The Baseball Writers Association of America, a group whose members have steadily lost influence with fans over the years thanks to cable television and the Internet, has declared it will turn off the spigot of bonus money pouring into the wallets of players that win major post-season awards.Beginning with the 2013 season, the association will no longer dole out votes for standard post-season hardware like Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards to players whose contracts include bonus clauses tied to getting votes.
The five-year window is designed to let current bonus-filled contracts expire.
BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O’Connell, in explaining the association’s thinking, told reporters that the awards started out as a way to honor players, not to make them rich. Why not be happy with just the recognition and a trophy?
The writers, of course, have no legal standing to dictate contract terms between a player and a club. But as the traditional dispenser of the annual awards, they can always choose to stop giving them out. So, keep the money out of it or we’ll take these awards and go home, they’re effectively saying.
But the only question Major League owners ought to ask themselves is, Who needs the baseball writers? In today’s world of interactive marketing and media democratization, MLB owners should be sniffing a business opportunity. Fan sites, blogs, fantasy leagues and coast-to-coast ESPN coverage have fans more connected to the game than ever. They know what’s going on and which players are having the best years. What better way for baseball to get even more interactive with fans than by letting them vote for MVP and other awards?
Much I find the practice of a player already making $15-$20 million per annum receiving a bonus for an individual award — because in what other walk of life are people actually rewarded for excelling at their job? —- I’m struggling to understand the BBWAA’s take on this. The very fact that agents push for such clauses is some recognition these awards (and the body that votes on them) have credibility. If the BBWAA bails on the process and another organization steps in — ESPN, Yahoo, Cat Fancy, MasterCard, etc. — is O’Connell so naive to think future awards will have no bearing on additional compensation?
Unmentioned at CSTB earlier this week, the Baseball Hall Of Fame announced the ten finalists for the 2008 Ford C. Frick Award, an impressive group including the late Tom Cheek, the recently-deceased Joe Nuxhall, Dave Niehaus, Dave Van Horne, Tony Kubek, Graham McNamee, Dizzy Dean, Ken Coleman, the late Bill King (above) and (drum roll)…Joe Morgan.
Better luck next year, Fran Healy.