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Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.



Posted by Mike on Friday, February 20, 2004

Mediot (n.) - an ignorant or foolish member of the mass media

I will get to the mediots by the end of this post but first I have to talk about the press release George Steinbrenner made earlier this week. Here is what he said:

“We understand that John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated and disappointed by his failure in this transaction. Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston. It is understandable, but wrong that he would try to deflect the accountability for his mistakes on to others and to a system for which he voted in favor. It is time to get on with life and forget the sour grapes.”

What a nice little statement. These are the thoughts I was left with:

1. I’m sure John Henry is frustrated and disappointed by this trade. In fact I knew he had to be upset before he even bothered to comment on the trade publicly. There was no need to question the current economic system in baseball because the only way that he could appear was exactly how he did, hypocritical. The Red Sox are well behind the Yankees in team salary they are well ahead of every other team in the major leagues. I don’t think there is much sympathy around the country for the financial woes of second richest team in baseball. It hurts to say this but Steinbrenner was correct in saying that Henry’s comments were, “sour grapes.”

2. Either Steinbrenner was unaware of the circumstances that prevented Alex Rodriguez from becoming a member of the Red Sox or he is purposely misrepresenting the facts. Much has already been said here and elsewhere about why the deal failed but the underlying problem was that the Red Sox could not come find a compromise that brought Rodriguez to the Red Sox without financially restraining the club in the future.

3. Apparently making a smart business decision and refusing to be pressured into compromising situations qualifies as betraying the home town fans in George’s book. Considering his lack of financial restraint and deep pockets he obviously does not understand that other teams must show some care when committing their money.

4. George Steinbrenner is a prick. I know this is a position taken by many other Red Sox fans but even Webster’s Dictionary supports my arguement.

prick (n.) - a person, especially a man, regarded as contemptible, obnoxious, etc. 2. to spur or urge on; goad; incite.

Is Steinbrenner regarded as contemptible and obnoxious in Boston? Yep. Did he attempt to goad the Red Sox fans and try to incite further animosity between the two teams? Yep. Does my position have some grounding in reality? I certainly think that it does. He certainly could have taken the high road and shown some class by not responding to Henry’s statement but I guess Steinbrenner just has too much pride and too big an ego.

In any event both Henry and Steinbrenner were both wrong in saying anything about the matter. By directing personal and public attacks at each other they allowed the mediots to come out of the woodwork and do their best to push the Red Sox – Yankees rivalry to the breaking point.

When the media decides to intervene it appears that all hope of truth or unbiased information is destroyed. Recently this problem has gotten much worse. In the last week ESPN has been plagued by reporters and analysts trying to portray the Yankee’s acquisition of Rodriguez as not so much a gain for the Yankees but rather as a loss for the Red Sox. The view that the mediots have taken is that the Red Sox did this to themselves by not spending the extra $16 million that would have brought Rodriguez to Boston. It is true that the Red Sox could have had Rodriguez for $16 million more dollars on top of Manny Ramirez and the huge chunk of his contract that they were already willing to pay. What is also true is that the Red Sox reached the point where the trade was no longer beneficial and would have actually resulted in putting a worse team on the field if it had indeed happened.

What may be the saddest part of this entire affair is that the mediots have managed to tear apart the Red Sox management for doing the best that they could in a catch-22 situation. Had Rodriguez joined the team then the Red Sox would have paid for it in the future so instead they decided to make a rational business decision and have only begun to pay for it dearly because of the ignorance and self-serving nature of the media.

Once again I am going to state the fact that the Red Sox have a team that overall is almost as talented as the Yankees if not equally as talented. I suppose there is nobody left to listen but the Red Sox still have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and a very strong lineup. So do the Yankees. There are 162 games to be played and even as it stands now I still love the position in which the Red Sox will start the season.

One last thing.
Due to a number of requests all of our articles have been archived by author and by date for convenience. The link is right above the previous archives in the sidebar on the left.


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Posted by Dave on Thursday, February 19, 2004

And You Thought I Was Done?!

