When I was a kid my parents tried to hammer home the point that life’s not always fair. As a result, I try to be as fair-minded as possible in all situations, sometimes at my own peril. My point here is not to make myself out to be a saint; that said, I’ll be the first to admit that this piece might not be keeping the greatest of journalistic ethics or even fairness. Normally I try to separate my own fandom from this column in the spirit of writing an objective piece. It may well be written through orange or rose-colored rims, however I try to remove my own personal emotions from my writing. Not this time.
Last month the O’s signed Seong-Min Kim, a 17-year old pitcher out of South Korea, to a contract which reportedly included a $550,000 signing bonus. The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) immediately called foul, and claimed that the O’s had violated the protocol of an agreement between them and MLB. Dan Duquette admitted as much when he released this statement last week:
“On behalf of the Orioles organization, I offer a sincere apology to the Korea Baseball Organization and the Korea Baseball Association for the club’s unintentional breach of protocol in failing to tender a status check in the process of signing Seong-Min Kim. The Orioles respect Major League Baseball’s recruiting policies and the governing bodies and people that contribute to the growth of baseball around the world.”
According to the KBO, the O’s didn’t first contact MLB to let them know that they were scouting Kim. MLB in turn couldn’t alert the KBO, which is how things are supposed to work (according to the KBO). Oriole scouts have also been banned from South Korea by the KBO, which is the body with which the league apparently sees fit to side.
First off, I see this kind of protocol as somewhat questionable within itself. It seems to me that the KBO has “sour grapes” of sorts in that major league teams are trying to poach “their talent.” However that aside, the Orioles did in a sense violate this protocol, as was admitted by Dan Duquette (I’ll come back to that later on). So this evening we’re finding out that the league is going to void the contract, and send Kim back to South Korea. Not only that, but the Orioles might still be facing further punishment from MLB, although that is unclear at this point. Might this be a fine, or worse yet the surrender of draft picks? There’s also a rumor out there that once the KBO allows for negotiations to start again for Kim’s rights, the Orioles might have to wait longer than the other teams in the league to negotiate.
The only thing that’s certain as of now is that the league will void the contract. Regardless of whether or not any other disciplinary action is taken, MLB commissioner Bud Selig has now seen fit to side with a foreign country/entity over one of his own franchises. At this time I would direct your attention to The Godfather trilogy; at various points, don’t both Vito and Michael Corleone both say something to the effect of “don’t ever take sides with ANYONE against the family”?
I’m disappointed in Bud Selig; and when I say disappointed, I mean severely disappointed. Again, I’m not saying that what the Orioles did was 100% on the level. Furthermore, I’m not in any way suggesting that the Orioles or any team in the league should take the attitude that they can do whatever they want however they want. I recognize that rules exist for a reason. However is not letting the league know you’re going to Korea so heinous a crime that some of the above-mentioned penalties might be applicable? (Again in fairness, let me stress that the full extent of the league’s action is still unclear at this time.)
I submit that Bud Selig and the league office has severely failed the Baltimore Orioles tonight in that they’ve seen fit to take sides against them with a foreign country. Having said that, let’s go back to Duquette’s “mea culpa” from last week. One has to wonder if that in itself isn’t playing on the mind of Mr. Selig. After the team’s GM admitted that there was a breach of protocol, how would the commissioner look in “standing by his man?” I do believe in owning up to your faults, however I have to wonder if Selig would have taken the action he did had Duquette not issued the statement he did. This is not a slight against Duquette, however it is an interesting theory.
For those that might ask what the commissioner should have done in light of this “breach of protocol,” I would admit that I’m not totally sure. I suppose that issuing some sort of apology to the KBO might do the trick, along with perhaps pumping some money into their baseball program. (In fact, this whole thing comes across as a higher-up in the KBO not getting his beak wet in exchange for allowing the O’s to scout.) On the side of course, Selig could call Duquette and owner Peter Angelos into his office and explain how this can never happen again and so forth. That might sound like letting them off scott-free, however does the league really want to involve itself in day-to-day operations of it’s teams?
I’ve seen some internet chatter whereby people have brought up the potential that this kid ends up with someone such as the Yankees or Red Sox. My personal prediction is that he either stays in Korea or he ends up in the Oriole organization. I agree that it wouldn’t look good, but I don’t buy into conspiracy theories as such in that Bud Selig is trying to steer him towards those teams. My issue right now is that he isn’t standing behind the Baltimore Orioles. I’m not holding the Orioles blameless in this because I do think they need to look at how they’re doing business. However the fact remains that they’re also being hung out to dry.
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