Well, Geoff Baker does a good job talking about it here.
It’s really a difficult situation for an organization to be in, but either way you slice it, you HAVE to side with sending your premium players down to AAA to start the season. If you’re a really good, contending team, then odds are you don’t have the kinds of holes where you’d need a young prospect taking his cuts. Likewise, if you’re really bad and years away from seriously contending, then why put yourself in the position of facing arbitration before you have to (again, as Baker talks about in his post above)?
Of course, the organization HAS to say that Ackley and Pineda have as good a chance as anyone to make the team; this team is terrible. Odds are, if service time didn’t matter, Ackley and Pineda would be, without question, with the big club come April. But, since it DOES matter, you obviously cannot let that happen.
If Eric Wedge came out and said, “We want to get a good look at ’em, but they won’t be in Seattle until mid-June at the earliest,” then what would be the point? Yes, I’m sure Ackley and Pineda and whoever else is destined to start out in Tacoma for service time reasons would still give their all in Spring Training; after all, you’ve GOT to make a good impression with the new skipper, and pouting isn’t the way to do it. However, how much would their hearts really be in it if they knew, no matter what, they’re going to start in AAA?
It’s not just about the management looking cheap to the fans; I think if you explained it to the average fan, the average fan would understand. Some of the dumbards probably wouldn’t; but they’re the same assholes who want a new manager and a new GM every two years, without giving a guy a chance to turn things around with his own guys. It IS, however, about management looking cheap to the players.
If Ackley and/or Pineda come out this spring and absolutely tear shit apart – Ackley hits .700, Pineda has a 0.00 ERA with 2 k’s per inning pitched – and STILL they start the season in Tacoma? That looks bad. Very bad. If you’re a player on this team, how could you respect management if they sent two super-studs down to AAA and decided to keep around two has-been veterans for the simple reason of service time? I don’t care if they’re rookies or not, if the manager doesn’t base playing time and roster spots primarily on merit – on what they do on the baseball diamond – then how could you trust them? That’s a sour clubhouse just waiting to happen.
And, call it a rebuild all you want, but those players in that clubhouse – no matter how bad or ineffectual many of them were last season – they believe they have as good a chance as anyone of contending in 2011. “Anything can happen” and all that crap. If a team no one saw coming starts out of the gate red-hot, the confidence will skyrocket and who knows what could happen come September?
That’s why there’d be a revolt if two premium players (regardless of their rookie status) were punished simply for being TOO good. Fans would understand, the team might not.