Defending the sportswriters from a rabid Schilling

Phils slightly interested in Mussina
Matsui may waive NTC

Let’s forget for a few minutes that Curt Schilling is on the Red Sox, and let’s forget his stupid “mystique and aura” comments from 2001. Let’s instead just consider Curt Schilling to be a baseball player with strong opinions who shares those opinions on his blog. Maybe this way, we can have as unbiased a discussion about Curt as is possible on a Yankee blog.

Last week, when the Baseball Writers Association of American first instituted the Curt Schilling Rule which bans players from awards consideration if their contracts feature incentive clauses, I applauded this move. The members of the BBWAA are hardly the least biased folks in the room, and I can’t really blame them. Eight months of traveling with a team and interacting with players on a daily basis will inevitably lead to some soft feelings toward some of the players.

While the BBWAA has disappointingly tabled their resolution pending discussion with MLB and the Players Association, the man for whom the proposal was named — Mr. 38 Pitches himself — was none too happy. In a rather personal and often rambling blog post, Schilling lays into the BBWAA for many of the inconsistencies that bloggers have long noted about their voting patterns. He rails on voters omitting pitchers from MVP ballots or Hall of Fame ballots for petty reasons some years only to include them in others. He wonders why traditional print writers are any more or less qualified to vote than the writers like Buster Olney, Jayson Stark, Rob Neyer and Ken Rosenthal, to name a few, who make their living online.

All in all, Schilling makes some very valid points. But as is often the case with Curt Schilling, there’s rather big but (and it’s not his. Zing!). Schilling takes a very strong exception to BBWAA Secretary Jack O’Connell’s statement. “But the attachment of a bonus to these awards creates a perception that we’re trying to make these guys rich,” O’Connell said. Schilling starts out hot and goes from there:

Give me a break. Don’t get me wrong, 100k, 500k, 1 million dollars is a huge sum of money. But to think that these guys ever approached this as anything other than them being touted as the ‘experts’ on who wins what is crap. Add to that I seriously doubt anyone ever looked at this from a perception standpoint and thought wow, they are making this guy rich. I would disagree.

Curt Schilling may disagree, but let’s look at this from a journalistic standpoint. Curt Schilling’s new contract includes a clause where he needs to draw just one third-place vote to kick in a $1 million bonus. Do you know how many Cy Young Awards have depended upon those third-place votes? I’m leaning toward none.

So what’s from stopping one of Curt’s friends from tossing a throw-away third-place vote his way? Every voter fills out a 1-2-3 ballot, and if Curt ends up with one meager vote, the $1 million is his. That reeks of unethical journalistic behavior right there.

Schilling, in my opinion, has it wrong. This move by the BBWAA isn’t one of their efforts to steal the thunder from the players; it’s an effort to make sure that all of their voting members are following the guidelines of their profession. It’s a sad commentary on the state of journalism than such a move by the BBWAA is necessary, but it isn’t an attempt, as Schilling would have us believe, by the journalists to upstage the players.

In the end, Curt says it best himself. “It only takes 1-2 guys to screw it up and those guys exist in decent numbers,” he writes. The same holds true on the other end as well. In this case, it only takes one guy to kick back a million bucks, and any effort to end that practice should be applauded.

Phils slightly interested in Mussina
Matsui may waive NTC
  • Pique

    Schilling is a real douchebag. I can’t believe the number of Sox fans that worship him on his blog, even when he spits out ridiculous shit like this.

    My god, I can just see some desperate sports site like CBS Sportsline hiring him to write a weekly column.

  • Jamal G

    I just found it funny how he progressively changes his font to show his emotion.

    As to the topic, it is a sad day when such a clause has to be instituted as you say to clean up the journalistic integrities of baseball writers in this country. However, it is also sad that the BBWAA showed little to no backbone when MLB approached them about The Schilling clause causing them to table the decision.

    Curt Schilling did indeed make some great points and so did some of the comments on this particular blog post but just because of who he is, his points wont carry as much weight as they should.

    • kris

      The article looks and reads like a threatening note from a serial killer. I didn’t like him because he plays for Boston. I had no idea he is actually a creep.

  • Mac

    Isn’t the vote public already?

    I feel like all the freaking out over this is unnecessary. People would know if a writer voted for Schilling undeservedly and that’d writer would lose credibility and respect–possibly even his vote.

    Writers should take it upon themselves to be responsible. It’s kind of wrong to punish the players for the possibly questionable ethics of your own members. Remember, the players are in this business to make money. And yah, another million to Schilling doesn’t matter. BUT it’s still Schilling’s and The Red Sox’ money (Don’t think Epstein didn’t think of this ahead of time).

