I understand that perspectives can get a bit warped when we’re talking about guys already making annual salaries higher than what the vast majority of us could ever expect to earn in a lifetime, but that really doesn’t make it any less jaw-dropping to, over the past few days, have witnessed in the minds of so many the complete absence of anything but an entirely one-sided understanding of the worker-ownership dynamic when it comes to the contract situation Darren Oliver and his agent Jeff Frye have landed themselves in.
I know we’ve been through this enough already, but seriously…
Telling your employer that you need a raise or you’re going to have to go do something else is offensive? Realizing midway through a contract that you’re a whole lot more valuable to your bosses than you were when you signed and exerting leverage to see if you can’t get something closer to fair compensation is greed-headedness on the level of extortion?
Darren Oliver’s name gets dragged through the mud for daring to ask if Rogers can’t pay him more in line with what his obviously very valuable services are worth? Because Rogers doesn’t deserve to be put in the position of, and on principle shouldn’t even consider, caving to this “arrogant” attempt to push them around? Rogers?!? Who for years used magic accounting to run low payrolls while subsidizing their sports network with cheap content, who operate their baseball club under the sweetheart CBA deal that heavily suppresses the salaries of young players, and who not long ago conveniently put the club’s games onto a channel nobody could watch in order to force cable providers into picking up a wholly superfluous channel called Sportsnet One? Who get applauded when they sign players to hopelessly team-friendly deals and below-market contract extensions? They’re the ones above all this, who deserve to pocket the difference between what Oliver signed for and what the market might pay him? Your sympathies lie in their pockets and Oliver is full of nothing but greed for giving them an ultimatum? For “threatening” to retire, kinda exactly like we thought he was going to in the first place?
It’s a hell of a trick the business world has pulled– damn fat cats!– in getting people to not just feel this way, but to positively seethe at a guy like Oliver, and I can’t quite comprehend why they do.
Alex Anthopoulos feeling this way, on the other hand, I totally get. And apparently he does too.
Jeff Frye– who knows a thing or two about cycles– may have won the news cycle on Thursday and Friday when his client’s ultimatum went public, but judging by comments from Anthopoulos in a piece by Chris Toman of BlueJays.com, Kelly Gruber isn’t going to come down out of the stands wearing acid-washed jeans to congratulate him on winning the next one.
Anthopoulos, who was not aware that Frye had gone public with those comments, was visibly surprised when it was brought to his attention and was not keen on the idea of meeting Oliver’s demands.
“I don’t want to really get into the trade talk; things can happen,” Anthopoulos said. “As far as restructuring his contract, I would never say never, but his contract is his contract. That’s what we signed him to.
“I don’t see us doing that.”
Earlier in the piece he also adds:
“I do not,” Anthopoulos said when asked if he expected Oliver to be a member of the 2013 Blue Jays. “When we signed him we knew there was a strong possibility that he would only play with us for one year. And toward the end of the year, he hinted many times that retiring was an option he was strongly considering.”
Now, for all that I said above about Oliver’s right to try and get more money out of the club, I can’t blame Anthopoulos at all for feeling this way– and I certainly can’t blame him for not telling the media that he’d actually consider engaging in a negotiation under Oliver’s conditions.
One thing that’s interesting, though, is the fact that Anthopoulos acknowledges that the club knew all along that Oliver might retire– which eliminates, in my view, a lot of these notions that Oliver had negotiated in bad faith.
In fact, perhaps the Jays saw this coming all along, and figured the $3-million option was something Oliver was going to have a lot harder a time walking away from than he’s been letting on– something I said right from the get-go. I mean, if his objective is to extract as much money out of his baseball career as possible, $3-million looks a whole lot better than nothing.
And shit, despite his age, it’s not like he’s looked on the verge of completely falling apart, either. Could there be another contract still in the cards for him in 2014 at age 43? Very possibly.
Of course, that would mean, unless it’s a deal with Texas, he wouldn’t get to stay home with his kids. And we all know how importan– oh… right.
And yeah, that aspect of this whole public saga remains pretty off-putting. But like so much else about it, I think we’re best to view that as a tactic– perhaps even one borne honestly– towards a not-wholly-unreasonable goal, and one that truly changes almost nothing about the Jays’ off-season.
Oliver was either going to play here for $3-million next year or he wasn’t. Most of us probably felt it was going to be the latter, and that’s still entirely the case. But now the club actually has a chance to ensure he comes back, and all it’s going to take is a little bit more money. In an (admittedly warped) way, it’s somewhat of a good thing, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m wary of the club getting too hung up the principle or the money of it– though, again, I’m all for them being full-on willing to call his bluff, too.
It’s just… it’s not like the Jays aren’t clearly better off with him, y’know?