I strongly believe that this post will bring an end to two things you must be getting tired of hearing analysis about: Coming later, I'll bring my discussion regarding salary arbitration (the main topic in my last two posts, and the topic in a third (Check out our recently-added Archives By Author to your left if you'd like to see them)) to a close. But for the penultimate (find a cooler word, I dare you. It's impossible) topic: From all of us at Talking Baseball, I bid you adieu from our blog, ARod. Quickly, I think it's a good trade for both sides; Hicks gets to recoop some of his financial stupidity and the Yankees tip the scales in their favor in the AL East (There's always that infernal Luck, so I won't prognosticate about the playoffs). I wanted to comment more extensively on something on the periphery of the ARod deal, however. It could have slipped under your radar - it nearly slipped under mine - but Texas signed Hank Blalock to a 5-year, 15 million dollar contract. Immediately, I thought: "And so it begins." Hart did this in Cleveland, as well. He got a nucleus of some quality young players (Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, and later, Manny Ramirez) and signed them through their arbitration/free agency years. These signings were a bit dangerous - if the players didn't pan out (all of them did), then Cleveland was stuck paying handsome sums of money to ineffective players (not a good way to spend money in a small market). But, on the whole, these signings are good ideas: You suck it up, take the risk, and you pay these players 3, 4, or 5 years to help shield your team from paying potentially high arbitration or free agency salaries later on. Hart succeeded in doing this in Cleveland - the Indians were consistent winners for the better part of the 90s. The Hart Plan for getting a small-market team to consistently win has since been imitated, but is rarely duplicated. The A's employed a similar strategy with its aces and core hitters, but they are the only favorable comparison to Cleveland. The Twins signed their young players, but not with the same fervor that the A's or Indians did (that's just how good their farm system is). The Brewers, the Pirates, the Reds, and Tigers have all tried to mimic Hart, but as your convulsions (reading the names of so many bad teams in succession is certainly psychologically disturbing) can attest to, these teams have failed quite spectacularly in replicating the success of Cleveland. Who better, than, to repeat the success of Cleveland than Hart himself then? Well, the way I figure it, Hart's at least 1/4 of the way there after signing Blalock to that long-term contract. To complete the quad, Hart must sign Soriano long-term, followed by Michael Young, followed by Mark Teixeira (Please, that's ti - SHAYR - uh, and 26 HRs in his rookie season? Sign me up!). It remains to be seen whether Laynce (Where'd that Y come from?!) Nix or Ramon Nivar are solid enough to merit the long-term bucks. That core of 4 players looks like a solid middle-of-the-order, and I would not want to see the Rangers lineup in 3 years if those four guys are still around. To be honest, it's scary enough as is.

I was in the car tonight, driving home to Worcester, MA (an hour West of Boston) from a great night in Belmont, MA (just outside Boston) with some buddies and my girlfriend from school (yes, even baseball junkies can have wonderful girlfriends), and I was thinking. Just...thinking. I do it a lot. It appalls me when people tell me that they "don't like thinking" or that they "hate doing things that make them think." Why forego the activity that makes you most human? I digress. Anyways, I think of all sorts of stuff while thinking. Most stuff are things I'm intellectually curious about. Why do I go to school if I'm reasonably certain I'd be happy subsisting on a meager salary? How do police officers decide who to ticket (I think about this one a lot and I'm thinking about writing my thesis on it)? Why buy one present for someone if I have a particularly low discount rate (I value the future nearly equivalently to the present) - why shouldn't I just buy them multiple presents and give them the utility of owning the presents for a longer period of time (in addition, this would preclude me from buying presents later)? And, tonight, since it was Posting Night (the most burdensome night, but simultaneously the best night of the week), what am I going to write about? Of course, I started to think about salary arbitration again. Johan Santana recently received 1.6 million from the arbitors. You'd like to think that you could infer the result of the case, given the "objectivity" in arbitration, but you can't. He lost. Anything is possible in the backwards world of salary arbitration. This guy missed out on about 10 starts by my estimation, mostly because the Twins were too idiotic to place him in a starter's role to start the season. Even though he missed those 10 starts (he totalled only 18 starts), he still went 12-3 with 169 K's and a 3.07 ERA. That means that he bested the 2002 CY Young Award Winner, Barry Zito, in the last two statistics. The worst part is, Santana struck out more batters even though Zito started 17 more games than Santana - nearly double the number of starts (Hint: Don't draft him in fantasy this year, let the other dolts do it). Enough bitching, we know arbitration is a flawed system. Players don't always get what they deserve, and the system does not seem consistent or objective. I've understood this since I wrote that post way back in January. So why am I so bothered by it, even still? Thanks to the car, Hail To The Thief, and the Silence of the Road, I discovered why.

Baseball is inconsistent. There's nothing that infuriates me more than irrationality and inconsistency. It bugs me because anyone with enough self-awareness/intelligence would realize their inconsistent or irrational actions/beliefs and would purge them. It's okay to have these, I'm not going to kill you for them - but it annoys me. My girlfriend hates it when I chide her for her claustrophobia - she hates getting into elevators. Claustrophobia, like most phobias, are irrational. Generally, and especially in elevators, there's nothing that suggests that your presence in an enclosed space increases your risk of being harmed. This is the irrationality that bugs me. Inconsistency? A guy who stays in a hand to try to catch a straight but refuses to stay in hands to catch a flush (in Texas Hold 'Em). It's not only harder to catch a straight, but a straight is worse than a flush. In other words, if you're the kind of person that tries to catch straights (this kind of person is not a good poker player), then you should be the kind of person that tries to catch flushes. Those examples of irrationality and inconsistency are not paradigm examples, but they're adequate.

