Reviewing the basics. Volume 3

MlbHlSqThe third volume of our Baseball Basics for Brits series focuses on the career of a professional baseball player. 

It takes you through how the players initially join Major League organizations and their changing contractual status from then on throughout their careers.

When I originally wrote this volume prior to the 2008 season, I was aware that this was an important topic to cover from a British perspective because many parts to it are very different to how things work in British sports. 

There are also plenty of complexities and exceptions to rules that you can go in to, so part of the task was trying to decide what not to write about.  I didn’t want to leave anything important out, but I also didn’t want it to try to cover so many points that none of them sink in.

Reading it again three years on, most of the points mentioned are still factually accurate and remain the most relevant topics to focus on.  All these parts have needed was a little bit of re-wording here and there and some updated examples. 

Out went Joe Blanton’s pre-arbitration salary details and in came Joey Votto’s.  That change fortunately works particularly well in showing how a player’s salary in their first few Major League years can be relatively low despite them playing extremely well (Votto made $525k in 2010, approximately £6,300 per week, while winning the National League MVP) and how it jumps when a player becomes arbitration eligible.

Barry Zito’s free agent contract was removed from that example box and in its place came Jayson Werth’s recent mega-deal.  Both show how a player really cashes in when free agency comes along.  Both deals also show how much teams have to pay, or more accurately overpay, to get a player when he is finally able to listen to offers from all teams and make his own choice on where he plays for the first time in his career.

This situation is precisely why more and more teams are looking to lock up their best young players with multi-year deals before they reach free agency.  I mentioned this briefly in the first version of the volume, but as it has become more common I thought it deserved greater emphasis now and I’ve included the example of Jay Bruce’s multi-year deal. 

I considered mentioning the Colorado Rockies’ offseason deals with Troy Tulowtizki and Carlos Gonzalez instead; however I decided that these deals were a little out of the ordinary and didn’t reflect the general trend quite so well.  A team doesn’t normally lock up two young players for ten years and seven years respectively in such a dramatic way, and Tulowitzki’s deal would have needed a bit more explanation as he had already signed a multi-year deal prior to his ten year extension (that replaced the final three years, plus an option year, of the original deal).

Aside from these minor changes, the biggest difference with the updated version is an extra 500 words or so on the amateur draft.  In the first version I noted that the topic probably deserved a BBfB volume on its own and only mentioned the basic points.  On reflection, it makes more sense to cover it in more depth here and that’s now what I have done. 

I’ve also added in a section on how international players, including the odd European youngster, joins up with a Major League organization.  There has been plenty of talk about creating an international draft so it’s possible that this might need to be re-written in a few years.  I’ve included a short section on the Japanese posting system as well.

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