impacted by


Renee Montgomery : prayers up for her family, for her


Jason Concepcion : invasion of Ukraine and hope everybody gets home safe. It’s a tense situation that and we hope to hear more soon.


Renee Montgomery : OK, so, Jason, we did have a lot of on court basketball action over the weekend, we’re talking about LeBron dropped 56, a 50 piece nugget at home against the Warriors and I think that that needs to be said like it was against the Warriors to snap a four game losing streak. The Celtics fans rained down. Kyrie sucks chants on the Brooklyn Nets. He said he was pretty much expecting that for the rest of his life. Jayson Tatum dropped 54. I mean, gosh, you know, with these 50 piece nuggets. And of course, we can’t forget about Coach K’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. But it was kind of a spoiler alert.


Jason Concepcion : And don’t forget somebody else dropped a 50 piece nugget too Julius Randle, dropped a $50000 fine.


Renee Montgomery : Lord have Mercy Well, let’s just that’s where we’ll start then Jason. Tell us about that 50 piece nugget.


Jason Concepcion : Man this was a painful one for me. So Knicks play the Suns. No Booker, no Chris Paul. But the Suns are very, very good team. I was talking to my friend Kevin O’Connor, former coworker and some other people. We were having dinner. And the Suns remind me of the classic Popovich Spurs teams. They are just so dedicated to getting the best shot all the time, and it doesn’t matter who it is, it’s taken the shot. And so the Knicks are playing them. I’m out to dinner, I’m watching on my phone. I’m watching it with Aaron Edwards, who writes for All Caps and is a very loud Phoenix Suns fan. And the Knicks are up by five, they’re up by 12, they’re up by three. And the whole time I’m saying we will lose this game, don’t worry about it. Aaron, you’re going to win. I know it looks like the Knicks are hanging in, but we’re going to lose this game. We’re going to lose it. We ended up losing the game on a banked three at the buzzer, which even knowing that we were going to lose the game, I was not ready for us to lose a game like that. I was I didn’t want it to happen like that, you know, either way, I win. If they win, it’s great. We we got to win, which we haven’t done in a little bit. If we lose, hey, we get that draft pick. That’s where I’m at right now. I just want. I just want to see good things happen for RJ. I want to see him continue to develop and play well. I want to see the young guys continue to develop and play well. And let’s just like, man, let’s just run out this season. It’s been such a disappointment. It’s been absolutely brutal.


Renee Montgomery : It’s tough because it’s like you can’t help but be invested. That’s what I think. Like, you even talked about it, you said, you know, you kind of figured you were going to lose, but when you actually lost in the manner you lost, that’s that’s how it is. You know, the Hawks have taken some on the chin. We recently got a win in D.C. on a close game, but we’ve been so up and down. The team doesn’t know why the team talks about it, like we’re trying to figure it out. It feels like we’re playing well at times and then we lose one that I just can’t understand. So with the Hawks, it’s the same. It’s like I’ll never not be invested because it’s just if that’s the team you’re pulling for, whether it’s a game you think you might win, lose or draw, you’re going to be invested in. So with the Hawks, it’s just like, I don’t know, I’m still waiting on the magic in a sense of I don’t count us out until it’s like, I really think that anything can happen. John Collins has been out for a while for us. And if people don’t follow the team closely, he’s like our heart. He’s the spirit. He’s the guy. He’s the high energy. When he gets his dunks and when he’s on a roll, that’s that’s the highlights that you’ll see on sports center. And that’s why we won. In a sense of those are momentum plays. And so he’s been out for a really, really long time and we felt it.


Jason Concepcion : You mentioned LeBron James scored 56, Lakers beat the Warriors and it feels like every Laker win is a diamond pulled from the depths of the earth.


Renee Montgomery : Facts


Jason Concepcion : It requires it requires LeBron James to like mine into the bedrock by himself with a pick ax. LeBron. It was superhuman stuff from LeBron. It’s wild to watch him be this good. Some of my Lakers friends are calling this the most disappointing Lakers season in history, which I’m like, Y’all just won a championship like not that long ago.


