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Thursday, February 21, 2008
Howard Decision Today - Perez and Rodriguez

Yesterday at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, Ryan Howard, his father Ron, and agent Casey Close squared off against Astros president Tal Smith to see which side could convince a majority of three arbitrators that Howard either deserves the highest figure ever awarded to a first-year arbitration-eligible player ($10,000,000) or a modest raise from $900,000 to the Phillies offer of $7,000,000.

The Phillies have never lost a salary arbitration hearing. The $3,000,000 gap is considerable, and the largest in this arbitration cycle. Because Howard is a Super-2 player, Tal Smith argued that the $7,000,000 figure is more appropriate. Furthermore, with management winning all five hearings this year, I expect the Phillies and Smith will be happier today when the decision is announced. Service time, Howard’s 199 strikeouts, the drop in on-base percentage, batting average, and slugging percentage last year should also tip the scale towards the Phillies. Arbitrators have often been reluctant to award a huge increase, and that is exactly what they were asked to do in Howard’s case. There is no denying the great offensive production of the young slugger who was Rookie of the Year in 2005 and Most Valuable Player in 2006.

There were a number of fine articles posted yesterday including ones by Philadephia Inquirer columnist Jim Salisbury ("A Window on How Arbitration Works"), Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News ("Why Howard Will Win, Why He’ll Lose"), and’s Ken Mandel, who posted a number of articles on Jon Heyman of had some interesting inside information on the Chien-Ming Wang presentation ("Chien-Ming Wang) that underscores why it is difficult to predict outcomes when you have not heard the presentation. It is the same difficulty that one encounters when looking at appellate court decisions without consulting the briefs of counsel or, to a lesser extent, the oral arguments.

Oliver Perez of the Mets and Francisco Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim take their shots at management today. If the Howard decision goes to management as I think it will, the Mets and the Angels could produce the first-ever clean sweep of the hearings. It should be an interesting final few days.


How unusual is it for another team's president to present for a team? Doesn't it seem that there might be a conflict of interest in allowing the Astros team president to present a case for the Phillies?

I assume it is in the Astros best interest to keep salaries down across the board, but this arrangement seems strange to me?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/21/2008 9:44 AM  

Tal Smith has been doing this for a number of years on behalf of many teams. One of the advantages that management holds is his experience."

I took the following quote about the work of his firm from

"Tal returned to the Houston organization on Nov 22, 1994, when he was named president of the club. Since 1981, he has been owner and operator of Houston-based Tal Smith Enterprises, a firm which has provided consulting services to 26 of the 30 Major League clubs. The most recognized functions have been in the preparation and presentation of salary arbitration cases (where Tal’s firm has handled over 900 filings and tried over 150 cases), the financial appraisal of franchises and testimony as an expert witness in sports-related litigation. Tal also served as the sole arbitrator in two disputes involving Major League Baseball where the Commissioner was recused.


Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 2/21/2008 11:14 AM  

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