Service Time Ethics

Dave · May 1, 2008 at 7:48 am · Filed Under Mariners 

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.

Comments

204 Responses to “Service Time Ethics”

  1. bakomariner on May 1st, 2008 7:55 am

    Beautiful, Dave…

  2. TheEmrys on May 1st, 2008 8:06 am

    Honestly, this puts everything into better perspective for me. Good write-up.

  3. Colorado Mariner Fan on May 1st, 2008 8:07 am

    Right on target Dave. In fact, taken as a whole I think one could make the argument that this management makes a lot of pro-player decisions as a strategy.

    We’ve heard in the past about numerous athletes not wanting to come to Seattle for various reasons (remote market, small town, too much rain, poor teams, etc.). That has to be countered somehow. Perhaps the combination of fair dealings with players, overpaying and coddling vets, releasing guys early so they can catch on elsewhere, overpaying for certain FA’s are all manifestations of a policy intended to make the team an attractive destination for talent.

    I can’t claim to like every outcome that approach produces, but I certainly see how it would help the brand and make staffing talent easier once a positive reputation was in place.

    A good thread on a frequently ignored topic in the blogosphere.

  4. azfred on May 1st, 2008 8:08 am

    Excellent, excellent post, Dave. Ethics just aren’t considered as much as they should be. As an attorney working in politics, I encounter similar issues frequently. All too often I see pressure from reactionary constituents influencing the decisions of politicians, and they choose to do what those constituents want rather than what they know is right. I’m glad that didn’t happen here.

    This is one decision by Mariners management that we should be proud of.

  5. Dave Clapper on May 1st, 2008 8:09 am

    This is one of the things I like a lot about Bavasi. For all his negatives, it’s a huge positive that he treats his employees very well. (And I think the fact that he always shuns arbitration and often ties up young players to good deals before their FA years are two other examples of this that neatly mesh with the philosophy he displayed here.)

  6. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 8:12 am

    Nice post, Dave.

    It’s easy sometimes, especially on a stats-forward site like this one, to look at players as if they were just collections of numbers to be moved around at will.

    But they’re not. They’re people, with feelings and concerns just like any of us.

    Now, this organization does play that card much more heavily than it merits sometimes, but there are times where it does matter, and the gain in service time (especially within the organizational context of trying to buy out arb time whenever possible) wouldn’t be worth the impact to the psyches of these exciting young players.

  7. arbeck on May 1st, 2008 8:14 am

    Thanks for putting this in perspective Dave. I was initially against the move for the service time reason, but now I see that I was being a bit of a douche. I also agree that this is one of the things Bavasi does right. His philosophy of getting the players to the majors as soon as possible has to be popular with the players.

  8. Zach on May 1st, 2008 8:16 am

    From a pure business management perspective I disagree with the timing of the move. However, it is refreshing to see the M’s correct some of their mistakes (they still have a few more on the books). I gained a lot of respect for M’s and whoever authorized these call ups. I’d say it was Bavasi, but it pains me to give him credit for anything good.

  9. smb on May 1st, 2008 8:18 am

    Sure, I don’t see how anyone can argue it’s ethical to hose Clement out of a year of service time by holding him down eight more days. It is the right decision from that standpoint, I fully agree with this post. Does this mean by implication that the Rays were unethical in their decision to do the opposite with Longoria?

    Would this entire question have been avoided had Clement started the season with the club? And if so, what is the club’s explanation for why he needed to start the year in Tacoma? Did the month he spent in Tacoma show them something about his readiness that wasn’t apparent before? Or did they have to start the year watching Kenji unexpectedly struggle before they knew Clement was needed? Also, did the team create this circumstance through poor roster moves coming out of spring training, or is it just a series of unfortunate coincidences of timing? Whatever the reality, anything that puts Turbo on the bench is A-OK with me.

  10. matthias on May 1st, 2008 8:18 am

    My great-great uncle was Eddie Cicotte of the Black Sox. Charlie Comiskey ordered Kid Gleason to sit him for the last couple weeks of the 1919 season so that he wouldn’t get 30 wins and a $10,000 bonus. Notice how that turned out for management.

  11. smb on May 1st, 2008 8:20 am

    Just to clarify, I know Clement isn’t expected to catch in place of Joh right now, but he’s still considered an available catcher on the roster, isn’t he?

  12. robbbbbb on May 1st, 2008 8:23 am

    I know there are a lot of folks who are down on this decision, but Dave’s got a good point on the ethics.

    And there is an upside to this. Players and agents notice stuff like this. It helps when free agency comes rolling around. “Hey,” says Agent to his client, “The Mariners treat their guys well. That’s a team you ought to look into.”

  13. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 8:24 am

    Well, it’s not like Clement suddenly forgot how to catch with his call-up, so yeah, I’m sure they’ll have him catch sometimes.

    Dave’s post from yesterday seemed to indicate there’s still questions within the organization about his defense at the catcher position, though, so I’m not sure we’ll see him there a whole lot.

  14. Dave on May 1st, 2008 8:27 am

    He’s actually starting behind the plate today and tomorrow. They just wanted to make me look stupid.

  15. shortbus on May 1st, 2008 8:28 am

    To play devil’s advocate…I’d say that players should expect ownership to do what’s best for ownership. In my company almost the exact policy you mention existed for some time. Contract employees would be reviewed once a year and only so many full-time jobs would be handed out until the next year. If you had plenty of time on the job and were clearly deserving of a promotion…tough…you had to wait until the next crop of promotions.

    As for holding Clement down being unethical…is it ethical for a player that can no longer perform due to injury or old age to continue to take the team’s money? Well it’s irrelevant because the team signed a guaranteed contract and that’s just business. Was it ethical for Sexson to hide an injury that kept him from performing well last season? Nothing in the CBA says he can’t.

    This is a business and each party should be expected to maximize its opportunities under the laws and agreements that govern the business. The rules regarding players with low service time are there to allow teams with less money to draft the best players available and keep them during some useful portion of their careers. You may not like it but it helps keep teams in small markets viable. Without these rules many teams would lose their young talent to the Yankees and Red Sox of the world much sooner.

    But I’m still pumped they brought Clement up now. The M’s can afford to pay the guy.

  16. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 8:31 am

    I’m going to keep the philosophy major in me very tightly reined in this thread, but I’ll just say this:

    The fact that unethical things are done in other situations (all of the things you describe, shortbus, I would call unethical; including the situation at your company) does not change the ethics of this particular situation. It’s not a sliding scale.

    He’s actually starting behind the plate today and tomorrow. They just wanted to make me look stupid.

    So do you think he’ll get regular time at catcher? Or is it just too early to tell?

  17. MKT on May 1st, 2008 8:32 am

    This is why I’ve been saying that the skeptics about “team chemistry” are wrong.

    Chemistry matters.

    Not because it directly leads to victories on the field — the skeptics are undoubtedly correct that teams win and lose based on their talent, hitting, pitching, defense, etc. not because of good chemistry or bad chemistry or character or grit or whatnot.

    But how do teams accumulate talent? Scouting, smart trades, good talent development in the minor leagues, good talent evaluation — those are the important attributes. But another one, more minor but assuredly not irrelevant in these decades that we’ve had free agency, is this: do players want to go to your team?

    This “chemistry” of course can take a lot of forms: Andy Pettite convinced Roger Clemens to unretire and play for Houston. Spanish-speaking teammates (or at least an absence of racism) can attract Latino free agents. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Ichiro ended up in a Pacific Rim city. Etc.

    It’s only a minor determinant of team success, compared to other factors, but chemistry matters.

  18. BigB on May 1st, 2008 8:41 am

    Great writeup, Dave. This is very interesting to get that perspective, when you’ve got teams like the Rays (Longoria) and Brewers (Braun, last year) doing just the opposite.

  19. _David_ on May 1st, 2008 8:44 am

    Look what those extra 10 days of minor league experience did for Evan Longoria. Now he’s really good!

  20. Mike Snow on May 1st, 2008 8:46 am

    is it ethical for a player that can no longer perform due to injury or old age to continue to take the team’s money?

    Teams pay players to perform to the best of their ability. They do not pay for a specific level of ability; in fact, that is an important reason true performance bonuses are banned (contract incentives are tied to plate appearances and awards, not home runs and RBIs). So as long as you’re still giving your best effort, then that’s what you’re being paid for.

    As to the specific question of injury, if you get hurt because of your job, you should continue to be paid. If you can’t do your job because you get hurt doing something risky outside of your job, then there’s a problem. That’s why there’s lots of specific contract language around what players can do in their free time, and why it matters whether you were washing your truck or popping wheelies on a motorcycle.

  21. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 8:48 am

    Or riding around on your pony.

  22. BaltimoreDave on May 1st, 2008 8:50 am

    I’m not sure I’m right here, but I think the Rays brought up Longoria well before his arbitration and FA statuses would have been delayed, which would have occurred if he were in the minors until mid-May. And that was rendered moot anyway when they signed him to a long-term contract the week after they brought him up.

  23. martin026 on May 1st, 2008 8:52 am

    My one concern with this is that it seems difficult for Clement to actually get the amount of playing time and at bats to warrant burning year of club control. Playing time at catcher might be limited, and with Vidro at DH, who also has a personal interest for getting his at bats, Clement’s playing time might be limited.

    But I think in the long run, it might be a moot point. The Mariners may end up giving both contracts that will buy out their arbitration years and a year or two of free agency.

  24. scraps on May 1st, 2008 8:53 am

    MKT: We’ll be fighting this straw man for the rest of our lives: No one says chemistry doesn’t matter. The disagreements are about how much it matters, and what’s appropriate to do about it.

    Thanks for this post, Dave. I think that most fans are so passionate for their team that they don’t empathize with players as people with jobs. Hence you get the oversized reactions of outrage when a player leaves to take more money elsewhere, for example, something that no one would criticize in a friend, or be reluctant to do themselves. Of course management has to look out for the team first, but a decent company always balances their maximum interests with decent human concerns. The alternative is to become a soulless corporation, using (and discarding) people as mere tools.

  25. lylepdx on May 1st, 2008 8:54 am

    Why don’t we just look at this like a gesture
    of good-will towards Clement and Balentien (and,
    their agents), that will offset the higher
    risk of, theoretically, losing these guys
    a year earlier than we otherwise would have.

    And, as an added benefit, this is probably the type
    of thing that agents unconnected to players in the M’s
    system would pay attention to, also. So Bavasi is
    not only gaining the Goodwill of Camp Clement/Balentien,
    he’s making the Mariners, as an entire organization, look good to future draft picks/free agents/
    etc.

    I agree, Dave, it’s a class move all the way around… and i respect Bavasi more than i did two days ago.

  26. Mere Tantalisers on May 1st, 2008 8:57 am

    If the mariners had a change of heart and decided to delay their (JC’s and WB’s) free agency, could they not do what Tampa did with Longoria and start them in Tacoma on the minor league roster for a week next year? I see no downside to this move.

  27. slescotts on May 1st, 2008 8:58 am

    Amen… Thanks for the post. Now onto solving the riddle that is our $850K utility infield coach, translator and pinch runner, Miguel Cairo….

  28. gwangung on May 1st, 2008 8:59 am

    MKT: We’ll be fighting this straw man for the rest of our lives: No one says chemistry doesn’t matter. The disagreements are about how much it matters, and what’s appropriate to do about it.

    Well, I think it’s a bit misleading to call this chemistry. Creating an attractive environment and attracting free agents to Seattle through non monetary means is something entirely different than what most people call “chemistry”…moreover, it’s the sort of thing that you CAN have measures for.

