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BBWAA moves against incentive clauses

Posted by: Peter Abraham - Posted in Misc on Dec 05, 2007 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

The Baseball Writers’ Association Of America had a national meeting today and we approved an interesting motion.

Starting in 2013, any player with a contract clause giving him a bonus or some other benefit for receiving votes for a BBWAA award will be ineligible for that award. That means the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year.

Giving a player money for something a writer votes on is an ethical problem that only got worse when Curt Schilling put a clause in his deal giving him $1 million for receiving just one vote in the Cy Young balloting.

If teams and players want such incentives, they can use the MLBPA awards or the Sporting News Awards.





69 Responses to “BBWAA moves against incentive clauses”

  1. LoganD December 5th, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Very impressive decision. Kudos for doing the right thing!

  2. myrtlebeachfan December 5th, 2007 at 11:22 am

    haha, wow pete. Good prediction on the five years.

    I’m impressed. Maybe they read your blog post? I’m sure they did, among others.

  3. Annie Savoy December 5th, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Guess MLB is sick of all the Arod type contracts.

  4. Russell NY December 5th, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Appearing on ESPN News Wednesday morning,’s Keith Law reported that the Twins have again reached out to the Mets, Angels and Dodgers regarding Johan Santana.
    The Mets might struggle to beat the Red Sox’s reported offerings, but the Dodgers and Angels would have little trouble putting together very attractive packages for Santana if they’re serious about acquiring him. With the Yankees’ interest potentially gone, the Twins may simply be trying to find another team to play the Red Sox against.

    Also, reports are that the Red Sox are trying to give Varitek an extension right now because he just had back-to-back poor seasons. Cheap organization trying to lowball their “captain.”

  5. Drew December 5th, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Interesting…should have added a clause that also said, “or if the player’s name is Curt Schilling.” :D

  6. Annie Savoy December 5th, 2007 at 11:24 am

    Good idea – baseball is a team game, not a personal quest.

  7. james December 5th, 2007 at 11:24 am


  8. Chris NY December 5th, 2007 at 11:24 am

    Wow. I bet A-Rod isn’t too happy about that. I like the idea, but not if it costs him an MVP in another year like this year where he is the clear winner. I assume they would now look to ammend the contract?

    Then again, since it’s not yet official, did you guys just complicate the A-Rod signing all together?

  9. jennifer- Hip Hip Jorge December 5th, 2007 at 11:25 am

    Why wait until the 2013 season to enforce it? Why not now?

  10. gayle December 5th, 2007 at 11:25 am

    Why not until 2013 that is a looong way aways. If it is such a big deal for writer why not make it starting if not next year the season after it??

  11. Chris NY December 5th, 2007 at 11:26 am

    and I’m not saying I don’t like this decision, sounds like the right thing to do…

  12. DMan77 December 5th, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Very nice. Keeps everybody honest.

  13. Chris NY December 5th, 2007 at 11:28 am

    I would imagine the “why not now” has something to do with letting existing contracts that were written prior to this change time to expire. Fair notice to anyone signing new contracts…

  14. Chicago Dave December 5th, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Yeah, if the writers were really serious about this they would start enforcing it next year. Something tells me some Boston writers didn’t want to be robbed of their kickbacks from the Schilling deal! HA!!

  15. mko December 5th, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Chris NY: Why do you think this would have anything to do with A-Rod? He’s (at least to public knowledge) not the one with incentive clauses that are connected with BBWAA-voted awards. His incentives are related to achieving milestones…

  16. GreenBeret7 December 5th, 2007 at 11:29 am

    I imagine the delay is to let all but 1 or 2 of the contracts expire so the player isn’t punished or so some sleeze like Boras doesn’t get the contract voided.

  17. Rich M December 5th, 2007 at 11:30 am

    Appropriate decision, but why wait until 2013?

  18. Chris NY December 5th, 2007 at 11:30 am

    mko, I believe he also has clauses for the MVP. I thought I read somewhere that at least his old contract had a $1M bonus for MVP’s, but I could be wrong. I’m assuming his new one would have similar clauses if he had them before.

