The Impossible Dream: Sandy Quixote vs. MLB


The Mets are seriously in on Michael Bourn. That is a fact. Sandy and Co. flew to Houston last week to meet with Bourn and Boras for dinner, with each making their pitch. More recently, Alderson told reporters that acquiring Bourn would alter the Mets’ image, an image badly in need of an extreme makeover.  “We’re getting to the point where we can be in the mix,’’ Alderson said. “If you look at the fundamental composition of our team, it wouldn’t take more than a couple of moves to change the whole perception of things.’’ Now, signing Bourn doesn’t qualify as a couple of moves in my book, unless you believe that Fast Michael is so much if an impact player that he gives you the value of two. But I can overlook that because I believe that Bourn at the top of the order could make the Mets into instant contenders.

David Wright is seriously in on Bourn as well. Wright has been in touch with Bourn, trying to convince him to come to New York. After speaking in person and exchanging texts, Wright said. “I’ve always had great respect for him and the way he plays the game and have always kind of chatted with him when he gets to third base. I just feel he’s a hard-nosed player. I wanted to be there to answer any question he might have and let him know that with some of the young arms that we have and the young talent we have, we are not far off.’’ David obviously believes in the Mets and in Sandy Alderson’s plan to make the team into W.S. contenders, possibly sooner than we all expected. Although Wright’s testimonial can only help, in the end it will all come down to the money, in dollars and years.

Previously, Sandy has stated that he is not willing to sacrifice his #11 draft pick to sign Bourn. His statements above seem to soften that position. One has to wonder if he now realizes that his case for re-interpretation of the rule involving protected picks is not a strong one. Personally, I had felt that the fact that the Mets lost their protection when the Pirates failed to sign their first round pick of last year, was contrary to the intent of the rule. That is an argument many say that the Mets will attempt to make, if and when they present their appeal to MLB.  After all, if major league baseball wants to even the playing field and give the worst teams the ability to become more competitive, the picks of the 10 worst teams (which include our New York Mets) should be protected, right? If the team that had a protected pick in the previous year was no longer among the 10 worst this year, why should they squeeze out a worse team?

But is leveling the playing field really the intent of the rule, as it was finally agreed to? Did those representing the owners have something else altogether in mind, and did the representatives of the MLBPA go along with them without thinking through the consequences. We’ll probably never know. But the rule itself is quite clear. It specifically states that the “top ten picks” are protected — not that the “ten worst teams’ picks” are protected. And it appears that the wording was carefully chosen. Craig Calcaterra, of nbcsports.com stated “The new CBA’s failure to address compensation picks kicking someone out of the top 10 in such a situation is not some mere oversight that inadvertently subverts the spirit of the rule and the intent to help out bad teams like the Mets. Rather, it was a very specific and conscious omission.”

His point is supported by the fact that the previous CBA specifically protected the top 15 picks from compensation and specifically exempted draft compensation picks from counting. The new CBA protects only the top 10 picks and makes no mention of draft compensation picks. It seems apparent that the negotiators for MLB and the union actively removed the exemption for the Pittsburgh/Appel compensation pick situation. They saw it there in the last version and had it deleted. They knew exactly what they were doing. Rather than leveling the playing field, it looks more like the intent of the rule is to limit the market for the most desirable free agents and drive down their salaries.

Given that fact, it is difficult to imagine that MLB will allow the Mets an exception to the rule, based on the argument that they had the tenth-worst record in baseball. The rule is accomplishing exactly what it was intended to do. It has reduced Michael Bourn’s value. The Mets hope, their impossible dream, is that the Commissioner and his bosses, the owners, will conclude that a public debate of this issue will reveal their hypocrisy, and is therefore not in their best interest. That the MLBPA has indicated that it is prepared to join the Mets in challenging the rule will give added visibility to the arguments.

We will only find out which way the pendulum swings if the Mets first reach a deal with Bourn, since Alderson has stated that he will wait until he has something concrete with Bourn before filing a formal request for a ruling. Alderson’s recent statements indicate that he realizes the import of signing a high visibility free agent like Bourn, and appreciates the impact it could have on the Mets fortunes, both on the playing field and the balance sheet. This is getting very interesting. Stay tuned.


TP said...

I have been a middle-of-the-roader on Alderson, but if he can get Boras and Bourn to agree to an affordable 3 yr deal and preserve that #11 pick, I will begin to be impressed with his actions and the overall plan.

Mack Ade said...

Oh, I'm more than impressed so far, regardless of my opinions on some of the bottom feeders that have been brought into camp.

He has solved the catcher situation long term, solved the SP5, got a big-time SP3 prospect, and now a quality reliever.

That's a lot, especially when you had little to deal with.

Hobie said...

Great essay, Mack, and much to think about beyond the knee-jerk “fairness to the Mets” reaction.

I do however think that this may very well be a case of the left-hand’s ignorance of the right hand in sculpturing the CBA. One hand was concentrating on slot economics, in particular not allowing unsigned monies to be spread among the other draftees (but instituting the “mulligan” pick). The other hand, as you say, was intent on driving down FA competition by only protecting 10 (vs. 15) picks and eliminating the compensation pick exemption. Were these the products or two separate sub-committees? True, we’ll never know.

The case for the “intent” of the “top 10 picks” (vs. _10 worst teams’ picks”) language comes from, I think, the immediately preceding declaration of draft order (reverse standing order) in which there is no mention of unsigned deferrals. The “compensation pick” term had been heretofore used to describe loss of FA compensation in the signing team’s slot and never referred to the newly, and IMO independent, mulligan rule. Obviously there was no longer a reason to include that term in the protection sentence.

I think MLB will make the literal claim as you suppose. An arbitrator could rule differently.

Mack Ade said...

Hobie - with respect, this was written by Herb

Hobie said...

Ooops. Apologies to both.

Herb G said...

No prob, Hobie. Glad to see you're feeling better and are back in the saddle, Mack.

Mack's Mets © 2012