  29. BaltimoreDave on May 1st, 2008 8:59 am

    Ideally, the service-time issue isn’t a factor if both players perform up to expectations and the organization decides to sign them through their arbitration years. That’s a decision they’ll likely make within the next year or two. All the better if they’re able to buy at least their first free-agent year at a discount in the process.

  30. lylepdx on May 1st, 2008 8:59 am

    Amen… Thanks for the post. Now onto solving the riddle that is our $850K utility infield coach, translator and pinch runner, Miguel Cairo….

    I’m all for solving that problem… but only after we solve the problem of the wandering blackhole in our lineup, otherwise named Vidro.

  31. currcoug on May 1st, 2008 9:01 am

    Laying ethics aside, many of you recently argued that Clement and Balentien were not ready and should stay in Tacoma.

    Many have argued (including me) that the Mariners must do everything possible to limit Vidro’s AB’s in order to prevent his option from vesting. Isn’t that unethical? After all, Bavasi agreed to give Vidro the vesting option in order to get Vidro to waive his no-trade clause, didn’t he?

    It is also noteworthy that few of us think it was unethical to jettison Wilkerson after only one month of the season. Would he have come to Seattle if he had known this would happen so quickly? Will this have a chilling effect on other free agents?

    Players are professionals, and they frequently place their egos and needs ahead of fans and owners. They know this is a business, not a fraternity. As fans, don’t we want our favorite players to stay in our city as long as possible?

    My guess is that calling up Clement/Bavasi a week early had little to do with ethics and more to do with being desperate to win. Dave might have inside knowledge on this subject, however.

    Having said all the above, I have to admit that I was one of those who was vigorously advocating the immediate call up of Clement/Balentien.

  32. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 9:02 am

    Lyle, do you have any idea why your prior post formatted so oddly? Are you posting on a Blackberry or something, or did you put the line breaks in deliberately?

    Playing time at catcher might be limited, and with Vidro at DH, who also has a personal interest for getting his at bats, Clement’s playing time might be limited.

    Turbo’s playing time will be going way down.

  33. scraps on May 1st, 2008 9:05 am

    Has anyone recently been saying Clement isn’t ready? Balentien, yes.

  34. HamNasty on May 1st, 2008 9:05 am

    I am for the moves from a win point of view. The M’s saw a problem and are attempting to fix it in a timely manner and cheap as possible. I imagine Clement will get a Yuni/Lopez deal in a few years and lock him up past 2013 anyways so I don’t see this being a bad move.

  35. Mike Snow on May 1st, 2008 9:09 am

    Many have argued (including me) that the Mariners must do everything possible to limit Vidro’s AB’s in order to prevent his option from vesting. Isn’t that unethical?

    If Vidro hits well enough this year to merit the plate appearances that would vest his option, he deserves to play now and get paid next year. I don’t think there’s any argument about the fact that he’s not earning it the way he’s hitting now.

  36. currcoug on May 1st, 2008 9:11 am

    Scraps,

    The argument was that Clement was ready as a hitter, but not as a catcher. It is true, however, that the extension given to Johjima changed the dynamics of that discussion.

  37. b_rider on May 1st, 2008 9:12 am

    I don’t speak with any authority here, but it seems to me that the situation now is pretty good for Clement. He can split catching with Johjima, and he can DH the rest of the time. Both he and Johjima will benefit from not having to catch every day, and the Mariners will benefit from not having Vidro in the lineup so often. When Johjima gets it together, he can DH sometimes. The loser is Burke, I suppose.

    I still think they should have kept Wilkerson as a backup plan in the OF. What if someone is injured, or Balentien struggles to adjust?

  38. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on May 1st, 2008 9:13 am

    I agree 100% with the M’s approach. Your analogy to normal working environments is a good one. I am in the ethics field — although it is limited to the kind of work my company does — and the one thing we advise our folks is to do the right thing by the other side. It makes sense from a rules perspective, but also helps create an environment that is tolerable in a very adversarial field. If we are going to treat those we are up against this way, shouldn’t the bar be higher for those we work with, and who work for us?

    I am lucky to manage a number of folks in my work. If I tried to pull something like this, I’d have hell to pay. Baseball is a bit different, but I’d bet that Jeff and Wlad would still be pissed. I don’t always agree with comments that loyalty in a baseball organization doesn’t matter. It does matter. A player must perform too, but there is no excuse for not treating your people right, even if it costs you some additional amount of money.

  39. eddie on May 1st, 2008 9:14 am

    I think something this whole situation (calling up Clement and Balentien from the minors) has pointed out to me is that as much as I think I know what’s going on, I really don’t know squat. There probably are a million factors in every decision that I know nothing about and I should factor those unknown million factors in before I start complaining.

    Time and time again, ex-Mariners (Jamie Moyer notwithstanding) have said how well the team treated them. Even Jose Guillen, that noted “problem” player said it and it’s a nice thing to hear. It will be interesting to hear what Wilkerson has to say.

  40. Breadbaker on May 1st, 2008 9:15 am

    I think we need to remember the old mindset, what we might call the Omar-Tino-A-Rod mindset, which seeemed to be that no one besides Griffey would ever want to re-sign here past their free agency period. There’s no reason for that old mindset. The team has as much money as anyone other than maybe five teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers, Angels) and it’s a nice place to live and raise your family. We have a strong fanbase, a wonderful stadium and are the gateway to the Asian market. We should assume that players who deserve to do so should spend their whole careers here. Well, if we could just do something about the front office . . . .

  41. jetli on May 1st, 2008 9:17 am

    Kudos to management ASSUMING that they were well aware of their options regarding Clement/Balentien’s service time and the potential to have them through 2014.

    But isn’t that giving them too much benefit of the doubt? A lot of their questionable decision-making in the recent past (IOW “mistakes” … Should I list them and bore you?) seems to have been based on gut-feeling without considerable research into their options.

    I’m quite sure Bavasi would like the public to believe that their call-up decision was an “ethical” one. But I’d bet a pretty penny that he and his crew are in the backroom pointing fingers at each other with like “How come no one told me that we could have had them until 2014?”, “Whose idea was it to call them up this week?”, “Geez … You think someone around here would have a calculator!” or “How long do we need to send them back down so that we can regain that extra year? Anyone know?”

  42. equaltojake on May 1st, 2008 9:21 am

    Nice post, makes me feel a bit selfish for being annoyed with the TEAMS for not waiting. You’re right, I’d be incredibly annoyed if somebody did this to me.

  43. currcoug on May 1st, 2008 9:23 am

    Bread,

    Well said.

    However, the M’s log more miles than any other team in MLB. Moreover, guys like A-Rod view Seattle as a media hinterland.

  44. Uncle Ted on May 1st, 2008 9:23 am

    #31

    The difference in the Vidro case is that Vidro’s abilities no longer merit a multi-million dollar salary. In contrast Clement’s abilities do, and to keep him down is to prevent him from getting something he deserves. I don’t think we can say that Vidro in any sense deserves having his option vest. As i’ve understood the things the options are supposed to vest if you stay healthy enough and play well enough to warrant the team putting you on the field given the other available players that can fill your position.

  45. martin026 on May 1st, 2008 9:24 am

    #32–
    I agree that Vidro’s playing time should be going way down. I want to see it first before I will believe it though.

    I do not have a very good understanding about clauses tied to at bats, or what kind of grievances or actions the player or his union could take.

    I think that any reduction with Vidro’s at bats would be based on his performance, and not the Mariners trying to squirm out of a year of his services. I am not sure how the union or the player would see it though.

    It looks like it could be the beginning of a situation similar to Frank Thomas and the Blue Jays. If that means the Mariners cut him to avoid the appearance of suppressing at bats to void the contract, thumbs up!

  46. currcoug on May 1st, 2008 9:25 am

    A bad choice of words there. I should have said “wilderness”, rather than “hinterland”.

  47. Jar on May 1st, 2008 9:25 am

    I love to see that the organization has that kind of integrity, well played Mariners.
    I just wish they knew a thing or too about baseball too.

  48. fetish on May 1st, 2008 9:26 am

    It likely, that over the 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, or 2013 seasons, that these guys will spend 15 days on the disabled list or back in the minors. Really, we’re wagering one year of club control vs. nearly 6 consecutive years of productive, injury-free play.

  49. Mike Snow on May 1st, 2008 9:29 am

    The disabled list doesn’t affect service time.

  50. eric on May 1st, 2008 9:30 am

    currcoug,

    Wilkerson I believe has a guranteed contract, he will still get paid, you could argue that once they decided to start Wlad the Ms are doing right by him by releasing him and giving him a chance to go to a team where he can play

  51. smb on May 1st, 2008 9:32 am

    currcoug,

    I agree the airtime is the biggest problem for most FA’s. It’s really brutal from Seattle. Wonder why Hudson was so keen on Atlanta after playing in Oakland? Family in Georgia. Lou to the D-Rays? Family in Tampa. Seattle might as well be the Yukon to some guys.

  52. currcoug on May 1st, 2008 9:33 am

    Didn’t Wilkerson have incentives in his contract too?

  53. JMHawkins on May 1st, 2008 9:39 am

    …I’d say that players should expect ownership to do what’s best for ownership

    Except we’re really talking about “management” here, and not ownership (Bavasi and Lincoln don’t own the M’s). Management’s job is to do what’s in the best interests of the organization, balancing both long and short term. In the the short term, this is good for the team. In the long term, it’s also good for the team because it fosters a good relationship with players and agents, which is worth a lot. The only downside might be the mid-term, where for one year the team needs an extra few million in salary to keep the same roster.

    But really, this team’s problems are not about lack of money. They have enough money to sign guys. Their problems have been wasting money on guys who are bad firs or can’t perform. This is a good move all around (though probably not as good as what they could have done with a smarter offseason, but oh well).

  54. hangsoutatcostco on May 1st, 2008 9:53 am

    What are you talking about . . . ethics? In MLB? Are you kidding? How many times have we heard the phrase “When it comes down to it, you have to remember it’s a business”?

    But, from an ethics standpoint, as long as the M’s constituency continues to anti up, why should management care how much money it costs them in the long run . . . wish I had $3M to toss out the window when I wanted to. Brad, we hardly knew ye. Nice catch and 3 for 3 the day before, though.

  55. vj on May 1st, 2008 9:54 am

    ex-Mariners (Jamie Moyer notwithstanding) have said how well the team treated them

    Did Moyer ever say anything negative about the Mariners? Player A aka Spiezio sure did but Moyer’s hard to believe.

  56. mw3 on May 1st, 2008 9:59 am

    Huzzah!

  57. msb on May 1st, 2008 10:01 am

    Time and time again, ex-Mariners (Jamie Moyer notwithstanding) have said how well the team treated them.

    when has Moyer said the team treated him badly? By the 3rd year of losing he was depressed (as were we all) and even thinking of retirement when they came to him with the Philadelphia trade. He accepted after asking Gillick for a mutual option arrangement for the next year. In the off-season the M’s didn’t inquire if he wanted to come back, and the Phillies offered a renegotiated contract and an extention through 2008.

  58. DAMellen on May 1st, 2008 10:04 am

    And hey, maybe if we get on their good sides, they’ll be more eager to deal with us in the future. I suppose that’s asking a lot, but I’d hope that if we uphold strong ethics with them, they’ll at least consider staying with us when they get a chance to leave. I gotta think you’re more likely to stick with an organization that’s going all out to be fair even when it hurts them financially. I don’t think a lot of teams would do that.