    He’s a Boras client, I’d be surprised if things like that aren’t built into his contract.

  19. Sean McNally December 5th, 2007 at 11:31 am


    Is this for incentives for getting votes or winning awards? Seems like Schilling’s contract is different than someone who has a clause giving them a bonus for just winning the MVP or something.

  20. rb15 December 5th, 2007 at 11:32 am

    Reading Pete’s post, I don’t think that this ruling would affect A-Rod unless he has a clause in his contract giving him money for an MVP award. Does he? I know he has incentive clauses for HR. But does he have any incentive clauses for the BBWAA awards?

    I think this is good, and really zeroes in on so-and-sos like Schilling.

  21. MarkK December 5th, 2007 at 11:33 am

    While I admire your trade union’s claim to Incorruptibility, but they’ve just bollixed your awards. Say you gave an MVP-like award and the clear MVP had one of those nifty clauses in his contract stipulating a bonus if he wins your award. Well, your new rule would mean that he could not receive your award, so your MVP would not be the real MVP. It would be meaningless because of some red tape inserted into a contract by such as Boras.

    I think you (the union) have made a mistake.

  22. rbizzler December 5th, 2007 at 11:33 am

    First off, the Yanks generally don’t do incentive clauses, but they do inherit contracts with them (ie A-rod). I would assume that his new deal doesn’t have the MVP, All-Star, etc. incentives that his old deal had. And, yes I know about the HR incentives for A-rod, but I am assuming that that doesn’t fall under the BBWAA new guidelines.

    And I am assuming that the ’13 deadline gives enough time for current contracts with those clauses to expire or be reworked. Players, agents and teams know that moving forward a new precedent has been set.

  23. Chris NY December 5th, 2007 at 11:35 am

    I agree with Green Beret, this will/could cost some players millions. Not that they were gauranteed millions, but how would you feel if a piece of your compensation was basically taken away? Meaning, Boras and others like him would surely try and get something out of the Teams to replace those incentives, but I’m not sure if he’d legally have any grounds to do so or not.

    Poses an interesting dilemma… Again, I agree this is the right thing to do, just curious what the fall-out will be for those few with existing contracts beyond 2013, and possibly with the deal A-Rod is about to or just signed.

  24. Rich M December 5th, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Hey Pete – you must have seen Bill Madden’s piece today that says “the final decision not to go through with a deal that was on the table – one that would have sacrificed Hughes, Melky Cabrera, 23-year-old Double-A righthander Jeff Marquez and 22-year-old A-ball third baseman Mitch Hilligoss – was based on money.”

    Can you confirm that the Yanks had rejected this proposal from the Twins or did the Yankees make this proposal and when the Twins accepted it the Yankees walked pulled it?

  25. kingcora December 5th, 2007 at 11:36 am

    great decision – to often people talk the talk about ethical issues such as this – it’s nice to see the writers walking the walk!!!!! Thank Curt for this one

  26. Propaghandi December 5th, 2007 at 11:37 am

    I don’t see it as being legal in any way, shape, or form for the writers’ to approve this without grandfathering in players who currently have contracts with incentives up to or through the 2013 season. The contracts were signed and legal before this motion was approved so it’s impossible for them to be subject to them.

    If not, I foresee a huge problem with the MLBPA. Lawsuits and all.

  27. mel December 5th, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Very good decision. Curt’s contract and this decision would make an interesting case study in an ethics class.

  28. rb15 December 5th, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Also, I have to admit – I think this is almost as exciting, if not more exciting, than Santanamania. I’m a lawyer, and picturing all the interestingly-worded contracts that are sure to be in the future (as well as some juicy litigation, I’m sure), really makes my day.

  29. Reality Check December 5th, 2007 at 11:39 am

    They made it effective in 2013 so that it would not affect most existing contracts (Alex’s may be the only one, in fact). Now everyone knows about it and will not include it in new contracts.

    ANY team could match the bosux offer it is so weak. Even the Mets who should pounce now and make their very best offer. They deperately need an ace and some print on the back pages.

  30. dadofjft December 5th, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Excellent decision – those clauses are a joke. If you need an extra million or so as an incentive to perform at your best maybe you’d better look for another profession.

  31. Chris NY December 5th, 2007 at 11:41 am

    rbizzler, I agree, but I don’t think the A-Rod contract falls into the “generally” department.. The HR clauses won’t be affected by this ruling, it’s a milestone, not an award. But I’d be surprised if they didn’t get the MVP in there too. Not totally surprised, but surprised. Inherited or not, it was in his previous contract, so taking it out would be like a pay cut, in a way.

    I don’t recall if any of the speculation around the new contract mentioned an MVP incentive, but I thought it did.

  32. mel December 5th, 2007 at 11:43 am


    LOL. Then Alex’s contract would really rev you up.

  33. myrtlebeachfan December 5th, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Read what Pete wrote.

    It talks about incentives for VOTES, not for winning the actual award. I don’t think it affects bonuses for getting MOST people to vote for you, but rather for a number of votes.

    Would you clarify this, Pete?

  34. Chris NY December 5th, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Propaghandi, exactly what I was thinking. I’m willing to be the 2013 date was not picked out of the air, but based on the last year any EXISTING contracts with such clauses expire.

    I’m no lawyer, but I’m not sure the players, teams, or agents would have a leg to stand on in terms of an award given by an outside organization. However, they can certainly play hardball and revoke press passes and things of that nature. So again, I would be shocked if that 2013 date wasn’t chosen for very specific reasons to avoid any uproar from existing contracts.

  35. steve December 5th, 2007 at 11:48 am

    it should be by 2009, not 2013…

  36. Tommy December 5th, 2007 at 11:48 am

    “If teams and players want such incentives, they can use the MLBPA awards or the Sporting News Awards.”

    OK, so they will.
    Does the BBWAA think it can ultimately prevail over the most powerful union in sports?
    Sounds more like embarking on the path to irrelevancy.

  37. GreenBeret7 December 5th, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Chris, as of right now, Rodriguez may have one of the two contracts that extend that far into the future.

  38. myrtlebeachfan December 5th, 2007 at 11:49 am

    I didn’t word that right…

    I think Schilling’s one vote was the problem. They dont want that trend to continue. What Pete posted doesn’t seem to prohibit awarding money if the player receives the award, since that is not based on number of votes, but rather points total among all writers. You can’t corrupt hundreds of writers into voting for you so that you can get cash. You need to perform. The Schilling clause lets one writer just put Schilling third on his ballot for the purpose of him getting 1 million.

    Totally different situations

  39. Kelli in Conn. December 5th, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Why would anybody be surprised that Curt “Table for one” Schilling would have a clause for one Cy Young vote ?

  40. Valentine December 5th, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Curt Schilling has stated that he won’t accept the bonus unless he feels he earned it with his performance. In any case, I don’t think you would find any Boston sportswriters voting for him. More likely a Yankees beat writer trying to tweak the Red Sox. An interesting ethics case, as you say, but not likely to be a real issue.

    The Red Sox are trying to extend Varitek because they have nobody in the organization remotely likely to be ready to take over the job in 2009. Same reason the Yankees gave Posada a new deal. Nobody expects Varitek to be any better in 2008 than he was last year.

  41. Fire Cashman December 5th, 2007 at 11:53 am

    When the Yankees are in 3rd place next year after Hughes gets injured and Kennedy has an ERA worse than Tyler Clippards we’re all gonna wish Santana was in pinstripes. Good job Brian, you’ll pay $28 million for a 44 year old pitcher who cant make it past the 3rd inning in a playoff game but when it comes to a guy who can help this team it would just be too expensive. I’m glad we invested so much in Kei Igawa, Carl Pavano, and Kyle Farnsworth that our payroll is so high paying a guy like Santana would be just too much. You better be right about the kids Cashman, because your track record shows you don’t know very much about pitching.

  42. rb15 December 5th, 2007 at 11:53 am

    I agree, I’m sure its 2013 to let existing contracts expire, and to give everyone notice. I wonder whether a team could find an interesting way to word an incentive clause that would still allow for incentives for BBWAA awards. That could be a good lawsuit in itself, how specific the wording in the clauses has to be to get voided. Also, there’s the entire issue of whether baseball can even really do something like that, since with certain limitations people can make employment contracts on whatever terms they want, especially since there’s not exactly another professional baseball league of the same stature everyone could decide to play for instead.

