Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Yada yada yada …

Finally, weeks of Googling paid off. One of the reasons I wanted to use this blog as an archive is because MSN Canada wisely doesn’t bother archiving my old columns. Oh, they’re still there in the site somewhere but my system crashed a few months ago taking my bookmarks file (that served as my archive) with it. It was pretty easy to get most of them back but one remained elusive, it was my third column that was built off the Jack Wilson-to-the-Jays rumours last summer.

It finally came up after using various search engines and combing the site.

I have just submitted this week’s offering there which gives me three yet-to-be published articles. One is dealing with A-Rod’s return to the Yankees; one is a 'look behind/look ahead’ piece on the Blue Jays and one dealing with the 2007 MVP vote. For the most part, they’re not terribly time-sensitive so I am not overly concerned about when they run.

I was hoping to get my THT column up before the site shuts down for the American Thanksgiving but it was not to be. I got it in on time but I’m guessing they wanted Keith Scherer's Barry Bonds – A guide to help you cut through the noise article to be given as much attention as possible. Keith was kind enough to lend his talents and expertise to THT this week so it’s pretty understandable that they wish to have the focus on that rather than my latest rant about what has happened to free agency rights.

Ah well. The rant will keep for a few days. I’m confident the universe can carry on in the meantime without its presence on the web.

Heh.

Actually, it will represent my 150th Hardball Times column. It got me reflecting on what THT did for my career. After struggling to keep going as site after site I was writing with dot-bombed, promised contracts never materialized, and the only offers coming in were of the ‘stock in the company’ variety I decided I would walk away. I thought I was putting a good product out there but the marketplace disagreed.

I finally decided to take one final shot. I started a blog to get my name back out there in early 2004 and by year’s end I was added to the Hardball Times staff (with thanks to Larry Mahnken for the assistance plus his running some of my work on his excellent Replacement Level Yankees Weblog). The good folks at Baseball Think Factory kept the spark alive (thanks guys) and now here I am again.

Enough soul baring…

It has been a different off-season. In three notable cases: A-Rod, Mike Lowell, and Curt Schilling, it seems that players aren’t using top dollar as the main criteria for where they will play in 2008. Each looked to where they would be happiest in making their decision. We have already touched on Rodriguez and Schilling in earlier posts so I’ll reserve my comments to Lowell.

Here is a guy that turned down a guaranteed fourth year at about $13 million because being a Boston hero and hitting in a lineup featuring Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz plus a shot at yet another ring was more important.

Ditto for Schilling.

I’m not advocating players leave money on the table; it’s just that all too often it seems that players defer their freedom to their agents or the union. All too often we hear about players who went for top dollar only to be miserable in their new location. Sure, money is important, but it doesn’t guarantee happiness--it never has. The thing is this: as a family man, job offers of $35,000 a year and $60,000 a year isn’t really a choice at all. Were I single it would be different but life’s responsibilities mean I have to make my choice on sheer economics even if it means I have to leave a place where I (or a family member) are happy living.

When you see the numbers players can earn, I don’t envy the dollar amounts for their own sake, but I do wish I could make a decision where I don’t have to take economics into consideration at all. Big time free agents will have no problem paying the bills or paying for proms, weddings etc. regardless of where they ultimately end up. They will not have to take a step down in their circumstances no matter where they are playing.

To see them making a decision where it seems they subordinate favourable circumstances for lucre is a terrible waste of free agency. That is what drives me crazy. They can have their cake and eat it too but settle for choking down cake that does not taste very good to them.

I’m hoping that the MLBPA can keep the player marketplace as open as possible. The money is there and it is sufficient enough that when a player becomes a free agent he can sit down and plan what will be his best set of personal circumstances according to his preferences and not to what the wishes of his agent or the MLBPA might be.

As Phil Garner once mulled during the strike of 1981, free agency wasn’t strictly business to many players. It was a cause, it was about freedom and rights respecting their careers. The MLBPA has turned free agency as more of an economic ideal than an ideological one. Ideals unite, economics divide and that is why the MLBPA is reeling. I hope that they can right their ship before they become the next NFLPA.

Best Regards

John

1 comment:

Bill B. said...

Excellent points about free agency, but I wouldn't pin it all on the MLBPA, since it happens in the other sports as well.

Remember Terrell Owens signing with the Baltimore Ravens, then spurning them for the Eagles? Then, spurning the Eagles and landing in Dallas, where he now couldn't be happier (sans the suicide attempt, of course).

Some players can be happy regardless of where they play, so taking the most money and/or most guaranteed years is simply logical. But in cases such as Schilling's or Lowell's, both family men, and both free agents from a team that has just won a World Series, money wasn't near the top of the list for them.

I heard Lowell was about a fingernail's length from signing with the Phillies, who offered him both more money and more years I believe, and then signed with the Red Sox. That wasn't a T.O. spurn, though, as there was no malice intended...

Anyway, I have an article up on the ignorance of Bill Conlin if you're interested.