For two teams who have not had to endure arbitration hearings in such a long time, 2010 will be a unique year for both, barring last minute settlements.
The Cubs have not had a hearing during GM Jim Hendry's tenure, and the Brewers have gone 12 years without one. Yet both are lined up to go to arbitration this year—the Cubs with Ryan Theriot and Milwaukee with Corey Hart.
Hart's hearing is scheduled for today. He filed for a $4.8 million salary in 2010, while the Brewers proposed $4.15 million.
As MLB.com's Adam McCalvey points out, "the Brewers won their case against reliever Mike Fetters in 1995, but lost to reliever-turned-starter Jose Mercedes in 1998. Before that, the only arbitration hearing in Brewers history was with infielder Jim Gantner, in 1992. The team won that case."
McCalvey writes that a hearing may be inevitable. "The sides have not talked since a club-imposed deadline passed without a compromise on Jan. 29, and current club negotiator Teddy Werner and assistant general manager Gord Ash traveled Tuesday to St. Petersburg, Fla.," he reports.
McCalvey also takes us through the arbitration process, one that is often detrimental to the relationship between the player and the team.
He writes that "In a hearing, a representative of each side gets 60 minutes to present an exhibit—essentially a binder filled with statistics and graphs that seek to link the player in question to other comparable players at the same position—to a panel of three professional arbitrators."
McCalvey goes on to say that "After the two hours of oral arguments are up, the parties take a very brief recess before each side gets 30 minutes of rebuttal. After that, it's in the hands of the arbitrators, who have 24 hours to pick one salary or the other. There's no more room for compromise, and the decision is binding."
The Cubs, meanwhile, "don't expect a last-minute settlement with Ryan Theriot before his arbitration hearing and are ready to go to battle with their starting shortstop," writes the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan.
Theroit filed at $3.4 million, while the Cubs have countered with a $2.6 million proposal.
"I haven't spoken to his people for a while," general manager Jim Hendry said Tuesday at Wrigley Field. "There's always a chance (for a settlement) until it's final. But I can't say I'm optimistic, either. We're already settled with the other seven (arbitration-eligible players). So if the situation ends up going to a hearing, then that's OK, too.
" Everybody has a right to (a hearing). It won't affect, obviously, the way we feel about him or the way he plays."
Oh, don't be so sure, Mr. Hendry, for hearings often bruise the feelings of players who are not used to hearing negative things said about them by their own clubs. They often come away feeling unwanted by the team, when in reality both sides are just doing their best to support their cases.
So, does anyone really win in this process? Wouldn't it be better to simply settle?
Well, that's what often happens, which is why both clubs have gone so long without a hearing, but sometimes there are philosophical differences that become more principle than anything.
The Cubs know they have uber-prospect Starlin Castro waiting in the wings to take over at shortstop, but he is not ready yet.
Meanwhile, the Cubs haven't had an arbitration hearing in over 16 years.
As Sullivan reports, "The last Cubs player to go to a hearing was Mark Grace, who won his case in 1993. Carlos Zambrano got as far as the hotel for his arbitration hearing in 2007 before it was settled at the last minute."
I believe that Gracie actually lost his case, but no matter. The point is, it's been a long time. (Hey, don't concern yourself with accuracy, Paul, it's not like the newspaper industry is dying or anything).
As for the hearing itself, Theroit's agent will argue his client had a career high in homers and RBIs (a stat that arbitration judges probably still pay attention to).
Conversely, Hendry will point out that the Riot's batting average went down by over 20 points, from .307 to .284, and his OBP dropped from .387 to .343, while his OPS decreased from .746 to .712.
Further, Theriot's walk total dropped by 22, yet his strike out total went up almost 70 percent.
So the Cubs win, right? Well, nobody wins, really, because the process can be somewhat nasty and leave bitter feelings. More to the point, even if the club wins, the player still gets a huge raise.
Hart earned $3.25 million last season, so the worst he can do is a $900,000 raise. Theriot was paid $500,00 in 2009, so the worst he can do is a a $1.9 million dollar increase.
Hey, when was the last time you received more than a 200 percent raise at your job?
It's a riot , all right.