Startling new trend in player-team relations

DMZ · March 5, 2008 at 8:03 am · Filed Under General baseball 

Players unhappy with team-assigned contracts providing less than players felt was deserved!


49 Responses to “Startling new trend in player-team relations”

  1. galaxieboi on March 5th, 2008 8:21 am

    I’m shocked, SHOCKED that an employer with absolute control over an employee would even consider paying said employee something below market value.

    While Hanley Ramirez doesn’t seem to care, it appears Cole Hamels and Prince Fielder are more than a little upset.

    I, for one, would hope that the Marlins would simply cut me. One can dream.

  2. marinerfaninvenice on March 5th, 2008 8:31 am

    I made an off-topic post yesterday on this — I find the whole thing really offensive, especially in today’s economy.

  3. JI on March 5th, 2008 8:48 am

    So no one told them how the system worked, eh?

  4. gwangung on March 5th, 2008 8:49 am

    So no one told them how the system worked, eh?

    Well, obviously the Mariners don’t quite get it…

  5. abender20 on March 5th, 2008 8:51 am

    It’s a difficult situation either way. Professional athletes get paid to produce, and if a young guy does so he expects to get paid just the same. However, it’s rookie contracts that allow teams to keep payrolls manageable and build young teams. This is how Oakland works, trading their good young players after rookie contracts expire (unless they are Eric Chavez, who was worth keeping around).

    Either way, Colorado set a dangerous precedent by paying Tulowitzki after one year. Maybe these guys deserve raises, but in the long run making 600k at the age of 23 for playing baseball isn’t too bad.

  6. smb on March 5th, 2008 8:55 am

    What’s their beef, really? Hit free agency, cash in, perform like Richie Sexson, and you still collect. For as “underpaid” as they are now, at some point in their careers, they will be equally if not more overpaid. Something tells me they won’t have an issue with the incongruity at that point.

    As for Hanley, sounds like the kid has a healthy perspective. Maybe it has something to do with coming from a place in which bitching about not having enough millions of dollars isn’t exactly in vogue. Good for him, I’m even more of a fan now.

  7. Tek Jansen on March 5th, 2008 8:56 am

    It seems that some GMs approach this situation much differently. It it not surprising that the Gillick-led Phillies upset Hamels and decided to go to arbitration with Howard.

  8. Brent on March 5th, 2008 8:59 am

    # 4, Felix was renewed before the 2007 season, FWIW…

  9. msb on March 5th, 2008 8:59 am

    add Pap to the list….

  10. DMZ on March 5th, 2008 9:01 am

    For as “underpaid” as they are now, at some point in their careers, they will be equally if not more overpaid.

    Not really, though. The average career is pretty short — most players don’t ever make that kind of money. They might through their arbitration years, maybe squeak out a couple of small FA deals, and that’s it.

    The system today really exploits short-service time players for the benefit of older players, and it probably only stands because all the exploited players think they’ll eventually hit that jackpot.

  11. Brent on March 5th, 2008 9:03 am

    It is reminicient of when the NBA was on strike and their initial plan for their “showcase” game in Vegas was to help the poor, impoverished NBA players who live paycheck to paycheck make ends meet. I guess Hamels can expect Ryan Howard to buy him lunch from now on.

  12. msb on March 5th, 2008 9:05 am

    The system today really exploits short-service time players for the benefit of older players, and it probably only stands because all the exploited players think they’ll eventually hit that jackpot.

    and the established players say to themselves, “well, I had to wait for my payday”

  13. AssumedName on March 5th, 2008 9:08 am

    I think teams should absolutely lock up young studs after one and MAYBE two years. That way, if they’re fragile and never produce again, at least they’re getting paid…

    I just don’t see why Front Office folks don’t get this.

  14. smb on March 5th, 2008 9:20 am


    You’re right, I should have clarified that I meant that in regard to Hamels, Fielder…guys who I would bet an arm will be very, very rich in a few years, and who I am annoyed to hear this kind of talk from. When Hamels’ arm falls off, I bet I won’t hear about how he’s no longer cashing his superstar paychecks, But that’s just a closeup of a certain type of talent, and obviously unrepresentative of the whole truth, which is as you just explained. Thanks.

