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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Agent: Nick Senzel’s reassigment ‘egregious case of service time manipulation’

Reds prospect Nick Senzel is ready for the majors. Although he battled injuries, the 23-year-old performed well with Triple-A Louisville last season, batting .310/.378/.509 with 20 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, 23 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 193 plate appearances. Senzel has also performed well this spring, batting .308 across 39 at-bats.

The Reds, however, announced on Friday that Senzel was among a handful of players reassigned to minor league camp. Senzel was drafted as a third baseman, began playing second base last year, and had been playing in center field during spring training. The common thought is that the Reds, who have built a competitive roster, will keep Senzel at Triple-A to begin the season and call him up right after the club secures an extra year of contractual control.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Senzel’s agent Joel Wolfe calls Senzel’s reassignment an “egregious case of service time manipulation.”

Another entry to add to the list….

QLE Posted: March 23, 2019 at 10:04 AM | 76 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nick senzel, service time

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   1. shout-out to 57i66135; that shit's working now Posted: March 23, 2019 at 01:44 PM (#5824835)
Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Senzel’s agent Joel Wolfe calls Senzel’s reassignment an “egregious case of service time manipulation.”

file a lawsuit in federal court arguing that the reds manipulation of senzel's service time is an attempt to circumvent MLB's collective bargaining agreement, and as such, his contract should be terminated, and he should be made eligible for free agency.
   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 23, 2019 at 02:09 PM (#5824840)
file a lawsuit in federal court arguing that the reds manipulation of senzel's service time is an attempt to circumvent MLB's collective bargaining agreement, and as such, his contract should be terminated, and he should be made eligible for free agency.
Yeah, you'd have a great case, other than the small fact that the service time rules are right there in the collective bargaining agreement.

This is where Snapper chimes in about good faith, which I believe is referring to the covenant of good faith and fair dealing that legally inheres in just about every contract. But there's nothing bad-faith about acting according to the terms of the agreement. You would have a hard time convincing a court to read in an additional, unwritten obligation to promote players according to some uncertain definition of "readiness." Let alone trying to prove that there were no other factors that made the player unready, of course.
   3. Davo cant be eatin thirty hot dogs every day Posted: March 23, 2019 at 02:51 PM (#5824845)
This just became even more obscene, as Cincinnati has announced Scooter Gannett will open the season on the DL.
   4. shout-out to 57i66135; that shit's working now Posted: March 23, 2019 at 03:24 PM (#5824851)
You would have a hard time convincing a court to read in an additional, unwritten obligation to promote players according to some uncertain definition of "readiness." Let alone trying to prove that there were no other factors that made the player unready, of course

if the lawsuit is able to get to the discovery phase, subpoenaing the reds' internal communications and scouting reports should be able to settle those questions one way or the other, beyond any reasonable doubt.

though that's a double edged sword for the reds, because if there is a coordinated attempt to obscure the role that service time is playing in senzel's demotion, that would be evidence of "consciousness of guilt", which it could then be argued is evidence of a conspiracy to defraud senzel.
there's nothing bad-faith about acting according to the terms of the agreement

if that was true, teams would openly admit to service manipulation, rather than, for example, sending kris bryant to the minors to "work on his fielding".

apparently i'm not the first one to think about service time in these terms. here's a fangraphs article from last year:
Patrick Kessock wrote an excellent article for the Boston College Law Review in which he argued that service-time manipulation was probably a violation of the CBA. The basis of his argument was that, by keeping a player in the minor leagues for the purpose of gaining an extra year of control, the team was violating what is called the “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”
“Good faith performance or enforcement of a contract emphasizes faithfulness to an agreed common purpose and consistency with the justified expectations of the other party; it excludes a variety of types of conduct characterized as involving “bad faith” because they violate community standards of decency, fairness or reasonableness.”

   5. shout-out to 57i66135; that shit's working now Posted: March 23, 2019 at 03:36 PM (#5824854)
btw, this:
if there is a coordinated attempt to obscure the role that service time is playing in senzel's demotion, that would be evidence of "consciousness of guilt", which it could then be argued is evidence of a conspiracy to defraud senzel.

is very similar to the charges that federal prosecutors made against a bunch of NCAA basketball people, some whom are now in prison (others, the final four).
   6. Walt Davis Posted: March 23, 2019 at 05:33 PM (#5824871)
Pretty sure the CBA requires this to go through arbitration, not the courts.

Unless I missed a story (quite possible), Bryant's grievance is still in limbo. I've assumed that's becauee neither side particularly wants to "litigate" and would rather negotiate settlements as part of the next CBA or maybe even a mid-CBA adjustment. But I haven't heard anything on those lines for a couple of years now. That said, bdtwen last year's injury and the position switches, the Reds will have a pretty easy time arguing "baseball reasons" (barring discovery). The magical disappearance of these reasons 10 days into the season might be harder to explain.

