06 January 2003

"YOUR HONOR, I OBJE.... never mind"

ESPN reported late last week that the MLB Players' Union is considering filing a greivance against the owners, alleging collusion to keep players' salaries down. The story is based largely upon the testimonies of three unnamed players' agents. As evidence, they have cited the fact that many of the top-notch free agents (Greg Maddux, Jim Thome, Pudge, etc.) have not garnered much interest in the off season, or at least that there have not been many teams bidding on such free agents. Other evidence of the supposed collusion between the owners is the fact that some of the agents' clients have received nearly identical offers from several teams, and that only after many days of negotiations did one of the teams step up its offer, at which point the player signed, an apparent indication that owners conversed with one another regarding these particular free agents, something the collevtive bargaining agreement does not permit, according to the AP story.

Sounds great, right? Owners' collusion, conspiracy to keep players' salaries down, arbitrators hidden in the Grassy Knoll...all wonderful fodder for the trough of the Free-Associating Press. Except that there's a myriad of problems with the story:

1) The first problem, if you saw the story on ESPN.com, occurs even before you read the story. Reading a headline that says,

"Agents hint union considering collusion grievance"

is all well and good, until you read the very next headline,

"Daal gets two-year, $7.5M deal from Orioles"

And no, that's not Marc von Daal, maker of fine uilleann bagpipes. This is Omar "Cabbage Patch" Daal, the erstwhile 19-game loser of just two years ago, who has a 4.45 ERA as a starter in the two years since his abysmal, Brian Kingman-threatening season of 2000. Personally, I think that the bagpipes would be a better way to spend $7.5 million, but maybe that's just me. When a pitcher as mediocre as Omar Daal is getting $7.5 mil, it's a little tough to argue that the owners are keeping salaries down.

B. The second problem is that there have been bidding wars for Jim Thome, Tom Glavine, Edgardo Alfonzo, and even (speaking of mediocrity) David Bell. The fact that only a few teams have actually been involved in these does not mean that there is collusion amongst all the other teams. It means that there is cheapness (or wisdom, depending upon your viewpoint) amongst them.

iii "The agents all recounted similar experiences: Their clients received similar initial offers from several teams and only signed when one of those teams, after many days of negotiations, finally made a higher bid." according to AP.

I've got news for you: This is how it's supposed to work!!! The market sets itself, it pays what it will bear. We're in kind of a recession, so it bears less than it did last year. That's the essence of Capitalism. If you don't want to pay above market value for a commodity, you don't have to, but you don't get the commodity either, someone else does.

And Fourthly, what the hell does the testimony of three agents mean? There are something like 800 players in the majors at any given time, not to mention thousands more in the minors. There must be hundreds of agents out there, and three of them, who probably had lunch together that day and fed off each others' stories. Reports from 1/2 of a percent of all the agents don't offer a very significant statistical cross section, do they?

Anyway, in other news...

Robert Fick just won the Braves another World Series. First of all, he became the best 1B option Bobby Cox has by signing for $1 mil with the Braves. He's not Hank Aaron, or even Fred McGriff, but he's better than Matt Franco. And he didn't cost much. And now Bobby Cox doesn't have to carry three catchers into October, as he invariably does, for no apparent reason at all. There are those who think that this lack of relief pitching and pinch-hitting depth has cost Bobby more than a few games in the last eleven Octobers, and now he doesn't have to worry about that, because now if the Braves are in the middle of a playoff game, and Lopez tears his ACL trying to crouch in the artificially large catcher's box and Estrada gets called away to lecture some punks making skid marks on the LA Freeway, Cox can bring in Fick to catch and play, um..., Terry Pendleton at first base....yeah, dat's da ticket!

BTW: Somebody named Mark Rosenberg beat me to Dick Stuart's baseballreference.com page, so I had to buy Bob Uecker's instead. I got one of baseball's foremost self-effacing humourists, and he's not even dead! Not bad for $15. You'll find a link to his stats (if you can call them that) on the right, under the baseballreference button. And of course, anyone curious enough to verify Uecker's claims about his playing career by checking Baseball Reference.com and looking him up will find my site, too.

If you like Boy of Summer and wanna buy another page for me, I'll certainly thank you for the publicity, and Sean Forman will gladly take the support.

"Anybody with ability can play in the big leagues. But to be able to trick people year in and year out the way I did, I think that was a much greater feat."

-Bob Uecker

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: