Wednesday, July 6, 2011

4 comments Murray Chass Points Out More Things Sean Forman and Bud Selig Are Doing Wrong

Murray Chass loves to criticize Bud Selig on his non-blog. Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily like Bud Selig and I don't know if I believe he has done a fantastic job as the commissioner of baseball. Still, Murray mostly criticizes Bud Selig at every opportunity simply because Selig succeeded (and Murray thinks pushed out, which may be true) Fay Vincent. See, Murray loves Fay Vincent. Like in a scary way. Like if Murray writes a non-blog posting, it will mention Fay Vincent 75% of the time. Murray references Fay Vincent and the things Fay Vincent says as if Murray were the younger brother who really respects and looks up to his older brother...played here by Fay Vincent. So today, Murray points out where Fay Vincent was right and why Sean Forman should stick to VORP and all those numbers that are trying to control the minds of baseball players.

Sometimes you have to feel sorry for Bud Selig, just as you would for a child who watches other kids in the neighborhood playing with toys or games he wants but his parents won’t let him have.

This is as opposed to feeling sorry for Fay Vincent who isn't allowed outside to play, but fondly looks out his window at the children playing and then whispers things that should be changed about the games being played outside in the ears of the boys who are allowed to play outside. This is all a desperate attempt to stay relevant.

For example, Selig, the baseball commissioner, always wanted a payroll cap and in his zeal to get it, he was a pivotal participant in the ouster of his predecessor, Fay Vincent,

Which Murray Chass only mentions in nearly every non-blog posting.

But Selig failed to get the payroll cap the other professional team leagues had.

He was also responsible for the Steroid Era and personally injecting steroids into Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens' ass. Murray has no proof of this, but Fay Vincent definitely has his suspicions he would like Murray to pass on. Bud Selig is just one big failure. That's the moral of the story. Well the other moral is the same guy who said the following about MLB owners, Fay Vincent, should still be the commissioner in the eyes of Murray Chass:

"George Steinbrenner was a real problem in baseball, and I think Mark Cuban is a real problem in basketball," Vincent said in part (as reported by the Dallas Morning News).

"... I mean, winning is not everything, and I'm afraid for some of these owners they get so carried away with winning they believe that's the objective."

I hate it when owners get so carried away with winning. The best owners in sports are those who don't give a shit about winning...wait, no, that's some of the WORST owners in sports that don't care about winning and care more about turning a profit.

More currently, Selig wants a hard-slotting system that would reduce the bonuses for players selected in the annual amateur draft, but he faces another fight to get it.

Which is an understandable issue from both sides. The owners want slotting to save themselves (hopefully) some money and the players/agents don't want slotting because they want to be able to get as much money as possible from being drafted by a team in the draft. Naturally in Murray Chass' eyes, because Bud Selig wants slotting this is a terrible, terrible idea.

Speaking at Major League Baseball’s draft earlier this week, Selig said, “The clubs have voted, the GMs have voted, and everybody’s for slotting.”

The commissioner, however, is a little ahead of himself on two counts. First, everyone in M.L.B. does not favor a hard-slotting system.

The Boston Red Sox have expressed opposition to it,

So there is one team against slotting. I guess this isn't really "everybody," but one team out of 30 teams doesn't seem like slotting is an overly unpopular idea. Anytime owners can think of a way to save money and keep money away from the players they tend to do it.

and if the Red Sox are against it, you can bet the New York Yankees are, too.

You can bet the Yankees are against it...I guess. I know the Red Sox and the Yankees have similar likes and dislikes (they are frenemies in that way), but I wouldn't say just because the Red Sox don't like slotting the Yankees hold the same opinion. Let's assume this is true though. So with the Red Sox and the Yankees against slotting, should the debate stop there? It isn't unanimous to go to a slotting system, but we know for sure one team is against it and Murray is just speculating another team is against a slotting system. Still, that is only two teams out of 30 teams that are against slotting.

Second, everybody is not for such a system. The commissioner might have meant everybody on management’s side, which a spokesman said he did, but the fact that the union opposes the idea makes for significant opposition that Selig cannot ignore.

Did Murray really need a spokesman to clarify Selig's quote? It is clear from his quote Selig wasn't saying the union was on-board with this slotting system. Selig was speaking for his side of the bargaining table. I bet Fay Vincent could get a slotting system to be instituted AND he would have gotten steroids out of baseball in just a few short days.

In a hard-slotting system, the league sets a maximum signing bonus for each position in the top rounds of the draft. A team can negotiate a lower bonus – unlikely – but not a higher one.

I don't know how I feel about slotting. I think slotting is somewhat stupid and goes against the free market practices I prefer to see in sports. On the other hand, I think leagues like the NFL do need some sort of slotting system or at least a rookie wage cap, which isn't really an issue in MLB. So I am torn. On one hand, the fact a team may pass up a superior player to the one they would normally pick because he will require a large signing bonus annoys me because I feel like teams should do what they can to win games. On the other hand, teams do have budgetary constraints and I understand those constraints. Not every team is flush with money and they deserve a chance to be competitive. Now, should the fact some teams have budgetary constraints while others don't mean there should a more level playing field? I'm not so sure.