Renee Montgomery : Two a couple of years ago.


Renee Montgomery : Please calm down. But I mean, what do you think? Is this the most disappointing Lakers season in in a remembered history, recent history?


Renee Montgomery : I mean, I don’t know, because I can remember and again, rest in peace. I can remember when Kobe’s teams weren’t as great as people thought they were going to be. And the fans were not happy in a sense of Laker nation. Once it’s like a championship or like or we’re the worst team ever, it’s like with the Laker nation and a fan base that is so used to winning. And so that says a lot about the Laker organization. But Laker Nation, if they’re not Championship contenders, its the worst season ever for them, you know, my best friend is a Laker fan, shouts to Lisa, What up? Its so funny watching her tweets like, I don’t know what it’s like if you if anybody has a Laker friend like, you know what I’m talking about?


Jason Concepcion : Yes.


Renee Montgomery : Watching their tweets, you would never know that this is the organization that delivered a championship. I mean, in the recent years, couple of years ago, you would just never know it by how they talk. It feels like when you talk to them or see them tweet, it feels like they’ve been in the dungeon for years.


Jason Concepcion : Yeah.


Renee Montgomery : And it feels like they’ve had to just fight it out.


Jason Concepcion : Decades is in the wilderness.


Renee Montgomery : Support this team.


Jason Concepcion : How could Pilliga do this? This is terrible. I’m going on like A again, A.D. And LeBron or two of the top 12 15 players in the NBA. Y’all won a championship very recently. I would cut off both of my feet to win a title. And whatever happened afterwards would be worth it.


Renee Montgomery : Hello. I’m a Hawks fan. We will take well. We I will take a championship and then five years of misery. I won’t be complain for the next five years. But again, that’s why we’re talking about Laker Nation, because they are used to being at least a contender. A lot of times, like most times out of not, they’re used to having a good team. So when there’s these years where there is lulls and it’s not good, it’s just, I mean, it’s a comedy watching Laker fans, that’s what I’ll say. And yes, to LeBron’s point, what in the world a 37 year old man taking over the game like that. If you just want to see greatness its like that. That is greatness. I don’t care what’s going on in the Lakers season, what’s happening with LeBron James and how this team, he seems to have to carry them. That’s greatness.


Jason Concepcion : I mean, there’s five Hall of Famers on that team, including LeBron, right, A.D., Melo, Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard. It is insane how to the degree that he is their best player. Like


Renee Montgomery : It’s shocking, not shocking, but shocking


Jason Concepcion : And no shots to A.D., who. I do wonder if we’ve seen the peak for him at this point, you know, because where it used to be, he’d get injured. He be, you know, in and out, but he’d come back and would hit it right away. They were like 11 and 10 with him in the lineup this season, and it wasn’t until the last few weeks of him being healthy that he seemed like he was really like getting it together defensively wasn’t all there. It’s wild how LeBron is still that guy on a team like that its truly insane.




Renee Montgomery : Kevin Baxter writes about soccer and other things from the L.A. Times, where he has worked 24 years, but he’s covered five World Cups, three Olympic Games, six World Series and a Super Bowl, and has contributed to three Pulitzer Prize winning series at the Times and Miami Herald. We brought him in today to help explain where Major League Soccer is heading. Kevin, welcome to Takeline.


Kevin Baxter : Thanks for having me in.


Renee Montgomery : OK, so Charlotte FC broke an attendance record over the weekend was seventy four thousand four hundred and seventy nine fans in attendance for their first ever home game. That is, wild.


Jason Concepcion : It’s truly nuts.


Renee Montgomery : Like, that’s crazy. So what does that say about where the visibility of Major League Soccer is trending? My goodness.


