Search the Site

Baseball Writers Are A Rare Breed: They Don’t Want To Dictate Everyone Else’s Salaries

Most people, given the opportunity, would like to have a say in what other people earn. If someone is nice to me, throw a little extra Christmas bonus their way. If they are rude and surly, how about a 3 percent pay cut?

So I find it interesting that the Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA) recently approved a rule which says that any player who has an incentive clause based on an award voted by the BBWAA (e.g., the Cy Young award) will not be eligible to win that award. The proximate cause of this decision is Curt Schilling‘s contract, which pays him $1 million if he gets even a single third place vote for the Cy Young. When he joked about paying off a writer to throw him a vote, that was the last straw.

I’m surprised by this decision. First, it is always unusual when a group acts to reduce its own influence. If there is not just honor, but also large amounts of money on the line, it makes these awards even more important. Certainly organizations like the MacArthur Foundation (which gives very generous monetary grants with its “genius” awards) understands this dynamic. Second, the writers’ jobs are much easier when players cooperate with them (especially the superstars). Players are not, however, forced to cooperate with writers. I would think the writers would want to encourage any possible reasons for players to be helpful — such as the ability of writers to vote on awards that determine player bonuses.

No doubt there are gains from trade of a corrupt writer getting paid off by Schilling in return for a Cy Young vote, and such a deal could taint baseball writers more generally. It would seem, though, that there are more efficient ways of punishing corrupt behavior, like making votes public, if they aren’t already.

There must be other examples of organizations unilaterally acting to reduce their influence, but I can’t think of one off the top of my head. Can any readers provide any examples of this type of behavior?