  59. xeifrank on May 1st, 2008 10:11 am

    I don’t see this as an ethical issue/problem. I see it as purely a business issue. On top of that, we are only talking about one week! Keeping a player (2 players in this case) under control, especially when that player has the potential to be very good and demand a large sum of money is very important to the business structure of a team, especially a team that does not have the payroll of the Red Sox or Yankees. If this issue is an ethical one then it shouldn’t be in the collective bargaining agreement that you can purposely keep a player in the minors long enough to stall his service time. That’s fine if the Mariners don’t care about service time issues, that’s their choice. But to say it’s an ethical decision is fatuous.
    vr, Xeifrank

  60. Evan on May 1st, 2008 10:12 am

    Allow me to argue that it would be perfectly ethical for the Mariners to deprive Clement of a year of service time simply to gain a financial advantage over him in the future.

    Clement agreed to it. Through the collective bargaining process, the players’ association (which acts as Clement’s proxy) agreed to allow teams the power to do this very thing. Since Clement has agreed to the structure of the deal, he therefore accepts that teams can do exactly what the Mariners would have been doing had they called him up only afte May 7.

    Arguing that the Mariners can’t ethically manipulate Clement’s future status carries within it the implicit assertion that Clement’s rights to be treated based on his talent, and without regard to financial concerns, in inalienable (and thus he couldn’t give it away), but no one’s made that argument. In fact, that would be very difficult given the existence of collectively bargained service time requirements at all.

    As such, I disagree with Dave’s claims that keeping Clement in the minors a few more days would be unethical. Calling him up now does create some goodwill, and that might have value, but failing to call him up would have been perfectly ethical behaviour.

  61. currcoug on May 1st, 2008 10:13 am

    We are getting a bit off the track here, but the sad thing about trading Moyer is that Bavasi got little in return for him.

  62. jryoung222 on May 1st, 2008 10:14 am

    While I understand the general sentiment of Dave’s post, I disagree. Using Dave’s analogy of being promoted or not promoted in a regular job, then is it unethical of Brad Wilkerson to take $3 million from the M’s even though they fired him? Baseball’s not like an office situation. It’s a different business. Clement and Balentein knew the rules of the business when they signed their contracts. These guys are going to make a lot of money, more in one year than any of us will ever hope to make in our lifetimes, so saying it’s “unethical” to keep them an extra year (at which point they’re probably going to be making millions, because of arbitration after year four), just rings hollow to me. It’s hard to generate a lot of sympathy for someone who, instead of going out on the free agent market a year earlier to get $12 or whatever million/year, has to stay with his original team and make only $8 million.

  63. jgp722 on May 1st, 2008 10:15 am

    This is exactly the kind of thing that would make a Wlad or a Clement *want* to sign a deal with Mariners once they are an established player in 2013. The M’s have shown that they value their baseball ability and are willing to give these players a chance at the big league level.

    Wlad – 2 for 4, 3 RBI, 1 HR

    Clement – 1 for 1

  64. JackB on May 1st, 2008 10:17 am

    To those saying that the lost year of service time will be a moot point (and I have seen this here and at other blogs): I dont think that’s quite right.
    Do you think when the two sides sit down to negotiate a deal they aren’t aware how many years the player has left until free agency, and that that doesn’t change the deal that gets agreed to? Here are the annual salaries for the recent Longoria deal – .5, .55, .95, 2, 4.5, 6, 7.5(Option), 11(Option), and 11.5(Option). They are certainly lower than Longoria would recieve through arbitration and free agency without the security of a long term deal, but they follow the basic pattern of rising only as the player gets more leverage. If you could magically push his free agency one year earlier, he surely would have signed a contract less benificial to the team.
    Not that this invalidates Dave’s point at all, but there is no way that losing that year of club control will not cost the M’s millions of dollars
    The reserve clause itself is pretty darn unethical. If the M’s really wanted to be good, they ought to declare them both free agents right now…
    I sure hope this formats OK

  65. marc w on May 1st, 2008 10:19 am

    58 –
    I think the extra year of club control matters, but given Bavasi’s desire to avoid arbitration at all costs and buy out arby years/an FA year or two, it doesn’t matter as much as it would for another org. You can argue that the negotiations for that buy-out/contract will go MUCH smoother now too.

  66. pmccollum on May 1st, 2008 10:21 am

    I agree completely. Just as when they called up Doyle a couple of years back, and then put him on the DL this is the kind of move that shows some organizational class and awareness that players are real people.

    As much as we all love to harp on the hard economics and statistics of baseball. And (I think rightfully) give the team a hard time for not fully grasping some of those concepts, I think that this move also shows a shrewd understanding by the team of what goes into those numbers. Treating employees well makes it all the more likely that a player will want to negotiate in good faith and decide to stay later. Who’s to say that these moves might not actually end up saving the team a little money down the road (or at least end up costing the team a lot less than some have argued).

  67. hangsoutatcostco on May 1st, 2008 10:23 am

    Listen, we’d all like to think we are aligned with an organization that has everyone’s best interests in mind, but these are not people who care about, for example, Yuni’s life in Cuba (or any other Cubans). They only care that he is here now. And, if he screws up by not performing, is released, and for some reason (indulge me here, please) has to return to Cuba, do you think the organization is going to do all that they can to keep INS from deporting him?

    I’m sorry. They are as cutthroat as the next organization. I can only hope that the organization does not suffer the same fate at its ballpark’s namesake.

  68. robbbbbb on May 1st, 2008 10:23 am

    Evan (#59),

    I’ve worked in such an environment. Right out of college, I took a job at Boeing and was represented by SPEEA. You’re assuming that the union fairly represents the interests of their constituency. I found, time and again, that SPEEA did not represent my interests. Instead, it was geared to representing the interests of those employees with a bunch of service time with the company. Young, upwardly mobile employees? Not a chance.

    There’s a reason I work somewhere else, now.

  69. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 10:24 am

    I think the extra year of club control matters, but given Bavasi’s desire to avoid arbitration at all costs and buy out arby years/an FA year or two, it doesn’t matter as much as it would for another org. You can argue that the negotiations for that buy-out/contract will go MUCH smoother now too.

    I think a lot of people are glossing over this unfairly; it’s actually a fairly important point.

    Given the recent organizational history of buying out arbitration years, the service time issue is likely to zero actual impact, presuming that either a) Bavasi is still the GM or b) that it is something that will continue even if he isn’t.

    So all the hand-wringing about how this stance is going to cost the Mariners millions of dollars (pinky finger to lips) is probably not really justified.

    As far as the CBA issue is concerned, it’s not like Clement/Balentien can play in the majors without agreeing to the CBA, even the parts that they don’t like. They either accept rules that may be very detrimental to them, or they don’t play. So it’s not the case that by signing a major league contract, they’re saying they’re okay with all the stipulations thereof; just that accepting those stipulations are less bad than not being able to play in the majors at all.

  70. metz123 on May 1st, 2008 10:25 am

    Semantically I agree with Evan. Clement bargained away his rights in this situation via the collective bargaining agreement. It is not unethical to work within the the CBA to get an extra year of service time.

    However, I think that the M’s made the correct moral decision in moving the players up. Clement certainly showed that he is qualified to be in MLB and is overqualified at AAA. If his career track continues its upward trajectory the point is moot. All he would have to do is declare his intent to become a free agent at the end of club control and he could force the M’s hand. Whether that happens in year 5 or year 6 really doesn’t matter.

    Please don’t assume any goodwill on either the part of the club or the player will exist in 2013. Let’s remember that 99.9% of the time the player moves to the club that will offer him the most money. There is little to no loyalty between player and club and that works bi-directionally. in 2013 each side will work to strike the best deal they can, Clement won’t care what the club did in 2008 and it will barely factor into the M’s side of the equation either.

  71. pmccollum on May 1st, 2008 10:27 am

    If the ~20 ABs Clement can take from Vidro this week ends up making the difference between Vidro’s option vesting and not vesting, then calling Clement up early already saved the team $7m.

  72. marc w on May 1st, 2008 10:27 am

    Right – the date at which a young player hits arbitration just doesn’t seem to matter here. Now, you can say that this still impacts the market value of whatever contract is negotiated; if you’re buying out two years instead of one, the contract will look different – so it’s not like there’s no cost to this. But it’s likely manageable, and the date itself simply doesn’t matter.

  73. JMHawkins on May 1st, 2008 10:28 am

    Allow me to argue that it would be perfectly ethical for the Mariners to deprive Clement of a year of service time simply to gain a financial advantage over him in the future.

    Clement agreed to it. Through the collective bargaining process, the players’ association (which acts as Clement’s proxy…

    You’re confusing “legally” with “ethically.” There’s a big difference, but sadly, fewer and fewer people (and almost no lawyers) seem to understand that today. Not everything that’s unethical is illegal, nor should it be. As far as Clement agreeing to the CBA, yeah, right. He didn’t have anything to do with it, the whole thing was handed to him as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. It’s one thing to tell him “Hey Jeff, we can do this under the CBA, so tough luck.” It’s another to try telling him he agreed to it too.

  74. HamNasty on May 1st, 2008 10:28 am

    jryoung222- Just because they make a boat load of money doesn’t mean they deserve less ethical treatment. Considering the business they are in as young players they are woefully underpaid already. You can’t blame baseball players for making a lot of money by doing something that people will pay a lot of money to watch them do.

  75. Mike Snow on May 1st, 2008 10:30 am

    Using Dave’s analogy of being promoted or not promoted in a regular job, then is it unethical of Brad Wilkerson to take $3 million from the M’s even though they fired him?

    Why in the world would that be unethical? The Mariners agreed to a contract, Wilkerson is entitled to the benefits of that contract. He can be released, because it’s a personal services contract and thus you can’t actually force him to provide, or the team to use, those services. But he still has to be paid under the contract. Again, legally it’s not Wilkerson’s fault the team released him.

  76. CCW on May 1st, 2008 10:35 am

    I don’t see how ethics have anything to do with this. This is an employer/employee relationship – a contractual business relationship. The matter of how much money you pay to an employee and when does not involve ethics. If the M’s want to ignore the economic reasons they might delay calling up Clement and Balentien, I don’t have any problem with that. But that is a purely a business decision, where such things as employee happiness play a role.

  77. Uncle Ted on May 1st, 2008 10:37 am

    #59

    Clement doesn’t have to have a right to be treated in any way for the Mariners to have a moral duty to treat him respectfully. There are violations of moral obligations which don’t in any way transgress the rights of others. So whether Clement has a rights claim is beside the point. Not manipulating him by keeping him down for another week when he’s ready for MLB action is the morally decent thing to do.

  78. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 10:38 am

    Just because ethical considerations are often ignored in business negotiations, doesn’t mean that they don’t still exist.

    You can debate whether the Mariners made the right ethical decision in this case, but pretending that there wasn’t an ethical choice to be made is a little silly.

  79. currcoug on May 1st, 2008 10:38 am

    JMHawkins,

    Please provide documentation to support your statement that “almost no lawyers” understand the difference between legality and ethics.

    In my experience, that is a popular myth.

  80. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 10:42 am

    Wait, what?

    How in the world do you expect him to provide “documentation” of that?

  81. hangsoutatcostco on May 1st, 2008 10:44 am

    CCW is right . . . what we’re talking about is a business relationship. What we’re doing on this blog is based on an emotional relationship. It’s much harder for us as fans to divorce ourselves from the purely business-as-usual transactions than it is for those who are crossing ‘t’s and dotting ‘i’s.

    The example of Wilkerson’s contractual agreement is also a nice counterpoint. It works both ways. Think of it as rich people gambling with our money (after we’ve paid them to entertain us, that is.) Who’s to say that Clement or Balentien are immune from Mike Morse’s fate?

