If you think baseball writers are PED scolds, get a load of this track and field writer

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The U.S. Track and Field team hired a former PED user as a coach. His name is Dennis Mitchell and he was part of the BALCO scandal. He was banned, reinstated and now he’s back.

New York Times columnist Juliet Macur is NOT happy about this. And I mean seriously not happy. Her unhappiness is cast in the sort of pearl-clutching, fainting couch moralizing and scandalizing that even the most anti-PED baseball writers have more or less given up because they realized it was basically self-parody. And while her story is about track and field, her unhappiness with this extends to baseball too:

Other sports also have some explaining to do, too, especially after assuming the public has forgotten — or simply doesn’t care — about the drug use that has wrecked the purity of their games.

Look in the dugout at Los Angeles Dodgers games, and you might see the hitting coach Mark McGwire, a slugger who once used steroids to perform his great feats. Stop by the San Francisco Giants’ spring training camp for a glimpse of Barry Bonds, the player convicted of obstructing a grand jury in a case centered on doping, who still will not admit that he doped to succeed. Or take a visit to the Chicago Cubs’ Class AAA Iowa affiliate, where Manny Ramirez, twice suspended for drug use, has just been hired as a player/coach.

I know some New York Times people read HardballTalk occasionally. If any of them could slip by Ms. Macur’s desk and explain that baseball’s purity was gone a long, long time before Mark McGwire got hired to be a hitting coach, I’d appreciate it.

Oh, and slip her the All-Star voting results too — the ones which currently have Ryan Braun starting in the outfield — to show her that to the extent baseball assumes fans don’t care, well, they’re absolutely right.

MLBPA thinks all 30 teams will take a “file-and-trial” approach to arbitration

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There’s something interesting deep in Ken Rosenthal’s latest notes column. It’s about arbitration, with Rosenthal reporting that the players union believes that all 30 teams will take a “file-and-trial” approach to arbitration this winter.

If you’re unfamiliar with this, it breaks down thusly:

  • In mid-January, teams and players who are eligible for arbitration will exchange proposed salary figures. The player says what he thinks he’s worth based on comparable players of his quality and service time and the team will propose a lower counter-figure;
  • Generally, the parties then use these proposals as negotiable figures and eventually reach a compromise deal, usually near the midpoint between the two figures, avoiding arbitration;
  • If a deal cannot be reached, they go to an arbitration hearing and arbitrators pick one of the numbers. They CANNOT give a compromise award. It’s either the higher player’s number or the lower team number.

In the past, a handful of teams — most typically the Blue Jays, Braves, Marlins, Rays, and White Sox — employed a “file- and-trial” approach, meaning that they treated the figure exchange date as a hard deadline after which they refused to negotiate and stood content to go to a hearing. As more teams have adopted this approach, there have been more arbitration hearings. As Rosenthal notes, last year there were more hearings than in any offseason for the past 25 years. Now, the union thinks, every team will do this. If they do, obviously, there will be even more hearings.

There is certainly an advantage to file-and-trial for a team. It makes the player and the agent work harder and earlier in order to be prepared to negotiate with the club before the file deadline. It also makes them work a lot harder to come up with a defensible filing number given that, rather than merely being an opening salvo in an extended negotiation, it’s something that they will certainly have to defend in open court. It’s also simple hardball. Teams have greater resources than the players and the agents and it’s less painful for them to pay for lawyers and hearing prep and to conduct the actual hearing. There’s risk to the team, of course — they might lose and pay more than a settlement would’ve cost — but teams are obviously concluding that the risk is worth it.

The only question I have is, if the union is right and all 30 teams will now proceed this way, how was that decided? Everyone suddenly, after several decades of arbitration, simply decided to take the same approach? Or was there, I dunno, a meeting in which the strategy was coordinated? Inquiring minds want to know!