The person who would probably be most affected by such a system is Scott Boras, the high-profile agent who often represents many of the top draft choices and has made millions of dollars in agent fees.

Fay Vincent would never let Scott Boras ruin baseball like Bud Selig has.

I called Boras to get his reaction to a hard-slotting system and reached him on his cell phone. But I apparently caught him off guard; he must have been expecting someone else.

Boras doesn’t like me – my questions over the years apparently have been too tough for his liking,

Or he could just not like you. Murray doesn't seem like the type of guy that is easily likeable.

But Boras did not prove to be a man of his word. Not surprisingly, he did not call me back. (UPDATE: Boras did call back two days later after this column was posted.)


1. Murray Chass called Scott Boras for a reason, to get his opinion on slotting,

2. Scott Boras called him back eventually,

3. Murray Chass took the time to update his non-blog with the information Boras called him back,

4. Why don't we know the answer as to what Boras thinks about draft slotting?

A lesser writer would have updated Boras' response to draft slotting in the column, since that was the entire reason for calling Boras in the first place. But not Murray Chass, he doesn't need to update us on what Scott Boras actually said about draft slotting. He'll leave that to our imagination to figure out for ourselves. God knows my only real concern was whether Boras called Murray back or not, so I am glad he updated us with that information.

In researching the subject of slotting, I came across an article by Sean Forman, the editor of, who makes a mistake common to observers who don’t understand the union’s thinking.

Maybe I am overly sensitive, but I like how Murray, who currently has no connection to baseball other than the fact he used to have a connection to baseball and probably still has sources, refers to Forman as an "observer" who doesn't understand the union's thinking. It seems a bit condescending to me. Sean Forman is a member of the Baseball Writers of Association, so while he hasn't been around as long as Murray Chass has been, he isn't quite an outsider anymore.

The union, Forman wrote last August,

Yet again, Murray Chass quotes Sean Forman without actually linking the article that Forman wrote. This is just a common courtesy because pretty much any quote can be taken out of context without the full article. I would think an experienced newspaper guy like Murray Chass would realize this, but I guess as a lowly blogger I don't know very much about citing sources and giving credit to authors for work I quote should be no big deal.

“does not and can not care one iota for players not on the 40-man and does not in any way shape or form represent them. They are the major league baseball players association. Their responsibility is to guys who have made (or will soon) make the show – full stop. “As such, they would love hard slotting (assuming it isn’t a backdoor to the cap) that frees up money for major league vets, and they would love the removal of FA compensation, which only increases the value of existing major league free agents.”

I will disagree with Sean Forman on this issue. I think the union does care about players that aren't currently in the an extent. I don't think the union would ever agree to hard slotting (without a concession from the owners as well) simply because of the perception it takes away money from soon-to-be major league baseball players. So their stand would be they would be against hard slotting, though I am sure a part of the union also realizes if hard slotting did end up happening then it would free up money for veteran players. Still, the perception that it takes money out of younger player's pockets is a perception that would cause the player's union to not back hard slotting in the draft.

Of course I am actually an outsider, so maybe Sean Forman knows something I don't. I would agree the union wouldn't mind the removal of free agent compensation because it takes away the cost of some teams signing free agents. Though I can't say for sure I believe a lot of teams pay attention to what draft pick they will have to give up in order to sign a free agent, so there is that issue as well. Many teams if they want a player, I would guess they generally don't worry too much about the draft pick they will forfeit.

Forman, whose expertise is in statistics like WAR and VORP, strayed into unfamiliar territory,

Saying Forman has expertise in statistics like WAR and VORP and ignoring his other knowledge shows Murray has now strayed into unfamiliar territory himself.

failed to see the connection between slotting and capping and demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of how the union overlooks no player, no matter where he plays.

Which is why teams aren't able to manipulate a minor league player's service time in order to get more years out of that player before he hits free agency and arbitration? So as long as we don't count the minor league players who have their service time manipulated (and this is an ethical problem on the part of clubs like Murray argues), then the union does look out for every player, no matter where he long as he plays in the majors.

So I find it a bit interesting Murray Chass, long a proponent of teams not manipulating their minor league player's service time, would say unequivocally the union overlooks no player, no matter where he plays. I say it is interesting because Murray talks about an issue, service time manipulation, quite frequently. The union doesn't seem to be looking out for all players in that instance.

The union apparently is even prepared to agree to a change in the draft rules that would allow teams to trade draft choices as teams can do in other sports.

I think this is a great idea. I have never completely understood why teams can't trade draft picks in baseball. Teams should be able to trade picks that aren't supplemental draft picks. I think this would make the draft and trade deadline slightly more exciting. When a team is discussing a trade with another team and they can't match up with the prospects a team wants, perhaps a team would be able to use a draft pick to get the trade through. This idea excites me.

It also brings up a ton of fun scenarios about what a draft pick is worth. Joba Chamberlain? Is he worth a 2nd or 3rd round pick? Are draft picks more or less valuable because MLB has a minor league system and many times picks are used to replenish the farm system or provide organizational depth?Overall, I think trading draft picks is a good idea.

