December 26, a date to remember

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ruth.JPGAs MLB.com’s Mark Newman points out, today — Saturday, Dec. 26, 2009 — marks the 90th anniversary of the Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees. 

The infamous deal lost some of its luster once the Red Sox snapped the supposed “curse” it brought upon the franchise with their sweep of the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, but it’s an important day in baseball history nonetheless.  In fact, as Newman points out, it’s an important day in world history:

The Ruth sale happened on Dec. 26, 1919.

The FM radio was patented on Dec. 26, 1933.

The United Soviet Socialist Republic was formally
dissolved on Dec. 26, 1991.

Two disasters have occurred on Dec. 26: the Indian Ocean
tsunami in 2004 and a Taiwan earthquake in 2006.

Mao Zedong was born on Dec. 26, 1893.

The Pilgrims landed at what became New Plymouth on Dec. 26, 1690,

And on Dec. 26, 1776, the British lost the Battle of Trenton after General George Washington led his troops across the Delaware River.

Cursed or not, it’s a day of much importance.  And to us baseball fans, it doesn’t get much more important than the Big Bambino.  The “Sultan of Swat” had a .342/.474/.690 career batting line over 22 professional seasons.  He hit 714 home runs and tallied 2217 runs batted in.  We celebrate a lot this time of year — the holidays, a new year, good food — and yet it always seems relevant to celebrate the game’s ultimate icon.

Scott Boras says it would be a conflict of interest for an agent to become a GM

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Earlier, Craig wrote about the latest in the Mets’ search for a new general manager. Their list has been pared down to three candidates: Chaim Bloom (Rays senior VP of baseball operations), Doug Melvin (Brewers senior advisor), and agent Brodie Van Wagenen (of Creative Artists Agency).

It’s a diverse list, for sure, which makes one wonder what process allowed them to arrive at these final three candidates. Bloom is new school, Melvin is older-school, and Van Wagenen is… just inexperienced. Van Wagenen in particular is an interesting candidate as he has spent years advocating on his clients’ behalf. As a GM, he would do the exact opposite: he would try to take advantage of his players whenever possible, like every other GM in baseball does (e.g. manipulating service time).

Per Mike Puma of the New York Post, agent Scott Boras thinks there would be a conflict of interest if an agent were to become a GM. Boras, in fact, says he has turned down opportunities to lead front offices. But there is no verbiage saying that an agent must divest himself of his business interests before taking a job in a front office. Dave Stewart and Jeff Moorad are two examples of agents who later went onto the ownership side of the business. Stewart, in fact, moved into the front office after retiring and held various roles in with various organizations until he started Sports Management Partners (renamed Stewart Management Partners). He transferred control of the agency to Dave Henderson before he joined the Diamondbacks’ front office near the end of the 2014 season.

Ownership and labor are in constant conflict, even when things seem peaceful. Ownership wants to extract as much labor as possible as cheaply as possible. Labor wants to be paid for their work as much as possible. Their goals contradict each other and yet they need each other. While not required, usually being deeply on one side or the other — as agents and GM’s are — speaks to one’s personal ethos about the eternal tug-of-war. That Van Wagenen is so eager to switch sides speaks, perhaps, to opportunism. I would be, at minimum, unsettled if I were a client of Wan Wagenen’s at CAA. How might he use the sensitive information he was privy to as an agent to his advantage as a GM?

We have seen the analytics wave take over front offices around baseball. As ownership looks for ever more ways to pocket more cash, Van Wagenen’s candidacy may signal an upcoming wave of agents transitioning into front office roles. Hopefully that doesn’t become the case. There may be no one better equipped to take advantage of labor than someone experienced on that side of the battlefield.