I don’t know about you, but I tend to think of player agents as a particular brand of slime. That’s not to say they are slime. I’m not Stan Kasten. I understand that they’re a necessary part of negotiations between a baseball player and a baseball team. And I’m glad that baseball players have them to maintain some semblance of fairness when it comes to getting paid.
Of the three parties involved in contract negotiations, I find the team’s interest, no matter how wealthy its ownership, to be the most interesting as it attempts to find value in a contract while balancing current budget demands with future revenue streams. After that, I find it easiest to empathize with a player who wants to make as much money as he possibly can over the course of his relatively short career. This leaves us with the parasite who gets paid a percentage of the player’s contract to do whatever he can to eke out as much money possible.
Again, I understand it’s a necessary role, but I prefer to avert my eyes from the actions of player agents, and pretend that they don’t exist. That was before today. And more specifically, before I was introduced to my new favourite agent, Matt Sosnick.
As I wrote about earlier, the Baltimore Orioles and Dontrelle Willis are in the midst of a dispute over whether or not the left handed pitcher received permission to leave Triple A Norfolk following a meeting with a few Orioles executives. Instead of granting Willis his release, Baltimore placed him on the restricted list and can now be compensated if he signs elsewhere.
Prior to learning that Willis was on the restricted list and not given his release, there were some rumours floating around that a team from Japan had shown interest in signing Willis. This leads us to the best quote I’ve ever read from an agent, and certainly the best thing said in baseball this season.
I have not been contacted by any Asian team about Dontrelle. But I know that [Orioles GM] Dan [Duquette] has closer ties to Korea than I do, so maybe he knows something that I don’t know.
Of course, what Sosnick is back handedly referring to is this:
During the off season, the Korean Baseball Association (KBA) placed a ban on Baltimore Orioles scouts, prohibiting them from attending any organized game in South Korea. The repercussions were the result of a kerfuffle that the Orioles caused when they convinced 17 year old left handed pitcher Kim Seong-Min to forego his final year of high school in his homeland to sign a $550,000 contract.
You see, the KBA doesn’t typically appreciate direct contact between Major League Baseball teams and high school players that haven’t completed their studies, and in response to the Orioles involvement, the organization not only levied a punishment against the franchise, but also banned the young pitcher from playing or coaching in South Korea for an indefinite amount of time.
Lost in the footnotes of the story was that the KBA lodged an official complaint with MLB over Baltimore’s actions, claiming that the Orioles’ actions hindered the development of youth baseball programs in South Korea, something that the two parties had previously signed an agreement to protect. It ends up that the complaint was effective because MLB eventually voided Kim’s contract.
As an obvious counter to Sosnick’s burn:
Orioles announce LHP Chris George was released from Triple-A Norfolk
— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) April 24, 2012