Kevin Baxter : Well, one of the things it says is that Major League Soccer is a little bit hypocritical because they’re talking about this record crowd in an NFL stadium. But they’ve also been on record multiple times, just saying they don’t want to play in NFL stadiums anymore, that they want to have smaller, soccer specific downtown arenas where fans are close to the action. So on one hand, they celebrate the big crowds in places like Charlotte, Atlanta, Seattle, which also plays in the national stadium. But then, on the other hand, they say they want these smaller, intimate venues. Another problem with Charlotte is, as you mentioned, that was their first game, first ever home game. They’re two games into their MLS experience. They haven’t won a game yet. So how many of those seventy three thousand plus are going to come back to the next game if this team is winless? The coach has already said take a look at the roster in preseason, he said. We’ve got a lot of problems. He said he had basically his quote in Spanish was, We’re screwed. So that’s how he talked about his own team in the preseason. So it’s great, you know, out of the box to have this big crowd. It’s wonderful shows that it shows that there is a possibility and there is a fan base for this. But the team’s going to have to win and that’s what it comes down to. MLS is going to have to put a product on the field because all of us every weekend we can watch the Premier League, we can watch the Bundesliga, we can watch the best teams in Europe play and then we look at MLS. And if the quality is not there, we’re not going to spend our money there.


Jason Concepcion : Charlotte FC are now the 28th team to join MLS. The league plans to hit 30 shortly by, you know, about 2023, with the addition of Sacramento and St. Louis as MLS teams. The expansion has really been remarkable in how it’s taken place, and I think one of the things that I’m always interested in when I’m when I’m thinking about MLS and how they’ve managed to do this is the ownership structure of MLS, which I think is is quite different than any other structure in certainly American pro sports, at least the big ones. Could you tell us about that?


Kevin Baxter : Yeah, a little bit about expansion, a little bit about the ownership structure. It’s a single entity structure that means technically MLS, the league, not the teams they’re in charge of of all players and players salaries, players actually sign a contract with the league. They don’t sign with the team. So if LA Galaxy decides to sign a certain player, they negotiate the contract. They fit it under the salary structure, but the player signed with the league. OK, so what does that mean? Well, it means a lot of things. It means one that when a player becomes a free agent and Charlotte is bidding against the galaxy, realistically it’s the league bidding against itself. That’s why free agency really has yet to take off in MLS. It what it was. It’s it’s a way to try to keep salaries down. The last professional soccer league in the US, the North American Soccer League, got thirty five years ago. They ran into a problem when owners started to pay players what they couldn’t afford to pay them and the league folded. So there’s a salary structure thing. But when you talk about expansion and they’ve expanded at back in the mid 2000s, around 2005/2006, the league was like 12 teams. And now they’re going to be at twenty nine next season with St. Louis, and then Las Vegas is going to join. That’s going to be 30. There’s a number of reasons for that. One, they want the geographical footprint. We’re a continent sized country. We need to have a continent sized league and cities that what league cities want to get in. Owners want to get in some of it. Some big name owners have come in recently. People like Ken Griffey Jr. and Russell Wilson bought into Seattle. Matthew McConaughey in Austin, Dwayne Wade in Salt Lake. These teams pay up in the case of Charlotte, the most recent expansion team that started playing their expansion fee was three hundred and twenty five million dollars. That’s what they’re paid to join the league. Now you say, well, that’s not like baseball teams pay more. Yes, they do. But think about the fact that that’s two and a half times what MLS gets from its TV contract. So, yeah, their TV contract per year. It’s the last year of this TV contract, and it’s with a number of entities that MLS Fox, Univision, they get $90 million, they get three hundred and twenty five million in one check from a team just to say, I’m going to be part of your league. That doesn’t include the stadium. It didn’t include the players. It’s always been my feeling that MLS, which has not made a profit they’re in their 26 season. The league itself has not made a profit. That these expansion fees are helping subsidize and fund the league. That’s why they keep expanding. It’s starting to get a little bit unwieldy and we talk first about the talent level. Well, every time you had a team, that means you had twenty five thirty new players. If the talent level is not conducive to a Premier League, which we know it’s not a Bundesliga or attractive product on the field. Why do you keep diluting it by adding players who may not be ready for prime time every year?