Why is baseball inconsistent? Its simultaneous adherence to a form of capitalism (especially relative to the other professional sports) and to practices that are completely antithetic to capitalism (salary arbitration and the evolution of the reserve clause). Capitalism is especially prevalent in baseball as compared with football and basketball. Football restricts the strongest markets by making them share their revenue with those that are less fortunate. In this fashion, all teams are working within roughly the same financial means. Some might even describe the NFL as socialist. The NBA employs a more powerful luxury tax than the MLB. If you exceed the 52.5 million dollar cap, then you must pay, dollar-for-dollar, whatever you exceed the cap by. For example, if the Mavericks had a combined payroll of 72.5 million. They would have to pay their players the 72.5 and would also have to pay the NBA 20 million. This 20 million would be dispersed and disbursed to the financially unfortunate teams equitably. That's a pretty steep penalty, especially when you consider that the luxury tax is aiding your competition. In the MLB, however, there is nothing resembling a cap - unless you consider the luxury tax that's in place a cap. The Yankees proved last year that the "luxury tax" is merely pennies to them. In addition, the threshold is so high that only two teams (Boston has joined the party) are expected to reach it this year. Some "Luxury Tax" - it sounds more like a Gluttonous Tax. In this fashion, however, baseball resembles capitalism most. In capitalism and in America we allow the most successful businesses and firms to rampage around, trampling their competition. In essence, this is what the Yankees do, stomp on their competition due to their geographical superiority (Manhattan is pretty dense, last I checked). The absence of capitalism in football is what will prevent a team from ever winning three Super Bowls in a row (I'm pretty serious, it seems impossible). In addition, like the other major sports, baseball has a system of free agency that allows the player to choose among competitors for his services. This open market system is the fundament of capitalism. Even the playoffs are more capitalistic than basketball and football - only the finest 8 teams venture to the postseason for baseball. In football, 12 get the pleasure, 16 in basketball.

Unfortunately, however, these shining examples of capitalism are juxtaposed with the anti-capitalistic policies like the Reserve Clause and Salary Arbitration. Many of you may not know what the reserve clause is (I wouldn't blame you), it's main form has been gone from baseball for quite awhile. Prior to Messersmith-McNally, players were forced to remain with their original teams indefinitely. There was no free agency and the only method for acquiring coveted players outside your organization was to trade for them. This, from a Primer article:

The first cases of salary arbitration were heard in 1974 under the terms of the agreement between the parties. At that time players were bound to their respective teams by the reserve clause, with none of the free agency rights they enjoy today. Once a player was drafted, he could only negotiate with the team that drafted him until he retired, unless he was traded to or his contract was sold to another club. Each year the player and team would negotiate terms for a new contract. If a player chose not to sign for the offer the team put in front of him, he had no power to receive more compensation for his skills. He could not shop his skills to another team that wanted to hire him. Now, players with six years of Major League service time are no longer bound to their teams by the reserve clause, they can sign a contract with any team that makes them an offer. Prior to six years players still are subject to the reserve clause. In 1974, prior to Messersmith-McNally, the seminal case that created the free agency right for players, the salary arbitration system was the only way for players to put additional pressure on clubs that did not offer contracts that were acceptable to players.
Before 1974 there was no capitalism, in fact, the reserve clause resembled thirty (well, there were a lot less MLB teams then) monopolies! Players were bound to their specific teams - for life, if the owners and GMs pleased it. The players finally garnered some freedom in 1974. Now, they only need to wait six years to get their freedom. In the NFL and NBA, you need only wait 3 years to get your freedom. Three years isn't too long - most NBAers are still 2 or 3 years from their prime when they get their freedom - but six years?! Baseball players are generally exiting their prime, heading into the twilight of their careers. They're missing out on some of their chances to be rewarded most because the diluted reserve clause is forcing them to be bound to their ballclubs. In nearly all walks of American life, labor is fungible. Unless you're under contract, no one has a claim to you. Imagine if you finished working a year at Salomon-Smith Barney in Boston and you wanted to leave for a better job at AG Edwards in New York. If you were subject to baseball's rules, you couldn't do it - you'd be stuck working with Smith-Barney not for 3 years (as in the NBA and NFL), but for six grueling years. That's not exactly in the spirit of capitalism. Granted, neither are the NBA or NFL, but at least they have socialist systems in place so they're not behaving inconsistently.