But basically at this point we've had the Rays get away with forcing Longoria to sign long-term to get called up, the Astros reportedly tried the same thing with Springer (he refused) and Singleton (who wisely accepted). The Cubs seem to have gotten away with Bryant and Rizzo and there are a few more examples around the league.
   7. zachtoma Posted: March 23, 2019 at 05:38 PM (#5824873)
He has 193 AAA PA's which is less than half a season, and is learning a new position. He's probably "ready", but we don't know that. And words like "egregious" and "obscene" are an impressive stretch. People just need a cause to feel righteous about I guess.
   8. Walt Davis Posted: March 23, 2019 at 05:44 PM (#5824874)
Update: Just learned that the White Sox leveraged Eloy Jimenez into a buyout contract so he can start the season on the roster. 6/$43 with two options at $34 (total). The first part is reasonably hefty (cf arb at 10/14/18), the options years could be massive bargains. The Sox now control him through 29.
   9. akrasian Posted: March 23, 2019 at 05:51 PM (#5824877)
#7 exactly. He had 12 games in spring training. Even if everyone was played in centerfield, he had never played there in the minors. I haven't watched any Reds' spring training action, but I expect he had a couple of late jumps on fly balls at least, just from inexperience. They might feel he's ready with the bat - but I doubt anybody could argue with a straight face that he's fully ready to be a starting centerfielder. And a .300 OBP in spring training is not screaming that his batting is major league ready, though it's a small sample size. He literally had zero walks in spring training.
   10. shout-out to 57i66135; that shit's working now Posted: March 23, 2019 at 07:41 PM (#5824892)
Pretty sure the CBA requires this to go through arbitration, not the courts.

i'm sure it does, but when senzel's representatives file their initial lawsuit, they can also argue that because the reds violated the CBA, the CBA's arbitration clause cannot be considered binding. if a federal judge doesn't immediately toss the lawsuit out (which is, admittedly, fairly likely), then once the court rules on whether the CBA's arbitration clause is binding, it would make itself an appropriate venue for the grievance because any such ruling would implicitly acknowledge the court's jurisdiction over the proceedings.
He has 193 AAA PA's which is less than half a season, and is learning a new position. He's probably "ready", but we don't know that. And words like "egregious" and "obscene" are an impressive stretch. People just need a cause to feel righteous about I guess.

this is senzel's age 24 season. what the reds are doing/have done, is ensure that he cannot become a free agent until he's 31 years old.

btw, this is what the reds were saying about senzel last year:
"We asked a lot of [Senzel] by having him play a lot of shortstop in spring," Williams said. "Then he went to Triple-A and played second base every day. The injury happened [to Suarez], and Blandino had been playing third and performed the year before at Triple-A and was performing well in the spring. It was a more natural move for him to come up. He was playing there every day at the time."

It also has been speculated that the Reds were holding off on promoting Senzel for service-time reasons. Teams that keep prospects in the Minors for at least the first 13 games of the season could get an extra year of club control before arbitration and, eventually, free agency.


maybe they'll move him to catcher next year for spring training?
   11. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: March 23, 2019 at 07:58 PM (#5824893)
This is where Snapper chimes in about good faith, which I believe is referring to the covenant of good faith and fair dealing that legally inheres in just about every contract. But there's nothing bad-faith about acting according to the terms of the agreement. You would have a hard time convincing a court to read in an additional, unwritten obligation to promote players according to some uncertain definition of "readiness." Let alone trying to prove that there were no other factors that made the player unready, of course.
Well, first, it goes to arbitration, not court. Second, while proof that it was bad faith would be tough (an arbitrator would be very reluctant to second guess a team's personnel decisions, unless there's a smoking gun email that says "we need to keep him down to save money") the whole point of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing is that it is an additional, unwritten obligation.

EDIT: Cokes to a couple of people on the arbitration point.
   12. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: March 23, 2019 at 07:59 PM (#5824894)
i'm sure it does, but when senzel's representatives file their initial lawsuit, they can also argue that because the reds violated the CBA, the CBA's arbitration clause cannot be considered binding.
No; that's a frivolous legal argument.
   13. shout-out to 57i66135; that shit's working now Posted: March 23, 2019 at 08:39 PM (#5824896)
No; that's a frivolous legal argument.

you may disagree with the interpretation, but severability is not a frivolous legal issue.
   14. shout-out to 57i66135; that shit's working now Posted: March 23, 2019 at 09:06 PM (#5824899)
while proof that it was bad faith would be tough (an arbitrator would be very reluctant to second guess a team's personnel decisions, unless there's a smoking gun email that says "we need to keep him down to save money") the whole point of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing is that it is an additional, unwritten obligation.
which is why the first step is to use the court system to break the CBA's arbitration clause.


to be clear, i'm saying that senzel's lawsuit should ask the court to void his contract due to his employer manipulating his service time in violation of MLB's CBA.
   15. zachtoma Posted: March 23, 2019 at 09:31 PM (#5824901)
this is senzel's age 24 season. what the reds are doing/have done, is ensure that he cannot become a free agent until he's 31 years old.


Someone get me my fainting couch.

So what? It is not the Reds responsibility to ensure he hits the free agency market in the prime of his career. And that will only matter, 6 years down the line, if he does end up being a good major leaguer which, again, is something we do not and cannot know.
   16. Brian C Posted: March 23, 2019 at 09:48 PM (#5824903)
So what? It is not the Reds responsibility to ensure he hits the free agency market in the prime of his career.

