Curt Schilling has agreed to return to the Boston Red Sox for what's likely to be his final season. His one-year contract contains an incentive clause that earns him $1 million if he gets one vote for the Cy Young award -- any vote, even third place. Peter Abraham of the LoHud Yankees blog points out the ethical dilemma this creates:
Every AL city gets two votes for each award. In big markets, the votes are divided up. You might get MVP one year, Manager of the Year the next. But two people who cover the Red Sox will get votes on Cy Young in 2008.
We usually learn sometime in the summer what we’re voting for. In the case of Cy Young, you vote for first, second and third. Let’s say Schilling goes 15-9 with a 3.95 ERA next season. He’s not the Cy Young, but you can make a case he deserves a third-place vote.
Your one vote gets him $1 million. What is keeping some writer from saying, “Hey, Curt, I’ll vote for you. I want $500,000.”
It’s wholly unethical. But every business has unethical people. $500,000 is serious coin for a reporter. People have gambling problems, drug problems, etc. What’s keeping Schilling from agreeing to the deal? He’s gets $500,000 he wasn’t counting on.
On the other hand, let’s say the two people with votes in Boston don’t vote for Schilling and he finds out why they are. What if he resents them and tells his teammates, “Hey, these SOBs cost me $1 million.” How are those people supposed to cover the Red Sox now?
Abraham is right as far as he goes, but he doesn't go far enough. Let's take his example. What if Schilling finishes 15-9 with a 3.95 ERA, and another starter somewhere finishes 16-7 with a 3.85 ERA. Wouldn't a writer who likes Schilling be inclined to toss a vote his way, to ensure he makes an extra million, rather than to a more deserving pitcher?
This type of incentive clause is simply wrong. I think the only appropriate remedy is to take away the Red Sox last two World Series trophies.
And Josh Beckett.