That's a big part of why arbitration hearings are so rare. Teams and players both try to avoid them and settle on a contract that's acceptable to both so they can avoid the negative fall-out of a confrontational hearing. It's just not worth the downsides of the process to save the relatively small amounts of money at stake.
Except the Nationals. The Nationals love to go to arbitration.
In fact, the Nationals are the only team in baseball to take at least on player to the hearing every year since the Nationals came to DC. Thirty-five players have gone to hearings in that time (five of these are scheduled hearings for this week that could get settled in advance). Here's the breakdown of arbitration hearings by team since 2005:
Nationals: 7 (Shawn Hill, Brian Bruney, Chad Cordero, Alfonso Soriano, John Patterson, Felipe Lopez, and Sean Burnett*)What jumps out at you here isn't just that the Nationals go to arbitration with so many more players than other teams. It's that the Nationals have had so many problems after those hearings. Lopez and Soriano both became major clubhouse distractions. Cordero refused to even consider coming back to the team after he was non-tendered. There were other issues in each of these cases, but the risk of fallout is anything but a theoretical concern with the Nationals.
Astros: 3 (1 scheduled)
Angels: 3 (2 scheduled)
Cubs: 1 (scheduled)
Also, the Nationals not only go to arb more than anyone else, they do it over relatively tiny amounts of money. Of the last eight players since the '05-'06 off-season to go to a hearing over $250,000 or less between the club and player figures, three of them were Nationals (Lopez, Hill, Bruney).
Remember, usually the team and player split the difference and walk away happy. So we're really talking about going to war over around $125,000 per player. That's not even one-third of a season for a minimum wage player. The only reason you do that is to make a point or to be obstinate.
Now, I'm sure there are as many times when it's the player who's being obstinate as the team. But when you have the same team again and again going through these kinds of difficult negotiations, on top of failure to sign draft picks, etc., the circumstantial evidence would point in one direction.
We shouldn't be all that surprised, given all that talk over the years about "how the Lerners do business," fighting over the cost of a postage stamp, etc. But if Bruney or Burnett start acting up about their roles or otherwise being a clubhouse malcontent, remember, that could be part of the price of the Lerner way of doing business.