Jason Concepcion : Well, make quick follow up one thing I think the expansion is done and the running of the academy systems of various MLS teams is it’s managed to uncover at a perhaps at a younger time frame some some talent in the U.S. that can then move up the system and then join the U.S. national team and get into that system. That said, how long can this go on under this same kind of structure? You said it. Like it’s not to call it a Ponzi scheme, but like when the expansion fees are such a huge part of the income, how long until that’s untenable for there to be another stream of income for this entity? And can it grow much bigger under a single entity structure?


Kevin Baxter : Well, you hinted at one solution which is developing players. FC Dallas. Their academy has been great. You, they’ve let people come through like Ricardo Pepe and others that they have sold to Europe. And now there is a new mechanism in which they get a cut of the transfer deal. If a player they develop in their academy, that’s one revenue stream that is very lucrative for some teams. That not so much for others, but the idea is if FC Dallas can do it, why can’t the galaxy? Why can’t Real Salt Lake can another team? And the idea is to produce more players for the team, but also to sell them. So that’s one revenue stream. Another is TV. We talked a little bit about TV. It looks like the new TV deal will be maybe three to four times the worth of the current one. OK, so that’s still under $400 million a year. You know, the English Premier League loses that in the seat cushions every weekend, but that’s a start. And then I think the real inflection point will be 2026 when the World Cup comes to the US, Mexico and Canada. I think you look at the demographics of soccer fans. They’re very young. They have disposable income. They’re very computer savvy. They’re sort of continental if you want, you know, when I think with the World Cup comes, I just think that there’s going to be sort of a soccer feeding frenzy. And that’s what people I think are going to get into. And they’re going to say, Hey, I can’t fly to England to watch Manchester City play, but I can go down the street and watch the L.A. Galaxy. And that’s pretty close. And there’s some players I recognize from the World Cup. We’ve seen that with the women’s national team for example. So I think 2026 will be the inflection point.


Renee Montgomery : So I’m curious kind of just to piggy on that. You talked about the women’s national team. Where are they in their league as opposed to how the Major League Soccer league is doing? Because to me, it feels like the Women’s Soccer League has a handle on things, and we know they just won that big case. But where are they in all of that? That’s the U.S. national soccer team. But where are they with in the sense of how their league is doing?


Kevin Baxter : Well, their league is growing. This year it’ll be 12 teams. Which will be the largest they’ve ever had. Salaries are not good. A lot of players wind up jumping to fledgling leagues in Europe, which there’s a league in England now, which is pretty good in Italy and the league in France is very good one in Spain, a really talented player came out of UCLA a year earlier. Her name is Mia Fishel. She was drafted in the first round in the NWSL draft and wound up going to play in Mexico instead. So the league is over a decade old now. It’s set itself up. It’s got some, some decent owners, but it’s coming out of a scandal ridden season where a lot of coaches were accused of sexual harassment. So the league is retrenching. They have new commissioner in charge on an interim basis. They have a lot of new owners, a lot of new coaches. There’s a new energy. I talked to Jill Ellis, who used to be coach of the U.S. national team. She won two World Cups with the U.S. national team. She’s now president of the fledgling team, that expansion team in San Diego. She looked at this as a reset. They’re going to get a chance to restart, start clean. She said. It’s very important that they expand and they have more teams and that they’ve become a continental sized league as well. But what she likes about the league is just the yeah, there’s better player, maybe better players in some other leagues. Some of the other leagues may have. The Barclays, for example, is a financial supporter of the league in England. But what Jill said is our league is more competitive. You don’t see the first and second placed team play a game on the score line, be nine to nothing. As we just saw in in Spain last week. So and that helps the national team. The national team is still the tip of the spear here because, you know, there are twenty three players in the national team. We all recognize the names Alex Morgan, Chris Dupress Julie Ernst. They get filtered out to their club teams. And so you don’t really have that star power on a club team that’s not there yet, as some MLS teams have


Jason Concepcion : as we head off into the season. Any predictions here in YFC one at last season as a. New York Red Bulls fan that was very hard for me and disheartening in my entire connection with New York Red Bull. In fact, has been broadly painful to me for over 15 years now. Though we had some good times when Tyrion Unre was there. Any predictions for the season as we move on?


