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There are unwritten rules for front offices too

May 22, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

Stephen Drew Getty Getty Images

Yesterday, when the Red Sox signed Stephen Drew, they said that they’d send him down to the minors to get game-ready for seven to ten days. The problem? He’s long since out of minor league options and since he’s not on the disabled list it’s not like the Sox could just send him on a rehab assignment. The solution: optional waivers, which allow the Sox to get him off the 25-man roster for a few days, replace him with someone else and allow him to get game-ready.

A problem with that? Like all waivers, other teams could claim Drew when the Sox do that. Now, they’re revocable waivers so it’s not like the Sox would actually lose him, but if he were claimed and the Sox pulled him back he’d be stuck on the big league roster and the Sox would either have to use him now or play a man short until he’s ready.

As Ken Rosenthal of Fox explains today, however, that’s not going to happen. Why? A gentlemen’s agreement:

Why wouldn’t an AL East competitor such as the Yankees claim Drew and force the Red Sox to keep him in the majors and play one man short until he is game ready? Because, rival executives said, such a violation of protocol would invite retribution, prompting the Red Sox to respond by claiming players from the offending club . . .

. . . “If you start a war like that, they will get you later,” the exec said. “The tit-for-tat is not really worth it.”

I totally get that, even if I generally disdain gentlemen’s agreements on the grounds that, inevitably, you encounter people who are less-than-gentlemen who ruin it for everyone else. Better bet is to have rules in place the avoid the need for such arrangements. At the end of the column Rosenthal makes much the same point.

Of course, this is baseball. And if streamlined efficiency was an important consideration, lots of rules would need to be changed, the game would probably be unrecognizable and Josh Beckett would be out of a job. So what I’m saying is that it’s a mixed bag.

  1. Rich Stowe - May 22, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    in the NFL, there was an unwritten rule that was similar – teams would place injured players on waivers, so they could then resign them to a lesser deal and all teams knew this…however, a couple of years ago, the Giants put Kevin Boss on waivers with this intent (and all other teams knew this was there intent) and the Patriots and Belicheck jumped on him and signed him off waivers so now a lot of teams don’t do that anymore – because technically what the Patriots did wasn’t against the rules, there was no way to even call foul against them for it – so they just don’t do it anymore….

    one day a team may put them on waivers and a team may claim them and this practice will end in MLB just like it has (or is ending) in the NFL…

    • sdelmonte - May 22, 2014 at 10:53 AM

      Belichek is without a doubt a great coach and so on. But I would never call him a gentleman.

      And it wasn’t Kevin Boss, but his successor, Jake Ballard. Who never actually played for the Pats due to his injury (an ACL he blew out in the Super Bowl against that team).

      • SBoy - May 22, 2014 at 11:07 AM

        Yet another fine example of “The Patriot Way”.

    • jrbdmb - May 22, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      That type of setup (cut a player injured playing for you, then sign him at a lower wage knowing that no other team will claim him) sounds less like a gentleman’s agreement and more like collusion. Glad that it’s going away in the NFL.

      • SBoy - May 22, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        The example cited in this article, if true would also be collusion. It may not affect Drew’s salary this year but it does speak to competitive integrity if a team that could knowingly improve itself doesn’t make a move due to a pre-agreed upon deal with ALL of the other owners…

        And who knows, maybe it did affect what the Red Sox would have offered Drew. If A- they knew were going to put him on waivers and B-they thought a mid to small market team might sign him. Maybe the Sox offer 1 or 2 mill more.

      • paperlions - May 22, 2014 at 12:37 PM

        Yep, the NFL had another “gentlemen’s agreement” that was collusion in that all teams agreed to and offered practice squad players the same paltry contracts. Teams actually complained publicly a couple of years ago when a team (can’t remember who) offered a guy an extra 50 or 100 K to sign with their practice squad over the team that cut him…as players usually prefer to stay with the team that cut them on a practice squad deal rather than go to another team’s practice squad. Teams didn’t want to fork over a few thousand more in “bidding wars” for practice squad players….this is akin to the legalized collusion in MLB that limits international FA spending….and the draft in every league (all of which represent accepted collusion against employees).

  2. pundyveit - May 22, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    “Better bet is to have rules in place the avoid the need for such arrangements,” says the lawyer.

    • Craig Calcaterra - May 22, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      Based on my experience, most legal problems arise when the rules regarding a given arrangement are either less-than-clear or are subject to one person taking advantage of another in situations where no rules apply.

    • 18thstreet - May 22, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      FORMER lawyer.

      Speaking as a former paralegal, there’s a lot of BS in the system. Better rules would benefit clients. Stupid rules benefit the lawyers themselves. So we have several stupid rules.

      • American of African Descent - May 22, 2014 at 4:59 PM


      • 18thstreet - May 22, 2014 at 5:04 PM

        File clerks file. That wasn’t my job. And the lawyers got their own coffee.

        Good try, though.

      • American of African Descent - May 22, 2014 at 6:19 PM

        Depends on the firm w/r/t paralegal duties. But you’re right, I always got my own coffee.

    • anxovies - May 22, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      As a lawyer you always write up a business arrangement with the presumption that it is going to fail and provide for it.

  3. dluxxx - May 22, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    The Twins could sure use an upgrade at shortstop…

    • proudlycanadian - May 22, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      So could the Yankees.

  4. thebadguyswon - May 22, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    The bigger question is how is he not ready? These guys are such babies. Just go play.

