With Boras in the picture, Alvarez's career put on hold
If and when Pedro Alvarez signs with the Pirates, he will automatically become the most hated player among fans since Dave Parker allowed himself to get woefully out of shape in the early 1980s and became the target of battery throwers in the outfield seats at Three Rivers Stadium.
-- John Perrotto, Beaver County (Pa.) Times
-- Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Well, so much for the honeymoon period.
The fans are judging Pedro Alvarez, and you should judge the people first who violate the rules. Pedro's conduct in this matter isn't even relevant. This is about a violation of the rules and collective bargaining.
It's worth noting, at the outset, that the grievance is not a case of Boras' saying "jump" and the Players Association responding, "How high?" Union officials strongly believe that the action had to be filed to uphold a collectively bargained provision in the labor deal, and they're confident they'll prevail before Das. While the Players Association thinks Das can choose from a host of remedies, the Pirates counter that the range of options is limited. "The short answer is that there is no chance Pedro could be declared a free agent," Coonelly said in an e-mail. "So, either the contract stands and Pedro starts his career in Pittsburgh late and with a lot of questions to answer or he goes back in the draft next year and does not get the deal to which he was very happy to agree on the 15th." For sure, Das' decision will say a lot about the sanctity of deadlines in baseball. Until modifications in the 2006 labor agreement, the draft signing deadline was a moving target. Draft picks were free to sign at any point until they attended their first college class. So the player, in actuality, controlled the deadline. If he chose to attend Sociology 101 on Tuesday, he was free to do so. Or maybe he would pick up the class notes from a friend and wait until Thursday. The clubs wanted a more concrete deadline. So after considerable give-and-take, with mutual concessions on topics ranging from draft-compensation rules to a change in the contract tender date, the two sides settled on midnight Aug. 15. Now, the union alleges, Major League Baseball is manipulating the deadline by allowing clubs to go past midnight without the necessary approval of the Players Association. A source said that several confused or "outraged" agents called the union the night of Aug. 15 with reports that clubs were bending the deadline rule. And it's no wonder: If the commissioner's office were allowed to play fast-and-loose with the deadline, it could significantly hamper players' leverage in talks. Boras maintains that he removed himself from the Alvarez talks after midnight because agent certification rules require him to report illegal contact with his player. "That's why this thing is so patently unfair," Boras said. "The fans are judging Pedro Alvarez, and you should judge the people first who violate the rules. Pedro's conduct in this matter isn't even relevant. This is about a violation of the rules and collective bargaining." Boras, of course, has always been adept at using the leverage of deadlines, and is frequently accused of brinksmanship or playing "chicken" by front office people. But in reality, it's a two-way street. Any team that wants to shoot the moon on a Boras pick will never announce the signing in, say, early July, because it knows it will risk the ire of the commissioner's office by setting the bonus bar high for everybody else. The teams are instructed to wait as long as possible in such cases. On the legal merits alone, the Alvarez case was bound to be the talk of the industry. But the interpersonal rivalries and strong personalities make for an especially colorful story line. As much as Boras would like to fade into the background and make this the union's fight, he is inevitably in the eye of the storm. ESPN.com spoke with nearly a dozen executives, scouting directors and scouts to gauge how the dispute is being viewed within the game. It's a mark of Boras' clout that they all either declined to comment or spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
The controversy has certainly taken some luster off a feel-good story. Pedro Alvarez is the pride of the Washington Heights section of New York. His father, Pedro Sr., came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic and drives a taxi cab for a living. Now his son is sitting idle and being vilified while a fortune sits unclaimed at the middle of the negotiating table. The backlash from the grievance isn't likely to make Alvarez's route to the majors any easier. Some veteran players will consider him a prima donna and believe he has a sense of entitlement. If he struggles, writers will judge him harshly and he could begin his pro career with a target on his back. "Assuming this kid is going to play at some point, I think the perception, rightly or wrongly, is that $6 million dollars isn't enough -- that he's more special than anyone else in the draft, and he can go against what he agreed to because it's unfair," said an American League executive. "That's going to create even loftier expectations than the $6 million bonus created. Everybody will say, 'All right, prove it now. You're out on the field. Show us how special you are.'" Big league clubs -- and the majority of established players -- subscribe to the notion that money should be earned. Front office people talk glowingly about Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki, who signed quickly in the 2005 draft and made it to the majors in a heartbeat. Braun (eight years, $45 million) and Tulowitzki (six years, $31 million) have since signed long-term contracts that will take them through their arbitration years and the beginning of free agency.
The short answer is that there is no chance Pedro could be declared a free agent. So, either the contract stands and Pedro starts his career in Pittsburgh late or he goes back in the draft next year.
--Pirates team president Frank Coonelly