Why most arbitration cases settle

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Arbitration season starts in earnest today, as the filing period for arbitration begins. Players and
teams will exchange figures on Jan. 19th. The hearings begin on February 1st.

Arbitration, most people don’t realize, is basically litigation, and as is the case with litigation, most arbitration cases settle. Ninety percent, in fact. There are a number of reasons for this. One of them is institutional: the system is set up so that the arbitrators have to pick either the player’s number or the teams, with no splitting the baby. As such, the only hope of real compromise comes from a pre-hearing settlement. There’s also the small matter of the process favoring teams to some degree: Since 1974, arbitrators have ruled on behalf of the players 207 times and clubs 280 times, so players may tend to lean settlement out of defense.

But there’s also the fact that the arbitration process can be difficult for the players on a personal level, as teams and players are forced by the process to say the stupidest things about the player’s ability in order to justify their positions. If you ever have the good fortune to have a beer with agent, ask him to tell you arbitration war stories. You won’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Today MLB.com has a good one:

When Mike Scioscia was in the midst of a sterling career as the catcher
for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he walked into a late 1985 arbitration
hearing with plenty of confidence, having just finished second in the
National League with a .407 on-base percentage for a division-winning
club.

Well, as is often the case in arbitration, he didn’t exactly hear what he wanted.

The club told Scioscia that the hardly-fleet-of-foot backstop was actually getting on base too much and therefore clogging up the bases to the detriment of the offense.

I imagine that the denigration of a player’s skills — and the accompanying glorifying of those skills by the player — has gotten a little more sophisticated than that.  But probably not too much.  If the Giants are dumb enough to let Tim Lincecum go to an actual arbitration hearing as opposed to settling, they’ll have to say something. And given that Brian Sabean is the Giants’ GM, it’ll probably be something about him being an unproven kid.

So, watch the arbitration filings and figures fly, but know this much: most everyone is going to settle because arbitration really, really sucks.

DOJ settles antirust lawsuit against cable companies who don’t carry Dodgers games

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Last November, the U.S. Department of Justice sued AT&T, accusing its subsidiary, DirecTV, of being the ringleader in a plot in which it conspired with Cox Communications, Charter Communications and AT&T cable (then a separate company), to refuse to carry SportsNet LA, the Dodger-owned TV channel in violation of antitrust laws.

Now that lawsuit is over. The DOJ settled with AT&T last night.

The bad news: no part of the settlement obligates DirecTV or any of the other alleged co-conspirators to carry Dodgers games or to even negotiate to that end. There is likewise no fine or truly substantive penalty. It’s basically a “do not do this again!” agreement with some antitrust training requirements for executives and some orders to monitor their communications about these things.

“We are pleased to have resolved this matter to the satisfaction of all parties,” an AT&T spokesman said yesterday, likely in the tone of a guy who is pretty happy to have had a major antitrust suit against him settled so quickly.

When the suit was filed, I anticipated a settlement, as most antitrust suits brought by the DOJ are settled. Such a settlement could’ve featured a cash penalty or, more significantly, a brokered agreement between the parties in question in lieu of a cash settlement that could’ve led to Dodgers games being carried on more channels. After all, more competition is the end game of the Antirust Division.

As it is, however, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a surrender by the DOJ and a victory for the those carriers who coordinated their efforts to not carry the Dodgers.

An open question, unanswered in anyone’s statements yesterday, is whether this settlement is 100% about the merits of the case — keeping in mind that the DOJ tends not to file antitrust suits unless they think they can win, instead preferring to negotiate first — or whether it represents a new set of laxer priorities when it comes to antitrust enforcement from the Trump Administration and AG Jeff Sessions.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.