Well, it's not really Senzel's agent's responsibility to put the Reds' financial interests ahead of his client's, either.

And so here we are.
   17. shout-out to 57i66135; that shit's working now Posted: March 23, 2019 at 10:01 PM (#5824904)
Well, it's not really Senzel's agent's responsibility to put the Reds' financial interests ahead of his client's, either.

And so here we are.
exactly. players need to force this issue by any means possible. refuse assignment to AAA; threaten to retire; file lawsuits. do everything you can to give your employer a ####### ulcer over this bullshit.
   18. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: March 23, 2019 at 10:49 PM (#5824910)
7 and 9 have it. Senzel is switching from the infield to CF. Expecting to start at a new position with the big league team right away comes off as more than a bit entitled.

He would've been up last year, but he missed half the season with a finger injury. After he missed a month because of vertigo. Yeah, I don't have high hopes for his durability.
   19. zachtoma Posted: March 23, 2019 at 11:05 PM (#5824911)
exactly. players need to force this issue by any means possible. refuse assignment to AAA; threaten to retire; file lawsuits. do everything you can to give your employer a ####### ulcer over this bullshit.


And how would he go about doing this exactly - refuse to give up his seat on the team bus like Rosa Parks? Does this advice apply generally to anyone who doesn't get a promotion at work that they feel they deserve, or just professional athletes?
   20. Baldrick Posted: March 23, 2019 at 11:38 PM (#5824913)
And how would he go about doing this exactly - refuse to give up his seat on the team bus like Rosa Parks? Does this advice apply generally to anyone who doesn't get a promotion at work that they feel they deserve, or just professional athletes?

One side of this issue is, in the very best possible interpretation, exploiting a loophole to enrich themselves and hurt the players. By a less generous interpretation, they are violating the terms of their mutually bargained agreement. It might not be possible to win the fight, but calling it 'not getting a promotion' is pretty ridiculous.
   21. zachtoma Posted: March 23, 2019 at 11:42 PM (#5824914)
The best possible interpretation is that they don't believe he's ready for the major leagues. Whether or not that is true I don't think any of us is in a position to say, there's not overwhelmingly strong evidence either way. This is a marginal case, if that, not a blatantly obvious one like Vlad Jr. And of course it's "getting a promotion" he's trying to go from AAA to the majors how is it not "getting a promotion"?
   22. Brian C Posted: March 23, 2019 at 11:54 PM (#5824915)
And how would he go about doing this exactly - refuse to give up his seat on the team bus like Rosa Parks? Does this advice apply generally to anyone who doesn't get a promotion at work that they feel they deserve, or just professional athletes?

Well, they could speak up publicly, to put pressure on both the union and MLB to make addressing this a priority in the next CBA.
   23. shout-out to 57i66135; that shit's working now Posted: March 23, 2019 at 11:57 PM (#5824916)
And how would he go about doing this exactly - refuse to give up his seat on the team bus like Rosa Parks? Does this advice apply generally to anyone who doesn't get a promotion at work that they feel they deserve, or just professional athletes?

i take it you're unfamiliar with the history of the labor rights movement?

and no, this is not the advice i'd give to a person who did not get promoted at work. the advice i'd give that person is to find a new employer...and then maybe file a lawsuit (you know, for shits and giggles). senzel does not have that option.
He would've been up last year, but he missed half the season with a finger injury. CIN pulled the same #### they're pulling now, making him play half the year in AAA despite being ready to play in MLB coming out of spring training.
FTFY.
   24. zachtoma Posted: March 24, 2019 at 12:05 AM (#5824917)
Last spring Nick Senzel had a half-season of AA in which he admittedly crushed under his belt. So now it's bullshit for a team to decide they don't want their top prospect to skip Triple-A? I'm beginning to think these arguments are not being made in good faith, are you his agent?
   25. QLE Posted: March 24, 2019 at 12:57 AM (#5824920)
Neither of these are accurate: Senzel played in Louisville (which is a AAA club, not an AA club)- but he only played in 44 games, which is slightly less than a third of the 137 games Louisville played that season.

It also merits note that extrapolating based on a sample size this low is suspect. A teammate of his, Brandon Dixon, had a slightly better season in the same number of plate appearances (.346/.389/.570 to .310/.378/.509) in Triple-A. With the Reds, he had a -0.6 WAR and a .178/.218/.356 slash line.
   26. akrasian Posted: March 24, 2019 at 01:33 AM (#5824921)
It is obvious that teams jerk top prospects around to keep them a bit longer. I just don't see Senzel as an example of that. Was he a good defender at 3b? At 2b? What do the scouts say? In any case, they seem to feel that he'd be most valuable to the team in CF, after their offseason moves, possibly because of his injury history. Can anybody honestly say he's ready for CF after 12 spring training games, after not playing the OF at least since he was an amateur - if ever? If the MLBPA were going to make a stand on a prospect being sent down - Senzel is not the one. Especially after collecting ZERO walks in spring training, with many of his plate appearances coming against guys who likely won't spend a lot of time this season pitching in the major leagues.
   27. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: March 24, 2019 at 10:15 AM (#5824935)
Update: Just learned that the White Sox leveraged Eloy Jimenez into a buyout contract so he can start the season on the roster. 6/$43 with two options at $34 (total). The first part is reasonably hefty (cf arb at 10/14/18), the options years could be massive bargains. The Sox now control him through 29.


