24 February 2008

Please Disregard Our Generous Offer

Kudos to The Republic's Nick Piecoro for exposing questionable tactics surrounding Tony Clark's departure from the Diamondbacks.

Clark readily admits his offer was fair - he's not complaining about the money. He's annoyed because he thought he had an open offer, in the bank as it were, as he shopped himself around the majors. Boy, was he wrong. Busy dealmaker Josh Byrnes decided to withdraw the proposal, without telling Clark or his agent beforehand.

Honestly, I dont know what constitutes standard practice in baseball circles regarding the shelf life or sanctity of pending offers - but proposals from reputable companies almost always have expressed or implied "reply by" dates, specifically to avoid this kind of misunderstanding - and potential lawsuits.

Clark, a veteran of thirteen seasons with five different clubs, insists he was never given a "take it or leave it" date, and the GM has made no public comment to the contrary. Whatever one thinks of Clark as a player, he is quite familiar with baseball operations and his integrity is unassailable. Too classy to ever come out and say so, he obviously feels Josh Byrnes pulled the rug out from underneath him. That this thoughtful company man expressed "disappointment" over the way this went down speaks volumes.

Here's the part that bothers me. All this "confusion" gave Clark a sense of security and instead provided Josh Byrnes added flexibility to work other deals. Byrnes could manipulate Clark's status and use that $3M elsewhere, and that's exactly what he did. As soon as Josh swung another deal making Clark's offer less attractive to the club, he pulled the plug on Clark. It really begs the question whether this lack of reply by date was an oversight or an intentional strategy by Byrnes. Does he seem like the "oversight" type to you? Making Clark commit early - by either accepting or rejecting the offer - would've limited Byrnes' downstream options. It was to his advantage to leave Clark hanging with a false sense of security, until Clark was of little use to him. The public perception may be that Clark strung the Diamondbacks along, but the reality was that Clark was hung out to dry by Byrnes.

This isnt the first time a respected icon has exited on bad terms with this front office, and while Gonzo's departure was different in many respects, it's worth repeating that money was not at the core of either 'misunderstanding'. Ownership failed to provide Gonzo, the most popular player in franchise history, with even a below market courtesy offer, and here, the new heart and soul of the clubhouse just anticipated an ultimatum instead of a drop dead call from left field.
This latest escapade also evokes Kendrick pulling the rug out from underneath Wally Backman. He shook Backman's hand and gave him the manager's jersey during a televised press conference. Then, after a reporter googled unattractive details of Backman's personal life (details any competent firm would have quietly discovered on their own), the incompetents abandoned Wally, unnecessarily magnifying his personal troubles. They didnt buy him out. No settlement. No consideration. Nothing. It was a so called "gentleman's" agreement. Nothing had been signed. These are the kind of people running the Diamondbacks.

Big credit to Piecoro for calling out the front office on this latest escapade - the same front office he relies on for stories. Beneath Nick's expose, are comments from the reflexive army of Sedona Red lemmings, eagerly slagging one of the most intelligent, upstanding players in the game.


Glynnjamin said...

You've got to be joking. Nick doesn't have a clue how baseball business works. Fair or not to Tony Clark, in the real world, unless someone tells you that you have an open offer, don't expect it to be one. There are 25 spots on the roster and those are going to get taken up at some point. Was Byrnes supposed to turn down Chris Burke because Tony Clark MIGHT sign with us? If Tony wanted to play for us, he should have agreed when the offer was put out there. I'd take $3M to be able to continue to coach h.s. basketball at NW and be able to drive home after games. Too bad he's got to go play in San Diego now but he had his offer, he blew it.

If Josh Byrnes had turned down Burke and then Clark turned down the $3M offer, then what? We have to go out and give Trot a guaranteed major league deal? We sign Mike Piazza? Come on, who would have felt cheated? Byrnes or Clark then?

It is a business and Tony, whether he knows how it works or not, was not savvy enough to take the offer when it was presented to him.

LL Beanball said...