Salary Arbitration is even more counter-capitalist. As I stated previously, the fundament of capitalism is the open-market system. As I was articulating to Jon last night, capitalism is the best system for ensuring that prices are at what they should be. I gave him the example of 50 people entering a marketplace with 20 bucks and only 10 oranges to buy. The seller of the oranges would raise the price until there would only be 10 buyers - he's maximizing profit. This is just the type of situation that arises every day in a capitalistic society, except you'll have wholesalers bidding on cereals, construction firms bidding on steel, etc. The way the prices get driven up is by having competing buyers haggle over the suppliers' price. Eventually the supplier will relent to an acceptable price, and give up his goods. In baseball's free agency, the players are the suppliers of services (they play baseball well, after all) and the owners demand their services. With players like Greg Maddux, Los Angeles and the Cubbies (kudos to Scott Boras for leaking the story about the Yankees to the press - it's a brilliant ploy by a brilliant agent (I'm serious) to get the most out of the Cubs) bid against themselves to see how much they'd be willing to pay for Maddux. The Cubs really didn't get a bad deal, I may add; If Maddux does not top 400 IP over the next two years (quite possible), then it's merely a 2 year, 15 million dollar deal. Anyways, this is what happens once a player reaches free agency, they are in an open market. Prior to this, however, they're stuck in salary arbitration. Now, to be fair, arbitors aren't charged to give the players "market value" when they enter arbitration, they're supposed to account for performance and precedent (a lot of the latter, it would seem) when determining a player's salary for the upcoming year. But, jeez, why would salary arbitration exist if not to give fair market value? If you're going to bind a player to a team, why not try to at least estimate fair market value. Even if they estimated fair market value, however, they wouldn't actually be finding it. To find fair market value, the players would need to actually be in an open market. Only the teams competing for the services of the players really know how much they're willing to pay on a player - arbitors can never have enough information to understand teams' willingness to pay. That's part of why the open market system is great, the buyers have perfect information about their willingness to pay because they are the ones buying. With Salary Arbitration, however, not only is the player bound to the team (precluding him from the open market), but arbitors don't assign a salary that is fair market value(they use precedence, otherwise Santana would have received much more than 1.6 million this season). Incredibly uncapitalistic.

So, what to do? Well, at the very least, I'd like to see baseball become consistent. This means one of two things:

1. A destruction of salary arbitration and the diluted reserve clause. Or,
2. A more effective form of revenue sharing and/or a salary cap and/or luxury tax.

In the first situation, baseball would embrace capitalism entirely. Unfortunately, while this is generally good for consumers, it is not good for competition. Unfortunately, while capitalism is good for society, it is not great for sports. With full-fledged capitalism, the Lakers and Yankees would win every year and that's no fun for 90% of the fans in those two sports. That's why the NFL and NBA have adopted a more socialistic approach to their economic foundation - it breeds greater competition amongst the teams. Therefore, I fully endorse an improved form of revenue sharing. Maybe baseball should increase the penalties under the luxury tax to mimic the NBA, dollar-for-dollar. Maybe they should lower the threshold so more teams are forced to pay the tax. There are lots of possibilities, but I do know this: A sport is less interesting to follow when two teams have a better pitching staff and lineup than the rest of the MLB combined.


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Posted by Jon on Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Another A-Rod Article

Not to pile on another helping when you’re just beginning to finish your plate, but I fear that I must comment, at least a little, about Alex in his new home, competitive balance, The Rivalry, and the Rangers.

Morning Bells

Don’t you love the weekends, when you don’t have to set your alarm and can slowly wake up to a beautiful morning without the responsibilities associated with the work week? Each night I cherish the little sleep I manage to engineer into my schedule. The sound I most revile in life? The incessant beeping of my alarm clock, which hits me day after day after day, making me cringe in its presence. Even after a peaceful and long sleep, it’s a sound I can’t endure. But after many restless nights, the sound becomes unbearable.

After a fervent summer in Boston, Sox fans were content to enjoy a mighty slumber after Game Six ended, Josh Beckett single-handedly sending Derek Jeter and the rest of New York to bed without dessert. We Bostonian Rip Van Winkles were brusquely awoken from our blissful dreams of anticipation on February 16th to most abrasive alarm clock in Red Sox Nation – more like an air raid siren. I don’t blame us for being a bit cranky in the morning. We were pissed! The best player in baseball, the man penciled in as our starting shortstop for years to come only months ago is now – gulp – a Yankee? The snooze button was gone and the alarm clock has not stopped drumming away at our hearts.

In a stupor, we tried to shout the Yankees down: “MLB is in trouble!”, “Nobody can compete with the Yankees!”, “We need a salary cap!”, and of course, “George is ruining baseball!” We said that we couldn’t compete. We said it was all over. But now we’ve been up for a while. We’re fully awake and a little closer to sanity. Dream space is no place for objectivity. Now that we’re awake, let’s try to tackle the A-Rod issues objectively.