    SO interesting. I have to think more about this! Johan who?

  43. Chris NY December 5th, 2007 at 11:56 am

    myrtlebeachfan, very good point and you’re probably right. If it’s specific to “votes” versus “winning the award,” would make more sense and wouldn’t affect most people (probably only affects the schill and anyone who attempted or was going to attempt to follow in his footsteps).

  44. The Dude December 5th, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Interesting tht the Yanks didn’t make the move for Santana when IPK was off the table. Especially interesting that rumor suggests this was a payroll decision. This begs the question: Would you rather have:

    Hughes and A-Rod


    Santana and a replacement 3B

  45. Ranting Guy December 5th, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    I think the point in the BBWAA vote (not MLB or MLBPA) was for contractual incentives such as Schilling’s (not A-Rod’s) where he can get $1M for a single Cy Young Vote.

    The votes are cast by BBWAA writers so there could become moral issue, conflict with the integrity of the vote. The BBWAA are choosing to remove that potential issue from the equation by making players with similar incentives ineligible for the votes they themselves cast.

    It’s a good thing for MLB too if (and I don’t know if this is the case) such incentives might be exempt from the luxury tax. Otherwise one could conceivably make contracts work so the team’s under the luxury tax line while actually paying significantly more. Again, it would circumvent any potential moral issues.

    A-Rod’s contract has all those incentives for reaching HR plateaus, but nobody votes for him reaching those. He either earns it outright or he doesn’t.

    Should A-Rod’s HR incentives be part of luxury tax calculation? Probably. Why include one kind of incentive and not the other? Again, I don’t know how that’s covered in the rules. That’s a different topic than BBWAA’s reason for voting about Schilling-type, BBWAA vote based incentives.

  46. alext December 5th, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Hughes and A-Rod

    A-Rod makes more of an impact in a season than Johan ever could. A-Rod is the BEST player in the game, nobody is close. Not to mention Hughes is pretty darn good himself. There were very few options out there for replacement third basemen (except Miggy, but that would have cost more than Santana mos tlikely).

  47. DavidN December 5th, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    I’m wondering about how current language in contracts will be affected.

    Is there a distinction between a clause for “receiving votes for a BBWAA award” versus a clause for “winning a BBWAA award”? It’s an important distinction, as it would eliminate clauses like Schilling’s, but keep others in tact (A-Rod could still get a monetary award for winning an MVP, for example).

    Also, would there be a distinction made on clauses for placing somewhere in the voting? Meaning, if a contract is worded to give a player a bonus for finishing in the top 15 in Cy Young or MVP voting, is that the same as a clause calling for “at least one vote”?

  48. Ranting Guy December 5th, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Valentine – yeah you’re probably right it won’t be an issue with Schilling in particular.

    But the potential is there for the idea to become an issue that mutate out of hand in the future.

  49. Andy December 5th, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    As an aside, how wonderful would it be if Schilling didn’t get his one vote? Or better yet, say he has a terrible 2008, and still gets it?

  50. Fire Cashman December 5th, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    The Dude-

    Easy. Santana and a replacement 3rd basemen. This team hasn’t won in 7 years ESPECIALLY since we picked up A-Rod and his postseason dissapearing act. I thought we were gonna make some changes after this season and so far what have we changed? Our manager. Yea he was the problem all along we’re on our way now.

  51. Ranting Guy December 5th, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    One third-place vote could be bought and it probably wouldn’t effect the outcome of the vote, buying the award would require too many people to be corrupt.

  52. Flam December 5th, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    “(except Miggy, but that would have cost more than Santana mos tlikely).”

    Althought I agree wiht you about wanting Hughes and A-rod. This is very unlikely.

  53. Frank Discussion December 5th, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    I think the whole payroll situation has more to do with Cashman’s bungled signings of Igawa and Pavano then the Rodriguez contract. Igawa and Pavano have contributed absolutely nothing, might as well just tossed millions out of the window. Rodriguez will contribute immensely to this team in the future. It’ll be nice to finally clear the books of this dead weight next year.