  15. galaxieboi on March 5th, 2008 9:22 am

    and the established players say to themselves, “well, I had to wait for my payday”

    Then it’s a vicious cycle. At some point the younger players have to remember being pissed and try to do something about it in the next CBA. Having worked in a union (IAM) shop the last 9 years this kind of attitude is pretty typical. Here’s how it works:

    Older guys with seniority negotiate new contract. They make concessions with regards to what the younger guys (or apprentices) get paid or receive in terms of benefits. Having made these ‘sacrifices’ they in turn negotiate higher wages and/or better benefits for themselves. It’s not a terrible system. My industry has a lot, A LOT of young guys who come in can’t hack it and quit. Why waste a lot of resources on them? Unfortunatly what happens is what it really hurts new comers who want to stick it out.

    Being in a position of seniority now, I am able to negotiate new deals. I had such a s***** time of it for years I’m going to try to change things up a bit. That’s what guys like Papelbon, Fielder and Hamels need to do when they become player reps. Yeah, it sucks, but thems the rules. Don’t like them? Do something about it at the next CBA.

  16. DMZ on March 5th, 2008 9:29 am

    Oh, totally. And frequently when they negotiate two-tiered deals, where current employees get x when they reach 5 years and new ones get x-25% at 5 years, the tiers have to be broken down over resentment and retention issues…

    In this situation, there’s also the problem of the union not representing minor leaguers, the draft — you know, I could do a massive essay on where I think the system is unjust and how the players union may well be acting against its own best interests.

  17. cinthree on March 5th, 2008 9:40 am

    Maybe i’m in the minority on that, but I would love to read that essay.

  18. msb on March 5th, 2008 9:42 am

    how the players union may well be acting against its own best interests.

    now there is a shocker.

  19. galaxieboi on March 5th, 2008 9:49 am

    Yeah, Derek. That’d be fantastic. I’ve got a lot of strong opinions on how Fehr is running the player’s union and the behavior of the players, but this isn’t exactly the post or the place. =)

  20. Hoppy on March 5th, 2008 9:56 am

    Somewhere Barry Zito is slyly hiding behind a fake palm tree in the corner of the clubhouse.

  21. JSully on March 5th, 2008 10:09 am

    On the one hand, I’m of the opinion that $450,000 is a lot of money (it is) and players like Hamels and Papelbon should be doing cartwheels in the clubhouse.

    On the other hand, Derek makes a good point in that the average career is quite short. Given that the average player doesn’t have a college degree or a marketable skill set, his options for making ends meet are limited after retirement. Given this, a young player should be able to maximize his earning potential from the first day he is on a major league roster. After all, it is pretty asinine that a player has effectively no leverage during the first three years of his career.

  22. hub on March 5th, 2008 10:15 am

    This is an issue their union should bargain on down the road, if they don’t like it. I’m sure the owners would happily institute higher salaries of young players in exchange for making FA contracts non-guaranteed. Its much more likely, however, the veteran MLB players will just tell the kids to shut up, and wait their turn for a payday.

  23. scraps on March 5th, 2008 10:17 am

    A smart team will pay more than the minimum, IMO, because happy players will produce better than unhappy players (and be better teammates), and because the goodwill you generate with a relatively small expense could pay off bigtime down the line. If you want to keep Cole Hamels when he reaches his full potential, why not give him a reason to want to stay now?

    When Hamels leaves for free agency, the Philadelphia fans will complain about his lack of loyalty, sure as clockwork.

  24. DMZ on March 5th, 2008 10:35 am

    I’m not sure that the contract issue has an appreciable effect on player performance/clubhouse chemistry, but I know that the “goodwill” issue doesn’t work — teams that have studied this have found that you don’t get a break down the road in extension/renewal rates if you pay more than you have to. You might as well screw players as much as you think you can get away with.

  25. scraps on March 5th, 2008 10:42 am

    Interesting. You don’t get a break in how much you end up paying: but do you have a better chance of the player staying at all?

