Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.

Posted by Dave on Monday, February 23, 2004

*Uncohesive Headline*

If you didn't infer the subject of this post yet, well, there isn't one per se. Nothing has happened that has merited extensive analysis (if it has required analysis, someone else has done it on another blog/site) and I wasn't prepared with a discussion on baseball & economics as per usual. Not ready? Yeah, I'm filling in for Jon, who has no desire to pull one of his up-until-7-AM posting nights on this work-filled night. So, I wasn't quite prepared (not that it makes any difference, I never prepare these things anyway) with prose, but usually I'm prepared with a topic. I don't even have that. So, rather than come up with one on the fly, I'm going to bombard you with them.

Recently, Albert Pujols signed a 7-year 95 million dollar (not 100 million, as Transaction Guy is dutiful in pointing out - the last year is a 16M or 500K buyout) contract. Surprisingly, no one at Talking Baseball decided to comment on this. In most cases, if we're mute on a transaction, then the contract or transaction is probably about right. This leads to no one talking about it, because, well, there's no controversy. Albert avoided arbitration (I can't imagine why) to sign the contract and he had commented that baseball is "a business" prior to the contract. He wanted to get approximately market value while staying with the Cardinals, who he's grown fond of playing for (presumably). In situations such as these, players generally take a bit less than they could because their main goal is to stay with their team. This deal is just such a case. In my opinion, Albert is getting a deal that is only slightly below market value for a player of his caliber. Keep in mind that this guy is clearly one of the three best players in the game and he's only twenty-four. This statement ignores the fact that, heading forward, Albert will be not only the preeminent player in the game, but by a decent amount. Sadly, I don't own a copy of "Win Shares," (if anyone reading this knows how to obtain one, e-mail us please) but I do know (all courtesy Aaron Gleeman, who wrote about Bonds and ARod and who also relayed Pujols' first two years to me via IM - incredibly, you can't find it anywhere online) ARod, Pujols, and Bonds Win Shares for the past three years:

ARod - 36, 35, 33
Bonds - 54, 49, 39
Pujols - 29, 32, 41
It's pretty clear that right now, Albert can only be considered one of the three best. But, if you couple the fact that he hasn't hit his prime (if you trust his age, which is certainly dubious) with the fact that he out-produced both Bonds and ARod last year, it would seem he's poised to be the best player in baseball for years to come.

Well, that was fairly long-winded. But, I guess I'm a fairly long-winded fellow. What else...Gagne lost in arbitration. Granted, he's probably not worth 8 million in any universe, but in Arbitration World, he plausibly could be. Foulke just got 7 mill. a year from the Sox. I think everyone in Major League Baseball and any rational fan would say that Gagne is better than Foulke. Not so, say the arbitors. Of course, they're not saying this, they're saying: "Eric Gagne is worth this much money in this stage of his playing career." Check out the archived (by author, to the left (can you tell I'm proud it's up?)) articles on arbitration for more thoughts on why I think this is insanely stupid.

A couple more things: Derek Lowe publicly stated today that "this is going to be the team's last run, who knows who's coming back?" That's not terribly interesting, granted. But later in the article is something far more interesting. First though, if I had to sign any of the six, I'd perhaps only sign Pedro. Everyone fears his injury baggage and looks past the simply spectacular performances. 'Tek is an aging catcher, DLowe is represented by Boras (so, even if we give him a fair contract, they're likely to reject it), Williamson is merely a middle reliever - they shouldn't pull in beyond 3 million (unless their name is Octavio Dotel, although Williamson may show himself capable of legitimizing his contract this year), Nomar's only getting worse, and Ortiz is inexplicably deified by the media (Ramirez deserved every single one of Ortiz's MVP votes last year), implying that he and his agent will exaggerate his worth in negotiations. Theo did a brilliant job in signing the most undervalued of the seven, Nixon, long-term. I've already written about the brilliance in this move (Archive, anyone?). I'm pointing to this part of the interview, however:

Lowe prefers to stay in Boston but said all players would like to test the free-agent market to determine their worth. Free agents consider many factors -- location of the team, money, winning -- in deciding where to play, he said.

Which one is most important to him?

"No comment," he said.
As best I can tell, this response can only mean one of two things:

1. Either Lowe really wants to stay and doesn't want to tip his hand (so he can maximize the money he and Boras extract from the team) about it. Or,
2. He just wants the money.

Either way, if he reveals his intent in future negotiations, he's losing out. With the first supposition, the Red Sox know they can lowball him somewhat while still getting him to sign. If he says he only wants the money, he receives the bad press that comes with it. In addition, he scares off potential free agent suitors (i.e. competition for his services) because Boston is the incumbent team. It's an interesting response by Lowe to the question, and one that was likely programmed into Lowe by Boras.

Finally, I'll leave you with an analysis of the sophomore slump:

"The word 'sophomore' literally means 'wise fool' (many thanks to my high school etymology teacher). It means simply that you think that you know more than you actually do. It's a frame of mind and it's a dangerous one but it can be actively dealt with if you are cognizant of its existence. Unfortunately, it plagues many young players as they embark upon their second go-around in The Show -- the attitude that 'I did it once and it really wasn't that hard. I'll just cruise through this thing because I have all the answers. I did it once, I can do it again.' Amidst a fury of postseason congratulations from teammates, fans, family, friends, and media this attitude almost manifests itself from within, being constantly fed. Eventually it is born into an aura of arrogance that pervades one's mind and one's world.

"What's more is that this attitude doesn't come without an ample amount of cultivation from the player's team. You can't totally blame a team for a player's poor attitude but the team becomes an unwitting accomplice by affording the player a new level of responsibility and freedom previously unavailable to him. He's now being told about the team's plans, the team's future, and how he fits into that picture. These things take their toll on a player's ego. Certain players have an obligation to take on some additional responsibility as they grow and develop -- seems harmless but it actually can be pretty overwhelming to be catapulted so quickly into a leadership role, especially on a team admittedly lacking veteran leadership.

"In short it is extremely easy to fall into this mental trap because the people around him treat him in a noticeably different way, an overly uplifting way, and mentally it is difficult to cope with these changes. A false feeling of arrogance is born after being inundated with praise, and laziness becomes embedded within like a nasty virus just waiting for the perfect time to infect your mind. I certainly fell into this trap when I was 19 years old but at the time I just didn't know it. That year all the upper classmen were either drafted into the pros or had graduated leaving me to hit in the middle of a batting order largely comprised of weak juniors but very strong sophomores. We went to the College World Series that year. We choked and I didn't help things.

"After all this I seem to have more of a grip on the situation. I know what to expect and how to handle it. But it is still no guarantee that it won't happen to me just as it has happened to others. Granted there are players like Albert Pujols who had no such correction in their career line of success, and for now his history will be my inspiration for 2004. Not only did he avoid the jinx but he obliterated every single expectation set upon him in his first three years in the big leagues. Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle once told me 'there are two types of player in this game: those that are humble, and those that will be humbled.' Well I am humble. Being humbled sucks. And I want no part of that again. If I approach this season with a humble heart just as I have in the past I know I will be satisfied with the results, no matter what they are. No wise fools here any longer -- that is one thing I can guarantee."
Incredibly enough, these aren't my thoughts, nor the thoughts of any baseball writer or analyst. The above passage is cribbed from a recent Gammons article, however. Surprisingly, the intelligent prose above belongs to Jody Gerut of the Indians, who is entering his 2nd (or sophomore, if you're sophomoric) season. I thought that nearly all athletes were hopelessly unintelligent - thanks to Jody for showing me that there are some good seeds floating about.

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