What is it worth to a baseball team to save a million bucks? Apparently it’s worth being shunned by future players for being sleazy and dishonest.
Oh, it was all legal, don’t get me wrong. The Seattle Mariners, who, it should be noted, recently signed second-baseman Robinson Cano to a ten year contract averaging 24 million dollars a season, inked a deal with veteran pitcher Randy Wolf that guaranteed him a paltry million dollars if he made the team’s roster based on his performance in Spring Training. Sure enough,Wolf pitched well and not only made the team, but was told that he would be in the Mariners’ starting rotation.
There was a catch, however. Wolf was told that his being officially named to the team’s 2014 25 man roster to start the season—that’s next week, baseball fans—was contingent on him signing a legal document known as a 45-day advanced-consent release form. This would allow the Mariners to release or demote Wolf after the first 45 days of the regular season and be obligated to only pay him a pro-rated portion of his million dollar salary, rather than the entire one million dollars his original deal guaranteed. In other words, “Gotcha!” The perfect Catch 22. “Yes, you are guaranteed a million dollars, Mister Wolf, if you make the team, and you made the team. We keep our promises. We want you on the team. But if you don’t waive that guarantee, we won’t let you make the team.”
Brilliant! Most other teams have their pitching staffs set now; it’s a risk for Wolf to try to make another squad at this point. What Seattle offered him was virtually a contract of adhesion, which is what the law calls contract terms that you agree to with a gun pointed at your head. But who wants to work for an employer who treats people like this? Randy Wolf, to his credit, told the Mariners to go to hell.
I hope the Mariners feel their bait-and -switch gambit was worth the sinking of the team’s reputation deep into the muck. Fans, sportswriters, pundits, player and, yes, ethicists, are disgusted with their squeeze play. The first pitch hasn’t been thrown yet in the 2014 season, but the Seattle Mariners have already branded themselves as losers just to save part of a million dollar commitment, in the same week that another American League team, the Detroit Tigers, committed $300,000,000 to one of their players, Miguel Cabrera (which is insane, but at least it’s ethical).
If the baseball gods do their job, Randy Wolf will find employment this year with another, fairer American League team, and at some point in the season, will get a chance to hang a loss, one of many, on the bastards who tried to cheat him…legally, of course.