Red Sox: Mookie Betts arbitration was avoidable and management foolish

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Mookie Betts
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Mookie Betts /

Will the Mookie Betts arbitration success be a harbinger of an age of bad feelings? The Red Sox offer was well below what anticipated value.

Employee evaluations are one of the sins management faces and the same certainly applies to the employee.  I have been on both sides of this arrangement and would rather submit to a root canal. Baseball has a similar apparatus and it is known as arbitration – a precursor to free agency.

The process has been around for baseball ions and is the result of the Collective Bargaining Agreement(s) and a solid contributor to inflating salaries as even when you lose you win. If Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts lost his recent hearing his salary would be $7.5 MM and not $10.5 MM.  I do not expect a Go Fund Me page for Mookie.

Both sides face a panel of arbitrators and submit information on why the player is the second coming of Manny Alexander or headed for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Arguments are presented, and figures tossed in for an either-or decision. There is no compromise and the decision in the case went in favor of Betts. The panel simply determined that based on historical data – other contracts via hearings – that Betts was worth closer to his submitted figure.

The Red Sox lost, and Betts won, but the Red Sox really, really lost. This was purely avoidable and in my opinion rather confrontational on the part of Red Sox management and especially the president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski was aware of the obvious comparisons that this decision would be based on and came in low. Why?

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Since we all toss around opinions the $7.5 MM made little sense – an addition to the “what were they thinking?” category.   The figure should have been far closer to Betts’ and negotiations starting to take place.  Often the arbitration process is the foundation for long-term deals in which ownership is willing to “buy out” arbitration and even free agent year – just think Chris Sale.

Collectors have a specialized niche be it collecting baseball cards, refrigerator magnets or bottle caps.  The Red Sox have been collecting dead money and bad contracts.  A Pablo Sandoval is $50 MM the coffers will never see.  Rusney Castillo has cost Boston about one million dollars a hit. And David Price? This may be as ugly as the Barry Zito deal by the Giants. So, if it is all about the money I simply do not see it.

Betts is a solid baseball citizen who is personable, at times reticent, industrious, and highly respectful, but who knows if Betts has an animosity index that may be triggered by the avoidable Jon Lester lowball approach by the Red Sox? The Red Sox have the potential for a very poor outcome over this contract issue and that may surface in the second arbitration unless some common sense prevails on Yawkey Way.

Next: Pedro Martinez voices his support for David Price

Betts is the face of the franchise now that David Ortiz has settled into retirement. Betts is the best player on a team with several star players and is arguably one of the best players in the game. In this day and age of player mobility, Betts has options and the truth is that the Red Sox need Betts far more than Betts needs the Red Sox.