They keep talking about "competitive balance."
Then they make it harder for the less competitive teams to get that balance.
They tease them. But it's just a tease.
I didn't like the new rules on draft and international bonuses last week, when they were still sketchy and unannounced.
It's no better now that we know most of the details.
This isn't going to help teams like the Pirates and Royals. It's not going to hurt teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.
It's not going to help Theo Epstein, who came to Wrigley Field preaching the wonders of player development, only to find out that baseball just made player development less costly but more difficult.
It's not going to help baseball, because lower signing bonuses could chase away talented two-sport athletes.
Bud Selig didn't get the hard-slotting system he wanted for the June draft, but what he did get in the new collective bargaining agreement announced Tuesday might well be worse.
The last few years, teams like the Pirates, Nationals and Royals have realized that they can build a farm system quickly by spending big in the draft. The draft and the international market have become the one place where teams like that can realistically compete with the big boys for the best talent.
Now, if they exceed their assigned "signing bonus pool," they'll lose future draft picks, or the right to sign future international stars.
Baseball would remind you that the "signing bonus pool" will be higher for teams that pick higher in the draft (the teams that finished lower in the standings the previous year). That's true, but the cost of losing a future pick is far greater for those teams than for teams like the Yankees.
I'm not advocating a hard-slotting system, which would assign a specific bonus to each draft pick. But it sure would be a lot harder for the Yankees to take advantage of that system than this one.
The Yankees have been more than willing to surrender their first-round pick to sign free agents. They did it last winter to sign middle reliever Rafael Soriano.
So wouldn't they be just as willing to surrender a future pick to overspend on a big-time talent in the draft?
In most cases, the pick they'd be surrendering would be somewhere in the 20s. If the Pirates did the same, the pick they'd be surrendering might well be in the top 10.
And believe me, the new system makes it very easy to lose a pick. You only need to exceed your assigned "bonus pool" by five percent in any one year to lose the following year's first-round pick.
Baseball would explain that teams can choose to divide the "bonus pool" any way they wish, spending more on their first-round pick and going cheap on the second and third rounds, for example. But by the current rules, the Pirates overspent by a ton in both the first and second rounds in 2011.
Baseball would remind you that picks surrendered by teams that overspend will be distributed in a lottery that favors teams that need the most help (i.e. finished lowest in the standings). But to qualify for the lottery, you need to stay within your limit, and potentially allow the best talent to go elsewhere.
There's no way this rule helps "competitive balance," even with provisions that provide extra sandwich picks (between the first and second rounds) to low-revenue teams.
There's a reason that most baseball people don't like this new system, even though many of their owners pushed hard for it.
It should accomplish Selig's goal, which is to severely limit the amount of money teams spend on the draft and on international free agents. Truth be told, he'd love to limit the amount they spend on major-league free agents, too, but that wasn't going to happen.
It will not help "competitive balance."
Other parts of the CBA are big pluses. The fact that the CBA got done without even the smallest threat of a work stoppage is a huge plus.
This new draft and international system? It's a minus.