Why Avoiding Arbitration with David Ortiz was Vital

We are pleased to announce that Dan Corrado has joined the BoSox Injection team and as he continues the sign up process he has already completed his first piece.  Dan is the creator and editor of his own Red Sox site, www.talkinsoxwithdan.com, so be sure to check that out.  With that, Dan’s first post is here so take a look and feel free to leave a comment.

From the perspective of a general manager of a major league baseball team, it is always deemed a success when a pending arbitration hearing is avoided. It doesn’t matter if it is a relatively minor agreement like the one the Red Sox agreed to with Alfredo Aceves worth $1.2MM earlier this month. There is no winner. There is no loser. Instead, there is an amicable resolution between the two sides, the importance of which cannot be understated.

Although GM Ben Cherington and the Red Sox did not beat David Ortiz in a hearing earlier this week, it certainly felt like a victory for the front office when news broke on Monday morning that arbitration had been avoided thanks to a one-year deal worth $14.575MM. Across baseball, this was not seen as a huge story. Teams avoid going to arbitration with players all the time.

However, dodging a hearing in this situation was more important than most.

Ortiz is a sensitive guy. Sure, the 6’4″ slugger towers over most of his teammates. It’s true that even when Ortiz is mired in one of his now-famous early season swoons, he is still an intimidating figure for opposing pitchers at the plate. Nevertheless, his skin is about as thin as an insecure teenager.

Having his employers methodically point out his flaws as a player in a small conference room at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida? No thanks.

The Globe’s Nick Cafardo recently wrote that he believes the negativity that would have likely surfaced during and after the arbitration hearing is “vastly overrated.” I couldn’t disagree more. We are discussing the same guy in Ortiz who was legitimately upset over not being credited with an RBI that he felt he earned in a game during early August of last year. In case you don’t remember, Ortiz stormed into Terry Francona’s pre-game media session and unleashed an expletive-laced rant. It was later reported that it was a joke fueled by teammates. Not buying it. The guy is sensitive. There’s nothing wrong with that, but to deny it is to ignore reality.

In an ideal world, Cafardo is correct. Baseball is a business and its participants should conduct themselves professionally. Things are just not that simple, however. It is true that the Red Sox offered Ortiz arbitration, and he certainly could have said ‘no thanks’ and tested free agency. But by accepting arbitration from the Sox, he left himself vulnerable to a hearing. It is not the job of the brass on Yawkey Way or their legal team to ensure that Ortiz’s feelings go unscathed during the process. Their job is to win the case, even if it comes at the expense of offending a player who has lead Boston to two World Series titles and is clearly the apple of principal owner John Henry’s eye. Winning the case involves attempting to prove that Ortiz is not worth what Ortiz and his agent believe he is worth. It can undoubtedly get ugly.

Imagine the representatives for the Red Sox bringing up a certain drug test that Ortiz failed in 2003 during the arbitration hearing that designated hitter may or may not have sat in on? Yikes.

There is no hiding the fact that I’m pleased that arbitration was avoided. Could the Red Sox have won the hearing and paid a couple of million dollars less for the DH’s services? Yes, and I actually believe that the three-member panel would have ruled in favor of the Red Sox. However, as soon as Cherington and his team stepped foot into the conference room that was playing host to the hearing, it would have been a loss for the Red Sox, regardless of the outcome. If any sort of negativity can be avoided at a reasonable price, I am all for it.

As of today, the Red Sox have one of their most integral cogs back in their lineup. He at least seems relatively happy with the outcome. More importantly, the Sox have Ortiz on another one-year deal, which should provide motivation for the DH to continue to produce.

That sounds like a win-win to me.

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Topics: Alfredo Aceves, Arbitration, Ben Cherington, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz

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