  26. BaltimoreDave on March 5th, 2008 10:43 am

    I’ll play the foil here – how does the current system “screw” the younger players? What other incentive does a team have to develop players through their system only to have to pay them market rate for their production?

    While I agree the current structure is weighted heavily in favor of veteran players who have “earned” leverage through service time rather than performance, below-market contracts for talented players seems the only incentive a team has to put its most talented young players on the field.

  27. DMZ on March 5th, 2008 10:46 am

    Sooooo wait, you recognize that the young talented players are paid below their market value, but you don’t see how that’s not fair to them?

    The point isn’t that the system isn’t good for teams — it’s that it means young players aren’t fairly compensated.

  28. galaxieboi on March 5th, 2008 10:47 am

    For most of the rest of the work force when they feel they’re well compensated (pay, benefits) they work a little harder (either conciously or subconciously). Sure, there are always bad attitudes or people who work the same no matter what they’re getting paid but I’d be will to bet baseball players are the same way. I also understand it isn’t something we can probably measure. And Derek is right, whether there’s a measureable affect on performance or clubhouse chemistry is unknown.

  29. Tek Jansen on March 5th, 2008 10:57 am

    Are players who received big bonuses either coming out of the draft (Andrew Miller) or from being a young international signings (Felix) a little less likely to grouse about their salary during the first three years of service time? I honestly have no idea. Yet it is possible that some players might look at those bonuses as compensation for the first three years, and it might drive prospective players and their agents to demand money over slot. They know that they cannot get receive large salaries during years one through three, so why not demand it upfront?

  30. galaxieboi on March 5th, 2008 10:59 am

    What other incentive does a team have to develop players through their system only to have to pay them market rate for their production?

    Well, no one is really talking about suddenly giving Prince a raise to $10 or $15M. But something more than what I’d discribe as barely more than the league minimum, for all intents and purposes. They can continue to pay them a lot less than they’d get as a free agent, but more than the absurdly low salaries they get now (well, compared to contemporaries and monies generated and such).

  31. BaltimoreDave on March 5th, 2008 11:03 am

    Derek –

    Right, I didn’t frame that correctly. I recognize the current structure isn’t fair to young players, but I’m curious as to how a system that remedies that will also be fair to all teams.

  32. galaxieboi on March 5th, 2008 11:04 am

    Paying “over slot” is still a great deal for ball clubs. Look at Dave’s posts about Adam Jones’ predicted production and the money he’ll make vs. replacing that production with free agents. The couple million extra a club would pay is chicken feed compared to what they’ll dish out to a washed up vet. But, yeah, I imagine players getting drafted and their agents know the odds for flameouts and the huge salary savings for a team if said player turns into a Prince Fielder or Hanley Ramirez.

  33. Kazinski on March 5th, 2008 11:07 am

    I think the Mariners have done a pretty good job over the years with their young ML ready players like Putz, Betancourt, Lopez to sign them up for few years so the player gets some cash now and the team gets a couple of more years of control without worrying about aArbitration or free agency.

    I wish they could do that with Felix. I wish they could have done that with Jones.

  34. BaltimoreDave on March 5th, 2008 11:15 am

    Galaxieboi –

    It may be a good deal, but without an incentive to do so, no team will pay more than they have to. They’ll only do so if it benefits them, i.e. buying out arb years and maybe a FA year or two.

    A local player here in Baltimore who’s grousing is Nick Markakis, who just had his contract renewed. Part of the problem may be that agents are trying to replicate the deals given to Tulowitzki, et al, creating false hope in the minds of the players who expect their club to treat them the same.

  35. galaxieboi on March 5th, 2008 11:24 am

    Very few employers will pay their employees more than they really have to. Major leagues baseball screwed players for almost 100 years. That’s why salary rules for pre-arbitration players needs to be something discussed, seriously, within the union during the next CBA.

  36. galaxieboi on March 5th, 2008 11:25 am

    I’ve got some of my own ideas on fixing this, but I’d really like to hear Derek’s.

