Can Sox keep their arbitration-free streak intact?

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Can Sox keep their arbitration-free streak intact?

You probably know the Red Sox have not been to arbitration since 2002, when Dan Duquette was the general manager. Give yourself a couple of baseball IQ points if you knew the last player with whom the Sox went to arbitration was right-hander Rolando Arrojo, before his final season in the major leagues. Tack on a few more points if you knew that the Sox won that case, with a bid for a salary of 1.9 million to Arrojos bid for 2.8 million.Still, the Sox dont hold the record for avoiding arbitration. Cleveland last went in 1991, Toronto in 1997, and St. Louis in 1999. Some teams just prefer to avoid the process.
Tal Smith has been in baseball for over 50 years and was with the Astros for 35, most recently as president since 1994, until he was unceremoniously dismissed by new owner Jim Crane in November. Smith also runs his own company, Tal Smith Enterprises, which he began in 1981, that offers consulting services to major league teams.
With more than 150 arbitration cases on his resume, he is considered the arbitration guru.Some clubs dont like to go. They think it scars the player, Smith said of arbitration. I dont subscribe to that. Obviously it depends on whos presenting and how they approach it. Weve done over 150 cases and I can think of only about three where it really became a little bit testy and adversarial. Basically, its a continuation of the same kind of arguments that the club and the agent enter into during negotiations when theyre trying to negotiate why they want this or why theyre offering that. Obviously theres a reliance almost solely on numbers and comparable salaries. Nobody is demeaning a player. If you hit .230, you hit .230. It speaks for itself. If you hit .310, it speaks for itself. If you won 15 games, the same.
So its not all that testy. I think theres a lot of people out there, including media people, who think, Oh, you dont want to take this guy to arbitration. Hell never forgive you. I dont buy into that at all. Ive obviously been on the club side and Ive had players that I run into in later years in airports or something like that who come up and they dont hold any animosity, even Barry Bonds. We had Barry twice when he was with Pittsburgh and the club won both cases. And as cantankerous as Barry can be seen by some, when he was still playing with the Giants, hed come into Houston and hed see me and come over and wed laugh.
"Its not that dire a setting. Its just a continuation of the negotiation process being presented to a third party, to a panel of arbitrators. And theyre listening to the same kind of stuff that you were talking about before arbitration and theyre going to make the decision for you.Arbitration figures must be submitted by Tuesday. This year, the Sox have six players -- David Ortiz, Alfredo Aceves, Mike Aviles, Andrew Bailey, Daniel Bard and Jacoby Ellsbury -- eligible for arbitration. Andrew Miller, Matt Albers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Franklin Morales have already agreed to deals, avoiding arbitration.
Arbitration hearings are scheduled to be conducted in St. Petersburg Feb. 1-21. In the hearings, which generally last several hours, each side will present its case to a panel of three arbitrators, with a chance for rebuttals following. Even if a player goes to arbitration, the sides have up until a decision is rendered by the panel to reach a deal.It used to be that about 85 percent of cases that filed would be settled before arbitration, but, Smith said, in recent years the number is even higher, with only about three or four cases going to arbitration. Last year 119 players filed, with just three Hunter Pence, then with the Astros, the Pirates Ross Ohlendorf, and the Angels Jered Weaver going through arbitration. Pence and Ohlendorf won their cases, with Weaver losing his.The reason for that is the stakes are greater, the dollars are greater, and there are greater risks for each party, Smith said. If you go and lose, youre leaving money on the table, so to speak. When I first started this process back in 1974, there were cases where the spread, the difference between the two numbers, was as low as 3,500. I did four Yankee cases in 1974 or 75 and the total of the four cases was about 20,000. Today you get spreads of individual cases weve done recently of 2 million, 3 million. So the stakes are greater and the objective of the whole exercise is to get meaningful numbers on the table for which the parties can continue to negotiate.

Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

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Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over the Colorado Rockies:

 

QUOTES

"I felt a little cramp. I'm fine. I appreciate John and everybody looking out (for me). We obviously don't want anything to happen like last year, but I'm good.'' - Dustin Pedroia, who left the game in the fifth after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring.

"It's nice to be able to get deep into the game. That's my goal every time. My goal is nine innings, so if I don't get nine innings, I'm a little disappointed because I want to be able to go out there and pitch as many innings as I can.'' - Steven Wright.