G, thx for your comment

Nick doesnt have a clue how baseball business works? Really. lol. I suppose you do. I further suppose Scott Bordow of the East Valley Trib - and BBWAA member - "doesnt have a clue" either:


These writers dont need Tony Clark; he's not even a Diamondback anymore. They need Josh Byrnes as a critical source for future scoops. Yet both journalists feel strongly enough about Byrnes' actions to call him out publicly.

Alot of fans feel the way you do, but I cant let the fact you or I would play pro ball for nothing deflect from the real issue here. Which is:

A) Did Clark and Byrnes have an understanding, in regards to Clark's response window?

B) If so, what were the specifics of that understanding?

Read Byrnes' "rebuttal" in the Bordow article.

He never disputes Clark's assertion that it was an open offer. He says he had a change of heart after the winter meetings passed and Tony still hadnt accepted. I imagine Byrnes was at least a little annoyed. Maybe he wanted to change it from an open offer to one with a deadline. All that's fine, perfectly understandable. What's NOT fine is if he altered any terms of the offer (or understanding, if you prefer) without telling Clark.

Byrnes had ample time to communicate a deadline, the same lengthy interim Clark used to dream of full time paydays. Instead, Byrnes chose to alter the terms, not tell Clark, and exploit Clark's trust.

This "window" wasnt written down - otherwise Clark would have a legal case - and Josh is too smart for that. Neither is my argument a legal one.

What I am saying is that even if Tony Clark had dreams of fantastic contracts elsewhere, when it came to his REAL contract, the one his livelihood depended on, I see him as neither a fool nor a liar. Neither do Piecoro and Bordow - and to his credit, neither does Josh Byrnes. The GM claims he didnt do anything wrong, but at least acknowledges he changed the deal and he isnt claiming Tony 'misremembered'.

Fans are entitled to the opinion that Clark is either stupid and/or greedy - I respectfully think they're wrong and not looking at the issue dispassionately.

Glynnjamin said...

Just because they are beat writers doesn't mean they've ever dealt a contract to a major leaguer. It is not like Josh Byrnes doesn't have Jeff Moorad at his disposal. The man was one of the savviest agents in the game. Byrnes knew exactly what he was doing and, in the business of baseball, opportunities are going to present themselves. Tony knows that there are 25 spots available. he cannot expect the team to wait around for him.

Sure, we owe him more respect because he is a good player and a good guy and an important part of our team last year. Clark crying foul on this issue is like me waiting till opening day to purchase my season tickets and being pissed that they had sold them to someone else.

Also, any and all writers for the EV Trib are pathetic second-rate amateur writers. This blog has a higher reading level than the EV Trib.

LL Beanball said...

"Byrnes knew exactly what he was doing..."

I agree with you there.

"Tony knows...he cannot expect the team to wait around for him."

unless...JB suggested it was OK to take his time. In any case, it's abundantly clear Clark was never given a deadline

"[It's] like me waiting till opening day to purchase my season tickets and being pissed that they had sold them to someone else."

Not at all similar. The Dbacks provide you with a clear Reply By Date.

"It is not like Josh Byrnes doesn't have Jeff Moorad at his disposal."

Hah! Actually, I'd be surprised if Jeff was NOT in the middle of this. This has Moorad written all over it:

Josh: Tony's draggin' his feet on his deal, and we gotta move forward.

Moorad: So move forward!

Josh: Well, I told him to take his time, and if I hurry him up now, he'll accept, which might screw up these pending blockbusters.

Moorad: Was it written in the contract for Tony to take his time?

Josh: No, of course not. I just told him it was OK. We shook on it.

Moorad: Screw it if it's not written down. It cant come back to us. Just make your trades and dump Clark. Look, Tony's screwing with us, we'll screw him back.

Josh: You sure about this?

Moorad: Kid, I've done this a million times. I was an agent, remember? One of the savviest!

Glynnjamin said...

I guess the heart of this issue is that I don't see anything wrong with the conversation you just laid out. Business is Business.

LL Beanball said...

Wow. Remind me never to transact business with you ;-)

-- Hey, I read some of your restaurant reviews - good stuff - will comment later.