    • zzalapski - May 22, 2014 at 11:02 AM

      Yes, because the level of competition in MLB is not exponentially higher than that found outside of the professional ranks.

      • thebadguyswon - May 23, 2014 at 9:42 AM

        He’s been a pro for what – 8 years? He can’t go get “game ready” on the field? Give me a break.

    • hammyofdoom - May 22, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      He hasn’t played baseball in what, 7 months? Yeah, go right ahead bud and go play a physical sport at an elite level with no prep in over half a year, that’ll go greaaat.

      • thebadguyswon - May 23, 2014 at 9:42 AM

        A physical sport….LOL….ok.

    • SocraticGadfly - May 22, 2014 at 12:02 PM

      Yeah, why isn’t he ready? Borass himself said his “baseball academy” would keep both Drew and Morales in fine shape for all those multiyear contract offers.

  5. imnotyourbuddyguy - May 22, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    I fully expect the Phillies to be the ones who first breaks this rule eventually.

  6. ningenito78 - May 22, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    Craig you love going off on ‘unwritten rules’ in baseball. But couldn’t you make the argument that in journalism almost every ‘rule’ is ‘unwritten’?

    • Craig Calcaterra - May 22, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      Most of them are dumb in journalism too.

  7. SBoy - May 22, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    The unwritten rule/ “gentleman’s agreement” should be, you don’t take the player just to keep him from another team, but if you have a legitimate need for the player and are okay with the now negotiated contract than you should take him. Worry about “retribution” if and when you’re in that situation.

    PS Was it gentlemanly years ago when the Red Sox rented out every hotel room in the area to keep the Yankees (and everyone else) away from Jose Contraras?

    • DJ MC - May 22, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      The issue here is that every team had two months (let alone the entire offseason) to sign Drew, but were unwilling to give up the compensatory draft pick. Now if they make the claim they wouldn’t have to do that.

      So even though it wouldn’t be simply claiming Drew to take him away from the Red Sox, it would be an awfully underhanded move.

      • SBoy - May 22, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        To be fair DJ MC, it was the combination of the money plus years Drew was asking for AND the draft pick. The theory was more teams would be interested if it was just the money. And certainly on a one year… now less than one year. Teams have a legitimate right to be interested based on these terms.

        If the Red Sox knew there was a chance other teams may have claimed him, maybe they up their offer to deter their competition… The more I think about it, the more this sounds like a form of collusion that if Avenging Boris wanted to make a stink he could. Though the “damage” probably wouldn’t be enough to be worth his time.

      • DJ MC - May 22, 2014 at 12:25 PM

        That’s my point, though. Other teams may have had a legitimate need, but decided at the total price he wasn’t worth it. At the current price, that could be different.

        Also, this is absolutely collusion, but it’s not the battle you choose to start the collusion war. It’s essentially the same idea as the whole agreement in the first place: if you start claiming players, other teams will start claiming yours. If you start using very minor issues like this to scream collusion, what happens if someone doing a little deep reporting finds something you did as an agent to steer a player in a certain direction, say a “package deal” or something?

  8. DJ MC - May 22, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    This reminds me of when teams would pass their entire teams though waivers in August in order to get ready for the 8/31 trade deadline and no one would claim the players (forcing them to be pulled off and thus ineligible to be traded). Then one team started making claims, and now that deadline is almost, well, dead.

  9. Kevin S. - May 22, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    Couldn’t this be circumvented by signing Drew to a minor-league deal with an out if he’s not up in two weeks, or could he not get the $10 million if it was a minor-league deal?

  10. ningenito78 - May 22, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    Well said. Fair enough.

  11. banksatdixie - May 22, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    The Yankees should make a claim. You know, that little thing about the pine tar unwritten rule didn’t stop Farrell from breaking that unwritten rules. Ridiculous as it was or not, you can make the claim that Boston passing him through waivers is just as ridiculous. SO. STUPID.

  12. ud1951 - May 22, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    I get that as an attorney, you think we’re best served by formal rules that can be challenged in court and the legal profession suffers if folks just conduct themselves in accordance with the “Golden Rule.” Why the snark, why not just say, this is a good example of people in baseball acting ethically?

    • anxovies - May 22, 2014 at 1:35 PM

      What’s ethical about a violation of the antitrust statutes?

  13. mikhelb - May 22, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    The Yankees already broke that “unwritten rule” years ago when Boston made a trade after july 31 with I think it was either the Mets or the BJays (some 10-12 years ago). Boston pulled the player from waivers and instead opted to call it “a player to be named later”.

    And it has happened before, but with other teams doing the dirty work, agreeing to block a trade by claiming somebody on the waiver line so the receiving team can not get that player, after the season the blocking team would get something back from the team which asked them to do the blocking.

    It really happens, specially when there are GM who still think they “owe” their former employers, and it has happened in trades to favour the bosox.


    Ben Cherington worked for Theo.
    Hoyer at one time was GM of the Padres who worked for Theo (and sent him Adrián as soon as Theo recommended Jed for the job in SD and he got it). And now he works again for Theo in the Cubs.
    Byrnes of the Padres, worked for Theo and was designated as GM when Theo and Hoyer recommended him.

  14. gloccamorra - May 22, 2014 at 7:03 PM

    Don’t the Mets need a shortstop? Why aren’t they being mentioned too? Oh! $10 million. Never mind.

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