Quintana had better win the CYA, MVP, and Game 7 of the WS.
   28. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: March 24, 2019 at 04:22 PM (#5824961)
you may disagree with the interpretation, but severability is not a frivolous legal issue.
This is not a question of severability. This is a question of breach of contract. And the argument, "The defendant breached the contract so now we don't have to comply with the arbitration provision" is indeed frivolous. It's the arbitrator who decides whether the defendant breached the contract; that's a merits question. The only thing for a court to decide before sending a matter to arbitration is whether the parties in fact entered into an arbitration agreement. There's no dispute here that they did.
   29. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 24, 2019 at 04:33 PM (#5824962)
the whole point of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing is that it is an additional, unwritten obligation.
As I understand it, the covenant exists as a backstop to prevent parties from evading the intent of the terms of the agreement and the obligations therein to the other side. It doesn’t extend to create an entirely new category of obligation that isn’t even contemplated in the agreement, does it? If so, it would be infinite. There’s nothing in the CBA that speaks to a player’s ‘readiness,’ so it’s not even an axis on which bad faith could be adjudged - the parties have no obligation along that line, and it’s not a benefit owed to the players within the intent of the contract.
   30. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 24, 2019 at 04:37 PM (#5824964)
Quick Wiki check:

“In every contract there is an implied covenant that neither party shall do anything, which will have the effect of destroying or injuring the right of the other party, to receive the fruits of the contract. In other words, every contract has an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.” Kirke La Shelle Company v. The Paul Armstrong Company et al. 263 N.Y. 79; 188 N.E. 163; 1933 N.Y.

The ‘right’ to be called up at a certain time isn’t a fruit of the contract at all.
   31. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2019 at 06:54 PM (#5824977)
As I understand it, the covenant exists as a backstop to prevent parties from evading the intent of the terms of the agreement and the obligations therein to the other side. It doesn’t extend to create an entirely new category of obligation that isn’t even contemplated in the agreement, does it? If so, it would be infinite. There’s nothing in the CBA that speaks to a player’s ‘readiness,’ so it’s not even an axis on which bad faith could be adjudged - the parties have no obligation along that line, and it’s not a benefit owed to the players within the intent of the contract.

The argument would be that it is implicit in the contract that the team will field the best possible team with the players available. To intentionally not field your best team, in order to manipulate service time, is a breach of good faith.
   32. Brian C Posted: March 24, 2019 at 07:50 PM (#5824988)
The argument would be that it is implicit in the contract that the team will field the best possible team with the players available. To intentionally not field your best team, in order to manipulate service time, is a breach of good faith.

Not a lawyer, but this is setting my BS detector off. It sounds like something someone wishes were true, instead of an actual legal argument.
   33. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 24, 2019 at 09:49 PM (#5825006)
Not a lawyer, but this is setting my BS detector off. It sounds like something someone wishes were true, instead of an actual legal argument.
I am a lawyer, and yes.
   34. QLE Posted: March 24, 2019 at 11:04 PM (#5825017)
Not a lawyer, but this is setting my BS detector off. It sounds like something someone wishes were true, instead of an actual legal argument.


It really doesn't help that this requirement both would seem to be unable to distinguish malice from incompetence and relies on points of fact that can be considered rather subjective, and that there is a substantial risk of judicial overreach as a result.
   35. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: March 24, 2019 at 11:49 PM (#5825020)

The argument would be that it is implicit in the contract that the team will field the best possible team with the players available. To intentionally not field your best team, in order to manipulate service time, is a breach of good faith.

IANAL but I don't think this is a winning legal argument. However, teams seem concerned enough about it that they have never admitted to service time manipulation even if it isn't explicitly prohibited by the CBA.

I do think the current strategy is more to make a bunch of noise about service time manipulation in the runup to the next CBA negotiation so that they have another item on the table. And in the meantime file some grievances and maybe find a "smoking gun" in discovery that helps you in the negotiation and the court of public opinion, even if it doesn't help you in arbitration before then.
   36. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 09:51 AM (#5825044)
Not a lawyer, but this is setting my BS detector off. It sounds like something someone wishes were true, instead of an actual legal argument.

So, you think teams don't have any responsibility to try and win? None at all?

Once they realized they were a lock for the WC and couldn't catch Boston, the Yankees would have been totally OK sending Aaron Judge down to AAA for 52 days last season to get an extra year of service time? If your established star RF refuses to waive his no-trade clause to help enable your tear-down, you can just stick him at SS and hope that making 3 errors a game will shame him into relenting? If you're jockeying for the worst record in the league, you can use all position players to pitch, and all pitchers in the field, just to lock down that #1 pick?
   37. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 25, 2019 at 10:35 AM (#5825049)
So, you think teams don't have any responsibility to try and win? None at all?
Not under the CBA, no. At least as far as I know - if you can find some language in it that speaks to what you're saying, I'm certainly willing to reconsider. But even that doesn't get you to your position on this. There would have to be a provision specific enough to plausibly cover bringing up players at a certain time (and again, who defines "ready"?) - this "general obligation to win" clause, even if it were in the agreement, could easily be argued around simply by saying "We're trying to be a winning franchise year in and year out, and maintaining more cost-controlled young stars for longer helps us with that goal."
   38. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 10:42 AM (#5825052)
Not under the CBA, no. At least as far as I know - if you can find some language in it that speaks to what you're saying, I'm certainly willing to reconsider.

