Think about this for a moment…
If you’re a number one draft pick demanding a major league contract, and the teams requests you to take a physical exam as a precondition to an offer, you take it, right? Aaron Crow didn’t.
If you’re a number one draft pick, and the team invites you and your family to come to Washington to meet the team, see the facilities, meet the fans, and see what your future holds, you go right? Aaron Crow didn’t.
When you’re a number one draft pick, expecting a market-setting contract, you and your agents relish the opportunity to negotiate with the team, to get the best possible deal. You make yourself available, and negotiate early and often. Aaron Crow didn’t.
[The Hendricks brothers insistence on corresponding by email may well be a good example of gatekeeping. While this may be a technical and esoteric point, conducting negotiations electronically achieves two goals for the Hendricks. First, it puts the communication channel in their control. By choosing the medium, they control the setting of the negotiations... They are managing the context, much like a boss might choose a large, imposing desk chair and large desk, in order to intimidate his or her subordinates. Second, written negotiations are inherently more slow and inefficient. They choose to make the process arduous for the Nats... and inviting the negotiations to fail because of lack of time.]
Lets talk about what Aaron Crow did do. For most of the signing period, he and his agents did nothing. There is some question about timing, but for the most part, there were no substantive negotiations until the last week of the signing period, and even then, most of those discussions were in the final hours.
People point at the Nationals, and Jim Bowden, specifically, and assign all sorts of motivations to why the Nats and Aaron Crow couldn’t come to terms. People suggest that the Nats were ham-fisted during the negotiations, but that seems very unlikely to me. Baseball teams negotiate hundreds of player contracts a year. Most of the language is boilerplate, with just some of the terms changing.Â It would be beyond belief to find out that the Nats were somehow unprepared to negotiate this contract. They knew their budget and the terms that they were willing to accept, and I believe they fully expected to complete the contract.
Moreover, the Nats had every reason to complete the contract, and no reason to letÂ Crow walk. As people have pointed out, you can’t let your number one draft pick walk without having people question your dedication to The Plan. Even if you allow budgetary limit concerns to enter into theÂ discussion, the Nats wereÂ in a positionÂ to forego signing two lower picks that would have kept them within their budget. My guess is that their budget was not set in stone, and had they signedÂ Crow, they would have signed those last two picks anyway.
People will complain about losingÂ Crow for the next ten years, but I believe that the Nats may well have dodged a bullet by not signing him.Â