Ryan Howard is seeking a $10 million contract in his first season of eligibility. The Phillies are offering $7 million, which equals the most money paid to a player with only three years of service time.
I planned on getting the ball rolling on this yesterday but ran out of time. Fortunately, there’s been no shortage of ink spilled over this one. Scott Lauber from the Wilmington News Journal took a unique angle Monday by reliving the process through the eyes of Tom Gordon, the only Phillies player who has experienced a hearing, back in 1994 with Kansas City. Yesterday, Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer suggested the Phillies should purposely tank the proceedings as a gesture of goodwill toward Howard, and fans, which is completely and utterly ludicrous. The Phils are offering the most money paid to a player in Howard’s position, based on a precedent set by a player – Albert Pujols – who’s arguably a better player than Howard. And this isn’t just about the $3 million they save if they win. It’s about the millions it’ll cost them the next four if they loose. The Phils are well within their right here, and the argument that they’re being cheap doesn't hold water. It's a business decision, and they're feeling the heat from the rest of baseball to stay within their boundaries.
There are two articles today worth mentioning. Jim Salisbury outlines the process. Then, Bill Conlin issues five reasons why Howard will win his case, and five reasons why he won't. That’s what makes this case intriguing; opinion seems to be split down the middle. Not to mention the fact that two camps are prepared to air the other’s dirty laundry. There's potential for a messy, stinky aftermath.
Beerleaguer’s arbitration table: I don’t know exactly what the arbiters will look at, what factors will weigh heavily in their decision. If I were sitting behind the table, Howard gets the money he’s seeking. Howard is a very special player. I look at what he’s accomplished – Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player – in two and a half seasons. He’s the fastest player to reach 100 home runs in history, staking his claim as the best power hitter in baseball in time of diminishing muscle. I look at a 28-year-old who was blocked at his position and was brought along slowly, possibly so the Phillies could sit here in 2008 and negotiate a first-year arb contract. Comparable players, like Miguel Cabrera, where blessed with wide-open situations to flourish. Howard’s success allowed them to trade Jim Thome and half his salary and land a very good center fielder for two seasons. And finally, even in the short time since Pujols’ deal, salaries and revenue have skyrocketed.