Saturday Salary Arbitration

I don’t know if salary arbitration still works this way in baseball, but in my 20+ years in the game a player with three or more years of service (and certain players with more than two years but fewer than three) had the right to have his salary determined by an arbitrator. As you can imagine this right boosted the average salary of players in this service class relative to those who were not eligible for arbitration.

Contrary to what fans think, the agent doesn’t compare his client to Babe Ruth and the team doesn’t compare the player to a Triple-A reject. However, comparable players are at the heart of the process. The player’s agent will say that his client is comparable to players A, B and C. The team may acknowledge comparability to player C, but say the player is actually closer to players C, D and E where D and E have a lower salary than players A and B.

The team and player each submit a number and the arbitrator has to pick one or the other. The midpoint between the two has some importance, but I believe that historically teams have won 54%-56% of cases, which means the player seems to have a de facto burden of proof.

One of the most enjoyable moments I ever had in baseball was after an arbitration hearing in which the team I worked for ultimately lost the decision. Bill James was working for the player’s agent and spent much of the hearing trying to get me to laugh. He failed and later he expressed amazement at my stoicism. I told him I was simply following orders not to show any emotion.

After the hearing I went back to my hotel room where I received a call from Bill at about 8 PM. He asked if I was busy and if not if I wanted to head down to the hotel restaurant for a snack and a chat. Steve Mann, whom I also knew, was also working for the agent and he joined us as well.

The conversation was quite stimulating; well, to me anyway. Among other things we talked about the maturation of complex systems and its implications. The next thing we knew it was 3 AM. Bill and Steve had to prepare for another hearing later that day. As we got up from the table I said that we should write a book about the topics of our discussion. Bill then said, “Yeah, it would sell 12 copies.” To which Steve replied, “And three of those copies are right here.” We all howled with laughter.


No, I have not completely recovered from my bug. In fact, yesterday I coughed so hard at times that I thought I was going to cough up a lung. The fact that I am in the third week of being ill is another sad example of my aging. As one ages the immune system simply doesn’t work as well.


The number of 2016 Z06 Corvettes that meet my search criteria on CarGurus is dwindling rapidly, down to six when I checked this morning. (CarMax doesn’t have any this morning.) Here is one new listing:

It actually has 3LZ trim and is certified pre-owned. The wheels are dark, but do have a light metallic ring. The dealer is asking about $63,000 and the car has a little less than 13,000 miles. I hear you out there, “Sh*t or get off the pot already.” As I have written before I have grown indecisive as I get older in no small way due to the less than satisfactory state of my career for the last 8-9 years.

At this point I estimate the probability that I buy a 2016 Z06 Corvette at 90%. The probability that I buy something else out of left field is about 5% and the probability I buy nothing is about 5%. Ask me again tomorrow and I might give you a different answer.




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