In Boston, it’s never enough to lose and never enough to cut ties with a player who isn’t playing very well. Losing has to come with drama and departed players have to be kicked by anonymous sources as not just bad players, but bad people as they leave town. It’s just uncanny.
The latest is Rob Bradford’s piece, sourced by someone inside the Red Sox, that says A.J. Pierzynski was not just an ineffective hitter who wasn’t helping the team, he was a bad, selfish seed. He “had become such a negative influence on the team that players approached both the Sox coaches and front office to address the problem,” Bradford says. He goes on:
A microcosm of Pierzynski’s approach was mentioned by more than one of the backstop’s former teammates, who revealed his propensity to spend a significant amount of time looking at his phone while at his locker during games. In one instance, after a particularly rough outing in which the starting pitcher had been pulled early in the game, Pierzynski could be found staring at his phone while the pitcher gave off the appearance of being an emotional wreck just a few feet away. That incident paved the way to at least one complaint to management from a teammate.
Such a shocker here. I mean, it’d be one thing if Pierzynski had a nearly two-decade track record of being a low OBP guy with some pop, some fairly “meh” catching abilities and a prickly personality, but … oh, wait.
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I just don’t understand why this always happens with the Red Sox. Every other team in baseball manages to cut players when necessary and not have it be a big deal. In Boston, there are always knives out when people walk out the door. How the story of him being DFA’d isn’t “Pierzynski wasn’t cutting it, we aren’t winning, we have this young catcher named Vazquez who we think can really be the future of the club and we want to get him up now” is beyond me.
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!