Ugh. It's not in the CBA, it's the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

If the teams aren't trying to win, it destroys the whole system, b/c they no longer have a reason to employ and pay skilled players.

Let's do a little reductio ad absurdam. What if all 30 teams decided, "Hey, our TV deals are locked in, if we slash payroll to the bone, we'll make out like bandits". Every team stops signing F.A.s, non-tenders all their arb-eligible players, and just fields a team with whatever guys they control at the league minimum, plus the LT contracts they can't get rid of. Something like 250 of the best 750 MLB players are unemployed. And it gets worse the nest year. After 5 years no one in the league is making more than minimum.

Are you saying that wouldn't violate the CBA b/c it's not written down? Are you also saying the TV networks would have to keep paying b/c their contracts don't explicitly say anywhere that MLB teams have to attempt to win games?
   39. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 25, 2019 at 10:50 AM (#5825062)
Ugh. It's not in the CBA, it's the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
39 GOTO 29.
   40. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 25, 2019 at 10:52 AM (#5825063)
Are you also saying the TV networks would have to keep paying b/c their contracts don't explicitly say anywhere that MLB teams have to attempt to win games?
Would depend on what the provisions of the network contracts are.
   41. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 10:58 AM (#5825067)
I refer you to 29 and 30.

Non-responsive. This:

the covenant exists as a backstop to prevent parties from evading the intent of the terms of the agreement and the obligations therein to the other side.

is exactly what I'm saying the teams are doing when they fail to even try and field their best team. They are evading their obligations to pay the members of the MLBPA.

Would depend on what the provisions of the network contracts are.

This is why people hate lawyers. When one party engages in self-enriching duplicitous behavior that was not to be anticipated when the contract was signed, the letter of the contract shouldn't matter at all.

Why should the law ever reward crooks? Equity should be the first principle, always and everywhere. Why should the guy with the sharpest pencil get to screw everyone else?

   42. BrianBrianson Posted: March 25, 2019 at 10:59 AM (#5825068)
exactly. players need to force this issue by any means possible. refuse assignment to AAA; threaten to retire; file lawsuits. do everything you can to give your employer a ####### ulcer over this bullshit.


It's exceedingly tough to ask 20 year olds to give up hundred million+ dollar careers so that someone in the future will be able to make an extra thirty million dollars.
   43. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 11:01 AM (#5825071)
It's exceedingly tough to ask 20 year olds to give up hundred million+ dollar careers so that someone in the future will be able to make an extra thirty million dollars.

Right. It's a collective action problem which the league is exploiting to screw the players. Sort of like our economy in microcosm.
   44. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 25, 2019 at 11:05 AM (#5825074)
Maybe Nieporent or one of the other lawyers here will disagree, but I just think you have an overly broad concept of the covenant of good faith. It exists to back up the actual terms of the contract, not to invent a whole new set of terms that are far broader than the contract itself (and also completely ill-defined). I think courts would find your version of the covenant to be pretty terrifying from a legal precedent standpoint.

is exactly what I'm saying the teams are doing when they fail to even try and field their best team. They are evading their obligations to pay the members of the MLBPA.
No, they're not. Every player is getting paid exactly according to the teams' obligations under the CBA. If the players want a certain percentage of total revenue, they can negotiate for that.
   45. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 11:15 AM (#5825077)
Maybe Nieporent or one of the other lawyers here will disagree, but I just think you have an overly broad concept of the covenant of good faith. It exists to back up the actual terms of the contract, not to invent a whole new set of terms that are far broader than the contract itself (and also completely ill-defined). I think courts would find your version of the covenant to be pretty terrifying from a legal precedent standpoint.

What's terrifying? That both parties have to behave in the normal way that was anticipated at the time of the contract?

MLB teams are supposed to try and win games. How is it terrifying that they be asked to make their best effort at it with the players on hand?

No, they're not. Every player is getting paid exactly according to the teams' obligations under the CBA. If the players want a certain percentage of total revenue, they can negotiate for that.

Oh come on. We all know that they are manipulating service time to minimize what they have to pay.
   46. TDF, trained monkey Posted: March 25, 2019 at 11:21 AM (#5825081)
We all know that they are manipulating service time to minimize what they have to pay.
What everyone else sees, because it's pretty f'in obvious, is that there's nothing in the CBA that prevents this. Teams are not bound by anything in it to call up a particular player, nor are there any provisions as to what players in general should be called up.

It sucks for the players, but it is what it is. "Sucks" isn't the same as "illegal" or "against the provisions of the contract".
   47. PreservedFish Posted: March 25, 2019 at 11:28 AM (#5825084)
You guys have to remember, snapper's ideal form of society is one in which the government is small, regulation is limited, and yet there are no major issues with monopolies or exploitation because people are nicer to each other.
   48. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 25, 2019 at 11:29 AM (#5825087)
What's terrifying?
I can tell we're just talking past each other here - you're arguing for a massive and ill-defined expansion of an established legal doctrine. Courts don't go for that.

