There’s a fine line all professional athletes tiptoe from time to time. It’s the line between being a humble hero and being an overpaid crybaby. This statement in no way undermines the immense amount of hard work athletes put in to make it to a professional league, but their behavior once they get there tells a lot about them. The current MLB offseason has been slow, to put it lightly. Free agent signings have been few and far between, and guys like Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta remain unsigned. The inaction on the part of general managers has caused some players to talk about a Spring Training holdout.
Now, the chances of such a holdout happening are slim to none; if an MLB player fails to show up to Spring Training, his team holds the right to void his contract, and he no longer gets paid to play baseball, at least not from that team. To bring this down to earth for us mere mortals, this is like you failing to show up for your job as a bank teller because your buddy quit his previous bank job and hasn’t landed a new one yet. Remember, however, that these guys aren’t being paid a couple bucks an hour to deal with surly old men with halitosis who don’t trust banks, they’re being paid at least six figures to play a game. Of course, they play at a level that the average bank teller can’t even approximate, but it’s a game in the end.
Just like no individual is entitled to any given job unless deemed fit for it by his employer, none of these guys, despite the hard work they’ve put in, is entitled to a contract to play professional baseball. In particular, some of them are not entitled by ANY means to the contract their agent, one Dr. Scott Boras, JD, Pharm.D, is asking for. He’s pushing for 7-year, $200 million deals for guys like Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez. Hosmer has a World Series ring, but this asking price is like trying to auction off Rory McIlroy’s driver with the promise that you’ll also become an excellent golfer. Hosmer was a quality part of that Royals team that won it all, but he was just a piece. Martinez is looking to DH wherever he goes, and nobody is going to pay that much for a guy who doesn’t play at least 100 games in a corner outfield position.
The issue here does not lie with any GM. There is indeed a certain expectation amongst players and particularly among a certain above-mentioned pharmacist of a ludicrous income. Some players will call for and received much higher contracts than $200 million next year, and all of them are exponentially better than Eric Hosmer. Not every offseason has to be full of blockbuster deals and jaw-dropping contracts, and this offseason is certainly one of them. The talent pool is simply not good this year. As for Darvish and Arrieta, they’re both good pitchers and could be an ace for any team that signs them, particularly Arrieta, probably the best available free agent.
Darvish kind of blew it last postseason. He had a great regular season between Texas and Los Angeles and posted a 3.86 ERA. The postseason was a different story, going 0-2 in the World Series, allowing 8 earned runs and ending with ZERO strikeouts. Teams want to win, and to win you have to perform in the postseason. He didn’t, and that’s a concern.
So, MLB, if you want to get your friends jobs, help them lower their expectations. Don’t screw yourselves over with some silly holdout, and don’t even talk about it. We all know you’re not going to do it. If they want to be stubborn, they can manage their endorsement money and play some slowpitch in 2018.