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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More on Soriano - the legalities

Maury Brown posted an excellent analysis of the Contract Binding Agreement that all major league players sign in light of the Alfonso Soriano vs. Nationals argument. I recommend you go there for his (better) analysis, but here's my take (and I'm no lawyer, though I do watch Boston Legal):

The player agrees to the following statements:
  • "The Player agrees to perform his services hereunder diligently and faithfully, to keep himself in first-class physical condition and to obey the Club's training rules, and pledges himself to... conform to high standards of personal conduct, fair play and good sportsmanship."
  • "The Player represents and agrees that he has exceptional and unique skill and ability as a baseball player; that his services to be rendered hereunder are of a special, unusual and extraordinary character which gives them peculiar value...and that the Player's breach of this contract will cause the Club great and irreparable injury and damage."
  • "The Player agrees that, in addition to other remedies, the Club shall be entitled to injunctive and other equitable relief to prevent a breach of this contract by the Player, including, among others, the right to enjoin the Player from playing baseball for any other person or organization during the term of his contract."
  • "Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to restrict the rights of the Clubs to manage and direct their operations in any manner whatsoever except as specifically limited by the terms of this Agreement."
Soriano has agreed to be a professional baseball player, and that unusual job comes with all sorts of unusual restrictions. He has no choice as to where in the country he plays, he cannot play for any other baseball organization during his contract, and there is nothing in this document that indicates he'll play where or when he wants to play. All it says is that he agrees to play in a faithful and diligent manner, and that clubs may manage and direct baseball operations however they want, except where explicitly stated in his agreement--and there's no statement that Soriano gets to play 2B in this agreement.

I certainly feel for the guy. He wants to play 2B, and he has every right to express this to management. But ultimately he doesn't get to make that decision. Ballclubs have the right to decide who plays where and when for them; that is how teams are able to make decisions to allow themselves to compete. It's a strange business, but I really do think this is fundamental to allowing clubs to do what they need to do to win baseball games.

Of course, this all may now all be a moot point, as Soriano has agreed to play left field this year, though somehow I wouldn't be surprised to see these issues come up again in the future. And, as I said before, it never should have come to this. This all should have been settled behind closed doors when the Nationals first acquired their talented young slugger. But Bowden never has been one for tact and decency. -j