Players and teams negotiate for long term contracts all the time. They reach the beginning of the season without deals being reached frequently. Also, frequently, players state that they will not negotiate during the season. There is nothing particularly unusual about any of that. So why are the Tigers making a point to throw Max Scherzer under the bus?
That’s really the only way to construe yesterday’s statement from the team about the end of its negotiations with Scherzer. It was worded more or less politely, but the clear and unambiguous message was “Max Scherzer and his agent are greedy and if he’s not a Tiger after 2014, it’s his fault, so don’t blame us, Tigers fans!”
Such a position used to be common in the bad old days when players would hold out so they could make, say, $40,000 a year instead of $35,000. Or even up through the first decade or two of free agency, when owners still routinely played off fans’ view that players are inherently greedy and are asking for unreasonable money to play a kid’s game. But even if a lot of fans still harbor those sentiments, it’s been some times since owners and general managers wised up to the business of baseball and abstained from playing that disingenuously populist card. Sure, there are always isolated examples, but it has been at least since the last contentious Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiation in 2002 that teams stopped doing that as a rule. At least as explicitly as the Tigers are doing here with Scherzer.
The Tigers are under no obligation to pay Scherzer what he wants, of course, but why the statement? Why change up things and draw such a public line in the sand with the reigning Cy Young Award winner? What do the Tigers hope to gain here? What are they accomplishing with this that remaining publicly neutral or even silent about the status of negotiations wouldn’t accomplish?
Often times I have some speculative answer to that kind of question. In this case I am totally baffled.
You’ll recall the little controversy last month when Ichiro Suzuki passed Pete Rose’s hit total. Specifically, when Ichiro’s Japanese and American hit total reached Rose’s American total of 4,256 and a lot of people talked about Ichiro being the new “Hit King.” You’ll also recall that Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” which he took to be disrespect.
There’s a profile of Ichiro over at ESPN the Magazine and reporter Marly Rivera asked Ichiro about that. Ichiro’s comments were interesting and quite insightful about how ego and public perception work in the United States:
I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.
There’s a hell of a lot of truth to that. Whatever professional environment you’re in, you’ll see this play out. If you want to know how you’re doing, look at who your enemies and critics are. If they’re senior to you or better-established in your field, you’re probably doing something right. And they’re probably pretty insecure and maybe even a little afraid of you.
The rest of the article is well worth your time. Ichiro seems like a fascinating, insightful and intelligent dude.
In 2012 Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, delivered the fantasy role-playing game it had spent millions of dollars and countless man hours trying to deliver. And then the company folded, leaving both its employees and Rhode Island taxpayers, who underwrote much of the company’s operations via $75 million in loans, holding the bag.
The fallout to 38 Studios’ demise was more than what you see in your average business debacle. Rhode Island accused Schilling and his company of acts tantamount to fraud, claiming that it accepted tax dollars while withholding information about the true state of the company’s finances. Former employees, meanwhile, claimed — quite credibly, according to reports of the matter — that they too were lured to Rhode Island believing that their jobs were far more secure than they were. Many found themselves in extreme states of crisis when Schilling abruptly closed the company’s doors. For his part, Schilling has assailed Rhode Island politicians for using him as a scapegoat and a political punching bag in order to distract the public from their own misdeeds. There seems to be truth to everyone’s claims to some degree.
As a result of all of this, there have been several investigations and lawsuits into 38 Studios’ collapse. In 2012 the feds investigated the company and declined to bring charges. There is currently a civil lawsuit afoot and, alongside it, the State of Rhode Island has investigated for four years to see if anyone could be charged with a crime. Today there was an unexpected press conference in which it was revealed that, no, no one associated with 38 Studios will be charged with anything:
An eight-page explanation of the decision concluded by saying that “the quantity and qualify of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and as such the Rules of Professional Conduct precluded even offering a criminal charge for grand jury consideration.”
Schilling will likely crow about this on his various social media platforms, claiming it totally vindicates him. But, as he is a close watcher of any and all events related to Hillary Clinton, he no doubt knows that a long investigation resulting in a declination to file charges due to lack of evidence is not the same thing as a vindication. Bad judgment and poor management are still bad things, even if they’re not criminal matters.
Someone let me know if Schilling’s head explodes if and when someone points that out to him.