That little workout in Houston wasn’t the only thing happening in Aroldis Chapman land yesterday. The other thing: Athletes Premier International and Edwin Mejia — his original agents — sued his new agents, Hendricks Sports Management, claiming that they illegally lured him away after API and Mejia went through all the trouble of helping Chapman defect and setting up residency in Andorra and all of that.
For you lawyers out there, the claims are (1) tortious interference with a contract; (2) tortious interference with business relations; and (3) unjust enrichment. For you non-lawyers out there, it amounts to a claim Hendricks gave Chapman a big song and dance, talked smack about the old agents, and dangled some unholy combination of lies and shiny things in front of his eyes in order to get him to sign on with team Hendricks, and now stand to unfairly profit from the giant bonus their client is about to receive. A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.
Players are allowed to switch agents if they want, but let’s be clear: there’s all kinds of ugliness in these sorts of relationships. If you want an education about this stuff, read Jerry Crasnick’s excellent book about agents, which gives some pretty good insight about how agents steal clients from one another all the time. It takes a pair of brass ones to make it in that racket.
Obviously this suit isn’t about wanting Chapman back. It’s about wanting a cut of the $15 million+ that Chapman is going to get from one of the teams who watched him down in Houston yesterday. Whether the plaintiffs get any of that depends on whether the change of representation in this case was the usual unseemly affair, or an unseemly affair with a gloss of illegality sprinkled on top.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?