Howard Arbitration: Phils Stress Service Time

The Phillies and Ryan Howard wound up before three arbitrators on Wednesday and the Phillies made sure to mention Howard's service time as a key issue.

The Phillies brought in veteran arbitration king Tal Smith to fight their arbitration battle with first baseman Ryan Howard on Wednesday. The hearing lasted just under four hours, but Smith was the only one to immediately leave the building. It's known that the two sides held a last minute meeting this morning before the hearing and it's presumed that they continued that discussion after the hearing.

So, just what did the Phillies argue? With the stats that Howard has put up over the past two seasons, they argued primarily that his service time warrants the $7 million price and not the $10 million price. It's an issue that GM Pat Gillick believes strongly in. "It's very important, service time. Everything in our salary structure is basically on service time," stressed Gillick.

Unless the two sides strike a deal, there will be no in-between from the arbitrators. Howard will either receive the $7 million that the Phillies offered or the $10 million that he and his agent have requested. That part of the process is something that Gillick would like to see changed. "I kind of like the situation in hockey, where the arbitrator can kind of pick a figure. In our situation, there's no in-between," explained the Phillies GM.

The announcement of the decision should come in a day or so, but so far, the players have taken a beating, going 0-for-5. There are points to be argued on both sides of the numbers in Howard's case, but many believe that he'll get the $10 million that he's asked for. The two sides have differed over terms for even a one-year deal, let alone a long-term contract, although they continue to talk. Howard has said that he won't let the issue distract him and won't feel cheated by the team or the process, but many players have had trouble dealing with arbitration losses and it's caused more than a couple riffs between teams and players that go through arbitration. For the Phillies part, they have never lost an arbitration case, but have made a point of trying to avoid them and haven't had a case go to arbitration since Travis Lee tested the process in 2001.

Hear Pat Gillick talk about the arbitration process:



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