#103: The Greater of Two Evils
It's times like these that I'm actually glad I don't have an opportunity to blog much these days.
I'm glad I don't have a post on here about how great the Pirate draft was, particularly getting Pedro Alvarez with the 2nd overall pick, and then having a post every twelve hours following the roller coaster that has followed.
Ideally, I'd wait until after the September 10th hearing before commenting on this whole fiasco, but I need to make sure I don't fall victim to ThePensBlog's 30-day elimination-from-the-blogroll quota.
This is one of the few times in recent history where I side with Pirate management, but only because the other side of the coin lies the only entity more deeply corrupt.
If you honestly don't know anything about the situation here's the Cliff's Notes version of the Cliff's Notes Version.
A week and a half after heralded draftee Pedro Alvarez verbally agrees to a minor league contract with a $6 million signing bonus, the man he hired to represent him, SuperAgent Scott Boras had a grievance filed by the MLB Player's Association, saying that the agreement was made after the midnight deadline on August 15. The Pirates dispute this. And Eric Homser, the Kansas City Royals' top pick (also a Boras client), is involved, as he agreed to his contract after Alvarez. Major League Baseball itself has forbidden the Hosmer from playing until after the September 10th hearing before an arbiter.
In one of the best baseball articles I've read this year (by the highly-underrated Jeff Passan) the relationship between Pirates President Frank Coonelly and Boras is laid out very succinctly, and without really taking sides. (Except that Passan does refer to Coonelly as having been MLB's "dark emperor". Apparently, he didn't see THIS pic. - with all proper respects to SoxNation.com for the excellent fake).
Boras is baseball's version of Drew Rosenhaus: he is the agent who is always attached to the players who make the most money (quite often far more than they're actually worth). Coonelly is the guy who's been trying to keep payrolls down, primarily by keeping draftees who haven't proven anything yet from signing ridiculously high contracts.
Unstoppable Force, meet Immovable Object.
There's something up here. Neither guy involved is stupid and they've been at this a long time. I just have a couple of questions, and probably the most ludicrous Conspiracy Theory you've ever read in a sports blog (I don't even believe it).
Why does Boras and the MLBPA wait so long to file a grievance? Would we not be talking about this had the Pirates not patted themselves on the back in every media outlet they could for not caving to the demands of baseball's Great Satan?
Or was the grievance always in the works, and it just took that long to make sure that the legal-ese was ready for presentation and the case was made?
It's plain that the pissing contest between Coonelly and Boras is more than just over Pedro Alvarez, especially from Boras' side.
Apparently, Boras is a firm opponent of the signing deadline (because if it didn't exist he could institute a lockout-style format so that he could make his clients even more overpaid).
But he went after the Pirates here, not the Royals, who were later in their agreement with Hosmer. And my understanding is that the Royals did appeal for a deadline extension to Major League Baseball (and had it granted), but that an extension would apply to all teams, not just the Royals.
So, what's Boras and the Players Union going for here? What leg do they have to stand on?
Or, why are the Pirates, normally pretty sotto voce about their dealing, so vocal on this issue? It's a very Bush-ian "Bring it on" thing to do.
And here's where the "ludicrous Conspiracy Theory" kicks in.
While Boras may be going after the Deadline, the Pirates may be trying to invoke a players' strike.
If the arbitor rules in Baseball's favor (which I see as the likely result), how hard would the player's union take it?
Back in 1994, Major League owners, who had too much power, instituted a lockout when players wanted paid more.
Now the balance of power has shifted, by almost an equally gross amount, to the MLBPA. Could this chess match be controlled by Coonelly with the intent of trying to bring the balance of power back toward the middle?
(If you're not sure how much things have changed for teams payroll-wise, you need to look at the USA Today Salary Database, and select total payroll and watch how it grows in the mid-90's.)
As someone who thinks a salary cap is the only way to make baseball a parity league for all 30 organizations, I think I would welcome such a strike, as much as I love baseball.
Regardless, in this case, I am siding against Scott Boras and all he stands for. I would have this stance if it were the Cincinnati Reds, or even the Chicago Cubs who were standing their ground.
Boras must lose this one, for the good of the game. Then we can go back to talking about the cheapness of Pirate ownership.
Of course, this "theory" is almost certainly not where this is going. But if you're going to root for the Pirates this year (and MLB, by extension), this is the game where a fan will ally themselves with the Pirates.
One quick note that's not related to the Boras/Coonelly war, but almost as scary.
Keeping in mind that the Pirates failed to come to terms with their second pick of the draft, Tanner Scheppers:
If the Pirates somehow lose Alvarez and he goes back into the draft, then a little something I wrote for the Pittsburgh Lumber Company's June 5th Roundtable (scroll to the very bottom) is eerily prescient.