We all know that they are manipulating service time to minimize what they have to pay.
...and we also know that the player doesn't have any "right" to be called up at a particular time under the CBA. The player is not being deprived of any benefit of the bargain. You're trying to give him extra benefits because you don't think the existing CBA gives enough money to the players. That's "unilateral renegotiation of a contract," not "covenant of good faith and fair dealing." We're going around in circles here.
   49. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 11:51 AM (#5825091)
You guys have to remember, snapper's ideal form of society is one in which the government is small, regulation is limited, and yet there are no major issues with monopolies or exploitation because people are nicer to each other.

Hey, in my ideal society, there would be no such thing as MLB, since it would have been broken up long ago for anti-trust reasons. It's insane that alleged competitors are allowed to collude openly.

You forget that one are of Gov't regulation I very much favor is anti-trust action. I support draconian anti-trust policies. I hate big business as much as I hate big gov't.

If I were running the Justice Dept. the top-10 banks would have been deconstructed long ago, all of Google's non-search businesses would have been split off, Facebook would be regulated as a utility, etc., etc.
   50. Master of the Horse Posted: March 25, 2019 at 11:55 AM (#5825092)
You guys have to remember, snapper's ideal form of society is one in which the government is small, regulation is limited, and yet there are no major issues with monopolies or exploitation because people are nicer to each other. That is a pretty common staple among a lot of economists especially those of a libertarian mindset. People are motivated to cheat the system because they regard the system as unfair not that the individual is someone who will cheat no matter what the setup. What's really hurting this crowd is that among their own cadre studies are coming forward that crony capitalism is becoming so prevalent that this is now the norm instead of the exception.
   51. BrianBrianson Posted: March 25, 2019 at 11:56 AM (#5825093)
Right. It's a collective action problem which the league is exploiting to screw the players. Sort of like our economy in microcosm.


So, America, but unions are effective when the people who take the lumps from striking or lockouts or whatever are the ones who benefit. If you're working a job you might work for 30 years, a union makes a great deal of sense. Especially when you have a lot of workers who're in your boat. For the MLB players, a union works pretty well because they're in similar boats, and strikes really hurt management financially. It's a little dicey because there're a lot of guys there who aren't in it for very long. But that's way amplified in the minors. Short term work, most guys aren't going to make the majors, most guys aren't going to stick around long. I've been in good, helpful unions, and unhelpful unions, and a lot of it is really how cohesive a group of people the workers are. In the minors, they're not very cohesive, they're not in it for the long haul, so they're a really tough group to organise, or convince they should organise. Minor league teams don't really generate revenue, so strikes are a lot more dangerous to the players than the owners.
   52. Master of the Horse Posted: March 25, 2019 at 12:02 PM (#5825094)
51: Did work two years ago which I cannot share in much detail but minor league baseball team valuations have increased a lot in the last few years. Where once a team might be worth 8-10 now it's up over 30 million. You can probably find this in Forbes or similar. Lots of money flowing into minor league baseball
   53. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 12:05 PM (#5825095)
That is a pretty common staple among a lot of economists especially those of a libertarian mindset. People are motivated to cheat the system because they regard the system as unfair not that the individual is someone who will cheat no matter what the setup. What's really hurting this crowd is that among their own cadre studies are coming forward that crony capitalism is becoming so prevalent that this is now the norm instead of the exception.

I'm a distributist, not a libertarian AT ALL.
   54. Master of the Horse Posted: March 25, 2019 at 12:07 PM (#5825096)
53--Not an accusation man. Just sharing that this line of thinking is pretty common among economists that identify with libertarian politics.
   55. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 12:07 PM (#5825097)
53--Not an accusation man. Just sharing that this line of thinking is pretty common among economists that identify with libertarian politics.

Gotcha.
   56. BrianBrianson Posted: March 25, 2019 at 01:06 PM (#5825114)
Hmm, I hadn't been aware minor league teams were going up in value (and yes, seemingly very rapidly). That may change the calculus.
   57. PreservedFish Posted: March 25, 2019 at 01:24 PM (#5825118)
If I were running the Justice Dept. the top-10 banks would have been deconstructed long ago, all of Google's non-search businesses would have been split off, Facebook would be regulated as a utility, etc., etc.


I wonder how this would change the world.
   58. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 01:30 PM (#5825120)
I wonder how this would change the world.

I'm not sure what the downside is. If the entities are not exercising monopoly or oligopoly power to suppress competition, then splitting them up does not harm to the owners. The sub-components should be equally profitable to the whole, if they are competing fairly.
   59. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 01:42 PM (#5825125)
The argument would be that it is implicit in the contract that the team will field the best possible team with the players available. To intentionally not field your best team, in order to manipulate service time, is a breach of good faith.

