Considering all the abuse they've taken for their role in labor disputes and all of the gains they've made over the years, it's amazing that major-league players still have to put up with some archaic baseball rules.
The most recent examples are Jack Voigt, whose career on the fringe could've been put on hold for two weeks, and John Shea, an obscure left-hander caught in a game of musical chairs.
Voigt was close to limbo because the Orioles decided they didn't want him -- but wouldn't let him go without extracting the obligatory pound of flesh. Shea became an innocent victim, as ridiculous as it seems, because he got a promotion.
In order to buy 10 days of bargaining time, the Orioles took advantage of the rule that allowed them to designate Voigt for assignment.
That meant he could be traded, sold, or released within a 10-day period.
Had they not negotiated a trade with Texas for pitcher John Dettmer, the Orioles then could have requested waivers for the purpose of assigning Voigt outright to the minor leagues -- a process that would require an additional three-day waiting period.
But in order to explore all their options, the Orioles had to have a full 40-man roster, which is where Shea entered the picture.
He was promoted to fill Voigt's spot, and spent all of 12 hours on the major-league roster. His immediate reward was a designated period of inactivity as he inherited Voigt's tenuous position.
There hasn't been any indication that Shea fits into the Orioles' plans, either long- or short-term, but one can't lose sight of the fact that he's a left-handed pitcher, which is always a desired commodity.
The end result is that, while trimming their roster to 25, the Orioles could lose two players instead of one. That would effectively make yesterday's trade for Dettmer, who replaced Shea on the 40-man roster, a two-for-one deal.
The winner in all of the maneuvering is Voigt, who got only one at-bat while being a fixture on the Orioles' bench during the first three weeks of the season.
He rejoins manager Johnny Oates and general manager Doug Melvin, who obviously have a higher regard for Voigt's versatility than the Orioles' hierarchy.
It remains to be seen what happens to Shea, who was 0-0 with three saves and a 2.92 ERA in 14 games with Triple-A Rochester, before getting caught in the maze of paperwork. But he'll be idle for at least the three days it would take him to clear waivers, and possibly as many as 13 if the Orioles decide to make another "designated for assignment" trade.
It's all part of a procedure that gives the clubs an added advantage -- while putting a player's season, or career, on hold. If there are any benefits to the players involved, they escape detection.