Jim Hendry didn't believe in arbitration cases.
This is one of the reasons why I don't routinely savage the guy for his many failings as a general manager. It appears he didn't have the "guts" to stand in a room with one of his players and systematically discredit him, in order to save money. The only case under his watch to reach arbitration was that of one Ryan Theriot - one that Hendry ended up "winning". Within a year, Theriot was a Cardinal, saying douchey things about "being on the right side of the rivalry".
Question: was Theriot a douche because of his experience in arbitration? Or was he a douche all along, which is why Hendry finally relented on his long held belief that arbitration should be avoided? Well, based on his actions prior to the hearing, his actions since, and the couple of times I have encountered him, I will readily accept that he is a born douchenozzle, but I definitely understand if you disagree.
I think we can all agree that baseball's arbitration process is unpleasant.
So those of us (such as myself) who had no knowledge of Theo Epstein's arbitration experiences before today were waiting with apprehension as Matt Garza's case crawled towards the arbitrator.
On one hand, we have the Industry Standard in Modern Baseball Practices, Theo, in whom we could count on a thorough, accurate, and impersonal analysis of young Matthew Scott Garza, including his untidy fielding, his inability to pitch 200 innings last year, and scores of other secondary and tertiary statistics I know nothing about. I would not want to sit across from Theo in an arbitration. He is the smartest man in the room.
On the other hand, we have, with the departure of Carlos Zambrano, the most emotional member of the team. A man who, while still only 28 years old, has been traded twice, yet has enough major league experience to gain eligibility for exactly this sort of salary arbitration. Matt has been THE trade target this entire winter, and while it might encourage some people to know that his management holds them in such high esteen that they would not trade you for less than three solid prospects, it might also piss him off to realize that he, Matt Garza, is not an untouchable, as Starlin Castro appears to be.
Yeah, in fact, I am pretty sure where Garza lies on this matter.
So I felt it would be devastating for him to be present in an arb situation with the Information King, Theo Epstein. Surely, part of his legacy as the GM of the Red Sox would be strewn with the corpses of all of his arbitration day kills. Certainly, nobody knows more about the value of a muscle than he, and it would be real interesting to see what kind of defendant he has been in the past.
So I went out to look up all the Red Sox players who have gone to arbitration during his time, to find out who won and lost, and then to track not only their on-field performance, but also notice any off-field clues that might point to discontent as a result of what was said in the room. I didn't have a whole lot of luck.
The last Boston arb case was 2002, the year before Theo took over.
Once again, this may be due to his quantitative abilities to properly value talent. Or maybe he, too, lacks the stone cold killer heart, just like Hendry. Or maybe he, like myself, thinks the process sucks ass.
What do you think? Garza settled for 2 million more than the Cubs initially offered, but three million less than he asked for in the first place. Would YOU have been interested in how a Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer arbitration hearing played out? Do you feel that arbitration is a key component in putting together a competitive entity, or do you feel it is a soul-sucking bandaid work-around to the problem of player/agent greed and ownership's inability to control themselves?
I'm just glad nobody swung at one another.