Not a lawyer, but this is setting my BS detector off. It sounds like something someone wishes were true, instead of an actual legal argument.
Yeah, that wasn't a good example. (To the extent that a team is supposed to avoid intentionally putting a worse team on the field, that right would — if it existed — be more likely to be located in a contract between the team and its season ticket holders, or broadcast rights holders, not between the team and the players. The team doesn't have any sort of implicit understanding with the players that it will field the best collective team possible.) Now, what the covenant of good faith and fair dealing does is prevent a party from taking action that would frustrate the purpose of the contract. And there's a common example in baseball in which the covenant is implicated: if a player has, e.g., a playing time bonus in his contract (or a performance bonus, if those were allowed, but they're not in MLB), and the team benches or demotes the player solely to keep him from earning that bonus.
   60. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 01:47 PM (#5825126)

Maybe Nieporent or one of the other lawyers here will disagree, but I just think you have an overly broad concept of the covenant of good faith. It exists to back up the actual terms of the contract, not to invent a whole new set of terms that are far broader than the contract itself (and also completely ill-defined). I think courts would find your version of the covenant to be pretty terrifying from a legal precedent standpoint.
I won't disagree; my post #11 is not to say that this particular conduct violates the COGFAFD, but simply that "Well, that obligation's not in the contract" is non-responsive to the issue. If it were in the contract, it would be a straightforward breach of contract, not a breach of the covenant.
   61. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 01:50 PM (#5825127)

53--Not an accusation man. Just sharing that this line of thinking is pretty common among economists that identify with libertarian politics.
No, it isn't. Libertarians do not think that "there are no major issues with monopolies or exploitation because people are nicer to each other." Libertarians think that free-market competition does a better job of preventing monopolies and exploitation than the heavy hand of government.
   62. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 01:50 PM (#5825128)

I'm not sure what the downside is. If the entities are not exercising monopoly or oligopoly power to suppress competition, then splitting them up does not harm to the owners. The sub-components should be equally profitable to the whole, if they are competing fairly.
That's not how economies of scale work.
   63. Rusty Priske Posted: March 25, 2019 at 01:52 PM (#5825129)
The teams doing this are following the rules AND it is terrible for the players involved.

The union should demand a hard deadline based on signing date rather than major league service time. That would encourage teams to bring up the best players rather than having them toil in the minors.
   64. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 25, 2019 at 01:54 PM (#5825130)
"Well, that obligation's not in the contract" is non-responsive to the issue. If it were in the contract, it would be a straightforward breach of contract, not a breach of the covenant.
Right, what I meant was what I elaborated on in 29 and 30.
   65. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 01:58 PM (#5825135)
That's not how economies of scale work.

There are no economies of scale in running separate businesses. The fact that Chase has an investment bank doing M&A doesn't make it one penny cheaper to run a branch network. To the extent they're using FDIC insured deposits as cheap capital to run risky businesses, that's an "economy of scale" we should want to sever, since it's simply arb-ing the taxpayer. Likewise running G-mail is a completely separate programming effort from running the search engine.

If you're not willing to be aggressive in anti-trust, any claims of libertarianism to be anything but a shill for the rich and large corporations is extremely hollow.
   66. Brian C Posted: March 25, 2019 at 02:19 PM (#5825141)
IANAL but I don't think this is a winning legal argument. However, teams seem concerned enough about it that they have never admitted to service time manipulation even if it isn't explicitly prohibited by the CBA.

This is true as far as it goes, but I don't think it tells us much. It's pretty easy to see why teams would decide to gloss over service time manipulation simply for PR reasons.

It may also be that front offices simply talk themselves into thinking that they're not engaging in service time manipulation. After all, their financial incentives with prospects is oftentimes to wait to call them up, and we all know how easy it is to rationalize things that are in your financial interest to do.

Now, what the covenant of good faith and fair dealing does is prevent a party from taking action that would frustrate the purpose of the contract. And there's a common example in baseball in which the covenant is implicated: if a player has, e.g., a playing time bonus in his contract (or a performance bonus, if those were allowed, but they're not in MLB), and the team benches or demotes the player solely to keep him from earning that bonus.

This makes more sense to me. Still, absent some kind of smoking gun where some ####### front office guy says "hey I know this guy should be on the roster, but let's hold him back and save millions!!", I don't know how you'd define bad faith in this context without opening a whole palette worth of cans of worms. It seems like there are a bunch of cases where it's pretty obvious that teams are engaging in shenanigans, but almost none where it's obvious enough to meet what I presume would be a much higher legal standard than "people on the internet say so."

I mean, I'm very pro-labor in a general sense, and I'm very much in favor of the MLBPA pushing owners to address this kind of thing in the next CBA (although I don't have any great ideas off the top of my head on how to do that). But I don't think it's appropriate for arbitrators to start making decisions over what teams' rosters should look like.

   67. Master of the Horse Posted: March 25, 2019 at 02:24 PM (#5825143)
61--My feedback was not about monopolies but about how people are fundamentally good and only do bad things because the market forces push them in that direction.
   68. Brian C Posted: March 25, 2019 at 02:24 PM (#5825144)
The union should demand a hard deadline based on signing date rather than major league service time. That would encourage teams to bring up the best players rather than having them toil in the minors.