  82. Mat on May 1st, 2008 10:45 am

    As such, I disagree with Dave’s claims that keeping Clement in the minors a few more days would be unethical. Calling him up now does create some goodwill, and that might have value, but failing to call him up would have been perfectly ethical behaviour.

    I guess I’m not sure what constitutes ethical or unethical, in that ethics is a technical term to some and a more casual term to others. Personally, I guess I would say that waiting seven days for the sake of paying Clement and Balentien less money, knowing that they could help the team today, would be kind of sleazy, even if it is allowed within the bounds of the contract.

    I’m reminded of a recent publication by an author we are all familiar with. The hidden ball trick is a perfectly legitimate tactic within the confines of the rules of baseball. However, some players/teams might consider the deceit involved in the trick to be somewhat unsportsmanlike. So the umpires will allow you to complete the hidden ball trick, but you run the risk of the opposing pitchers getting pissed off and throwing at your hitters. That’s clearly a risk that Mike Lowell is willing to take, but I don’t know if it’s a risk that all players are willing to take.

    So Bavasi may well be ethically in the clear to exploit the letter of the CBA in order to pay his home-grown players as little as possible, but as you acknowledge, there could be value in not alienating his employees.

  83. currcoug on May 1st, 2008 10:47 am

    Jeff,

    Yes, exactly.

  84. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 10:47 am

    Ethics is actually a really simple thing to define.

    Ethics is the study of what you SHOULD do in a given situation.

    It has nothing to do with what you CAN do, and that’s an important distinction.

  85. scraps on May 1st, 2008 10:48 am

    I don’t see this as an ethical issue/problem. I see it as purely a business issue.

    When dealing with personnel issues, the idea that there is such a thing as a “purely business issue” is deeply wrong, in my opinion, and leads to people treating other people like discardable parts. Anyway, of course it is an ethical issue: ethics is all about proper bahavior between people. You can certainly argue that it is defensible to keep them down to minimize cost for the team, but to dismiss the whole issue is, to borrow your word, fatuous. You are in effect saying that there is no such thing as ethics, only laws and contracts. This is the kind of argument that leads people to say that there’s nothing unethical about mid-century music executives signing musicians to contracts that effectively robbed them blind. And since in this case the contract is the Collective Bargaining Agreement, it is like saying that there’s nothing unethical about laws that oppress groups of people — the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II, say — because as citizens of the U.S. we have all agreed to live under the rule of the law.

  86. Cole on May 1st, 2008 10:48 am

    Great write-up, you really changed my mind. Here’s to hoping that the M’s lock these guys up a year earlier now.

  87. jryoung222 on May 1st, 2008 10:52 am

    Mike Snow: I’m talking more broadly about how a player’s contract is supposed to be honored even if he’s fired or injured, but then ownership is supposed be “ethical” when it’s well within their rights to work within the CBA (which is a contract, too) to keep a player for an extra year? Why should they, when a player still gets his money when he doesn’t perform? That could be Clement in 7-8 years instead of Wilkerson.

    Even more broadly, if we’re going to compare baseball with the real world of business, then every player should just be a free agent after every season, right? That would be the most ethical way to do it, for both sides. Then a player can just leave to another team to get more money right after a great rookie season, and ownership can fire a guy at any time when he doesn’t perform, and give them two weeks severance.

    If we want to talk real ethics here, that’s the most ethical way for both sides.

  88. themedia on May 1st, 2008 10:56 am

    I’m not sure where I stand on this one. I agree with Dave, in so far as the two players in question are CLEARLY ready for the majors. In that sense, not calling them up for monetary reasons wouldn’t be a great message to send to the future of your franchise.

    However, from another perspective, isn’t this the kind of stuff we love to bash Bavasi for? He may have screwed us out of a year with these guys for a week of baseball that probably won’t have a long-term effect. This is classic Bavasi if you look at it like that — forgetting macro-baseball and taking shortcuts to marginal success.

    I agree with Dave, though, if I was Wlad or Clement I would be pissed if I was ready to play and didn’t get my fair look. I just hope this doesn’t come back to bite us.

  89. okobojicat on May 1st, 2008 10:58 am

    Great write-up indeed.

  90. scraps on May 1st, 2008 11:03 am

    The most straightforward way to boil down the intersection between business and ethics (or the law and ethics):

    The fact that you have the right to do something does not make it right to do so.

  91. scraps on May 1st, 2008 11:05 am

    This is classic Bavasi if you look at it like that — forgetting macro-baseball

    Dave has been at pains to point out that Bavasi knows the issue perfectly well. He has not “forgotten”.

  92. MedicineHat on May 1st, 2008 11:08 am

    The way I look at it is, this only becomes a problem for the Mariners if these guys both perform well. IF either of them struggle, they are going to go back down and that week will still be preserved. They have to perform well to be here the rest of the year…wouldn’t that be a good problem? To HAVE to lose that extra year because these two guys are doing so well they have to stay!

  93. BaltimoreDave on May 1st, 2008 11:14 am

    Dave has been at pains to point out that Bavasi knows the issue perfectly well. He has not “forgotten”.

    Right – and it puts the onus on him (or his successor) to convert the goodwill he has hopefully bought into something positive for the club, i.e. signing the player through his arbitration years.

  94. SpokaneMsFan on May 1st, 2008 11:16 am

    Great post Dave. I wonder if in the long run this might help us keep the guys longer even. Sure the cost will be higher once free agency begins, but the players might be willing to give a hometown discount when they remember how we did them right at the beginning, and be more likely to resign with us in the first place. And it’s not like we don’t throw away millions on worse propositions than that every year.

  95. hub on May 1st, 2008 11:17 am

    Lets hope Clement and Wlad are as ‘ethical’ in 5 years, as Bavasi was today.

  96. whiskeychainsaw on May 1st, 2008 11:18 am

    Wow. Great post, and completely ironical I didn’t even see this perspective since the same thing JUST HAPPENED TO ME!!!

    Hopefully this honorable move will be rewarded in the long run.

    Karma, come our way!!! And considering the Sonics situation, we deserve some extraordinary karma!

  97. brianf on May 1st, 2008 11:20 am

    I respectfully disagree with you on this one Dave. The rules are the rules, and nobody should be demonized for using them to their advantage. That applies to GM’s as much as it does players + agents.

    The M’s don’t “owe” Clement/Wlad a year of service any more than Zito “owes” the Giants back money for being moved to the pen.

    This move was, in my view, a little foolish. It’s not hugely foolish because it’ll only matter if these guys stick for the next 5+ years without a trip back to the minors–but in some ways, that’s the case where this is the biggest mistake because the M’s lose control of a great player a year earlier than they should have.

  98. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 11:21 am

    Again, ethics has NOTHING to do with what any applicable rules allow.

    The hope, of course, is always to have rules and ethics aligned as closely as possible; but many, many sets of rules for given situations allow unethical things to happen.

    Dave’s post makes it very clear that manipulating these callups to try to change the service time considerations was entirely allowable within the rules of the CBA; but the rules question isn’t what he was attempting to address.

  99. scraps on May 1st, 2008 11:24 am

    For crying out loud, no one is “demonizing” anyone, and no one said the Mariners “owe” Clement and Vlad anything. There’s plenty of room to disagree; you don’t have to put words in the mouths of the people you disagree with.

    “The rules are the rules” does not mean the Mariners are obliged to take advantage of a rule if they choose not to.

  100. marc w on May 1st, 2008 11:24 am

    92 – that’s a really good point. Bavasi has an out here if either player goes really cold for a while. Given the DFA of Wilkerson, Wlad would have to be really, really cold for them to decide to just give the starting RF job to Bloomquist outright, but it’s still possible.
    He’s given the players a legitimate shot to gain that year of service time; the ball’s in their court now. I’m sure both appreciate that fact a great deal.

  101. rcc on May 1st, 2008 11:25 am

    I also disagree with Dave. Any major league team is within their rights to use the rules to their advantage much the same way that the players can and do.

    Do you recall that Ken Griffey Jr. had enough service time with the M’s to dictate where he would be traded? Did he give up a “right” that he had earned? Would you expect an agent like Scott Boras to give back anything that he could legally get for one of his clients?

    No one likes a fool, or to be made foolish. The M’s have already estabished that they are fools when it comes to roster management, and in this case they did nothing to alter the perception that they remain a foolish organization.

  102. hcoguy on May 1st, 2008 11:26 am

    The F.O. needs to do everything possible to please Wlad and keep him around.

    He is Felix’s best friend.

    Enough said.

  103. marc w on May 1st, 2008 11:32 am

    Any major league team is within their rights to use the rules to their advantage much the same way that the players can and do.

    This is true. It’s also not quite what’s at issue here.

    Let’s take any of the recent deals where a player and a team agree to a buyout of arb years (and a FA year or two)… Longoria, Yuni, heck, Nate Robertson. Who is using the rules to their advantage here? Who is screwing over whom?
    If the intent is to go this route at some point, and Bavasi has given every indication that this is the plan (because he’s never gone to arb), what’s the problem here exactly? That he’ll have to pay more in the buyout deal? is that what we’re arguing about?

  104. metz123 on May 1st, 2008 11:35 am

    Ethics will not be in play 5 years from now when Wlad and Clement come up for free agency. The decisions they make then will not be moral decisions. Bavasi was faced with a moral decision. He had decided to make a move and release some underperforming players. He had 2 players in the minors that were the most qualified to fill those roles. He could promote them now and incur more service time or promote them later. Morally he made the correct decision and pulled the trigger.

    He’s also trying to save his job and ethics may not have factored into the decision at all. He may actually have unethically pulled the trigger. His decision may have been motivated strictly to keep his job and improve the club immediately, damn the consequences in the future. If that was the case then he actually made an unethical decision because he handicapped his employer in the future for purely selfish reasons in the present.

    This all just goes to show that unless you have complete access to someone’s head, you can’t judge their ethics based on observing the surface.

  105. scraps on May 1st, 2008 11:36 am

    This conversation is demonstrating that for a lot of people there is nothing to ever consider beyond Rules and Rights. It’s a bit depressing.

  106. jryoung222 on May 1st, 2008 11:39 am

    What this boils down to, is Bavasi is hoping that Clement and/or Balentein will return the ethical favor when it comes time for free agency, and give the team an “ethics discount” and stay with the team.

    I just don’t think that’s a prudent way to run a team. It’s a nice gesture, and it would be great if everyone in baseball operated in this manner, but the fact is they don’t, generally.

    Again, go back to contracts. The CBA is a contract, and there are rules under that contract within which both sides operate. The players sign individual contracts, and always – ALWAYS – take the money no matter what – injuries, underperformance, etc. Ever seen player give up his money voluntarily? Until the rules are changed, I don’t see why the Mariners should give up their right – which was bargained and agreed to by both sides, ownership and players – to do what they want with a player while he’s under contract with the team.

  107. scraps on May 1st, 2008 11:39 am

    The decisions they make then will not be moral decisions.

    You can’t know that. Players make nuanced decisions all the time (just as some ballclubs do). To take just one example, Mike Cameron took less money from the Mets than the A’s offered, because he felt bad about the idea of going to the Mariners’ division rival.

    Seriously, several people are tossing around a whole lot of Absolute assertions and arguments. It is a complicated set of issues. If you think it’s cut and dried, you don’t want to consider the arguments you disagree with. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the points Dave has raised and still disagreeing with him (as some have done).

  108. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 11:40 am

    What this thread is demonstrating, at the risk of sounding a little bit snotty, is that a lot of people don’t know what the term “ethics” means.

