by Eddie Mayrose

No More Calls…We Have a Winner

It happens every spring. As certainly as the tulips will bloom, Major League Baseball owners will victimize fans with their own, annual scam, known on these pages as Arbitration Fraud.

According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the owners and the players association, a player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration. There is another category called “Super Two”, in which players with more than two years and less than three who have accumulated 86 days of service in the previous season are also arbitration eligible.  If, that is, they rank in the top 17% of service time for ALL players. So, if the promotion of a player is held up for two months, he will is likely to fall below the Super Two line and will definitely have another season added before he makes the three year mark.

To that end, many small market teams assign their top prospects to their AAA affiliates when they break camp, no matter how dire their needs.  While the “head fake” given to the fans is always something along te lines of”…he needs more seasoning”, the actual reason is that the organization is delaying the start of the “Arbitration clock” by a year, thus delaying his first big payday.  This “seasoning”, always comes, miraculously, around the end of May, no matter who the player might be.

At first glance, this seems like a fiscally responsible practice, especially considering that salaries have run amok over the last decade.  Upon closer examination, however, this amounts to nothing more than fraud, as owners continue to charge top dollar for tickets and advertising while KNOWINGLY not putting their best product on the field.

Suppose you were looking to buy a new car. After finding a graet price on a fully-loaded vehicle, you head to the dealership, only to find that the only one remaining is a car that is not as completely equipped. Cloth seats instead of leather, standard rasio rather than satellite and no GPS.  Would you still pay the price of the one that was fully loaded?  Of course, not. Yet that is exactly what Bud Selig and his merry band of carpetbaggers do every year, much to the chagrin of Fantasy Baseball owners.

For the last five years, there has been at least one elite young player that has been kept down by the parent club.  As a result, Fantasy Owners have been forced to endure this process, knowing full well that the player they’re waiting for should be in the Major Leagues.  In 2007, a season generally considered to be Alex Rodriguez’s best, the Milwaukee Brewers delayed the promotion of Ryan Braun, who, form the time of his debut, posted better statistics than ARod, who won the AL MVP.  The following season saw a twist on the fraud, as thw Twins buried Francisco Liriano in AAA as he was recovering from surgery.  Liriano started the season in Minnesota, but needed more time to rehab his elbow and was legitimately demoted.   He remained in Rochester for three months, however, deszpite posting a 10-1 record with an ERA below 2.00. Not until his agent threatened to file a grievance was he recalled.

Matt Wieters took the award in 2009, forced to wait while the Orioles named the much traveled  Pat Borders their starter. His BA was below the Mendoza Line when Wieters finally arrived. Catchers made it two years in a row last season, when the Indians decided Carlos Santana wasn’t quite ready for duty.  Funny, he went right into the third slot in the order upon his promotion.

Until this week, the 2011 Arbitration Fraud Award was a two man race between Eric Hosmer of the Royals and San Diego’s Anthony Rizzo. Kansas City, perhaps recognizing a window of opportunity with the Twins, White Sox and Tigers off to disastrous starts, pulled the trigger on Hosmer, jettisoning the putrid Kila Ka’ahuie, whose name must be Hawaiian for, “Punch and Judy”.  All Hosmer did, while Kiahuue was flailing at air for six weeks, was bat .439 in 21 games with 3 HR, 15 RBI and an OBP of .525, a tad better than Ka’ahuie’s .195 BA.

That left  Rizzo as our 2011 recipient.  While Brad Hawpe has treated Padres’ fans to a .179 BA with just 1 HR and 6 RBI, Rizzo has ripped through 29 Pacific Coast League games to the tune of a .397 BA with 10 HR and 42 RBI.  But, apparently, Rizzo needs just a bit more “seasoning”.  About two weeks more, I would imagine.

Bobby Carr, owner of Citizens Kane in the 40-Kane Fantasy Baseball League, has been the unfortunate victim in four of these cases and he’s currently sitting on Rizzo.  “This quote has been attributed to a lot of people.  I first heard it from Bill Parcells and it’s one of the few notions I’ve ever come across that is always correct”, said Carr. “When they say it’s not about the money, it’s ALWAYS about the money.”  In this case however, it’s also about Fantasy Owners taking one in the shorts.

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