Kevin Baxter : Well, I think we know already that Charlotte’s not going to be very good, even their coach doesn’t think they are. I really like Seattle. I think Seattle is a really strong team. By the way, the Red Bulls beat Toronto yesterday, which is supposed to be good. So that’s good. I really like Seattle. I think that they have a very good team. They’re deep again. Garth Lagerwey, who is their general manager, is a magician and he has money to spend and he has a good team already. I think Nashville moving over from the east, where they were a dominant team over to the West, I think they’re going to be very good. I look at the East and I see Bruce Arena, who is an interesting case because he had the best team in MLS history last year. They didn’t win the title, but the regular season record was the best in MLS history. Then he is loaded up with a lot of older players he had from his prime years as coach of the Galaxy. And I I commend the loyalty, but I wonder if all these guys that other teams don’t want how they’re going to perform with Bruce. So far, they’re playing pretty well. But we’ll see how they do over thirty four games.


Jason Concepcion : He is Los Angeles Times columnist Kevin Baxter. Kevin, thank you so much for joining Takeline.


Renee Montgomery : Thanks, Kevin.


Kevin Baxter : Thanks for having me on.


Jason Concepcion : [AD].


Jason Concepcion :  Continuing developments in MLB labor strife, owners and players failed to reach an agreement last week, Commissioner Rob Manfred has announced that the season will not start on time. Some series have been pushed back. The players have taken the last few days as an opportunity to drop firebombs on Rob Manfred on social media platforms in a constant barrage. And that means that we could only have the great Hannah Keyser of Yahoo Sports come to tell us, whose fault is it this time? What is going on? And are the owners capable of negotiating in good faith? Literally ever. Hannah Keyser, welcome to take line.


Hannah Keyser : Alright, you want me to answer those one at time? You guys always have me on to talk such fun stuff! Fun stuff. To talk such fun stuff. Ugh, whose fault is it this time? Well, the the season being postponed, that’s that’s Rob Manfred’s fault. That’s the owner’s fault. Can they bargain in good faith? They can. They’re making. They’re making some progress. Sure. Let’s go one at a time.


Jason Concepcion : Yeah, sure. What’s going on? Well, OK. So take us through kind of like the major sticking points as we speak. There have been some announcements about a new proposal from MLB, which I haven’t looked at deeply, but it feels like the kind of main sticking points being, I guess the main one being the competitive balance tax, CBT, what will happen with that remain off the table at this point, untouched unrecognized. So take us through what what the main sticking points are and what’s up with the CBT?


Hannah Keyser : Yeah. So what’s interesting at this point in bargaining is that they’ve pretty much both sides have backed off their various radical proposals. So way back when the lockout first started, the union wanted earlier free agency, potentially earlier arbitration. They wanted to change revenue sharing the league wanted these this was this was a particular sticking point. The League One of these really onerous additional taxes for teams that go over the luxury tax that would make it into even more of a salary cap than it is now. And at this point in bargaining, so they did make some progress while we were down in Florida bargaining for nine days straight. Both sides have pretty much given up everything that isn’t just arguing over numbers. So like they sort of agreed to a framework. A big, big part of the progress of the league has made or that the union has elicited from the league is that the owners have bought into this idea of a bonus pool for young players. That’s a big deal. They’re talking about a draft lottery there. The union wants six picks, the league wants five picks. So all of this is stuff that they’ve actually agreed on. That is progress, but they’re really far apart on like the literal numbers like at this point, essentially just the players asking for a quote unquote raise. You brought up the CBT. It’s what we talk about is the luxury tax. So the CBT is like the quote unquote soft cap in baseball that doesn’t have a hard cap. Like other sports, it has the soft cap. If you go over a certain amount in payroll, you have to pay these taxes and it just hasn’t grown at the same rate as revenue. And if it doesn’t grow at the same rate as revenue, then it becomes more and more like a cap over time. Like originally, it was just supposed to affect, like really extreme runaway spending. But if owners are making more and more money and the cap is only going up a little bit at the time, that it’s affecting more and more teams until it’s effectively a cap.