The obvious problem here is that owners are more likely to blow up every stadium and disband the league than agree to this.
   69. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 02:25 PM (#5825145)
Still, absent some kind of smoking gun where some ####### front office guy says "hey I know this guy should be on the roster, but let's hold him back and save millions!!",

Do you doubt those conversations have actually happened? Some discovery could probably find those smoking guns very quickly.

But I don't think it's appropriate for arbitrators to start making decisions over what teams' rosters should look like.

I don't want the arbitrator to dictate the roster, I just want them to award the extra service time to the guys who have been obviously screwed, e.g. Kris Bryant.
   70. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 02:28 PM (#5825147)
61--My feedback was not about monopolies but about how people are fundamentally good and only do bad things because the market forces push them in that direction.

A lot of people are fundamentally good, and won't cheat you. Unfortunately approximately zero of those people rise to positions of power in corporation, Gov't or the law.

Pretty much every really successful executive, politician, and lawyer got that way be being willing to ruthlessly exploit the system to his own, or his side's benefit, ethics be damned.
   71. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 25, 2019 at 02:46 PM (#5825163)
Pretty much every really successful executive, politician, and lawyer got that way be being willing to ruthlessly exploit the system to his own, or his side's benefit, ethics be damned.
In the law, there is a strong stigma (and formal rules with consequences) against unethical conduct. However, many/most lawyers view "ethics" as coterminous with those formal rules, which allow for a fair amount of conduct that is questionable in terms of a layman's concepts of ethics and fairness.

It's something I struggle with - I very much do not want to be the type of lawyer that makes people hate lawyers. I've come to hate the word "aggressive," because it's so often used in the law as a euphemism for bullying or making claims you know you have no chance of winning, just to be more of a pain in the ass to the other side. As you might guess, I think the powers that be view me as probably "not aggressive enough."
   72. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 03:12 PM (#5825177)

It's something I struggle with - I very much do not want to be the type of lawyer that makes people hate lawyers. I've come to hate the word "aggressive," because it's so often used in the law as a euphemism for bullying or making claims you know you have no chance of winning, just to be more of a pain in the ass to the other side. As you might guess, I think the powers that be view me as probably "not aggressive enough."


Good for you. If people criticize you for being too ethical, you're doing something right.
   73. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 25, 2019 at 03:17 PM (#5825179)
If people criticize you for being too ethical, you're doing something right.
Well, from their point of view, I'm not being zealous enough in advocating for clients, which is counter to the formalized ethical code. My personality and way of thinking is just much more oriented toward "what is a reasonable, practical solution" rather than "how can I get as much as possible for my side, any other considerations be damned," which is at times an awkward fit in an inherently adversarial system. However, I do think not everything has to be as hyper-adversarial as lawyers (and collective bargaining reps) tend to want to make it.
   74. Brian C Posted: March 25, 2019 at 03:31 PM (#5825184)
Do you doubt those conversations have actually happened? Some discovery could probably find those smoking guns very quickly.

I doubt any smoking guns would be found, or at least that would post-date the first time talk of potential player grievances came up.

And at any rate, short of mustache-twirling "BWAHAHA, WE SURE SCREWED BRYANT!!!" villainy in the front office, I'm not really sure what a smoking gun would even look like. Not wanting to burn a year of service time for a player that might not be ready is pretty valid. And even in the case of Bryant - who, to be clear, I think is a pretty obvious victim of manipulation - I don't know how clear cut the case really is in a legal sense. I mean, dude had never played in the majors and had a relatively short minor league career; how do you set criteria so that Bryant is clearly on the major-league side of the line? Make an argument that doesn't rely on "it was obvious just because."

I guess that's where I'm having trouble with this. It's easy to say, "hey these guys are getting screwed!" And I agree, they are! But how do you set a system up so that it's not evaluating each service-time dispute on a case-by-case basis? Because doing it that way sounds like a terrible idea for reasons that seem obvious enough that I don't really think they need to be explained.
   75. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: March 25, 2019 at 03:31 PM (#5825186)

61--My feedback was not about monopolies but about how people are fundamentally good and only do bad things because the market forces push them in that direction.
But that's not a libertarian position at all. Libertarians don't think market forces make good people do bad things. Libertarians think people are fundamentally self-interested and the market directs that self-interest in useful ways.
   76. Srul Itza Posted: March 25, 2019 at 03:36 PM (#5825188)
i'm sure it does, but when senzel's representatives file their initial lawsuit, they can also argue that because the reds violated the CBA, the CBA's arbitration clause cannot be considered binding


It is absolutely a frivolous argument, because under federal precedent, a contract can be declared void, but the arbitration provision still holds. In order to void an arbitration provision, you must prove that the arbitration provision, by itself, was fraudulently induced, separate from the rest of the contract.

This may not sound logical, but under the Federal Arbitration Act, as interpreted by the US Supreme Court, the contract can be void for any number of reasons, but the arbitration provision will still stand, unless separately voided on its own merits. Which pretty much never happens, particularly in a CBA.

If anyone is interested, check out Prima Paint Corp. v. Flood & Conklin Mfg. Co., 388 U.S. 395, 87 S. Ct. 1801, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1270 (1967) and Buckeye Check Cashing, Inc. v. Cardegna, 546 U.S. 440, 445-46 (2006

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