Of course the issue with trading draft picks also runs head-on into the issue of a rookie cap. For example, the Pittsburgh Pirates could trade Andrew McCutchen for a 1st and 2nd round pick to the Dodgers. What if the Dodgers have a bad year and they end up picking 11th, which is now Pittsburgh's pick, and the Pirates pick 2nd in the draft? At that point, with no rookie cap the Pirates could end up paying big money to two draft picks. Of course this could happen in today's draft as well if the Pirates pass on the 10th pick the year before, so that's why I'm not sure it is a huge issue. I want teams to be able to trade draft picks. That's my conclusion.

The owners, however, have long opposed the proposal to trade draft choices.

Which I don't understand. I would think teams trading for players at the trade deadline would rather give away a pick rather than giving away a minor league player who is somewhat proven. I would think in some cases a team trading a player at the trade deadline wouldn't mind having more picks in the draft, as long as they have confidence in their ability to select in the draft of course.

It would be great fun for picks to be traded. Imagine the offers the Nationals could have gotten for Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg over the last two years. The Nationals wouldn't have to make the trade, but I am sure it would have been interesting to see other teams make offers to the Nationals for these two players.

He didn’t spell out any possible plan, but it only makes sense that for the owners to agree to the trade of draft choices, they would require the union to make one and possibly two concessions.

One would be the hard-slotting system. The other would be an international draft, covering players around the world who always have been signed as unrestricted free agents.

Part of me understands the need for an international draft and a part of me does not. The NBA puts international players in the normal NBA Draft, why can't MLB do the same? If MLB is going to dedicate itself to having an international draft, why not put these players in the MLB draft? Are they afraid these foreign-born players would take draft slots away from high school and college players? That sounds kind of stupid, so I would doubt that. Yes, an international draft would increase the number of rounds in the MLB Draft. Maybe the draft could go 5-10 rounds more or so.

One of the criticism of the international draft is this...if there is going to be a draft that involves international players then certain teams are going to have a competitive advantage over other teams. Some MLB teams have a large presence in Latin American countries and would have the funding to do more in-depth scouting and study of international players. Would an international draft make the rich teams become even richer? I don't think so. Right now, the rich teams should pretty much have their pick of international players and I don't find this to be the case, so I don't know if the advantages of more funds to scout international players in an international draft would cause one team to have a huge advantage over another.

Besides the union’s opposition to it, an international draft would have to overcome the geopolitical obstacle of opposition from the countries whose young players it would affect.

I think this could be worked out on a case-by-case basis. This is part of the reason I think a separate draft for international players isn't the best idea. Perhaps MLB would be better off to have the MLB draft and international draft combined into one. Granted, some of the international players may not be amateurs, but that's the case for international players in the NBA Draft as well and I don't think it has caused huge issues.

With the relationship between the union and the commissioner’s office at its friendliest ever, it’s possible that the two sides could compromise on two or all three of the draft issues.

It's kind of interesting the NFL, which pretty much prints money because business is booming, doesn't currently have the union and commissioner's office getting along, while MLB has the union and commissioner's office getting along well and supposedly MLB is declining in popularity. I'm not sure what this tells me, but I think it is interesting.

“I expect the union would look unkindly on the hard slot and the international draft

Because the union cares about every player no matter where he that Sean Forman? If you read enough of Murray Chass' columns and sit down with Fay Vincent long enough, maybe you will learn something.


Martin F. said...

Hard slotting wouldn't free up any money for players. The teams would just keep the money. It isn't counted as money toward the cap until the kid reaches the majors, and it's such a variable number based on where teams are picking in the draft, it wouldn't be more then a million or three each year. This isn't going to be calculated into the limit teams are willing to spend. It might allow a team to make a trade for a half season guy on a pennant run, but that's about it.

rich said...


I think the big plus, for me at least, is that it keeps people from doing what several prospects do which is hold a franchise hostage. I know it happens in football (Elway, E. Manning), but if the point of a draft is to make your team better, then giving players the right to demand ungodly amounts of money defeats the entire purpose.

In football it works because you can trade the picks. Eli didn't want to play in SD, so the Giants traded a bunch of picks. What would happen if the Nationals knew they wouldn't be able to sign Harper going into the draft? They'd have to take an inferior player and give him number 1 overall money. That's not a really great way to improve your club.

In what other sport do you constantly hear about teams skipping a guy because of who his agent is? The draft in baseball is absurd because if you're drafting high, then you're really running a huge risk.

I know that the teams get compensatory picks the next year, but is that still a good way to do it?

I'd agree that the hard slotting wouldn't free up that much room, but baseball's draft system is by far the most inept of all of the major sports and that's one way, not the best of course, to improve it.

Murray said...

I agree with everything Rich just said. A slotting system would really help the smaller market teams because a guy like Boris couln't hold clubs hostage

Martin F. said...

Oh, I think baseball needs a hard slotting system desperately for it's draft picks, and it needs to expand it's draft to all players, world wide. To much money is wasted on guys who never pan out.

I'm just saying that the money wouldn't be freed up for something else. They'd just pocket it.