Tim Lincecum's case shows why arbitration sucks

Leave a comment

Thumbnail image for tim lincecum cy young.jpgJon Heyman wonders how the Giants may make their arbitration case against Tim Lincecum in the event they don’t settle. After noting how easy it would be for Lincecum — two Cy Youngs, babies — he passes along a potential team strategy:

The Giants could claim Lincecum’s second Cy was a “fluke” (a word I heard yesterday to describe it by a management type) in that it was basically a crapshoot between him, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and aided by two stat guys thinking Javier Vazquez should be in the top three.

That’s your case, Giants? “Fluke” + Keith Law + Will Carroll = $8 million? I once had an arbitration panel enter a $3 million award against my
client, and it was on the strength of a case ten times better than

But really, what else would they have? Not much, I’d say, especially considering that Lincecum really didn’t shoot the moon in his demand the way many expected him to.  I guess if I had to argue the team’s case I’d think about mentioning the inherent risk to a young pitcher’s health and hope to get some discount for that risk, but I don’t even know if that’s allowed under baseball’s arbitration rules. It’s almost always about the salary and achievements comparable players. In light of that, being the Giants if this thing goes to a hearing will be a total drag.

Speaking more generally, I’ve never met anyone in the game, on the side of management or on the side of the players, who likes arbitration, and it’s easy to see why.  It’s all about forcing something that isn’t a truly adversarial relationship into an adversarial process.  The law frowns on this because when people don’t have truly opposing views on things it leads to strange and unsatisfying results. Baseball people hate it because it pisses everyone off right at the time — spring — when people should be pulling together.

Here, while the Giants and Lincecum must, by virtue of the process, take different sides on salary, they don’t have truly opposing views either. They both love Timmy. They both want Timmy to be happy. To the extent they have to fight it’s going to be artificial and, if Heyman’s source is right, profoundly silly. Fluke. Please.

Heyman suspects that the case will settle, probably with a two-year deal.  For the Giants’ sake, one hopes so.

Spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws

Scott Olson/Getty Images
1 Comment

Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that, according to three congressional officials familiar with current talks, an upcoming spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws. This is an issue we have spent some time covering here. A bill proposed in 2016, H.R. 5580, would have amended language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which would have made it so minor leaguers wouldn’t be protected under a law that protects hourly workers. There is also an ongoing class action lawsuit over unfair labor prospects.

As DeBonis notes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is among the representatives backing the measure. The provision specifically concerning minor leaguers didn’t appear in any of the draft spending bills, but DeBonis spoke to officials familiar with the negotiations under the condition of anonymity who said it was under serious consideration by top party leaders.

DeBonis got a comment from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. He said, “We’re not saying that [minor league pay] shouldn’t go up. We’re just saying that the formula of minimum wage and overtime is so incalculable. I would hate to think that a prospect is told, ‘You got to go home because you’re out of hours, you can’t have any extra batting practice.’ It’s those kinds of things. It’s not like factory work. It’s not like work where you can punch a time clock and management can project how many hours they’re going to have to pay for.”

O’Conner said as much in an interview back in December. It’s an extremely disingenuous deflection. O’Conner also said, “I don’t think that minor league baseball is a career choice for a player.” This is all about creating legislation that allows Minor League Baseball to keep money at the top, which is great if you’re a team owner or shareholder. If they could get away with it, every owner of every business would pay its employees as little as possible, which is why it’s important to have unions and people keeping an eye on legislation like this that attempts to strip laborers of their rights in the dead of night.

Minor league players need to unionize. Or, better yet, the MLBPA should open their doors to include minor leaguers and fight for them just as they would a player who has reached the majors. Minor leaguers should be paid a salary with which they do not have to worry about things like rent, electricity, food, and transportation. They should be provided healthcare and a retirement fund. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s not affordable, MLB eclipsed $10 billion in revenues last year. There’s plenty to go around.

The owners are banking on this legislation passing and labor still coming in excess due to young men holding onto the dream of making the major leagues. According to CNN, “far less than 10 percent of minor league players ever get the chance to make it to the major leagues.” Some of these players have forgone college to work in baseball. They arrive at the park in the morning and leave late at night, putting in far more than your standard eight-hour work day. Since their bodies are their vehicle for success, they have to exercise regularly and vigorously off the field while maintaining a healthy diet. (And teams are still reluctant to invest even the smallest amount of money to ensure their young players eat well.) Minor leaguers make tremendous sacrifices to pursue their dream and now Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to legalize taking further advantage of them.