Sunday, January 04, 2015

The BBA and me

This must be my morning for mixed feelings. I just wrote about the Dan Haren situation and now I am writing about the Baseball Bloggers Association (BBA). If you haven't heard by now, the BBA has a new president in Niko Goutakolis and he has asked me to be the vice-president. Goutakolis seems to have the energy and ambition to run with this thing and that is a good thing. He asked me to take my position as Veep to balance the young with the old. The old would be me.
I owe a lot to the BBA. Through my association with the association (which works if you think about it), I have "met" lots of people I treasure on Twitter and have even met a few in person. A good chunk of my regular readership comes from these folks I have come to know through the BBA.
As such, I became a chapter president of one of the largest chapters in the BBA and did what I could to promote the writers that were under me. I did link posts, etc. I would like to think it helped, at least a little bit.
But I have also become one of the BBA's most vocal critics in the past few years. Frankly, I was much so that I gave up my chapter presidency because I didn't see the point.
The Baseball Bloggers Association has always been a great idea. It was founded by a very good and very popular man and through his skills grew to include some pretty high-octane writers as well as providing a place for up and coming writers to have a voice and a community. As the world was moving from printed media to online markets, the BBA was timed perfectly to form an association of those of us who developed our online niche.
But a few years ago it bogged down. The founder had small children, his own business and another association around his team that occupied his time. It is understandable that he ran aground on personal resources to take the BBA to the next step. He stepped down and that did not bring improvement. 
A post I shared here led to an upheaval of sorts and the founder took back the presidency and hope was raised. But his time constraints had not eased or changed and sometimes the entrepreneur is not the guy to take a company to the next level.
So here we are after basically four years of stagnation and deflation. Other groups have passed us by. There has been no spark and no energy. We have not gone to the next level but have had our roof bowed by really heavy snow.
Mr. Goutakolis has repeatedly asked me to make a statement. I'm not quite sure this is what he had in mind (wan smile). I agreed to be his vice president for two reasons. First, there is still that measure of gratitude for what my membership has meant to me. Second, if I was going to be vocal in my discontent, how could I not want to be part of the solution if there is one?
So far, I like the energy and communication I see from our new president. I hope he can get the BBA moving. There is so much to be done. The BBA needs to be a real mechanism for promotion of its members. It needs to rebuild its reputation within the baseball writing community. The BBA needs to focus on quality writing and be judicious in who can join. There needs to be avenues of cooperation and perhaps even regional meetings to bring writers together. Perhaps there should be a fee involved to be a member so there is a budget to accomplish something.
There needs to be better structure to voting for awards and participation by members is not optional. Either you participate in these votes or you are not a member. Our press releases need to become news. As our members move up in their writing careers, we should be featuring them and taking some credit for the advancement. Our involvement with the BBA should mean something on our resumes.
On the personal side, Niko Goutakolis' request of me couldn't have come to me at a lower ebb. After writing nearly 4,000 long form posts over the last eleven years, I'm a little toasted and have had a bit of a block in my writing in the last few months. I have always been nothing but prolific, but have struggled to put up posts lately. Perhaps at my low energy cycle, it would have been fairer to Mr. Goutakolis if I had politely declined.
But I didn't. There is a certain "put your money where your mouth is" that goes along with my acceptance. Therefore I am willing to give this a try and support our new president.
He's got a tough row to hoe, to use a trite expression. After years of stagnation, it's now or never for the BBA. Either we take the next step or it becomes meaningless to continue. I will do what I can to help. Let's give this thing a push, shall we? Perhaps it is not too late to find the torrent in the stream.

Dan Haren owes baseball nothing

Or does he?
I have been having this internal debate about Dan Haren's position about pitching for the Marlins for about two weeks now. Every time I get a handle on how I feel about how he is handling this trade to the East Coast, my emotions turn the other way.
We can all understand Dan Haren's desire to stay close to his family on the West Coast and he signed his free agent contract out there to facilitate his desire. Family is a noble thing. I once turned down a sure $160 grand job in Georgia because I did not want to leave my daughter behind. I get it. In fact, I should get it more than most.
One of the main differences in my situation and Haren's is that I was not under contract. I did not sign a piece of paper in good faith that said I would perform XYZ expectations in return for a financial gain. Haren did sign such a piece of paper.
He has made perfect use of the collective bargaining agreement to earn himself $71 million in his career playing baseball. He is signed another $10 million to do so again in 2015. His contract did not include a no-trade agreement although there is some murkiness as to what was promised him when he signed.
In fact, Haren has earned $35 million in the last three years being a less than league-average pitcher. In this age of pitching, his FIP has been over four for three straight years. But that's not really fair as he is more or less getting paid what he couldn't make when he was younger and was really worth something as a pitcher.
He has already told the Marlins (according to the linked story) that he doesn't want to play there. He is basically asking them to trade him back out West. All this speculation has caused to put up a poll on where he will end up. The biggest choice so far is that he will retire. Really?
Has he made enough money to throw away $10 million? For all his lack of success the last three years, he is a strike-throwing machine who has made thirty-plus starts ten years in a row. That kind of durability will get you a good contract somewhere on the open market once his obligation for 2015 is over.
Would he really leave all that money on the table? If the Marlins cannot, or will not trade him, would he just quit? Or would he sit out a year? Why can't he just rent out a bungalow in Miami for a season and move his family there? He certainly has the money. It is a temporary inconvenience for the family en route to millions of dollars of potential earnings.
The decision would seem to be easy. Miami has a spacious ballpark. One can see Haren building back his reputation as a starter and freeing him to play his hand in 2016.
Let's think about Miami's position for a moment. They already have their $10 million from the Dodgers. They got paid whether Haren pitches for them or not.  If Haren sits home with his millions, they still have their money and won't have to shell it out. If he plays for them, they can pencil in 30 starts, which is still something.  Or they can trade him and get value knowing that a trade partner would basically pay Haren nothing to pitch for them.
What would you do if you were the Marlins? Frankly, I would call his bluff. If you want to throw away $10 million smackers, have yourself a nice day. The collective bargaining agreement between the players and the teams is pretty fair. And the fact is that he is under contract.
So what happens if Haren sits out the year? What should baseball do then? Should he be allowed to play 2016 when he effectively broke his contract? I don't know the answer to that and what the provisions are for that circumstance.
What I do know is that I am no closer to resolving this moral dilemma for myself. I know it doesn't matter what *I* think. But I am sure that I am not the only one thinking about Haren's situation.
Where I am, basically, is where I started. Dan Haren has made his millions and owes no man anything and can walk away if he wants to. He owes baseball nothing except for that contract he signed in good faith. That contract and the fact that baseball has been the means of his family having the lifestyle they lead swing me over to the other side of the moral reading.
Thus, my conclusion is wishy-washy. Dan Haren owes baseball nothing, but yet again, he owes baseball everything.