Yes, the Yankees just added Alex Rodriguez: The Best Player in Baseball. Yeah, they also added six other All-Stars during the off-season (one of which shouldn’t count because his name is Tony Clark). On the face of it, things look bad for Sox fans. But don’t forget that they also lost six All-Stars since October in Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, David Wells, Jeff Nelson, Alfonso Soriano, and Aaron Boone. So the Yankees have netted themselves a total of only one All-Star player, and with the impending addition of Travis Lee, Tony Clark may have already seen the last of his playing time as a Yankee. The Yankees lost a lot of talent this off-season, so it stands to reason that they would stock up on enough talent to fill their vacancies. Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta have done exactly this for years, replacing lost players with the talent to fill the void. Money aside, the Yankees filled their holes. Following is a list of their impact losses and additions, including each player’s 2003 Win Shares and VORP. (I’ll discuss the Win Shares below. I added VORP just for the hell of it.)

YANKEES' OFF-SEASON ADDITIONS
..............Win Shares.........VORP
Gordon........11.................21
Quantrill.....11.................29
Vazquez.......21.................55
Sheffield.....35.................79
Lofton........18.................19
Clark.........4..................7
Brown.........20.................60
Rodriguez.....32.................86
TOTAL GAIN....152................356

YANKEES' OFF-SEASON LOSSES
..............Win Shares.........VORP
Clemens.......15.................37
Pettitte......15.................27
Wells.........14.................36
Nelson........6..................7
Johnson.......14.................30
Weaver........2.................-12
Hammond.......7..................18
Soriano.......27.................59
Boone.........23.................29
TOTAL LOSS....123................231

YANKEES' OFF-SEASON NET GAINS
..............Win Shares.........VORP
..............+29................+125
Now, let’s do the same for Boston’s off-season, which was less active than New York.

RED SOX' OFF-SEASON ADDITIONS
..............Win Shares.........VORP
Foulke........21.................35
Schilling.....15.................49
Reese.........2.................-5
Burks.........13.................7
TOTAL GAIN....51.................86

RED SOX' OFF-SEASON LOSSES
..............Win Shares.........VORP
Walker........15.................22
Suppan........14.................31
Howry.........0.................-3
Jackson.......2.................-4
Jones.........1.................-6
Merloni.......1.................-1
Chen..........0..................0
Fossum........3.................-2
Lyon..........5..................7
TOTAL LOSS....41.................44

RED SOX OFF-SEASON NET GAINS
..............Win Shares.........VORP
..............+10................+42
This may not be the best manner of going about determining who won and who lost this off-season, but it is a fairly decent method of analysis. Players can improve, players can slump, and injuries can occur that change the landscape of the season, but please bear with my analysis.

The Yankees obviously added more talent and more free agents, but they had more holes to fill as they lost six players with 14 or more Win Shares last season. Boston only lost two such players, one of which had no place on the team after the Red Sox finalized their rotation by adding Schilling.

Whereas we can reasonably presume that Schilling and Reese, if uninjured, will produce more than they did last season, the Yankees acquired players who peaked in 2003 and may have trouble eclipsing those numbers. Both Schilling’s and Reese’s production suffered due to injuries in 2003. If healthy next season (a reasonable prediction considering their injuries were not of the lingering variety) we can conservatively predict Schilling to tack on an additional five Win Shares and Pokey to add another four.

By adding nine Win Shares to the Red Sox net off-season Win Shares calculated above, the Red Sox end up with a net gain of 19 Win Shares, only ten fewer than the Yankees – or the equivalent of only about three wins. Three wins can mean everything in baseball, but if these teams are no further than three games apart according to opening day talent, the Red Sox have just about as good of a shot of beating out the Yankees as the Yankees do of beating out the Red Sox. New York is the favorite, but Red Sox Nation need not lose hope. So Sox fans, don’t complain that the Yankees have once again beaten us in the off-season! New York was required to add more talent because they lost so much in the off-season.

The Yankees obviously feel threatened by the Red Sox. Without the Red Sox lurking in the fog, Steinbrenner wouldn’t have forced such a flurry of moves. Cashman knew that without Rodriguez, the ‘Evil Empire’ wasn’t good enough to beat the Red Sox.

So Bostonians, I implore you: wake up, stretch, and throw that damn alarm clock out the window. As a Sox fan, I embrace the fact that Theo is pushing the Yankees towards the brink of desperation! The Yankees have added seven All-Stars since the end of the 2003 season, and the Red Sox are still in position to challenge them all the way into October. Despite your initial reactions, it’s a wonderful morning for Sox fans.

A Monopoly on Pitching

Remember when I wrote an article questioning whether the two worst teams in baseball, if they combined their players into one team, would be able to compete with the Red Sox, presumed to be the best team in baseball? To quickly recap, the combined Tigers and Reds didn’t stand a chance against Boston.