  54. DLev December 5th, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    “When the Yankees are in 3rd place next year after Hughes gets injured and Kennedy has an ERA worse than Tyler Clippards we’re all gonna wish Santana was in pinstripes.”

    Still not going to wish it. Sorry. I’ll be happy watching Horne and Marquez getting their shot.

  55. GreenBeret7 December 5th, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    The way that was worded, any player with an awards incentive rider in his contract would be ineligible for being voted on…Much like Pete Rose being ineligible for the HOF. Yes, I realize that Rose still gets right-in votes, but, I would think that those votes are disqualified.

  56. GreenBeret7 December 5th, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    FireCashman…were you aware that the Yankees hadn’t won in the post season since Jeter was named team captain?

  57. EdFL. December 5th, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    a writer could vote for a specific candidate and get a kickback too.

  58. S.o.S.27 December 5th, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Off topic,
    Now that Cabrera is off the market. What are the chances that we could rid ourselves of Giambi to the Angels? They need a big bat in the lineup and we will eat half his contract in doing so. If not the Angels, rumors were the A’s were going after Bonds and backed out.

    There has to be a taker out there without eating all his bill.

  59. GreenBeret7 December 5th, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    SoS27, nobody’s going to touch Giambi’s contract, and, it’s doubtful that Selig would agree to that kind of money transfer.

  60. Yanksrule57 December 5th, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Maybe I’m more cynical and jaded than most of you fine people out there. I think the reason behind the vote on awards is to prevent conflicts of interest, or the temptation for a quid-pro-quo. Otherwise, what is to stop Schilling from approaching a sportswriter buddy and offering him a chunk of the $1M for his Cy Young vote? Not that he would do it, but if you think that couldn’t happen then you are naive.

  61. sunny615 December 5th, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Just in case anyone missed it:

    12:15 p.m., from Peter Gammons
    • Don’t expect to see a Twins-Red Sox or Twins-Yankees whopper. The sense is now that Minnesota will hold onto Johan Santana.

  62. The Monk December 5th, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    I see no reason this should go into effect in 2013 instead of immediately with exemptions for existing contracts. Thus, all new contracts would be bound by this decision.

  63. Valentine December 5th, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    **Hughes and A-Rod**

    Hughes is a beast, only a couple steps down from Santana. In a couple years he might even be better? Who knows with pitchers? A-Rod isn’t bad himself.

    **Or better yet, say he has a terrible 2008, and still gets it?**

    That would be amusing, but only in a sick-puppy kind of way.

    **The sense is now that Minnesota will hold onto Johan Santana.**

    GREAT NEWS!!! And I’m a Red Sox fan. Let’s see whose kids are better rather than engaging in a pissing contest to see who can spend the most money.

  64. MarkK December 5th, 2007 at 12:47 pm


    I know this could be considered a form of blasephemy by some here, but I like exciting baseball games won by the New York Yankees.

    You asked: “Hughes & A-Rod or Santana & [fill in name]?” I’ll fill in the name. I’d prefer Hughes & A-Rod to Santana & Brosius. (The game has passed Scotty by, I’m afraid. :) )

  65. ThatWasMe December 5th, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    Almost looks like collusion between Boston and Minn to extract Hughes and Kennedy from the NYY. And how about the leakmaster’s roll in all of this, P. Gammons?
    How about Theo working all night to get her done? What a big crock.

  66. Grant December 5th, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Aww, but think of all the money and bribesyou guys coud have gotten :( JK

  67. ThatWasMe December 5th, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    It now appears Hank was 100 percent right. This was a big dog and poney show staged by the Twin and Boston to extract Hughes and Kennedy.

  68. sunny615 December 5th, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    The only thing Theo was working on all night was a bottle of Sam Adams.

  69. gmfeld December 5th, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    Just received this, don’t know if it’s already been discussed here:

    12:15 p.m., from Peter Gammons
    • Don’t expect to see a Twins-Red Sox or Twins-Yankees whopper. The sense is now that Minnesota will hold onto Johan Santana.

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