  109. Panev on May 1st, 2008 11:41 am

    If Kenji, Turbo, Wilkerson and Sexson were all hitting, JC and WB would still be Tacoma and ethics wouldn’t be being discussed. JC needs to be catching now if he is ever going to become an MLB catcher. Most here agreed with that when the rosters were set.

    Also, if players are getting a fair shake in salary prior to FA (arbitration or not) then FA shouldn’t become such a big payday issue.

    I would have waited a week to avoid having to play any games down the road – which will truly be the judge of ethics from the M’s and Bavasi.

  110. Brady H on May 1st, 2008 11:44 am

    I agree. This was the right move in several ways. By not waiting a week to call WB and JC up, we give ourselves a better chance to resign them (assuming we want to) when they become free agents, possibly making that one extra year a moot point.

    We already set the precedent that it’s now or never and I’m glad to see Bavasi follow through. I wish we would have done it earlier.

  111. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 11:45 am

    Also, if players are getting a fair shake in salary prior to FA (arbitration or not) then FA shouldn’t become such a big payday issue.

    This is a good point, also, although it still speaks a bit more to the rules question than the ethics question.

    The current system is pretty disadvantageous for young players, so I really don’t blame any of them for cashing in on free agency the moment they’re able to.

  112. Dave on May 1st, 2008 11:47 am

    What this boils down to, is Bavasi is hoping that Clement and/or Balentein will return the ethical favor when it comes time for free agency, and give the team an “ethics discount” and stay with the team.

    No, no, a thousand times no.

    If you’re driving down I-5 and see a lady broken down trying to change her tire, do you stop and help her because you’re hoping she’ll compensate you somehow or simply because it’s the right thing to do?

    I know cynicism is the new way to be cool, but there are still people out there who believe that some decisions have an inherent right or wrong, and they’re willing to make the right choice even if it’s not in their long term best interests. Bill Bavasi is one of those people.

    He didn’t do this because he’s hoping for a discount from these guys in 5+ years. He did it because he really believes that using service time as a factor in a roster management decision is the wrong thing to do.

  113. calim on May 1st, 2008 11:48 am

    If this is an ethical situation, I’m proud to be a Mariners fan today, because Bavasi et. al. did the right thing.
    But how has no one mentioned the possibility that Bavasi just did this to save his own skin, i.e. win this season and not worry about the future. Maybe he’s acting like he doesn’t care about 2014 because if he doesn’t win now, he won’t be here in 2009.

  114. wabbles on May 1st, 2008 11:58 am

    Well, my frame of reference for these things has always been Charles Comiskey and his team, the Chicago Black Sox. Comiskey must be somehow related to George Argyrous. He would do things such as have the manager bench pitchers (or position players) late in the season so they wouldn’t qualify for their plate appearance or innings pitched bonuses. And we all know how that whole mess turned out. It’s better to do the right thing.

  115. hub on May 1st, 2008 12:00 pm

    When applauding Bavasi for his ethics (which I’m not disagreeing with at all, even if this isn’t in the same zip code as Wallace/Hortman); we must also take into consideration the DFA of Norton (who did everything asked of him, and more). How ethical was that? I’m not saying it was ‘unethical’; however, when someone praises Bavasi for his ‘ethics’ here…this must be included in the discussion. Please explain.

  116. Mike Snow on May 1st, 2008 12:04 pm

    the ethical favor

    Being ethical is not something you do as a favor.

  117. sankthetank on May 1st, 2008 12:08 pm

    I agree with Evan in #60 — there is nothing unethical about leaving them down there one more week. Baseball players get a tremendous number of benefits by joining their union (ask yourself what’s YOUR per diem, what are YOUR health benefits) — one thing they give up is the vulnerability we are talking about. It’s the nature of the beast, and I would argue that the “goodwill” the team gains in this decision will be negligible by 2013.

    Additionally, I would argue it’s a bad business decision as well that will cost the team money down the road.

    For all of you who are making comparisons to your own work life — the parallels are minimal. Clement gets GUARANTEED money for years if he gets canned for poor on-the-field performance (something HE is in control of). I get 2 months of pay if I get canned after continuously designing crappy satellites. And I’d argue that in that case I’d deserve nothing — wouldn’t it be unethical for me to take MORE of the company’s money after doing such a terrible job?

  118. eponymous coward on May 1st, 2008 12:12 pm

    There’s also a perfectly selfish possible motivation here. Given that M’s + Clement + Wlad > M’s + Wilkerson + Norton, spending another week coughing up games you might otherwise win so you can keep your kids an extra year might be the difference between baseball or pink slips in October.

    Let’s face it… if the Mariners WEREN’T in it to win it in 2008, they wouldn’t have made the Bedard trade. The selfish (“We want to put the best team on the field this year”) and the unselfish (“We want to treat our kids fairly”) coincide pretty well here.

    Also (and sorry to do this, but I just have to): this is the flip side of the organization’s unwillingness to sign Bonds, I think. I would consider Bonds an ethical shortcut as well.

  119. JMHawkins on May 1st, 2008 12:17 pm

    JMHawkins,

    Please provide documentation to support your statement that “almost no lawyers” understand the difference between legality and ethics.

    Struck a nerve? To be clear, I said “seem to” and perhaps throwing the lawyer bit in was uncalled for, and perhaps I could have said “lawyers and bureaucrats”, and perhaps “not enough lawyers” rather than “amost no lawyers” would be more accurate.

  120. BaltimoreDave on May 1st, 2008 12:17 pm

    He didn’t do this because he’s hoping for a discount from these guys in 5+ years. He did it because he really believes that using service time as a factor in a roster management decision is the wrong thing to do.

    That, and service time has no affect on the decision *today* anyway. It doesn’t have an effect next year or the year, either. It only comes into play if Balentien and Clement perform well AND the team declines to sign them before they gain some measure of leverage in the form of arbitration.

    I think it’s clear Bavasi made the moves because he feels they’re the right ones baseball-wise. Service-time issues can, and should, wait for another day.

  121. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 12:17 pm

    I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to swallow the idea that Bavasi made this move because he thought it was the right thing to do.

    Why are people searching so hard for a reason to either make this out as selfish, stupid, or both?

  122. wabbles on May 1st, 2008 12:22 pm

    The only point I would take exception with is the “750 best baseball players on the planet” part. The Rainiers clearly have a couple or few players on their roster who are better than a couple or few on the Mariners roster.

  123. BurkeForPres on May 1st, 2008 12:26 pm

    Really eloquent writing Dave, I always love reading your stuff on here and Fan Graphs. I had never even thought about it in that light, and I totally agree.

  124. eponymous coward on May 1st, 2008 12:26 pm

    Why are people searching so hard for a reason to either make this out as selfish, stupid, or both?

    I’ll put it this way: it’s probably EASIER to make this decision when it makes baseball sense (“The scouts say they are ready, and it looks like Wilkerson is done”) AND you’re starting to look at a mounting deficit in your division.

    If the M’s had a 5 game lead, and Wilkerson and Johjima were still problems at the plate, I suspect the “we don’t want to disturb team chemistry” nostrum would keep them down in the minors (see: Jones, Adam)… but the decision also wouldn’t be based on service time.

  125. Paul B on May 1st, 2008 12:34 pm

    The move to bring Wlad and Clement up is just total panic, pure and simple. After all, if they really knew who had the best talent on their 40 man roster, they would have had them here all along (and some of the other guys wouldn’t have been here). So ascribing some sort of ethical argument to it is misguided.

    I do not think that either move actually addresses the biggest problems with the lineup though. Vidro will still see a lot of playing time (at DH and maybe at first), Sexson will still play a lot, if not every day, and Raul will still play every game in left. Also, the 4th outfielder is still a utility middle infielder. And the back up infielder is an even worse utility infielder.

    I wonder how long it will take for Mac and Bavasi to figure that out?

  126. Jar on May 1st, 2008 12:36 pm

    Good grief, I am glad I don’t work for most of you. I second Jeff Nye’s question in #121, why is it so hard to accept that they did what they feel is the right thing to do, and why do so many people feel the need to prove that it’s not about ethics. For the Mariners this is obviously an ethical issue.

    I applaud them for their integrity on this issue.

  127. scraps on May 1st, 2008 12:36 pm

    Yes, the service time rule is part of the collective bargaining agreement. Yes, the players get benefits in exchange (though in the case of younger players, the agreement clearly leads to them getting paid a lot less than they’re worth).

    The point is, was the rule intended to be manipulated like this, or was it intended to be a fair measure of a player’s time as a contributor to the team?

    Most people would agree, I hope, that it would be wrong for a team to bench a player who was performing well in order to prevent the player reaching contract incentives. That it would be an abuse of the contractual agreement. Bavasi is saying that he thinks keeping a player in the minors when he is ready and needed by the major league club, entirely to keep his service time down, is a similar abuse of a rule. You can disagree, but you shouldn’t have trouble seeing the parallel and understanding where he’s coming from.

  128. scraps on May 1st, 2008 12:39 pm

    The move to bring Wlad and Clement up is just total panic, pure and simple.

    Right, addressing needs in a prompt fashion equals panic.

    After all, if they really knew who had the best talent on their 40 man roster, they would have had them here all along

    Right, because well-run organizations always know who their best players are going to be and are never forced to make changes based on performance.

    So ascribing some sort of ethical argument to it is misguided.

    Right, because you’re a mind-reader.

  129. currcoug on May 1st, 2008 12:40 pm

    All of this might be moot in regards to Balentien, if Bavasi is permitted to stay as GM. He tried to give Balentien away to KC in 2007, and he might trade him away in 2008. I don’t trust his judgment.

  130. metz123 on May 1st, 2008 12:43 pm

    I’m trying to figure out if ethics were even involved in the decision. Is there ethics involved if the roster time issue isn’t even in the equation? “hey, we’re sinking in the division, let’s bring up our best 2 players in the minors to help right the ship before we’re too far back to catch up”.

    That seems to be more the par for the course for the M’s management. Let’s not forget that this group is incredibly short sighted and more interested in keeping the turnstiles rolling today than building a team for the future. Ethics probably didn’t even enter into the discussion.

  131. Evan on May 1st, 2008 12:46 pm

    You’re confusing “legally” with “ethically.” There’s a big difference, but sadly, fewer and fewer people (and almost no lawyers) seem to understand that today. Not everything that’s unethical is illegal, nor should it be.

    I am not. I’m asserting that because Clement willingly consented to the deal, the Mariners have no ethical cause to ignore the dael to his benefit. They can if they want to be especially nice for some reason, but Clement has already implicitly stated he doesn’t require such actions of them by agreeing to work under the CBA.

    As far as Clement agreeing to the CBA, yeah, right. He didn’t have anything to do with it, the whole thing was handed to him as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. It’s one thing to tell him “Hey Jeff, we can do this under the CBA, so tough luck.” It’s another to try telling him he agreed to it too.

    That’s the cost of collective bargaining. There are benefits of collective bargaining, as well, but you can’t have it both ways.

  132. Evan on May 1st, 2008 12:46 pm

    I’m not sure where that first one (130) came from – oops. [fixed it for you]

  133. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 12:49 pm

    Again, what may or may not be in the CBA has zero to do with the ethical implications of this decision.

    Especially since it really is a contract between the MLBPA and MLB owners as a collective, not a specific contract between players and their organization. It effectively ACTS that way, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same thing.

    The things that are in the CBA regarding things like service time are stock provisions; the player (to the best of my knowledge anyway, but I wouldn’t say it if I weren’t fairly sure) doesn’t have the power to negotiate exceptions to those rules for his own situation. So Balentien and Clement, specifically, haven’t made any stipulations about those issues.

