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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gentleman's Agreement: U.S./Japan, Yankees/Mets.

Gentleman's Agreement was a 1947 movie starring Gregory Peck that dealt with anti-Semitism in polite society.  Co-incidentally that's the same year that major league baseball ended its gentleman's agreement concerning race and Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby became the first black players to play in their leagues in modern times.

Dispute Jeopardizes New Posting System for Japanese Players
Published: November 14, 2013  The New York Times

A last-minute dispute placed the new posting system for Japanese players in jeopardy as small-market teams in Major League Baseball tried to put into effect a rule that would inhibit big-market teams, particularly the Yankees, from spending large sums on prospective Japanese stars like the ace pitcher Masahiro Tanaka...

A new deal is still expected to emerge in time for teams to make posting offers on Tanaka this off-season. But if it does not, Japanese teams could allow their players to negotiate with specific teams they choose and then receive some kind of compensation from the major league team, perhaps in the form of a joint cooperation agreement...

the president of the Pittsburgh Pirates, proposed that the posting fee, which can exceed $50 million for a top player, should count against the bidding team’s luxury-tax figure ...

Randy Levine, the president of the Yankees, objected

A couple of weeks ago I had read that this agreement between baseball establishments in the U.S. and Japan had expired.  I wondered why the Yankees didn't just sign Tanaka.  I've also been wondering why such a system of compensations was formed in the first place.  It seems one sided.  Would teams in Japan raid teams in the U.S.?  It's much more likely that U.S. teams would raid teams in Japan.

So why don't they?  Why haven't the Yankees or some other team taken advantage of the lack of an agreement?  Is it that people in the same social strata simply do not behave that way?  It may seem an odd question, especially about the team owned by the late George Steinbrenner and now by his children.  But George Steinbrenner was always much more a member of the owners club than a rogue outsider.  The Steinbrenner Kids seem to have been reared in that social manner.

Yesterday I mentioned to another Yankee fan that if the Mets had the imagination and nerve, they would sign Yankee free agent Robinson Cano.  Just snatch Cano from the Yankees.  In addition to being a big punch in the Yankee nose it would give the Mets a rare opportunity to snatch New York baseball fans from the Yankees after a twenty year hiatus with the Yankees staring at a long twilight struggle to rebuild.  My friend said that there was an informal agreement that the Yankees and Mets would not raid each other.

I was stunned.  I had never considered such a thing but maybe it was true.  After more than 50 years of coexistence, I could think of no prominent players playing for both teams during their primes. Yankee Willie Randolph played his final 90 games with the Mets.  Yankee Yogi Berra played a few games for the Mets in 1965 after being a player-coach for the Yankees in 1963 and Yankee manager in 1964.  Met icons Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden were later resurrected with the Yankees by George Steinbrenner, but that was after both had been banished and abandoned by the Mets.

Maybe the Steinbrenner and Wilpon families travel in the same social circles and do not want to bump into a Mrs. Robinson at the candidates debate asking "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?", only to be told with dismay "Joltin' Joe has left and gone away".  At least the Yankee Clipper didn't put on a Mets uniform, just one in Oakland.

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