OK, I guess that wasn’t such a big surprise. But how out of whack is competitive balance in baseball? Even before the A-Rod excitement this weekend, Baseball Prospectus posed a similar question to mine, comparing a combined team of the two best (and richest) teams in baseball, the Yankees and Red Sox, to a combined team of the best of the rest, from all other major league rosters. If the saying holds true that it’s really pitching that wins ballgames, then anybody in baseball pushing for competitive balance should avert their eyes, for what follows is downright miserable.

After adjusting Dayn Perry’s numbers for the A-Rod/Soriano trade, the non-Sox/Yanks team still has a better lineup according to VORP. The relievers on the Sox/Yanks are relatively comparable to a bullpen of the rest of the best. But the rest of the league can’t compare to a rotation shared by the Red Sox and Yankees. Their five best starters according to VORP were better last season than the best pitchers in the rest of the league. It isn’t even close! A rotation of Prior, Halladay, Wood, Hudson, and Loaiza would surely dazzle, but not as brilliantly as a rotation of Pedro, Vazquez, Mussina, Schilling, and Brown. And if Prior was somehow finagled from Chicago to an AL East powerhouse, the Yanks/Sox pitching staff would boast baseball’s five best pitchers of 2003. Ridiculous? I think so. If pitching wins ballgames, the 2004 World Series winner is in the AL East. To be sure, neither Pedro nor Schilling came through Boston’s farm system, and you can be sure that neither Mussina, nor Vazquez, nor Brown came out of New York’s minor league system. All of these players were essentially bought. What a surprise! Money breeds success in life and in baseball.

Go Go Texas Rangers

I keep going back and forth about the utility of this trade for the Rangers since it occurred. At first I was flabbergasted by the fact that Texas wasn’t going to receive the Yankee’s top prospect, and that they had to pay so much for basically just Soriano (the Yankees are fresh out of decent prospects). Then I actually looked it up and discovered that in 2003, the Win Shares that A-Rod (32) and Soriano (27) accumulated were nearly identical. Yes, A-Rod was injured, but that type of injury could nag him for a while. And no, I’m not arguing that Soriano is a better player than Rodriguez (I have long disdained Alfonso’s approach at the plate). But last year, Soriano was only two wins worse than A-Rod. Looking at it as purely price-per production, Alex is clearly not worth the extra $10 million they would have spent on him this season had he not been traded. But then I thought about this: Hicks actually agreed to pay the New York Yankees – America’s richest sports franchise – $67 million to take on A-Rod’s contract.

At first I wondered how foolish can one man could be. First Hicks authorizes signing him for $252 million over ten years, and then he offers to pay another $67 million to get rid of him? In what scenario could this possibly make sense? I can’t help but feel that the Rangers got screwed, but I can’t tell if they were screwed by A-Rod, by A-Rod’s agent Scott Boras, by the Yankees, or by themselves. Or maybe it was a combination of factors. But the certainly were exploited – out of $73 million for Rodriguez over the last three seasons, and now for $67 million more. Average that out and the Rangers will end up paying A-Rod $140 million dollars for three years of service in Texas, or over $46 million per year of service at the Ballpark in Arlington. Say it with me now: “Wow.” That’s almost double what Hicks thought they’d be paying him per season over the course of that outrageous contract.

The Bane of Talking Baseball

Scott Boras has done it again! Reports are circulating widely that Boras’ client Greg Maddux is has signed with the Cubs for $24 million over three years. Forget the fact that contract immensely overvalues Maddux. Let’s talk about the negotiations. Last night reports from New York said that the Yankees were about to sign Maddux. These reports were soon deemed untrue. To this Boras basher it appears as if Scotty’s done it again.

I am willing to assume that Boras purposefully leaked a bogus story about the Yankees’ interest in Maddux to jack up his price for the Cubs because, in truth, they were the only real bidder for his services. After this little shenanigan, the Cubs suddenly agree to pay New York dollars, upping their offer from $14 million to $15 million over two years (proposed on Monday) to $24 million over three years. I’m sure Boras was sitting by the phone, waiting for the Cubs, desperate for Maddux, to outbid nobody but themselves in signing the aging right-hander.


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Posted by Ben K. on Monday, February 16, 2004

"I'm probably pretty sure it will work out for the best"

Tonight, I finally figured out what was bothering me so much about the whole A-Rod trade. It's not an Evil Empire syndrome. I don't feel bad or guilty that the Yankees went out and fairly acquired Alex Rodriguez. In fact, I'm impressed with Brian Cashman. At first, I assumed this was George Steinbrenner's doing, but after seeing the economic thought that went into this trade, I was convinced that it was Cashman. But more on that later.

What really bothers me about this blockbuster deal--and I think I speak for a lot of Yankees fans when I say this--is that I don't like Alex Rodriguez. I never have, and even while he patrols the Hot Corner (or short) for the Yankees, there will always be a part of me that looks and him and says, "That's Alex Rodriguez. What is he doing in a Yankee uniform?"

