Is Larry Beinfest History’s Greatest Monster?

Is Larry Beinfest History’s Greatest Monster?

I guess that depends on whom you ask.

To begin with, I’d like to hearken back to something we discussed last November:

Despite the fire sale, general manager Larry Beinfest has done his usual outstanding job in the Delgado/Beckett/Lowell deals and gotten some nice young talent. Remember, he got you a year’s worth of Carlos Delgado for just $4 million (plus what he sent to the Mets), and as long as he is in charge the team will always have a bright future.

It’s not often the word “outstanding” can be an understatement. The red-hot Marlins, fresh off a nine-game winning streak, have closed within 2.5 games of a playoff berth in the NL. In fact, of their final 30 games, one-third are against their fellow Wild Card contenders Philadelphia Phillies.

Suffice it to say the Padres, Reds and possibly the Dodgers and Cardinals are praying for a 5-5 split which would probably eliminate both clubs from the mix. I’m guessing that the Fish/Phillies need to win seven of their head-to-head to have a really viable shot at significant October baseball.

Regardless, if the Fish do reach the postseason it just opens up several cans of worms that make me wonder if Bud Selig, Jeffrey Loria and David Samson might just consider attempting to do to Beinfest what they did to the Montreal Expos.

Why?

Well, as you all know the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires at the end of the year. Further, as has been discussed here more times than most care to recall, Selig and the Marlins have been whining lying asserting that the only way the Marlins can be competitive is for somebody to build them a Taj Majal mallpark on the public dime.

So thanks to the hard work of Larry Beinfest and his staff, the Florida Marlins, with an opening day payroll of less than 50% of their revenue-sharing subsidies and an admittedly crummy ballpark lease, might end up in the postseason.

Let’s assume the Marlins win the Wild Card. How can David Samson with a straight face go to any South Florida politician, look him straight in the kneecap, and say that the two-time World Champion and 2006 Wild Card-winning Florida Marlins need a new stadium to compete and if they don’t, they’ll…

Um…have another fire sale and cut payroll?

I guess they could trade Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis (might I suggest Toronto?); they’d have to fire Beinfest first, however, lest he get even more good young cheap players and win the NL East.

And that just wouldn’t do.

Of course in the meantime Selig will be trying to discover ways to use the word aberration as a noun, verb, adverb, pronoun, adjective, conjunction, and colloquialism since he has to sell the idea that salary restrictions (to the Major League Baseball Players Association) and enhanced revenue sharing (to large market/revenue teams) are required so teams like Florida can compete with big money teams like the Red Sox, Cubs and Angels.

I’m guessing that there are a number of revenue-sharing contributors who aren’t too thrilled with the idea that the Marlins took their $31 million welfare check, spent $15 million of it on payroll and made it to the postseason while they’re staying home.

If the Marlins do win the NL Wild Card Bud Selig, Jeffrey Loria and David Samson may well conclude that Larry Beinfest is history’s greatest monster. After all Selig is undoubtedly aghast at any idea that even hints at making huge profits without substantial contributions from taxpayers, large-revenue teams and baseball players.

Earning money from hard work is for peons like us.

Moving on…

Maury Brown reports that draft pick compensation for free agents lost will be dropped in the next current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Even if you’re a fan of a small market team, this is a good thing. It’s good for pretty much everyone except player agents. Since draft picks affect the market value of free agents (read: salaries) the amateur draft was subject to the Collective Bargaining Agreement and negotiation with the union. With this out of the equation the MLBPA now will have no say as to how the draft is handled, leaving ownership to do as it pleases with regards to amateur players.

Most likely this will mean slot money or signing caps on bonuses. A maximum on what an amateur can sign for should reduce Scott Boras-type holdouts and smaller-revenue teams passing on the best talent due to signability issues. This means clubs like the Royals, Devil Rays, Pirates etc. can draft based on talent rather than whether or not they can sign a given player.

This brings the draft back to its original ideal: giving the worst teams first crack at the best [amateur] talent.

Believe it or not, this even benefits draftees. This means no more Matt Harrington nightmares where a player turns down several million dollars of guaranteed money for a chance at what’s behind door number two. A young man can hold out for the maximum allowable bonus, but if the team is willing to pay that then there’s no problem and no agent encouraging a holdout to squeeze a few extra thousand out of the club that drafted them.