    I’ll put it this way: it’s probably EASIER to make this decision when it makes baseball sense (”The scouts say they are ready, and it looks like Wilkerson is done”) AND you’re starting to look at a mounting deficit in your division.

    I think we’d all agree that the reason these moves were made, at all, was to try to improve the team as quickly as possible.

    The TIMING is what this post is intended to address.

  134. Evan on May 1st, 2008 12:49 pm

    There are violations of moral obligations which don’t in any way transgress the rights of others. So whether Clement has a rights claim is beside the point. Not manipulating him by keeping him down for another week when he’s ready for MLB action is the morally decent thing to do.

    I’m not disputing that calling up Clement now wasn’t a nice thing to do. Bavasi’s done this before with Doyle, and generally seems to treat his players very well.

    No, I’m objecting to the assertion that leaving Clement down until May 7 would have been unethical. Given that Clement had already agreed to that sort of treatment, leaving him down until May 7 would have been an ethically and morally neutral act. This is where I disagree with Dave.

  135. Ollie in Raleigh on May 1st, 2008 12:50 pm

    Wow what an outpouring of support and good will towards Bavasi and Co.

    Good thing USS Mariner archives the posts or else where could we turn a few years down the road when the FO is being crucified for this decision.

    You guys crack me up.

    Mooooooooooooooooooooo!

  136. Uncle Ted on May 1st, 2008 12:50 pm

    I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to swallow the idea that Bavasi made this move because he thought it was the right thing to do.

    Why are people searching so hard for a reason to either make this out as selfish, stupid, or both?

    In my classes when we talk about psychological egoism (the theory that all human actions are motivated by one’s perception of his/her own self interest) It always amazes me how many bullets people will bite in order to claim that self-immolating monks were motivated by self interest. I’m not suprised by the responses in this thread. I share your puzzlement with the attempts here to treat ethical questions as though they were questions in contract law. To better make the point I was making earlier about rights…
    I’m walking though the desert and I have lots of water. I come across a person dying of dehydration. Do they have a right to my water? No. Do I have a duty to give them some? Obviously. The issue of what Jeff Clement has a right to be called up isn’t really relevant in deciding what Bavasi ought, morally, to do. Similarly, Clement can deserve to be called up without having a right to be called up. If I write a really good paper, it may deserve publication, but I don’t have a right to have it published.

    I think the tone of some of these posts seems to suggest that there is a consensual game of trying to get the most out of other people for the least ammount of money, and that this is all understood by all parties involved, hence there can’t be any manipulation. It’s as though we’re playing Diplomacy or something. I think one gets into this mindset when they think solely about the numbers and play fantasy GM. However, these are real people’s lives, and real people’s well-being that we are talking about, and I’m glad to see that Bavasi recognizes this fact.

  137. jryoung222 on May 1st, 2008 12:51 pm

    Dave, re: your comment #112. I think it’s great if it’s true that Bavasi is the pure soul you say he is. This world certainly needs more people like that. However, the guy is in charge of a huge business, tasked with managing a $100+ million dollar payroll and, bottom line, winning, and winning on a consistent basis to keep fans coming to the stadium. The reality is, he’s in a business where he needs to do what he can to win, within the rules. If, as you say, he did this solely as a good deed, without any consideration that Clement and Wlad may return the favor in the future (which I find hard to believe – do you really think that had nothing to do with his decision here?), then he’s not operating the organization as a business and with long-term winning in mind, but more as a charity.

  138. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 12:54 pm

    Gordon Gekko, is that you?

    I kid, I kid.

  139. Uncle Ted on May 1st, 2008 12:58 pm

    #137

    You seem to be suggesting that Bavasi has some prior ethical obligation to some other stake holders which would trump his obligation to his employees. Granting that he does have some moral obligation to the fans, financial stake holders etc. to make smart business decisions, I’m not sure why we can’t say that he has those obligations within the constraints of treating his employees decently. In other words, I think your Charity/Business dichotomy is a false one. If I run a business and I think that there are ethical constraints on what I can do to maximize profits it does not all of a sudden become a charity.

  140. SpokaneMsFan on May 1st, 2008 1:09 pm

    I just want to clarify my first comment since Dave’s last one. I in no way think we did or should have done this move just because they might decide to stay with us or give us a discount come FA time. I do however think in addition to doing the right thing ethically (and honestly for the performance of the team, even if it only a week’s worth of games) there is the added benefit that they might think highly of the move when the FA time does come.

  141. The Oaf on May 1st, 2008 1:16 pm

    This discussion only centers on 50% of Bavasi’s mental calculus. The other 50% was whether it was preferable to keep trotting out Wilkerson versus bring in an MLB-level player. It’s probable Bavasi wants to win games and didn’t kvetsch over any ethical decision.

    And this to the whole ethics debate

  142. jryoung222 on May 1st, 2008 1:16 pm

    Question: is a player “ethical,” or “doing the right thing,” when, after having been in an organization for 10 years, after the organization has developed him to be a good major league player, leaves to grab as much money as he can, so that he can provide his peak years services to another organization? The problem I have with the whole “ethical” argument here is that baseball is a business, operated under agreed upon contracts between the players and owners. We assume that these contracts, since they’ve been agreed to by the two parties, have inherent in them an ethical standard agreed to by those two parties. Otherwise they wouldn’t have agreed to them in the first place. So, as long they are both operating within these agreed to rules, there shouldn’t be any “ethical,” or “doing the right thing,” types of issues. To say that Bavasi did the “right thing” by bringing up Clement and Wlad, and that if he hadn’t he would have been “unethical,” ignores the fact players and owners sign contracts knowing what rights each side has, and implicit in those rights is a certain ethical standard.

  143. The Oaf on May 1st, 2008 1:21 pm

    Uggh…broken link. Sorry about that – try this!

  144. Paul B on May 1st, 2008 1:27 pm

    Right, because well-run organizations always know who their best players are going to be and are never forced to make changes based on performance.

    How many teams make multiple changes to their starting roster/lineup in April?

    Are you arguing that the Mariner braintrust is as good at recognizing talent and value as most other teams?

  145. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 1:27 pm

    I don’t think the premise of that book, judging by the reviews on Amazon, is what you think it is (I haven’t read the book, just as a disclaimer, but there’s one person who presents a fairly detailed synopsis).

    The main gist of it seems to be “in a business setting, use the same ethics you’d use in your everyday life; there is no reason to have a separate set of ethics specific to your business dealings”.

    Which is exactly what Bavasi did here.

  146. scraps on May 1st, 2008 1:33 pm

    then he’s not operating the organization as a business and with long-term winning in mind, but more as a charity.

    Hello, Excluded Middle.

    players and owners sign contracts knowing what rights each side has, and implicit in those rights is a certain ethical standard.

    And if we could reasonably write agreements to cover every ethical contingency, that would be a wonderful thing. Bavasi is saying that he doesn’t believe the rule was written so that teams could manipulate service time in this fashion, over the clear evidence of a player being ready and the needs of the team, and that therefore, while the team has the legal right to follow the letter of the rule, it is (in his opinion) unethical to do so.

    It certainly is subject to disagreement. But I’m just baffled that people will insist that there is no ethical issue to discuss, that rules and contracts cover everything. There’s nothing in the law to stop manufacturers from putting their entire American workforce out of work and moving labor overseas at a tenth the price, and I could mount an ethical defense for them doing so; but would anyone seriously maintain that there is no ethical conversation to be had on the issue, just because it was legal?

    Rules and contracts are not meant to entirely substitute for thought and consideration.

  147. north on May 1st, 2008 1:34 pm

    I think ethics were an ancillary consideration in this decision. Bavasi cares about this season. If he waited a week, that would be another six or seven games during which he decided that he would be fielding an inferior team. Good teams treat every single MLB game as a must win and manage their players accordingly.

    In managing call ups the only thing that should matter is whether the players can help the MLB team win now.

    [The only teams that might have an excuse to hold back players in the minors for contractual/control reasons are those that have no shot and are rebuilding. Even then, I think they are better off putting the best players in their organization into the majors.]

  148. JMHawkins on May 1st, 2008 1:35 pm

    I’m asserting that because Clement willingly consented to the deal, the Mariners have no ethical cause to ignore the dael to his benefit…

    Evan, I would call that pretty much the definition of confusing (or at least conflating) “legally” with “ethically”.

    Legally, the CBA allows them to delay Clement’s FA status. That doesn’t mean it’s ethical for them to do so. If we disagree on this, then we disagree on the defnition of “ethically” and that’s fine. I’m okay with that.

  149. BaltimoreDave on May 1st, 2008 1:35 pm

    Ugh.

    Bavasi didn’t make these moves because “it was the right thing to do” or any other ethical argument. He made them because, on April 30th, he determined that Clement and Balentien are better players than their incumbents. We can argue that he could have/should have realized this earlier, but the timing has nothing to do with it being ethically right based on service time that won’t come into questions for three more years.

  150. djw on May 1st, 2008 1:38 pm

    This thread demonstrates something I’ve often noticed in my teaching. People, as Uncle Ted mentioned in 137, twist themselves into tautological logical pretzels to insist than any and all historical or plausible hypothetical acts are meaningfully described as “self-interested.” They resistance to the very notion of “business ethics” or “rules of war” is often extraordinarily strong. The position is flatly contradicted, of course, by a cursory study of business behavior or the actual conduct of war, but they latch on to the worst behavior in both settings to insist that all the counter-examples don’t count. Why people really want to believe we live a few manipulatable rules away from a Hobbesian state of nature is beyond me, but it exibits a strong pull.

    Minor technical question: If Clement or Balentien were to spend a few weeks in the minors on a rehab assignment, how would that impact the service time question?

  151. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 1:39 pm

    Why do people keep bringing up the rules? I’m confused.

    It’s crystal clear that within the rules, Bavasi could’ve kept these guys in the minors longer to manipulate their service time considerations. No one is disputing that.

    The question of whether that would’ve been ethically the right thing to do is entirely separate.

    Legality (in the broadest sense of the application of rules) and ethicality are not the same thing.

  152. scraps on May 1st, 2008 1:40 pm

    Are you arguing that the Mariner braintrust is as good at recognizing talent and value as most other teams?

    No. I’ll bet you knew that. Smart organizations make changes during the season, and even during April; arguably teams that see their needs in April and address them are smarter.

    Last year Bavasi was (rightly) slammed for failing to make necessary moves. Now when he promptly addresses a need, so far as you’re concerned it can only be panic. Are you capable of giving Bavasi credit for anything?

  153. Teej on May 1st, 2008 1:42 pm

    Bavasi didn’t make these moves because “it was the right thing to do” or any other ethical argument. He made them because, on April 30th, he determined that Clement and Balentien are better players than their incumbents.

    Of course that’s the reason he called them up. I don’t think anyone’s disputing that. They’re commending him for not waiting a week despite knowing damn well that the kids can improve the team right now.

    No one’s arguing that Bavasi called the kids up before they were ready just to do them a favor.

  154. Mat on May 1st, 2008 1:44 pm

    Question: is a player “ethical,” or “doing the right thing,” when, after having been in an organization for 10 years, after the organization has developed him to be a good major league player, leaves to grab as much money as he can, so that he can provide his peak years services to another organization?

    I think that depends on the gap between what the team is offering the player and what the best offer on the table is. If a team has genuinely treated a player well and he leaves for an extra 1% or 2%, then I think that could potentially be unethical. If a different team is offering an extra 50% or 100% as much as the player’s home team, then I think it’s reasonable for the player to question whether his home team is trying to take unfair advantage of whatever loyalty he might have towards them.