"I think my release point was just a little off. That definitely makes it hard, especially when it's moving, because it's not a consistent release point.'' - Wright on the early-inning unpredictability of his signature pitch.

"Even when I was catching, I pride myself on running. I want to be an athlete back there. I want to run the bases, steal bases, things most catchers aren't known to do.'' - Blake Swihart, who hit two triples.

 

NOTES

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 29 games.

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 18 games.

* David Ortiz tied Paul Molitor for 12th on the all-time doubles list with 605.

* Ortiz has driven in multiple runs in three straight games

* Dustin Pedroia has a career batting average of .340 in interleague play, the highest ever for someone with 500 or more at-bats.

* Travis Shaw drove in three runs and now has 68 RBI in his first 111 games since Fred Lynn and Jim Rice in 1974-75.

* Blake Swihart became the third Red Sox hitter this season to post two triples in the same game.

* The Red Sox clinched their fifth straight home series win.

* The Sox are 21-8 since April 24 and are 13-2 in their last 15 home games.

 

STARS

1) Steven Wright

Backed by some rare run support, Wright evened his record at 4-4 with seven-plus innings and his eighth quality start this season.

2) Travis Shaw

Shaw produced two hits and knocked in three runs, making him the fourth Red Sox player this season to reach 30 RBI.

3) Blake Swihart

Swihart got to flash both his power and his speed by hitting two triples to the triangle, motoring around the bases.

 

Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

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Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

BOSTON -- A day after the Bruins announced a much-maligned four-year contract extension for defenseman Kevan Miller, B’s general manager Don Sweeney held court with the media to equal parts explain/defend the $10 million deal. Sweeney pointed to the very high character of a hardnosed player in Miller, and the relatively low mileage given that he’s played only 159 games at the NHL level.

There was also mention made of the room to grow in Miller’s game, though it’s difficult to imagine a much higher ceiling for a 28-year-old player than what the former UVM produced showed in 71 games last season.

“Kevan brings incredible character. His signing provides us with the necessary depth on our defense that all teams need. His relative low-mileage, having just played 160 games, we identified that we think Kevan has room for continued growth and development,” said Sweeney. “We certainly saw that in his play this year when he had an expanded role. Relative to the free market place, very, very comfortable with where Kevan fits into our group, and this provides us with the opportunity to explore the marketplace in every way, shape, or form, in having Kevan signed.”

Here’s the reality: Miller is a 5-6, bottom pairing defenseman on a good team, and a top-4 defenseman on a team like last year’s Bruins that finished a weak 19th in the league in goals allowed. The five goals and 18 points last season were solid career-high numbers for a player in the middle of his hockey prime, but he barely averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game as a front top-4 defenseman. Miller struggles with some of the fundamental needs in today’s NHL if you’re going to be a top-4 D-man: the tape-to-tape passes aren’t always accurate, there’s intermittent difficulty cleanly breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and Miller was exploited by the other team’s best players when paired with Zdeno Chara at points last season.

Certainly Miller has done some good things racking up a plus-55 rating during his three years in Boston, but executives and officials around the league were a bit surprised by the 4-year, $10 million contract extension. It’s viewed as a slight overpay in terms of both salary and term, but it’s more the redundancy of the contract that’s befuddling to some.

“Miller is certainly a rugged guy, but you already had one of those at roughly the same value in Adam McQuaid. I believe that you can’t win if you have both McQuaid and Miller in your top 6 because they are both No. 6 D’s in my mind,” said a rival NHL front office executive polled about the Miller contract. “You look at the playoffs and the direction that the league is headed in, and you need to have big, mobile defenseman that can quickly move the puck up the ice. You have too much of the same thing with Miller and McQuaid, and I think you can’t win with that in this day and age.”

The one facet of the four-year Miller contract that might make it okay for some Bruins fans: the tacit connection to the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes. According to several sources around the league, the Bruins taking care of Miller now will very likely have a positive impact on their chances of landing Vesey when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, and makes them the front-runner for the Harvard standout’s services. Both Miller and Vesey are represented by the same agent in Peter Fish, and those are the kinds of behind-the-scenes connections that many times factor into free agent signings and trades around the NHL.

So many, this humble hockey writer included, may owe Sweeney a slight apology if paying a $10 million premium for a bottom-pairing defenseman in Miller now pays dividends in landing a stud forward like Vesey that’s drawing interest all around the league.