Jason Concepcion : So I guess if if people weren’t paying close attention, they might say, OK, well, the New York Mets spend like 200 plus million dollars on their squad and then the Pittsburgh Pirates spend. I don’t even know what the number is, but I’m guessing that it’s like $200 million less or thereabouts. So why not? Like, yeah, like if the Dodgers in the Mets and all the big marquee teams want to go crazy, then why not redistribute some of that money? What is the problem with that?


Hannah Keyser : Well, the problem with that is that like, there isn’t a floor. I mean, six teams. So leagues that have caps have floors, baseball doesn’t have a floor, and the union has never wanted to buy into that cap floor system. And so they’re constantly having to push back against the CBT becoming more like a cap. You brought up the Mets and like a big part of this is the fact that Steve Cohen clearly is more willing to, like, go all out than some of the other owners. And now other teams are concerned that they’re not going to be able to keep up competitively.


Jason Concepcion : Rob Manfred On one hand, I empathize with him in the sense that, you know, he works for the owners. We all know that every commissioner works for the owners. He’s put in there specifically because of labor issues, and he’s fulfilling that role in the way that the owners want. But man, if? Feels like the hatred is reaching a new low. He laughed at a press conference recently and that that became a point of contention for a lot of people who are sad about baseball leaving. For players who feel like Is this guy taking this seriously for, you know, arena workers who are like, here’s my boss laughing as I’m about to lose my job and the players have just been teeing off on this guy. So what’s going on there with the criticism of Manfred and like, is any of this unfair to him?


Hannah Keyser : Is any of this unfair to him? That’s a great question. You know what I thought was unfair to him? People really got on him for up for practicing his golf swing. Yeah, that didn’t bother me me. I was like,.


Jason Concepcion : Yea, that’s not a big deal to me.


Hannah Keyser : We’re sitting out here for 16 hours. You got to do something to keep yourself awake. That’s the one thing I will say was unfair to Rob Manfred.


Jason Concepcion : Right? Was it bad optics? Kind of like the laugh? Yes, sure. But at the same time, like, I don’t care about that as much. The laugh was a little worse because it was like


Hannah Keyser : it was at the press conference announcing that the season wouldn’t start on time, which is a huge deal. It’s the first time labor stoppage has affected the regular season since the 94 95 strike. I mean, that’s a huge deal. It’s I think like players and media and all are sort of correct to criticize Rob for as difficult as his job is. But I think you gave him a fair do because you’re right, it’s a difficult job, particularly as markets get more and more desperate. That’s a lot to sort of span. But the idea that like this is a fight that’s been brewing for a really long, long time, and Rob has always like fashioned himself as a deal maker. He talked about it at his press conference, at the owners meetings, at sort of his he he oversaw the negotiations for several CBAs that didn’t result in a work stoppage. And it’s like, Well, if that’s the case, you kind of have to. You have to keep up with what’s happening relationship wise between the league and the union. And he just didn’t do that like it. Just it’s like quite obvious with the way the 2020 played out. Twenty played out. And now this that like he didn’t do a good job of of keeping that discourse open and making players feel heard. And now they want to be heard even louder. They want to be heard when they’re criticizing him. So I think it’s, you know, everybody gets compared to to their predecessors. And people really had criticisms of the way that Bud Selig did the job, but said in retrospect, I think people are like, Oh, wow. But he really loved the game because he was a former owner and he was a big fan. And I think that like that helped him on the players side in a way that, like Rob, hasn’t figured out what his connection to the players is in the same way that Bud had. Like, I’m a big fan of the Milwaukee Brewers and I made my life’s goal to keep them in Milwaukee.