  37. joser on March 5th, 2008 11:43 am

    Wasn’t it Connie Mack who, at the dawn of the free agent era, suggested that all contracts be one year in length? I’ve never quite decided who would benefit more from that: on the one hand, every player is in a “contract year” every year, so a bad year is immmediately penalized and a good one rewarded, presumably leading to more productivity overall; on the other hand, longer contracts slow wage inflation so you might see salaries rachet upwards even more quickly than they have been. Mack was an owner, so he clearly believed the net benefit (at the time) would go to the teams, I think because he thought the flood of talent on the open market each off-season would keep salaries down. I’m not sure that was likely to be true then, but it doesn’t seem to be true now (given the amount of freely available talent that’s already going ignored while so many teams fall over each other to pay top dollar for questionable players). It sure seems like GMs with flawed roster construction strategies would get weeded out pretty quickly.

  38. mfan on March 5th, 2008 11:44 am

    Sorry, all I have are questions without answers. Are sufficient incentives in place for teams to develop players without the pot of gold at the end of the development rainbow? How much cost is there in maintaining a system for developing players and is team control of the player enough incentive to have a development system without below-market contracts? What about if there were no team control? What incentive is there to spend on player development then? If the system were to remain such that the player stays under team control, but “under-market” contracts were eliminated, how would one determine “market value”? Earlier arbitration?

    If increased fairness breaks the system, it’s not really a viable solution. In the end, I guess my real question is “Is there a VIABLE system that treats younger players better?” I guess I’ll probably have to wait for your massive essay *hopeful* on the topic to get your take.

  39. msb on March 5th, 2008 11:47 am

    #37– Charlie Finley.

  40. msb on March 5th, 2008 11:50 am

    here is some info on Finley & free agency

  41. BaltimoreDave on March 5th, 2008 11:53 am

    I’m sure it wouldn’t be too difficult to devise a system that can effectively balance the incentive for teams to develop, play and retain talent, while ensuring all players are fairly compensated for their most recent level of performance. Whether that system has a hope of being put into place is another question entirely.

    I would also like to hear Derek’s ideas on this – both the theoretical ideal system, and the chances of it coming to fruition.

  42. Ralph_Malph on March 5th, 2008 12:35 pm

    the goodwill you generate with a relatively small expense could pay off bigtime down the line

    Ask the Cleveland Cavaliers what became of the goodwill they generated with Carlos Boozer.

  43. galaxieboi on March 5th, 2008 12:55 pm

    Basketball has f***** financial system for the players. MLB players should look to the NBA to see what happens when the union breaks. The NBA players were too concerned with their class war with each other to band together. Oops.

  44. Wishhiker on March 5th, 2008 3:34 pm

    I would love to have a job that gave me a 100% pay increase after 6 months of top productivity. Anybody work at a company like that? I’m looking for work right now and that idea sounds great to me.

    The players that are complaining are all likely to get a big payday in future years. They are the cream of the crop and know it, which is what their argument is in the first place. I haven’t read any of them arguing for more marginal role players to get a big pay increase if they’re young so I don’t think those players fit into the conversation very much. The $400K minimum is pretty good for a system that is essentially like just coming out of college for your field. The guys that are complaining mostly had less than 4 years of it.

    My thought is that the average MLB career is half as long (maybe less) as the average career otherwise. The longest MLB careers have been about 20-27 years or so and the longest careers otherwise are in the 45-50 year range. I understand that the industry is different than average, so how about comparing it to another entertainment field. Jim Carrey wasn’t making $25M a film after only a couple success’. There isn’t a field of work that I know of that you can earn top money after such a short work history. I think the players need to get over themselves and do their job to earn a bigger contract. Anyone who complains about only getting a 25% raise after the equivalent of 6 months of work needs to STFU. I have absolutely no concern or sympathy for someone making $400K for a year and being worried that they’ll only get $500K the next. Every field of work I’ve ever been in, heard from people about or read about gets smaller raises and slower pay increases in comparison than sports. It is so absolutely not my problem and I agree that if they have an issue with it they need to bargain for an increase in the next CBA. Maybe there could be different pay scales like the ‘type A,B, etc. FA’s where how you produce puts you in a range of players that make your contract have to be in a certain range. I really have no sympathy though…

  45. gwangung on March 5th, 2008 3:50 pm

    My thought is that the average MLB career is half as long (maybe less) as the average career otherwise.