Now, don't get me wrong; there's no doubt that I respect the man. It's hard not to when he's already hit 345 home runs, driven in 990 runs, scored over 1000 runs, and has a career OPS of .963. And he's only 28. Obviously, the rhetoric associated with A-Rod is true. He clearly is one of the best players to ever play the game, and you never hear his name associated with steroid use (Bonds and Giambi, take a lesson here). But at the same time, I just don't like him. While some people feel A-Rod belongs in pinstripes, I don't.

First, let's think back to a few weeks ago when A-Rod was named captain of the Rangers. He said, "I'm probably pretty sure this will work out for the best." I wonder if this is what he had in mind: third base at Yankee Stadium. At the time, I railed on the hypocrisy and bad leadership of Rodriguez. I don't need to go into that again. Just click here for that post. (The link opens in a new window so you won't lose your place here.)

Now, let's go back further in time to the 2000 ALCS when Alex was still on the Mariners. This was right before Scott Boras, the bane of Talking Baseball, presented the literal book on Rodriguez that landed him his contract with the Rangers. During Game 4, notorious MLB traitor Roger Clemens presented Alex Rodriguez with a few memorable pitches. If I recall correctly (and I do because I was there a few nights later when David Justice launched one into the night), the Yankee fans loved it when Clemens went after Rodriguez. The Pretty Boy short stop on the Mariners received his lessons of his respect. That annoying, arrogant smile on his face was gone when those 97 mph fastballs whizzed by his chair. On Tuesday, October 17, 2000, the Yankee crowd booed A-Rod with a vengeance every time he stepped up to the plate. Even though A-Rod's been on the Rangers for the past three seasons, he still gets booed at Yankee Stadium.

That's just one reason. I don't like that smile. He's so cocky; he knows he's got what it takes to play this game. The attitude's good, but the facial expression is not. He's grinning, eying some no-name pitcher, thinking, "I'm making more money this year than you will make in your pathetic career with the Devil Rays." Get over yourself, Alex.

Don't even get me started on the money. First, the Yankees pulled off an economic feat. They're paying Alex Rodriguez, the Best Player in Baseball, somewhere around $120 million for 7 years while Texas picks up the rest of his contract. That's a steal; $17 million a year for A-Rod. Derek Jeter will be making more money from the Yankees for the rest of his contract than A-Rod will. Even better, A-Rod is costing the Yankees a grand total of 750,000 extra dollars this season. Soriano and his $5.4 mil are gone; Henson's off the books, finally; and Aaron Boone (who?) will receive a little less than $1 million for playing basketball a few weeks ago. I guess, as an objective Yankee fan, I should thank Boone for playing that game. I know the Red Sox fans and Derek Lowe are cursing him again.

But back to A-Rod and his money. I can't help thinking that while A-Rod is really great, he's also in it for a lot of money, more than he should be. What's the difference between $250 million and $200 million? Not that much really. He's not going to come anywhere close to spending it. I certainly don't think he deserves his own hotel suite on the road, which the Yankees are giving him. He also gets a link from Yankees.com to his own personal Web site. I can't wait to see that one. I would imagine that it will be a shrine to...well, himself. While a lot of the greed image comes from Scott Boras, it's tough to like the man. Now, I know many of you may say it's hypocritical for a Yankee fan to say this, but at least the Yankees are paying what they have. A-Rod and Boras simply played the Rangers to get more and more money. The Yankees made sure this trade was economically fair. I bet Alex and Scott didn't appreciate that aspect all too much.

So those are my thoughts on A-Rod, but I know what happens next. Now that he's on the Yankees, I will root for him to succeed. I won't root against my team. When I get to the Stadium in a few months, I'll cheer when A-Rod launches one into Monument Park and when he makes a nice stab at a tough grounder. But in my mind, he'll always be greedy A-Rod, and I'll always remember that look of shock on his face when Clemens threw up and in during the 15-K performance that was Game 4 of the 2000 ALCS.

Reader Response

While I'm still on the topic of Alex Rodriguez, I would like to address one of our readers. Bruce Bumbalough, a self-proclaimed Rangers and Tigers fan from Texas, e-mailed us during our weekend updates on the trade. Here's what Bruce had to say about the A-Rod trade:

As a Ranger fan, I can see a lot of upside to the A-Rod deal. Soriano has good numbers, is younger than A-Rod and costs about a fourth of what A-Rod will in 2004. He has two more seasons before free agency. He can play center field , a spot the Rangers need filled. I hope the minor leaguer to be named is a pitcher.

