(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Unhappy Young Baseball Players and Their Contract Renewals

Prince Fielder, Jonathan Papelbon and Cole Hamels are upset because they didn't get more money out of their teams.

Yes, they've performed well, but they have to remember that they are part of the strongest union in the history of the world. It's that union that negotiated the structure for their contracts, their ability to go to arbitration, and their ability to sign lucrative long-term deals that will pay off in full should a) they get a career-ending injury in the first week of a five-year deal or b) they stink the joint out (see Adam Eaton's 3-year, $24 million deal for an example of how good a job the players' union has done for its membership). Unfortunately for these players, it's also the same union that negotiated a construct whereby they can get renewed for a few years at relatively small dollars because they haven't played long enough in the majors (even if they've performed very well).

So, if they're angry, at whom should they be angry? Should they be mad at their teams, who are negotiating contracts with older and (sometimes) more established stars? Or should they take it up with their union, because the system hurts young players who excel and protects older players who sometimes do not? (This is the same union that closed ranks to protect users of performance-enhancing drugs at the expense of the players who did not, thereby helping put a cloud over the entire membership). My guess is that the union picks its battles, and the veteran players who control it look out more for their own interests at the expense of the budding young stars.

What the Brewers, BoSox and Phillies have done is good business. They pay big-time wages to a whole roster of ballplayers, and, no (and this applies even to the Red Sox) they don't have unlimited piles of cash to throw at their players. Sometimes they might even do things that on their face don't make a lot of sense (such as the Phils' signing Adam Eaton last year for huge free-agent money) until you consider them within the construct of the collective bargaining agreement. Eaton had enough service time in to become a free agent, with the result that he cashed in. Fielder, Papelbon and Hamels all project to getting huge contracts in the future, whether through arbitration, signing a long-term deal with their own team, or becoming free agents (or a combination of those three). They just need to be patient.

And, perhaps, to channel their frustration to their union, as opposed to their own ball clubs.


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