Arbitration Season — A Rite of Spring in the Bizarro World

by M.C. Antil on February 10, 2011

Those of you who, like myself, sit in wide-eyed, slack-jawed wonder every year around this time as the arbitration calendar plays itself out, take heart; all’s right again in our bizarre little corner of the universe.  

Just when we thought we’d truly seen it all and had become immune to the absurdity of so many rulings, year after year, in which ordinary and often horrible baseball players get their annual compensation packages increased by dollar amounts most people won’t see in a decade, along comes Russ Ohlendorf of the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Based on his stellar mound work  in 2010, Ohlendorf figured he was due a hefty increase on the paltry $439,000 he pulled down last year.  So he asked the Pirates to more than quadruple what they had been paying him. 

No way, no how, said the Bucs.  We’re not going to quadruple your salary. But we’ll tell you what we will do.  We’ll triple it.   How’s that?

Nope, can’t do it, said Ohlendorf.

Ugh.  Gridlock.  What now?

Enter MLB’s three-man binding arbitration panel, which on Tuesday morning heard the case — its first of the season. 

Their ruling?  Sorry Pirates; Ohlendorf’s numbers support his claim.  You must pay him $2.025 million to pitch for you in 2011 — four times what you paid him last year. 

Thanks for coming, and have a nice day.

And just in case you at home were wondering; in 21 starts in 2010, Russ Ohlendorf threw a total of 108 innings for the last place Pirates.  And over the course of those 108 innings, he walked 44, struck out 79, and won one game. 

Yep. That’s right.  One. 

And again, for those of you scoring at home; that’s one, as in one more than none, but only half as many as two.

Ohlendorf’s record last year?  1-11.

Like I said, it’s arbitration season and once again sports fans, all’s right here in the Bizarro World.


Stewart Schley February 11, 2011 at 11:31 am

MC: I am interested in applying to a similar arbitration forum regarding per-word pricing of freelance article submissions. They say 75 cents, I say $2.50 (plus $0.12 per well-placed hyphen or semi-colon). I’m bound to get a raise somehow. Meantime, I take some issue with your reliance on wins/losses as an indicator of pitching value. Not that Russ is an ace, but c’mon: Roy Halladay wouldn’t have notched 10 wins for the 2010 Bucs. 587 runs scored was lowest in the NL.

M.C. Antil February 12, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Stewart: All evidence to the contrary, my complaint isn’t so much with Ohlendorf, it’s with the system. Arbitration is a joke, and is based on nothing more than the historically worst deal made at each position, which then becomes something of a benchmark for all future deals.

I also take umbrage with a system that, even though it was developed by the players’ union, actually costs productive veterans work each year. How many still-capable players are DFA’d or non-tendered each winter by clubs, simply because they don’t want to risk going to arbitration? It’s nuts.

That said, I do like your idea of freelance incentive clauses covering em dashes and semi-colons — Hell, I’d be a rich man.

(And back to Ohlendorf for a moment, I’m sorry but that 1-11 record just screamed “WTF?” And there was just too much irony there for me to let it go untouched.)

Andy Fleming February 11, 2011 at 3:38 am

damn… so if he wins (2) games this year- will he go to 6 million in 2012? I think i’m catchin on. Let the games begin (soon)

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