Service Time Ethics
In the last few days, much has been written about the decision to call up Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien. In particular, the timing of the move has been criticized due the amount of accrued service time for both players. By not waiting a week or so, the Mariners have potentially set themselves up to allow both Balentien and Clement to become free agents after the 2013 season, giving up club control over their 2014 season. Here’s basically how this works:
A player must have six full years of service before he qualifies for free agency. A year of service is defined by MLB as 172 days on the major league roster or major league disabled list. So, to qualify for free agency, a player has to have 1,032 days of major league service. The sequencing of those days doesn’t matter. Once they’ve passed the 1,032 days of service, if they haven’t signed a contract taking them past the current season, they’re eligible for free agency.
Due to their call-ups last September, Clement and Balentien already have 27 days of service under their belts. By calling them up yesterday (and, theoretically, keeping them up the rest of the year), the Mariners will give them each an additional 151 days of service this year. Add the 151 to the 27 they already had from last year, and both Clement and Balentien will end the year with more than one full year of service. This means that, assuming neither is sent back to the minors for a stretch in the future, both will end the 2013 season with 1,038 days of major league service. By seven days, they’ll qualify for free agency a year earlier than they would have had the Mariners waited a week to call them up.
Due to this factor, a lot of people are upset with the Mariners for their “mismanagement” of the situation. From a macro perspective, it probably was in the best interest of the organization to gain that extra year of club control, and the trade off between having them for an extra week now versus an extra year later isn’t necessarily a good one.
However, there’s a huge ethical question that has been ignored in the discussion so far, and one that isn’t nearly as simple as some might have you believe.
Is it, in fact, right for the Mariners to artificially deflate the service time for Clement and Balentien in order to keep them from receiving the full benefits of the collective bargaining agreement as scheduled? They don’t believe it is, and the more I think about it, the more I agree with their perspective.
No one would argue that Jeff Clement belongs in Tacoma right now. He’s clearly one of the best 750 baseball players on the planet, and everyone agrees that, on May 1st, he’s a major league player. So, the only reason the team would choose to keep him down there is to deflate his future earnings and create a cost advantage for the organization.
If you had reached a level of success in your profession where it was evident to everyone around you that you deserved a promotion and a raise, but your company only offered annual raises on a specific date, and your boss intentionally scheduled your performance review for one day after the cutoff date for raises to kick in so that your salary wouldn’t be adjusted until the following year, how would you react? This is exactly what many of you wanted the Mariners to do to Clement and Balentien.
If this had happened to any of us, we’d be outraged by the lack of ethics of our company. I’d gather that a decent amount of people would consider that grounds enough to start looking for new employment. But, now that we’re sitting from a perspective where it would benefit us as fans to have that done to someone else, we’re willing to screw a third party out of what they’ve rightfully earned?
I say I’m not. The Mariners did the right thing for their employees – they did not allow their decision making process to be influenced by the chance to take an ethical shortcut that would have benefited the organization at the expense of those who work for them. Rather than being vilified, I applaud them for their stance.