As pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training
on Friday, Manny Ramirez and 62 other free agents
are still sitting on the sidelines without contracts,
entering the 2009 season.
This Saturday marks the beginning of Spring Training for the 2009 season, but a scant two days before pitchers and catchers report, 63 free agents remain on the sidelines awaiting deals. And while at least two of these players arenâ€™t looking for new addresses (Mike Mussina and Sean Casey are FAs but have announced retirement), a good many still are.
At the head of the class is Manny Ramirez, who has steadfastly stuck to wanting a 3-year deal. Others like Garret Anderson, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Ivan Rodriguez Â have yet to find a home, unwilling, it seems, to follow in the path of many other aging veterans who have accepred minor league contract offers.
That prompted the MLB Players Association to consider a training camp just for free agents left on the sidelines once Spring Training started. The MLBPA last did so in 1995 in Homestead, FL after the 1994 strike that lasted 232 days from August 12, 1994, to April 2, 1995, and caused the cancellation of the entire 1994 postseason.
While it was under consideration, the MLBPA announced Weds. that they have canceled plans for the free agent camp.
"We don't think that it's essential to do that and we still remain hopeful that players will be signed," union head Donald Fehr said Wednesday to The Associated Press. "We're still of the belief that all clubs understand and want to do their best to put the best possible and most competitive teams on the field."
Collusion â€“ that dirtiest of dirty words in MLB â€“ has not been muttered, but it has to have been on the MLBPAâ€™s mind. The party line by the clubs has been that the recession is influencing matters depending on the market. As owners in small-to-mid markets have dealt with cutbacks, clubs such as the Yankees and Mets lavished large sums on free agents this off-season, the byproduct of revenues from the new stadiums they will play in this year.
As for the free-agent training camp, it was, of course, a different time, under different circumstances, with different players back in 1995. But, at that time, more than 150 players were invited to the free-agent camp, but only 28 players arrived. The union, clearly expecting more players to show up, had Aâ€™s manager Jackie Moore serve as manager of the camp, and had a supporting coaching staff of 11. Sports Illustrated reported at the time that for the first two days of the camp, only one MLB scout, Don Welke of the Toronto Blue Jays, came to watch the players. It could be that the MLBPA, mindful of how that camp went in 1995, isnâ€™t looking for a repeat 14 years later.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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