  155. Mat on May 1st, 2008 1:47 pm

    Minor technical question: If Clement or Balentien were to spend a few weeks in the minors on a rehab assignment, how would that impact the service time question?

    If they are on a rehab assignment, they are on the DL, so that counts towards their service time. Essentially the only situation where they stop accruing service time is if they underperform and are optioned back to AAA to work things out.

  156. scraps on May 1st, 2008 1:48 pm

    It’s a whole other conversation, but I don’t think players who leave for free agency can be called unethical, since they usually never had a choice which team they were with in the first place. For loyalty to be meaningful, it has to be voluntary from the start.

  157. scraps on May 1st, 2008 1:50 pm

    Also, the organization didn’t necessarily develop the player: bad organizations hold players back and even do damage to them. Should a pitcher who somehow made it through the Mariners’ system unscathed in the 1990s feel grateful or just lucky?

  158. brianf on May 1st, 2008 1:52 pm

    As one of the (surprisingly small) number of dissenters here, I respectfully submit that the number of times a player would do the reverse — which is to deny himself free agency over a 7 day “overage” in major league service is ZERO. ZERO.

    So why is that not exactly the same magnitude of decision that Bavasi is making here. Okay, clearly at the tail end, more information is available about the player abilities (and certainly some never make it to that point either), but I’m awfully suprised at the reactions here.

    It’s an unqualified (and in my view unnecessary) gift to the player.

    Besides, Bavasi is equally if not more accountable to the M’s ownership (e.g. shareholders) and to the fans as he is to the players (his employees).

  159. joser on May 1st, 2008 1:55 pm

    Why people really want to believe we live a few manipulatable rules away from a Hobbesian state of nature is beyond me, but it exibits a strong pull.

    Because it excuses their own behavior, or gives them a justification to consider acting in certain ways (though they may not actually have the courage to do so). “Everybody else does it” is an excuse familiar to any parent of small children; it’s a measure of their moral development if they continue to be tempted by that rationalization when they’re nominally adults and their parents are no longer watching. That you are not prevented from a certain action does not in itself make the action right or correct.

  160. scraps on May 1st, 2008 1:56 pm

    Brianf: Because this is not what the rule was designed for.

    It’s not an “overage” — the player is ready, and needed. How is this a gift to the player? The reality is that we need him and he’s ready, and the service time will honestly reflect that.

  161. Phoenician Todd on May 1st, 2008 1:58 pm

    As stated by many others, we are discussing the ethics of this move, not the rules/laws governing this. We all recognize that BB could have left them down in the minors and he would have done nothing wrong by the CBA (rules/laws).

    The question is, as put above, should he have promoted JC and WB when he did? Some can argue that since they are superior players to those on the roster, that they deserved to be in the show and so BB acted ethically. This is based on the fact that “doing the right thing” means having the best team on the field to win.

    However, someone else mentioned the ethics towards the team/organization. I believe that Bavasi has made an agreement to do his best to field a winning team. This move also coincides with that goal after it was demonstrated that Wilkerson, etc., weren’t performing in a way that would help the team win. Then there is the argument that this is just bad business because when these two hit arbitration a year early, the organization will have to pay extra millions to keep them around costing the organization the chance to win in the future.

    I really think this does go both ways, as evidenced by the fact that ethics and morals are more often than not addressed in philosophical circles. Ethically, BB gave the “deserving” young players what they deserved by calling them up. Also, it could be seen as un-ethical with regards to the team because Bill doesn’t really know what can happen in 7 games will have an overall impact on the season and is potentially costing the team millions down the road because of his endeavor.

    I think he did the ethical thing, put the best product on the field because the kids earned it. However, if someone wants to argue otherwise, I can’t fault them.

  162. The Oaf on May 1st, 2008 2:00 pm

    Jeff (145)-

    No, I’m well aware of and agree with what the book is about. We should all behave “ethically” regardless of the situation, business or otherwise. Additionally, just because we can do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

  163. scraps on May 1st, 2008 2:00 pm

    Is there any cold, bottom-line business decision to screw employees that isn’t justified by citing the shareholders? Why should the shareholders have the right to absolute maxiumum profits?

    A real human executive — in my goddamned opinion — never loses sight of the humanity of the people who work for him, and a good executive makes money and is successful despite such “foolish” concessions.

    You don’t have to be a bastard to be successful, popular American mythology nothwithstanding.

  164. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 2:03 pm

    Jeff (145)-

    No, I’m well aware of and agree with what the book is about. We should all behave “ethically” regardless of the situation, business or otherwise. Additionally, just because we can do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

    Fair enough, sorry if I made an assumption I shouldn’t have! Tone can be tricky on the internet sometimes. :)

  165. scraps on May 1st, 2008 2:04 pm

    To be clear, I am not saying it would have been ethically wrong to keep Clement and Balentien in the minors. I’m saying that it’s clearly a defensible position, that the ethics of the subject are interesting, and that if you think it’s cut and dried or not a matter of ethics at all, I don’t think I exist in the same moral universe you do (and would be glad to know that before making any kind of agreement with you).

  166. DoesntCompute on May 1st, 2008 2:09 pm

    It is possible to act legally but not ethically.
    It is possible to act ethically but not legally.
    Ethics is about what is going on in your mind at the time of the decisions.
    Ethics has nothing to do with what the other person will do in the future.
    Ethics is about doing the right thing regardless of the consequences.

    If you find a wallet on the ground, it is legal for you to keep the cash and throw away the billfold. It is not ethical to do so. If you give the wallet back because you are afraid you will be arrested for stealing you are not making an ethical decision. If you give it back because you expect a reward, you are not acting ethically. If you give it back because it is the right thing to do, you are.

    To say that Bavasi is foolish when he treats people right is shortsighted and oversimplifying the issue. In business when you treat people well on a consistant basis, you create a positive, productive environment. This type of environment can have many benefits such as increased worker productivity, reduced turnover, and an easier time recruiting high quality people. To translate to the baseball world, when you become known for treating players well, it may be easier to resign your players and free agents may be more willing to sign on.

  167. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 2:16 pm

    If you find a wallet on the ground, it is legal for you to keep the cash and throw away the billfold. It is not ethical to do so. If you give the wallet back because you are afraid you will be arrested for stealing you are not making an ethical decision. If you give it back because you expect a reward, you are not acting ethically. If you give it back because it is the right thing to do, you are.

    Good example. I was trying to think of one myself that’d be clear.

    Of course, now people will start saying that players aren’t wallets…

  168. djw on May 1st, 2008 2:19 pm

    Because it excuses their own behavior

    Joser (159): I certainly think that’s part of it. But I get resistance from people who strike me as the sort of people who are likely to, by and large, behave ethically in business and follow the rules of war, if and when the circumstances permit.

  169. The Oaf on May 1st, 2008 2:22 pm

    Years ago an ATM gave me an extra $20, and I can clearly recall the dumbfounded looks on the tellers’ faces when I returned it inside. What a world.

  170. DoesntCompute on May 1st, 2008 2:23 pm

    Also, ethical decisions are not based on the amount of money in the wallet. From an ethical point of view, it would not matter if there was $1 in the wallet or $10,000 and you were unemployed with three children at home. From an ethical standpoint, the amount of money it will cost to resign Clement and Wlad in future years is irrelevant.

  171. themedia on May 1st, 2008 2:26 pm

    To say that Bavasi is foolish when he treats people right is shortsighted and oversimplifying the issue. In business when you treat people well on a consistant basis, you create a positive, productive environment. This type of environment can have many benefits such as increased worker productivity, reduced turnover, and an easier time recruiting high quality people. To translate to the baseball world, when you become known for treating players well, it may be easier to resign your players and free agents may be more willing to sign on.

    Is that what Bavasi did to Bret Boone?

  172. msb on May 1st, 2008 2:33 pm

    Is that what Bavasi did to Bret Boone?

    you mean spend several weeks trying to find someone to take him, point out at the time that if they weren’t losing they’d probably have tried to carry him all year, and at the presser make a comment like this?

    “Designating him for assignment is a real difficult thing to do. It’s no fun for anybody involved. It’s no fun for him, it’s no fun for his teammates and it’s no fun for me or his manager. Bret did everything on the field hard. He played his very best, gave his very best effort here and I think everybody appreciates that. And nobody was more tortured by the fact that he wasn’t playing as well as he can.”

  173. e poc on May 1st, 2008 2:50 pm

    what teej says in 153 is important, i think. we’re not arguing beforehand whether or not the m’s should call up wlad and clement to be ethical. we’re arguing retrospectively whether the ethics justify it in the face of the financial considerations. it wouldn’t have been unethical, necessarily, if bavasi had left them on the farm another week, as long as the decision to do so was a baseball one (misguided as that might be). if the m’s had waited until may 7, i don’t think dave or anyone else would have written that the FO was being unethical, because we have no way of knowing what their thought process is. in short: the argument is not that bavasi had an ethical obligation to call up wlad and clement, but that criticizing this move because of the financial considerations ignores the obvious ethical considerations. (at least, that’s what i think the argument is about – i shouldn’t speak for others.)

  174. MKT on May 1st, 2008 2:50 pm

    24.

    No one says chemistry doesn’t matter.

    See the Feb. 28 posts about Barry Bonds, http://tinyurl.com/5qybt8, where Derek wrote

    We’ve talked about the chemistry argument before, but the short version is that it doesn’t play into a team’s W/L total, and no amount of sabermetric analysis can quantify it because it’s not that significant if it exists at all.

    Now it may indeed not play into a team’s W/L total *for the current roster*, but it’s premature to say that it’s not significant or non-existent when it comes to *creating the roster*. Common sense tells us that human beings will prefer to work in pleasant rather than unpleasant environments.

    And the Aug 9 posts about the wild card http://ussmariner.com/2007/08/09/wild-card-leaders/ where Notor wrote

    People like Dave can put up plenty of evidence to support their arguments, yet still people come here and back up their mystical assertions about “chemistry” or “veteran play” with absolutely nothing and think they are making a point?

    There are many other similar quotes.

  175. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 3:01 pm

    Let’s not rehash the chemistry argument for the 382 millionth time, please.

    And yes, I’m keeping count.

  176. Milendriel on May 1st, 2008 3:28 pm

    I think the other thing is, if they are serious about making the playoffs, that one week of having these guys in the lineup absolutely matters a lot. Every win is extremely important.

  177. RITTEM1 on May 1st, 2008 3:34 pm

    Currcoug asked this in #31 but I don’t think it was answered very well. I tend to agree.

    Is it ethically wrong to not want Turbo/Pepe to reach 400 plate appearances this year so his ’09 kicks in? I can honestly say that if he has 397 plate appearances going into the last game of the season I hope we bench him. Chances are he will be batting right around .300 with zero power and lapping the field in GIDP’s. Do we want that vested for ’09?

    Another question: Do both Vidro and Pepe both have to reach 400 plate appearances or is it somehow combined? :)

  178. brianf on May 1st, 2008 3:37 pm

    I guess I just think the whole situation arises because of collective bargaining and the wildly inequitable pay that young players (e.g. Felix) get vs. free agent signings w/ guaranteed contracts (e.g. Sexon).

    The collective bargaining agreement creates this mess, and puts the interests of players and management at odds with one another. The Mariners make far more money if they are winning. That’s virtually false for any of the Mariners veterans. Compare this to working at Google — where management and employees are far more aligned in their interests. Large parts of employee compensation are based on future performance of the company, not past performance of the individual.