  • Kevin

    Incentive contracts for players are a bad thing for baseball. On one hand, why would a player, who makes millions and millions of dollars, need any incentives? Second, while the interests of the players and the team are usually the same, if we think long and hard about it, we can come up with situations where individual achievements run counter to the team’s interests. Suppose, for example, a player has a contract that will pay a bonus if he gets 200 hits. As he closes in on 200 hits he’s called on to bunt to move runners up. Theoretically he could make a half hearted effort to bunt, hoping with 2 strikes he’ll be swinging away. Likewise, a pitcher could try to stay in a game longer than he should, risking a loss for the team or an arm injury in order to reach certain milestones. Also, a manager could be influenced in game decisions, knowing that his moves could earn individual players bonuses. (On the flip side, an organization could order it’s manager to keep players out of certain situations that might cost them bonus money.) It just seems to me that incentive laden contracts have the potential for conflicts which are detrimental to the integrity of the game.

  • Steve S

    Im not even sure why you acknowledge this persons comments on the issue. Its about the appearance of impropriety. And Schillings contract is exactly what crossed the line, he should be the last one to speak on this issue. Its one thing when someone gets a contract bonus based on merit, its another for getting one third place vote. Besides his apparent language problems, he is confused with the difference between sportswriters (like George King) who are homers and the ethical problem where players can profit by simply getting one vote from a local writer. the issue that Schillings contract raises is much larger than writers who dont vote for pitchers for MVP or writers who decide Japanese players shouldnt be considered rookies. Those are simply poor interpretations of the voting guidelines (and yes they have inherent bias to them) but the rules dictate the writers have the discretion to make those qualifications. Schillings contract provision has no basis on merit. How do the Red Sox benefit if he receives one third place vote in the Cy Young? Im shocked that baseball allowed the provision in the first place. It shouldnt just be the writers who are protecting the sanctity of these awards. If Selig and baseball are going to be so sanctimonious about steroids and the records that follow that, then they should be just as vigilant about the ethics behind these awards.

  • Count Zero

    To play Devil’s Advocate for a moment:

    The Schilling Clause in discussion is so easy to attain that I would say it was intentionally made so. That is to say, the Sox know someone is going to give Curt that third place vote unless he is totally putrid or on the DL for most of the year. In other words, it’s a GIMME.

    My point being that no collusion is necessary for him to collect that million, and the Sox apparently wanted to give it to him. Everybody’s making a mountain out of a molehill on that particular case.

    If you’re going to blame someone on this, blame the Sox management for putting such a pathetic incentive in his contract. They should have just given him the extra million as regular pay, but they probably thought this made them look smarter.

    • Steve S

      Its not a gimme, he didnt receive one this year. In what was an average year, but if he had no one would have looked at it for more the second, unless there is a million dollar bonus attached to it. Now if Schilling goes 15-7 next year with a 3.87 ERA, if he gets a third place vote from a writer in Boston, I think everyone is going to be suspicious, even though the argument might have merit, there is an appearance of impropriety. The problem with this is that someone can give him a third place vote and not effect the voting for a consensus pick and therefore the writer could avoid the scrutiny that George King got when he snubbed Pedro.

      • Count Zero

        Again — the Sox had to know that going in. Obviously it didn’t bother them.

        What difference does it make to anyone but the Red Sox whether he collects that million or not? None. And I would say that they’re obviously not concerned by it.

        • Steve S

          Agreed the Red Sox are culpable but its more than likely they may use things like that to cook the books. And there are a couple of people who care: 1) MLB and the luxury tax as teams like the Red Sox will be taxed by the amount they go over the threshold. Every team that gets a piece of that money will have a say in it, especially if the Sox are at the border line and the cusp. And the Red Sox dont have a vested interest in the sanctity of the Cy Young Award, they are trying to structure a contract and nothing prohibits them from doing something like this. Now the responsibility goes to baseball to prevent something like this. But since the rules dont prohibit it, then the primary parties to do something are those with the ethical and professional attachment to the awards: the writers and the players. The writers have somewhat addressed it but Schilling has tried to skew things and as someone who cares so much about history and is the first to cast the stone at the steroid users, he should be more aware of what something like this does the validity of the most prestigious award a pitcher can receive (and all the other awards). The Red Sox have no ethical or professional attachment to any of the awards. Granted a team may profit somewhat from a player winning an award but it probably doesnt amount to even a fraction of what the bonus is. This is something that the players and the writers have to resolve, otherwise its up to Bud to fix it, and as this Mitchell report stuff demonstrates, Bud has no concept of what a conflict of interest is or the appearance of impropriety.