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Murray Chass made a brief return to the New York Times, and it’s quite welcome indeed

Aug 26, 2013, 9:45 AM EDT

Murray Chass

Many have mocked long-time New York Times baseball columnist Murray Chass since he left the Times a few years ago and began writing at his own website. After he kicked off his solo enterprise explaining how he was NOT a blogger and how bloggers are the worst and all of that, he has been called “The Blogger Murray Chass” around these and other parts.

And a good deal of his output over the past several years — including his seeming obsession with Mike Piazza’s back acne, his smearing of Stan Musial, and his reporting mistakes regarding Marvin Miller’s Hall of Fame candidacy — has revealed that the the mocking is quite often earned.

That said: Chass is among the absolute best when it comes to writing about baseball’s labor and business history. He is particularly well-versed and well-spoken when it comes to the labor battles of the 1970s and 80s. Which is why it was quite nice to see the New York Times ask him to write a column about the 1975 decision by arbitrator Peter Seitz in the McNally/Messersmith case which ushered in free agency. It ran late last week and is well worth your time.

It’s worth it for two reasons. First, because as Chass notes over at his blog, the Times (and almost everyone else, to be fair) tends to jumble the history of free agency in baseball, often citing the Curt Flood case or the instance in which Catfish Hunter was set free by the A’s to sign with the Yankees as the birth of free agency. In reality neither of those cases actually did anything, even if they are important historical touchstones in the larger story of baseball free agency. Flood lost his case. Hunter’s was a singular matter involving an insurance premium that created no actual precedent.

The second reason it’s worth it is because it shows that baseball’s arbitrators are almost certain to be fired whenever they make a big decision and that, because of that, they can’t really think too hard about who they’ll please or anger with any decision. This is why discussion of the upcoming Alex Rodriguez arbitration shouldn’t really focus on whether the arbitrator is worried about his job security.

Anyway: always nice to see Chass talking about the stuff he knows so much about.

  1. proudlycanadian - Aug 26, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    That was a good read, and is quite relevant to current events.

  2. historiophiliac - Aug 26, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Popular sources tend to jumble the history of anything.

    • Reflex - Aug 26, 2013 at 10:17 AM

      Ain’t that the truth. So frustrating.

  3. jwbiii - Aug 26, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    Das was fired after his Braun ruling.

    While this is a true statement, it is misleading. Das was fired three months after the Braun decision, but on the day that he overturned Eliezer Alfonzo’s suspension on similar grounds.

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 26, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    Something to remember for MLB:

    What the owners failed to understand, in their inexperience in labor matters, was that judges rarely overruled an arbitrator’s decision, doing so only if the arbitrator had exceeded his authority.

  5. Kevin S. - Aug 26, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    That was an excellent blog post, Murray.

  6. dlf9 - Aug 26, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    The only ‘controversial’ case that I remember where the arbitrator was not fired was the Collusion II case where George Nicolau retained the position. But that case was just a follow up to Collusion I from the prior season where Tom Roberts ruled against MLB and was promptly fired. Nicolau, of course, was fired when he overturned the Steve Howe suspension a couple of years later. Others include Peter Seitz (Andy Messersmith), Ray Goetz (Fergie Jenkins), and Rich Bloch (Willie Wilson / Jerry Martin). The title “Permanent Arbitrator” is comical.

  7. Kevin S. - Aug 26, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Out of curiosity, has MLBPA ever fired an arbitrator? I’m struggling to think of a major decision that’s gone against them.

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