    So in *any* collectively bargained situation — Baseball Players, Teachers, or Longshoremen, you end up with management and employees each acting out their own self interests. This isn’t a wallet found on a street scenario, I understand ethics and legality. This is an agreement struck between warring parties which leaves each party only interested in FILLING their own wallets.

  179. Hooligan on May 1st, 2008 3:48 pm

    Bavasi is the kind of person you want in charge of personnel. He’s extremely sharp, likable, and charismatic. He obviously isn’t a gifted analyst…in a way, he’s the anti-Billy Beane.

    Put those two guys together, and holy hell, they could rule the world.

  180. Evan on May 1st, 2008 3:54 pm

    The main gist of it seems to be “in a business setting, use the same ethics you’d use in your everyday life; there is no reason to have a separate set of ethics specific to your business dealings”.

    Which is exactly what Bavasi did here.

    What Bavasi did here was supererogatory behaviour. Failing to behave as he did would be less laudable, sure, but that doesn’t mean it would have been reprehensible, either.

  181. Milendriel on May 1st, 2008 4:01 pm

    RITTEM1- Vidro’s case is different. The PA clause is a performance incentive. Given that his performance has been extremely poor, limiting his plate appearances is justified. If he were OPSing .900, it would be an ethical issue, but he’s not so it isn’t.

  182. Evan on May 1st, 2008 4:02 pm

    Evan, I would call that pretty much the definition of confusing (or at least conflating) “legally” with “ethically”.

    Legally, the CBA allows them to delay Clement’s FA status. That doesn’t mean it’s ethical for them to do so. If we disagree on this, then we disagree on the defnition of “ethically” and that’s fine. I’m okay with that.

    It’s not ethical because it is legal. It’s ethical because Clement consented.

  183. DoesntCompute on May 1st, 2008 4:03 pm

    The main gist of it seems to be “in a business setting, use the same ethics you’d use in your everyday life; there is no reason to have a separate set of ethics specific to your business dealings”.

    Which is exactly what Bavasi did here.

    What Bavasi did here was supererogatory behaviour. Failing to behave as he did would be less laudable, sure, but that doesn’t mean it would have been reprehensible, either.

    If you hesitate to tell your wife and/or kids what you did at work, you probably shouldn’t have done it.

  184. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 4:06 pm

    It’s not ethical because it is legal. It’s ethical because Clement consented.

    What were his other options? He can’t opt out of the service time portion of the CBA. He either accepts the whole thing, or his baseball career is at an end.

    It’s at best coerced consent.

    And again, the CBA was negotiated as a whole between the MLBPA and MLB owners. Clement, individually, didn’t consent to anything.

  185. Evan on May 1st, 2008 4:08 pm

    Let me put it another way. If I make a deal with you where we both, without coersion, agree to take part, have I treated you unethically?

    I think not. If, after we’ve made the deal, I offer you more than I’d promised, then I’ve clearly done a nice thing for you. Similarly, if I don’t hold up my end of the bargain and withhold something I owe you, then I’ve behaved unethically. But if I simply hold to the agreement, then I can’t be treating you unfairly (because you freely agreed to the terms of the deal).

    What Bavasi would have been doing had he held Clement down until May 7 is holding to the terms of the agreement, something to which Clement freely consented. There’s nothing even vaguely unethical about that.

  186. DoesntCompute on May 1st, 2008 4:12 pm

    It’s not ethical because it is legal. It’s ethical because Clement consented.

    I once had a boss who tried to fire me for being at my first son’s birth. I had agreed to work for them and manage their store. I took vacation for the time we thought she would deliver but when I called to say they couldn’t induce my wife until the day I was supposed to go back to work they said if I wasn’t at work, I would be fired. Was my boss acting ethically?

  187. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 4:12 pm

    Again, the question of whether contractual commitments have been honored isn’t an ethical question.

    To turn it around a little bit with an entirely made-up example:

    Say someone works as an engineer at a major oil refinery. They have helped work on a new refining process that is supposed to be 50% cleaner than existing processes. They have a non-disclosure agreement in place to protect this amazing new process.

    After working on the project for a while, they find that the new process releases an incredibly toxic emission into the environment. They make the decision that they have to breach their NDA and reach out to the appropriate regulatory agencies to let them know this is going on.

    Now, from a legalistic standpoint, they’ve broken their contractual commitment; however, they made the decision on an ethical basis that they couldn’t keep their mouth shut about something that could kill thousands of people.

    So they’ve done something that is illegal (in the broadest sense of breaching their contractual agreement) but is highly defensible as being ethical.

    They’re two separate things.

    (boy, did I fail to keep my philosophy major in check in this thread)

  188. DoesntCompute on May 1st, 2008 4:17 pm

    Again, the question of whether contractual commitments have been honored isn’t an ethical question.

    I think I finally see Evan’s point. He is in agreement with you. Contractual commitments aren’t in the realm of ethical discussion. I think Evan views this situation as a cut and dried contractual obligation situation where those of us that view it as an ethical question see it as twisting the intent of the contract to keep him in the minors for another week.

  189. Evan on May 1st, 2008 4:19 pm

    And again, the CBA was negotiated as a whole between the MLBPA and MLB owners. Clement, individually, didn’t consent to anything.

    As I said before, sure is the cost of collective bargaining.

  190. Evan on May 1st, 2008 4:20 pm

    I think I finally see Evan’s point. He is in agreement with you. Contractual commitments aren’t in the realm of ethical discussion. I think Evan views this situation as a cut and dried contractual obligation situation where those of us that view it as an ethical question see it as twisting the intent of the contract to keep him in the minors for another week.

    I wish I’d said it that well, but yes, that’s pretty much it.

  191. Evan on May 1st, 2008 4:21 pm

    (boy, did I fail to keep my philosophy major in check in this thread)

    Me too. U Calgary, class of ’98.

  192. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 4:22 pm

    I think I finally see Evan’s point. He is in agreement with you. Contractual commitments aren’t in the realm of ethical discussion. I think Evan views this situation as a cut and dried contractual obligation situation where those of us that view it as an ethical question see it as twisting the intent of the contract to keep him in the minors for another week.

    Well, okay, but it’s been pretty clear from the start (I think anyway) that no one is disputing that Bavasi COULD have kept these guys down to reduce the service time impact, from a contractual standpoint; the discussion has been over whether it would be ethical to go against the presumed intent of the CBA in that way.

  193. CCW on May 1st, 2008 4:44 pm

    If another person feels it necessary to point out that “legal” and “ethical” are different things, I might throw up. Look… everyone knows that. Some laws are not ethical. Some ethical behavior is illegal. No one, as far as I can tell, is saying that holding back Wlad and Clement simply to save money is ethical BECAUSE it is legal. That is a straw man. Leave it alone.

    NO. The point is that this particular question does not involve ethics at all. It is purely a business issue. This is a question to what a extent each very very rich person is going to get richer. In such a case, I don’t see how ethics applies. Remember, if this turns out to matter at all, it will matter after Wlad and Clement have already spent 5 years in the major leagues and so will already be multi-millionaires. It’s a question of whether they get $10,000,000 in arbitration in 2014 or $20,000,000 in free agency (obviously, numbers from my butt) or how much leverage each side has in a long-term deal. This isn’t about public health, or a big corporation with a lot of leverage vs. a small employee with none. This is millionaire vs. millionaire, and governed by a contract. It is not a question of ethics, or if it is, it shouldn’t be.

  194. CCW on May 1st, 2008 4:55 pm

    And further… If the M’s have $10,000,000 less in 2014, or have to replace an all-star catcher with a replacement level catcher because of this decision, or otherwise are a worse team, we, the fans are the ones who will suffer for the benefit of 1 week of Clement and Wlad. Again, I’m not saying it wasn’t a good choice in the grand scheme of things – I really have no idea, economically, or in the player-management relations realm, what the effect will be. But to cast cast Wlad and Clement in the same position as the potential victims of undisclosed toxic waste is just ridiculous.

  195. beckya57 on May 1st, 2008 5:20 pm

    What this reminds me of is the infamous White Sox case that was displayed in the film 8 Men Out, about the Black Sox scandal. They had a pitcher (sorry, don’t remember who) who was due for a bonus if he won 30 games. After win #28 or 29 (not sure) Comisky ordered him to be benched, so he couldn’t win 30 and Comisky wouldn’t have to pay the bonus. The way this was presented in the film (and I think this was a true story) this and other similar penny-pinching by Comisky enraged the team and played a role in their decision to throw the WS for money. I’m not defending what the team did, but I think we have to remember how destructive a force abuse of players by owners has been in baseball. As regular readers of the site know, I’m very critical of the M’s FO, but this is one time when I agree with them (assuming they did this deliberately, rather than out of incompetence).

  196. Illex Squid on May 1st, 2008 5:24 pm

    CCW- brilliant as usual. :-)

    I’d just like to point out that the negotiators of the CBA are hardly paragons of ethics, so it is difficult to see subverting their wishes as unethical. It has been argued many times before, including here, that baseball’s compensation system is riddled with unfairness, so restricting ethics arguments to compliance with the spirit of the CBA is perhaps a bit out-of-touch.

    That being said, I think the greater lapse in ethics was starting the season with Clement and Wlad in Tackytown. Glad to see them at last where they belong. And I hope this augurs an era of better Mariners decision-making.

  197. Jeff Nye on May 1st, 2008 5:39 pm

    Really? How ethically you treat someone should be determined by whether they make a lot of money or not?

    The relative income of two sets of people in a situation don’t have any bearing on ethical questions; neither does the contractual agreement but I’ve beaten that horse to death already. Either you get it by now, or you don’t.

    As far as “undisclosed toxic waste” goes, my example was meant solely as an example to help illustrate that legal and ethical don’t always mean the same thing. I was in no way attempting to pretend the two situations were equivalent in their potential consequences.

    That’s always the hazard of using examples and analogies; people completely ignore their instructive purpose and pick apart the specifics, which are only meant to be illustrative.

  198. Teej on May 1st, 2008 8:15 pm

    I took vacation for the time we thought she would deliver but when I called to say they couldn’t induce my wife until the day I was supposed to go back to work they said if I wasn’t at work, I would be fired.

    Man, I really hope you found a new job.

  199. JMHawkins on May 1st, 2008 9:22 pm

    It’s not ethical because it is legal. It’s ethical because Clement consented.

    You’re ignoring something called “good faith.” Rights granted by one party to another must still be exercised in good faith.

  200. DoesntCompute on May 1st, 2008 11:35 pm

    Man, I really hope you found a new job.

    I needed the job as I was the sole provider for my family. I ended up calling corporate headquarters and got a hold of the head of HR for the place. She said she would look into my story. Five minutes later I get a call from my boss asking if I would be in on Sunday. I said yes and he hung up. I started looking for another job on Monday and found one soon after.

    That is the only job I’ve ever quit without notice and it felt soooooo good.

  201. vj on May 2nd, 2008 7:53 am

    starting the season with Clement and Wlad in Tackytown

    Tacoma is nicer than you think.

  202. Evan on May 2nd, 2008 9:23 am

    You’re ignoring something called “good faith.” Rights granted by one party to another must still be exercised in good faith.

    I’ve long held that such a thing doesn’t exist, but I’ve been known to deny the existence of implication and connotation, too.

  203. MedicineHat on May 2nd, 2008 3:10 pm

    Tonight against Wang we get Balentien in RF, Burke behind the plate and Clement at DH.

    Yankees counter with Alberto Gonzalez at SS, & Shelley Duncan at 1B.

  204. Milendriel on May 2nd, 2008 4:43 pm

    Rather than being vilified, I applaud them for their stance.

    I’m glad you haven’t been vilified, Dave. Might want to reposition those pronouns. ><

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