    Hmmm….think you’re overestimating that, or looking only at above average players. A lot of players wash out after six years or so, and there’s the high injury factor for pitchers.

    Then there’s the minor league pay, which isn’t nearly as good…Can’t say that the total career, including minors, isn’t much more than 10-12 years.

  46. Wishhiker on March 5th, 2008 4:07 pm

    I compared the minors to being like college time. Getting paid little is better than college though (unless you’re getting illegal ‘perks’ in college.)

    I don’t know many people that stick with jobs anymore anyway, so the average career outside of sports isn’t really that long anyway. I guess changing teams within the same field of work (baseball) is similar to changing companies in the same field.

    A lot of people change their field of work even within entertainment industries. I went with half as a high mark and did say “maybe less”…

  47. galaxieboi on March 5th, 2008 4:35 pm


    Are you serious? Or was the satire? Is your job part of a nation (continent?) wide monopoly making several billion dollars a year and only has 1000 or so employees who ARE the attraction? I can’t believe people when they compare their data entry job at BF Electrical to major league ballplayers. If we had 25-55,000 people paying $25+ a whack 162 times a year to watch us work we’d all get pay raises too.

  48. Wilder83 on March 5th, 2008 7:18 pm

    I think the young players need to keep things in perspective. Most of them already got a huge pay raise by simply earning the league minimum. They should not complain even though they outproduce their price tag.

    Also, with players like Tulo, the trade off is that they will have to wait an extra 1-3 years to receive their pot-of-gold. It’s either some guaranteed money now or a huge raise in arbitration or free agency. I think pitchers want the guaranteed money today because they are more prone to career-ending injuries. If I was an agent, I would push for guaranteed money for pitchers and a wait approach for position players.

    The one thing they need to change is the retirement package (mainly medical). Correct me if I am wrong, but to recieve full benefits from the players union after retirement, a player must have 10-years service time under their belts. At the very least, they need to offer the full medical benefits for players with at least 5-years service time and those who meet a watermark of games if they are 28-years old and older. Some players are career minor leaguers and do not get their opportunity to play until after they are 28-years old+. They are sacrificing valuable time to get educated and are less likely to stick in the league for at least 10 years to receive full medical benefits.

    But then again, I am not familiar with all of the details regarding retirement for players. They could already have these kind of provisions in them.

  49. joser on March 6th, 2008 11:23 pm

    #39 Ah, thanks. I was actually thinking of Finley but my brain dredged up Mack’s name to go with him (Free Agency would’ve killed Mack if he hand’t already died first). Too many colorful A’s managers (to go along with too many home cities).

    The problem with changing the system is that the people who would most benefit from a change aren’t represented by anybody in the current system. The union doesn’t work for those kids in the draft or overseas, and the veterans who control the union know any attempt to do so would necessarily come out of their pocketbooks — plus they’ve “done their time” and are now benefiting from the current arrangement. And it’s not like the teams have any particular interest in a more equitable distribution of wealth among the players.

    You could make a bit of an analogy with copyright law: the creator of a work (team that develops a player) gets exclusive benefit from it for a fixed period of time. The reason for that in the case of copyright law is to promote the creation of new works for the public good (not, as is commonly believed, specifically to benefit the creator financially). Copyright holders naturally always press to have that exclusive period extended (as well as trying to get ever-harsher sanctions for copyright violators). The works themselves have no interest in the matter of course, but there is a general benefit in having the works reach “free agency” where they can be employed by anyone (and, in the case of copyable works of art, by everyone simultaneously). Obviously this analogy has limits, but it suggests any change to the system that caused the younger players to get paid more equitably and/or left team control sooner might have an impact on the minor league system: if the teams don’t get a payoff in terms of a few cheap years from a rising star, they won’t have much incentive to develop them. Of course the rookie players have to come from somewhere, but they might look instead at getting them from overseas, or an expanded jr college/college system, etc. It certainly might affect how carefully teams protected their younger players in terms of innings pitched and other health issues.

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