Maybe the most admirable thing about Andre Dawson

Leave a comment

Andre Dawson Cubs.jpgLike I said yesterday, Andre Dawson is not necessarily my definition of a Hall of Famer on a statistical basis, but I’m fine with his induction because he was, by all accounts, a great guy, he did a lot of unmeasurable stuff that made baseball come alive in Montreal, if only for a while, and he was a really, really enjoyable player to watch.  Hall of Famer? Eh, maybe not. But I’m happy he’s going in there if that makes any sense.

But on a personal level, one the things I find most admirable about Dawson — and Jack Morris and Tim Raines, by the way — is that the way they carried themselves after they got royally screwed by the owners’ illegal conduct during the collusion scandals of the 1980s.  Each of them hit free agency and found every door closed. They knew what was going on at the time. Hell, everyone did. Maybe there was no other option than to suck it up, play ball and let the union handle the legalities of it all, but people crack as the result of that kind of garbage all the time, and even if it’s not the stuff that makes a Hall of Fame case, they deserve some sort of kudos for that.

Murray Chass — writing in the same article I linked earlier this morning, tells us just how determined The Hawk was to put that crap behind him and play ball:

When he was a free agent after the 1986 season,
Dawson got caught up in collusion, the clubs’ conspiracy aimed at
keeping free agents at home instead of moving for more money.

Dawson, who wanted out of Montreal after 11 years on the Expos
knee-wrecking artificial turf, wasn’t getting any offers when [agent Richard] Moss
decided to make the Cubs’ Dallas Green an offer he couldn’t refuse. He
and Dawson showed up at the Cubs’ spring training site in Arizona and
handed Green a signed contract with the salary line left blank. Green,
they told the Cubs’ president, could write in any salary he chose.

“It wasn’t a monetary issue,” Dawson said. “It was about respect,
about not depriving me of that, about an organization not showing a
sense of loyalty after being there all those years. I was sticking my
neck out.”

Lesser men would have sulked all year when faced with what Dawson and others faced in the mid 80s.  As a result of that blank-check deal, Dawson made an even-then paltry $500K the season he hit 49 homers and won the MVP for the Cubs.  It’s worth remembering.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
11 Comments

On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.