Arbitrary arbitration

With arbitration figures filed over the last few days, I thought I would revisit an old column I wrote on January 25, 2005 when the sports podcasting site 360 The Pitch still carried columnists. Arbitration has always intrigued me; in an arena where free agent contract negotiations are public and unhappy stars freely air their greivances, arbitration is the last bastion of secrecy in baseball. Here’s my take on this arbitrary process.

Salary arbitration stands alone in the world of baseball transactions. Free agent pursuits are the best part of the Hot Stove League. Baseball’s collective bargaining sessions are covered religiously. Yet salary arbitration stands as the last bastion to secrecy in the baseball world. What goes on during arbitration stays in arbitration leaving fans to wonder what exactly happens in an arbitration case.

From the start, arbitration is clearly not the desirable ends for a contract negotiation session. As the arbitration panel must choose between either the player’ request or the club’s offer, the arbitration session consists of the player proclaiming his greatness and the team attempting to show how that player is not worth as much as he thinks he is. No matter the result, there’s bound to be some ill will between the team and his club after the case. I know I wouldn’t feel too good if a boss of mine tried to convince me I wasn’t worth as much as I thought.

As far as the public is concerned, that’s about all there is to it; these hearings are, after all, confidential. Yet the arbitration process is a lot more involved than just the outcome, and it seems to me that Major League Baseball’s salary arbitration may be quite arbitrary.

Baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement provides the most information a fan can hope to gather about the arbitration process. In it, there are a whopping five and a half pages devoted to salary arbitration. This may not seem like too many, but Article IV, Section F is actually one of the longest entries on a single topic in the 2002 agreement.

While much of the section involves filing dates and contract legalese, a few passages deserve some analysis. First, every arbitration case is heard by a three-member panel made up of “prominent, professional arbitrators? recommended by the American Arbitration Association. This association is one specializing in alternative dispute resolution through arbitration or mediation, as their Web site proclaimed.

While those hearing the panel are highly qualified as dispute resolution, their knowledge of baseball may not be as comprehensive. If you think the battle over traditional scouting vs. sabermetrics is a tense one within baseball, imagine trying to explain the advantages of Runs Saved Above Average to an arbitrator with only a passing knowledge of baseball. And there’s a time limit to boot; each side gets only one hour for an initial presentation and 30 minutes for a rebuttal and a closing statement. My fantasy draft routinely lasts twice as long, and it doesn’t determine anyone’s salary for next season.

The other interesting part of Article IV, Section F is subsection 12. In this subsection, the CBA dissects those criteria which can be used as admissible evidence during the hearing and those facts that must be left outside the room. First, the agreement allows for the broad statement of “the quality of the Player’s contribution to his Club during the past season.? This includes — but is not limited to — his overall on-field performance, his leadership abilities, and his public appeal. Clubs and players can also mention the length and consistency of the player’s career contributions and the comparative baseball salaries of the day.

With these criteria in mind, the arbitration panelists are instructed to give weight to the evidence as they deem appropriate under the circumstances. Furthermore, the arbitration panel is asked to pay careful attention to the contracts and salaries of those players with similar playing time to the player in question. This is a review of the player’s ability at its rawest. He has to justify his worth in relation to his peers in a tough process, and the CBA does not allow any press comments that may provide some more insight into how the player compares to those on his team and those against whom he competes.

That’s a lot of stuff to cram into a 90-minute session, and it’s quite clear to me why teams, players and agents work their hardest to avoid arbitration. It’s not comfortable for any of the parties involved in arbitration. Furthermore, as we’ll see over the next few weeks, there’s no real way to tell who will win and who will lose. It’s the luck of the draw in terms of the knowledge of those panelists, and it all depends on which side clearly and cleverly manipulates those statistics.

Personally, if I were making an arbitration case, I would rely on the current market to deliver me a win. After an off-season in which free agents struck it big, a panel instructed to pay attention to current salary levels would be hard pressed to deny many players a significant raise in today’s market.

Finally, what I see as one of the biggest flaws in the salary arbitration process is the reliance on what the player has already accomplished in his career. Because the player’s past performance is admissible evidence, it is quite possible for a player to win a massive salary increase based upon what he’s already done regardless of what he is likely to do in the upcoming season.