I see the trade as a win - win for A-Rod and the Rangers. A-Rod finally gets to play for a winner and be where he wants to be. The Rangers gain about $120 million in salary to go after quality free agent pitching. Kerry Wood is a free agent after this season and is a local guy.
Bruce, I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. Soriano's a great pick-up for Texas; he's young and cheap. As long as his strike out performance from the postseason doesn't mess with his head, he'll lead that Texas offense for the next few seasons. Even better will be the money that Hicks saved by shipping A-Rod to New York. As long as he doesn't pull another Chan Ho Park signing, Hicks can use that money to sign a quality starter or two. A-Rod will be happier and more productive in New York where he will get a chance to win. I think that your bad times as a Ranger fan might see a happy ending after all, Bruce, if Hicks plays the right cards. And in the end, this was indeed a good trade for everyone involved.

Random Thoughts

According to recent rumors, Greg Maddux it seems is going to sign with, you guessed it, the Yankees. I can't believe this. Nor can I believe this is a good thing. Maddux had 11 win shares last season, down from 19 in 2002. He's definitely not the same pitcher he used to be. At the same time, I recognize that this represents an improvement from Lieber/Contreras and a stabilizing force. But it also reeks of King George. Cashman pulls off the trade of the year with the A-Rod deal and George goes back to throwing money in the face of old free agents. With Kenny Lofton all ready wrapped up, against the better wishes of most of the Yankee management, Maddux would just be more wasted money.

The move I prefer would be the impending signing of Travis Lee to spell Jason Giambi at first base. Lee is one of the smoothest fielding first basemen in the league, and he would be a great upgrade over Giambi and his bad knees. If the Yankees are to sign Lee, I think they should have Giambi DH, have Bernie play center, and have Lee as the everyday first baseman. While Lofton and his bruised ego would have to sit on the bench, this would indeed by the best line up offensively and defensively the Yankees could put together. It's hard to believe though that the only true Yankees are Derek, Bernie, Mariano, and Jorge. This truly has become a team hired to win. The years of loyalty and Paul O'Neill are long gone.

Finally, in a move that defies logic, the Twins won their arbitration case over Johan Santana. Santana was one of the most dominant pitchers during the second half of the 2003 campaign. He ended the season 12-3 with a 3.07 ERA. He struck out 169 in 158 innings and gave up 30 less hits than innings pitched. Yet, somehow, Jack Wilson ("Who?" as Mike said) won his case, while Santana, who should start Opening Day for the Twins lost. As Dave has said repeatedly, this arbitration process is so ridiculously flawed. This goes to show just how bad it really is.


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Posted by Mike on Sunday, February 15, 2004

"Wait 'til next year..."

It would appear that as part of the fallout of the Yankees aquisition of Alex Rodriguez a number of Red Sox fans are on suicide watch. The Yankees have gone and bought another amazing talent. What else is new? They do this sort of thing every year and there was no reason why they should have acted any differently this year. Now that the Yankees have the best player in the game snuggly fit into their infield how do they match up against the Red Sox? Very favorably of course but truthfully they are not so much better that a few injuries won't hurt them the same as every other team.

I would like to point out that the Red Sox still have built what would appear the second best team in the major leagues. The road to the 2004 World Series will likely go through New York once again but this year it also will go through Boston. There is little hope for any other team in the American League at this point. If there is still any justice remaining in the world the Red Sox will make the playoffs along with the Yankees. The other two playoff teams will have to take down both the Red Sox and the Yankees.

Think about that for a moment and feel a little bit of sympathy for the rest of the competative teams in the American League. The Blue Jays and Angels made some significant improvements over the winter and were hoping to make a run at the playoffs. The Athletics will find a way to win as usual with their pitching and funky offense. The Royals will probably win the AL Central by default as long as their pitching doesn't completely implode. None of these teams are talented enough to beat both the Red Sox and the Yankees in the playoffs. I'm sure that, "things can happen," but I wouldn't bet on that being the case.

Without a doubt 2004 is the year of the Boston - New York fight to the finish. Forget about the rest of the league because baseball will be about the AL East this year.


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Posted by Ben K. on Sunday, February 15, 2004

A Done Deal
Updated 3:15 p.m.


First, I don't want this post to detract from Mike's fine post below. He analyzed the Yankees-Rangers trade in a very fair light, and while I may, as a Yankee fan, respond to some of his points tomorrow, you all should read this right now.

That being said, I would like to direct your attention here to a CNNSI report confirming that the deal is indeed finished.

Additionally, The New York Times is reporting a done deal simply awaiting approval from Bud Selig and the Players' Association. Alright, that's it from me until tomorrow. Again, read Mike's post. It's a top-notch analysis of this trade.

Update According to ESPN.com, the MLB Players' Association has approved the deal. Now the Yankees and Rangers have gotten over the hump that the Red Sox could not mount, all that awaits now is Bud Selig's approval. This deal, it seems, is a few hours away from completion.


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