Jason Concepcion : Other issues that have been discussed, some really interesting kind of like evolutions to the game are on the table. Expanding the playoff field feels like the one that’s going to happen just from a revenue perspective, but also is one that you hear a lot of baseball fans complain about pitch clocks banning defensive shifts. Is there anything in particular that you think you, as a fan, think needs to happen because one thing is always present in every baseball conversation? Is a anxiety about the future of baseball? The amount of, you know, I was talking to a friend recently and I’m like, Man, I’m looking on social media and it’s just like, baseball sucks. It’s boring, it’s mid. And it’s like the amount of criticism that baseball gets on top of the legitimate issues about watch ability in an increasingly dense entertainment space. The economics of it, all these things are important issues, but like, what do you think about some of these new tweaks that are on the table? And do you think they’ll make an impact in terms of some of the issues and the real anxieties that baseball fans have about their sport?


Hannah Keyser : I mean, I think there’s a two there’s two categories. So the expanded postseason and then there’s these like on-field rules, right? And you’re right, we’re definitely getting an expanded post season.


Jason Concepcion : That’s going to happen that seems like its going to happen.


Hannah Keyser : We’re fighting right now about whether or not it’s going to be 12 teams or 14 teams. I think how that affects the sport will be really interesting because like we were talking earlier, what can you do to incentivize teams to actually try and honestly like changing the shape of the postseason field is a big part of that. Like, I think I hope that we are able to come up with a way to do the postseason through the CBA talks that does work to both like incentivize teams to try harder without just disincentivizing the teams at the top to want to win. So that’s interesting. I think they’ll be really interesting. I mean, that’s something that like regardless of whether or not you paid attention to the labor aspects of these talks, if you’re a baseball fan, you will experience that in the very first season, whether that’s 2022 and 2023 like you’ll, you’ll notice that the postseason feels bigger. And then there’s these like on-field rule changes. It’s right now. So the news out of today is that the union as part of a package, so nothing is done until everything is done as part of a package signed off on giving the league power to implement pitch clocks, bigger bases and banning the shift as soon as 2023. They rejected or sort of counterproposal not letting the league implement robo ops as soon as 2023. So I mean, I know the pitch clock feels like why not? Like, yeah, why not? The game is too slow. So sure, you put an effin clock


Jason Concepcion : and we’ve known this for years. We’ve talked about it for a long time. It’s been on the table for for a for a period, a long period of time


Hannah Keyser : and like basically everyone in the minor leagues is playing with it because they have, yeah, they’ve tested it at every level. So everyone who’s coming up is used to it. Pitch clock, one thousand percent. Put it in there for all I care. I think there should be a batter’s box clock.


Jason Concepcion : Yeah, I agree.


Hannah Keyser : Stop letting them step out, like, keep that even bigger base. This isn’t really going to do much. They hope that it’ll either make it safer or make it more likely that guys steal bases. I don’t know that’s going to do anything beneficial they don’t like. I think all of this is promising. I think it’s tweaks and its rules on top of rules when I think that actually the game is due for like a much bigger rethinking of like, how can you change the way that they’re playing the sport? Because right now, the problem is strikeouts, walks and home runs are the only things to account for, and that’s not going to get super affected by the rule changes.


Jason Concepcion : Where do we go next? I remember as we were heading into these negotiations a lot of the people that I’ve been listening to a reading or like, Well, actually, you know, the two sides are not that far apart. And it feels like they’re exactly the same amount apart as as when this all started. And it’s unclear to me that either side has a great off ramp to come off their position. So where do we go from here?


Hannah Keyser : That’s a great question, I think. So I went down to Florida thinking, there’s no way they’re going to get a deal done. And then by the end of the nine days, I really thought, You know what this is, this is the time I see them taking it seriously. I see them there every day, day in and day out, staying for long hours. They stay till four a.m. one day and I thought, maybe they’re really we’ll get a deal done. I feel like they now that they didn’t. I agree. I’m kind of like, OK, so we can’t go back to talking once a week and exchanging one proposal on one thing and then waiting for the other side to counter on that one issue. I mean, so what we really need is like another deadline and people have floated that like possibly the owners, the leagues league side. The owners don’t have to give back money for their TV deals until potentially like the end of April. So that could work as a pressure point. I mean, what we’re really missing is another pressure point. Like what we saw is both sides willing to blow past opening day cancel games. And if that’s the case, then it’s tough to figure out like, OK, so who blinks first? You both, you both made your point. You’re willing to lose games over whatever we’re at and the difference, I think it’s like 18 million on the CBT. It’s like it really does feel like it’s like this. The distance between them is getting smaller, and yet the path to a deal doesn’t look any more obvious.


Jason Concepcion : Her name is Hannah Keyser. She’s a baseball writer covering The Lockout for Yahoo Sports. Hannah, thanks for coming back. Always, always a delight to talk to you. Thanks for joining us.


Hannah Keyser : Someday, I’ll be here to talk about the new CBA that they’ve agreed to.


Jason Concepcion : I am hopeful that it will happen soon.


Hannah Keyser : Yes.


Renee Montgomery : All right, so. Awwww this is the last time you guys know that sound, OK. This is buzzer beaters. That sound indicates this is the time where stories or things we couldn’t get into the show. We’re going to say it right now. Jason, get us started.


Jason Concepcion : Well, first I’m going to ugh my buzzer beater is just doing this podcast with you. I’ve learned so much from working with you just about how much harder people can hustle when they’re trying to make stuff happen and how a person can really put their checkbook, their money, where their heart and where their mind is in a way that really makes an impact. That is, you know, it’s just like not a thing that you really see. People go for the a lot of times in this in this world because this is the way it’s set up. People will go for the cash grab rather than try and affect change in the world. And you managed to do both, which is really incredible. And I can’t


Renee Montgomery : Jason’s gonna make me shed a thug tear. What’s going on?


Jason Concepcion : I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next. What is your buzzer beater?


Renee Montgomery : Oh, man, kind of along the lines of the same thing. You know, I thank you guys. I remember like, OK, this seems dope, Jason Concepcion, I go, stalk your Twitter afterwards, and I’m like, OK, he’s clever. And then, you know, just building and just all of the knowledge that you have on literally everything. I don’t know why you know a little bit about everything. It’s crazy. You’ve been like my Marvel Connect. I don’t know much. My you’ve been like my DC Marvel Connect. I’m texting you like, all right, my son’s asking this. It’s just crazy just to just to see just somebody. You were never in my stratosphere before. But then now that you are so dope. So it’s been dope, just the run that we’ve had. And I want to thank the listeners, the fans of the show, because I really felt like we built a community here. So. Yeah, my buzzer beater is just a thank you. And it’s not goodbye as a see you later. You know, I’ll be on Montgomery and company every Thursday, you guys can tap in. I’m just really thankful for the connections that we built because, you know, I’ll be seeing you Jason like next week in Texas. So Jason, I’ll see you soon, but it’s not it’s not goodbye. It’s just, you know, I’ll see you guys later.


Jason Concepcion : That’s it for us. But remember, it’s not goodbye. Follow and subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to Takeline Show on YouTube for exclusive video clips from this episode, plus my digital series All Caps NBA, which airs every Friday. Check it out, folks. Lets go. Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Ryan Wallerson and Zuri Irvin, our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard engineering, editing and sound design by the Great Sarah Debalaska and the folks at Chapter four and our theme music is produced by Brian Vasquez. Mia Kelman is on the Zoom for vibes, and the vibes are fantastic all the time.