Advertisements



RSS River Ave. Blues

  • Rays 2, Yankees 1: A forgettable loss if there ever was one June 23, 2018
    Ugh, I hate that the Yankees only win most games and not all games. The Yanks dropped a completely forgettable series opener to the Rays on Friday night. Giancarlo Stanton made a great catch and … that’s it? Nothing else of note happened. The final score was 2-1. Sabathia Bends, Breaks Only A Little Pretty […] The post Rays 2, Yankees 1: A forgettable loss i […]
    Mike Axisa
  • DotF: Clarke Schmidt debuts following Tommy John surgery June 23, 2018
    MLB.com posted their midseason top 100 prospects list today. Three Yankees made it: OF Estevan Florial (No. 39), LHP Justus Sheffield (No. 42), and RHP Albert Abreu (No. 65). 2B Gleyber Torres and 3B Miguel Andujar are no longer prospect eligible while RHP Chance Adams, who was No. 66 before the season, has dropped out […] The post DotF: Clarke Schmidt debut […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Game 73: A Trip to the Trop June 22, 2018
    The season is nearly halfway complete, and the Yankees are just now making their first trip to Tropicana Field. Very weird schedule this year. I’m not complaining. The Trop stinks. Just pointing out the schedule is weird. First of three in St. Pete tonight. As for the Yankees, my goodness they are red hot right […] The post Game 73: A Trip to the Trop appear […]
    Mike Axisa
  • 6/22 to 6/24 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays June 22, 2018
    For the first time this season, the Yankees will play in Tropicana Field. They’re in Tampa for three games this weekend. The Last Time They Met It seems like just yesterday that the Yankees hosted the Rays, but that’s not quite true; in fact, it was last week. The Rays visited the Bronx last weekend, […] The post 6/22 to 6/24 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays a […]
    Domenic Lanza
  • Yankeemetrics: Bomber Brooms, Seattle Sweep (June 19-21) June 22, 2018
    Domingo+Dingers=Win After a quick trip to the nation’s capital, the Yankees were back at the friendly confines on Tuesday night and opened their series with an easy 7-2 win over the Mariners. Domingo German was absolutely brilliant in his eighth career start. After giving up a run (unearned) in the first inning, he retired 19(!) […] The post Yankeemetrics: B […]
    Katie Sharp
  • Mailbag: Torres, Adams, Loaisiga, Gardner, Drury, Judge, Bundy June 22, 2018
    There are ten questions in this week’s mailbag. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the mailbag email address, so send your questions there each week. Ryan asks: Any explanation for the power Torres is showing in the majors? I think I read he had only 24 homers in like 1,500 at bats in the minors. […] The post Mailbag: Torres, Adams, Loaisiga, Gardner, Drury, […]
    Mike Axisa
  • DotF: Wagner goes deep yet again in Tampa’s win June 22, 2018
    Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (3-1 win over Lehigh Valley) SS Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 SB — 24-for-73 (.329) with five doubles, a triple, and two homers in his last 17 games … that looks a lot more like pre-2018 Tyler Wade 1B Brandon Drury: 1-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K — second start […] The post DotF: Wagner goes deep yet again in Tampa’s win appeared […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Thursday Night Open Thread June 21, 2018
    ?Good game today, great series this week. The Yankees finished the three-game sweep of the Mariners this afternoon and they are now 28 games — 28 games! — over .500 on June 21st. Feels awesome. The 2018 Yankees are not perfect, far from it, but damn, is this team good or what? Great team and […] The post Thursday Night Open Thread appeared first on River Ave […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Yankees 4, Mariners 3: A Seattle Sweep June 21, 2018
    What started as a laugher ended as a bit of a nail-biter. But, a win is a win. The Yankees completed the three-game sweep of the Mariners on Thursday afternoon to pick up their 50th win of the season. Fifty wins in 72 games. Last year the 50th win came in the 95th game. Smell […] The post Yankees 4, Mariners 3: A Seattle Sweep appeared first on River Avenue […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Gleyber Torres says he’s going to pass on the Home Run Derby June 21, 2018
    According to Ken Davidoff, Gleyber Torres said he will pass on participating in the Home Run Derby next month. It’s unknown whether MLB has invited him, but it doesn’t matter now. Torres will pass. “I’m not a home-run hitter. I’m a contact hitter,” he said. Gleyber may not seem like the Home Run Derby type, […] The post Gleyber Torres says he’s going to pass […]
    Mike Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 62,703 hits
Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: