This is horrible news. Richard Durrett, an ESPNDallas.com writer who covered the Rangers for the past several years — and who served as a Dallas Morning News reporter several years before that — died yesterday. He was only 38-years-old. While it hasn’t been officially announced, many people are saying he was killed by a brain aneurysm.
ESPN and the Rangers both issued statements on his passing, which can be read here.
Durett was a truly nice guy in a line of work that doesn’t necessarily require or reward being a nice guy. I met him on a couple of occasions and he was the polar opposite of the sportswriter stereotype. He wasn’t grumpy or cynical. He was funny, but his humor was not the dark or gallows humor you often hear from those who inhabit press boxes. When I, as a clueless newbie, showed up in Surprise, Arizona for spring training a couple of years ago, Durrett was kind and accommodating and showed me around the place to help me get my bearings. That doesn’t happen too often. When you’re a tourist in the press box, you’re usually on your own.
In 2011, after Rangers fan Shannon Stone fell to his death at the ballpark while trying to reach a ball for his son, Durrett wrote this piece in response, thinking about fathers and sons. And, specifically, his own son who was three at the time and is only six now. Give it a read and remember what’s important in life.
Thirty-eight is far too young. Take some time for a nice thought or a prayer for his family who will now have to spend way too much time without him than any family should. And make sure you do whatever you can do to live your life in the present, making sure those who you love know that you love them. Life isn’t fair. Death is less fair than that. All we can do is make the most of it while we can.
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!