Sports columnist Peter Schmuck and Orioles beat writer Eduardo Encina on latest news from Orioles spring training in Sarasota, Fla. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
The Orioles confirmed on Saturday that outfielder Alejandro De Aza lost his salary arbitration case, but there's really no reason to use that word – lost – in almost any arbitration situation.
Where else can you lose a salary dispute with your boss and still get a big raise? De Aza's salary increased from $4.25 million to $5 million after a season in which he batted just .252 with the lowest on-base percentage of his career.
He was looking for a 41 percent raise and settled for an 18 percent raise, which would be a fantastic bump for anybody in any industry other than big-money professional sports.
Though there is a lot of focus on free agency and the handful of giant contracts that are handed out to premier players every year, it is the salary arbitration system that has fueled the dramatic salary spiral that began in the collective bargaining aftermath of the Messersmith/McNally free agent ruling in the 1970s.
Throughout the free-agent era, every out-sized arbitration ruling has created a new salary floor for comparable players, which has created an economic stairway to heaven for the players who are eligible for arbitration and the free agent players who also benefit from that salary acceleration.
While we're on the subject, congratulations to Orioles attorney Russell Smouse for improving his lifetime record in arbitration cases to 8-0. The Orioles haven't lost one since Ben McDonald beat them in the 1990s.