12.08.07

Coming Soon : The Pizza Hut Cy Young Award

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism, Sports Radio, Sports TV at 12:28 pm by

After yesterday’s BBWAA-related discussion, Jason Cohen was kind enough to forward the following item from Forbes’ Tom Von Riper.

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.

3 Responses to “Coming Soon : The Pizza Hut Cy Young Award”

  1. Pete Abraham says:

    Curt Schilling (who else?) has a clause in his deal giving him $1 million for receiving one vote for Cy Young. One vote.

    We (the BBWAA) don’t want our impartial members in the position of deciding players compensation. It raises too many issues. Let’s say Schilling goes 15-12, 3.50 and thinks he deserves one vote and Gordon Edes of the Globe doesn’t.

    Schilling could tell his teammates “that SOB cost me a million” and now Gordon’s ability to cover the team is compromised.

    The MLBPA has it own awards. Let that determine bonus payments. Leave us out of it.

    Meanwhile the guy from Forbes should stick to what he knows. How has the BBWAA lost influence? Beat writer or newspaper blogs are among the most popular. Our stories are inevitably what get linked to by other sites. We now have members from Japan, Korea and Taiwan. MLB consults with us regularly.

    You want fans voting on awards. Perfect. Then only Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs and Mets will win. Look at the ASG voting. It’s a mess.

    Agents can find other ways to get their guys a bonus.

  2. GC says:

    Dear Peter,

    valid points, sir. However, I do think in this instance, the BBWAA is overreacting. If, for instance, Curt Schilling were to pout over something as trivial as one vote for the Cy Young Award, he’d cost himself at least a million bucks’ worth of goodwill amongst teammates, media and fans.

    There’s any number of instances where BBWAA members can impact a player’s earning power, positively or negatively. The mere fact the shy and retiring Schilling has been cited in this instance is just one example.

    “The MLBPA has it own awards. Let that determine bonus payments. Leave us out of it.”

    OK, I’m confused again. That the MLBPA’s awards carry little cachet in the eyes of players and public alike compared to the honors awarded by the BBWAA is a fine testament to the organization’s influence. But I don’t see how said influence can extend to policing the way contracts are written and negotiated.

    I’m not an advocate of fan voting for year-end honors — at least the sort of year-end honors anyone would remember for long. But I’m not sure about your All-Star Game analogy, either. Last July’s midsummer classic featured no Cubs starter, and fans from Detroit, Cincy, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle managed to see their faves make the starting lineups. It wasn’t the fans that picked Brian Fuentes for the NL reserves ahead of John Maine.

    “Beat writer or newspaper blogs are among the most popular. Our stories are inevitably what get linked to by other sites.”

    If I’ve not said so before, thank you. I’ll do my best the future to link to as few stories composed by non-BBWAA members as possible. I think we’ve established by now that many of ‘em are likely to be bullied by the likes of Curt…if they can even bother to show up at the ballpark.

    When and if the BBWAA does make progress on a website that looks like it was developed during this century, can I suggest the following slogan?

    “WHEN YOU THINK IMPARTIALITY, THINK OF THE BASEBALL WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA”.

    You don’t have go all caps if you don’t want to.

    Gerard

  3. Eric B says:

    I actually think the danger in the Schilling scenario is the reverse of that laid out by Pete; I’ve already seen fans accusing writers of being inclined to “cut a deal” with Schilling, to cast a vote if he’ll split the money, give them increased access or whatever. Even if that suspicion is harbored by 5% of your readers, it’s going to at least subconsciously affect your decision. If you think Schilling should win the Cy but it’s pretty clear that he’s not going to, do you want to be the guy who “gave him a million bucks”?

    That said, I don’t think it’s really an issue for bonuses triggered by *winning* an award. I’m assuming that the BBWAA just couldn’t figure out where to draw the line (two votes? three?) and said the hell with it. They should appreciate that those bonuses simply recognize the stature of their awards – and by extension, the writers behind them – and find that line.

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