When Curt Schilling signed his recent one-year deal for 2008, one clause in particular garnered some attention. The Red Sox have to pay Schilling $1 million if he earns so much as one third-place Cy Young vote. With the cozy relationship between writers and players these days, more than a few writers were dismayed by this contract provision.
So today, in an effort to restore some semblance of objectivity in awards voting, the Baseball Writers Associate of America announced today that, starting in 2013, players with incentive clauses will be automatically disqualified from award voting. This ban covers regular season awards only and will not affect a player’s Hall of Fame chances.
“When we first started giving out these awards it was just to honor somebody. You got a trophy, there was no monetary reward that went with it,” BBWAA Secretary-Treasurer Jack O’Connell said to the Associated Press. “I honestly don’t think people vote with that in mind. But the attachment of a bonus to these awards creates a perception that we’re trying to make these guys rich.”
O’Connell specifically targeted Curt Schilling’s response to his incentive clause as one of the driving forces behind this ban. The Red Sox’s pitched made an off-hand comment about a kickback for a potential voter, and the red flags went up immediately. “The Schilling thing is disturbing because he doesn’t even have to win,” O’Connell said. “That’s something that none of us finds very funny.”
The rule won’t go into effect until 2013 so that players, agents and teams can adapt to it. Personally, I find that to be a rather flimsy excuse. While few players are under contract for 2013, why can’t the BBWAA just grandfather in the rule for next season? Anyone with incentive clauses in pre-existing contracts can still enjoy those benefits, but anyone negotiated a contract following the conclusion of the 2008 season is automatically ineligible. I can’t imagine it will take all that long to get used to this new rule.
Meanwhile, this is a clear-cut victory for those of us who have grown wary of the give-and-take between sportswriters and their subjects. I can’t imagine that the Players’ Association is too thrilled with this one, but as far as I can tell, they have no remedies.