Here’s a blurb I did back in 2002 that dealt with Harrington’s folly:

Harrington made a stupid gamble, not just because he lost the $4 million the Rox offered, but because the “opportunity cost” of his decision was staggering. However, the extra $950,000 Harrington wanted, completely blinded his agent, his family, and himself. What did he lose (and other prospects routinely gamble with) beyond the $4 million?

Two years of minor league instruction (and counting).

Two years of the Rockies’ protection.

What I mean is this: Harrington’s shoulder is giving him grief. How the Rockies would view this as opposed to an Independent League operator is the difference between night and day. Naturally, the more we invest in something, the better care they’ll take of that investment. The Long Beach Breakers/St. Paul Saints invested only his modest salary into Harrington. So, if Harrington’s shoulder acts up, all they’ll say in effect is: “Thanks for everything, hope your shoulder feels better.” If he got hurt playing for one of the Rockies’ minor league affiliates, well the Rockies would look at the $4 million bonus and think: “We’ve got a lot invested in this guy, we’d best get him the best help.” Harrington and his family have to pay the bills generated by doctor’s consultations, travels to said doctors, cost of treatment/surgery/rehab with only his meager salary that he received playing for the Breakers/Saints.

Had he taken the Rockies’ offer, he’d still be $4 million to the good and his medical attention would be paid by the Rockies. One poster on Baseball Primer suggested that it’s entirely possible that Harrington had medical insurance to defray these costs. It’s still a huge shortfall for several reasons: (1) Generally insurance doesn’t cover 100% of the costs and there are limits to how much they’ll cover. (2) The insurance company is only interested in getting his shoulder to where it’s functional for an average human being—not necessarily the same things as getting his shoulder to the point where he can throw 92-94 MPH. (3) Insurance companies are concerned with cost containment. They’ll have a list of doctors that charge the least for their services, so Harrington wouldn’t get the best available care. So even if Harrington did have insurance, it would be of minimal benefit (plus he would still have the out-of-pocket expenses of the premiums). If he were with the Rockies, he’d have gotten the best care at no cost to himself.

Free-agent eligibility

Most guys that go early in the draft are of the mindset that they’ll be successful major leaguers (at least we hope they do). So I cannot fathom when they hold out for say an extra million and are willing to re-enter the draft the following year. Setting themselves back a year in their development seems to be a collosal waste of money. I have no hard data to back this, but it appears to me that the difference between hitting the free-agent market at age 28 or 29 as opposed to 30 or 31 is sufficiently large monetarily to make holding out for a larger draft bonus to be foolhardy. To use an extreme example, there’s no way anybody would’ve paid Barry Bonds [as a free agent] that they paid for Alex Rodriguez. Bonds had a season for the ages but that wouldn’t translate into A-Rod money for Bonds simply because Rodriguez hit the free-agent market in his mid-20s whereas Bonds is in his late 30s.

Let’s crunch some hypothetical numbers to demonstrate what I mean: Let’s say as a 29-year-old free-agent pitcher he’d receive a six year/$54 million contract but as a 31-year-old free agent, he’d get a four year/$30 million deal. So, they were willing to risk a potential $24 million just to get an extra $950,000. Factor that in with what they actually lost ($4 million bonus, medical expenses, minor league instruction) and their gamble was sheer, mind bending, drooling, slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging, swingset-built-too-close-to-the-house-as-a-kid stupidity.

The only way their decision makes even a miniscule bit of sense is that [Harrington] thought within himself “I’ll never make the big leagues, I’ll suck in the minor leagues, so I’d best get all I can before they realize that I reek as pitcher since I have no marketable skills and am looking at a career where I’ll spend my life saying ‘Would you like fries with that?’”

Such short-sighted stupidity. That’s the trouble when so much emphasis is placed by the player/agent/player’s family on maximizing the signing bonus regardless of the potential costs. To me, the best thing a young amateur player can do is have his agent negotiate the best deal he can within a time frame that allows the player to get started in his professional career. I hope Harrington’s folly will be an example for others to follow. Get all you can without losing the sight of the long-term ramifications.

This sort of thing can become a thing of the past. Players can now start right away on their professional careers and developing into bona fide major leaguers.

Further, a small- to mid-market team can improve in the free-agent market by signing a top player without worrying about hurting itself in the next draft. Plus it frees up extra revenue that can be applied towards hanging on to the players the team has developed.

It’s a change that’s been long overdue. Hopefully the rest of the next CBA will be negotiated as smoothly and intelligently.

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