Reporting Tim Baffoe
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(CBS) If you have the money, by golly, spend it. That is pretty much rule number one of General Managing For Dummies.
Hell hath no fury like a fan base scorned by a team failing to win while cash is in reserve. And with Major League Baseball free agency now in full beast mode, fans of all clubs, except the Angels, are giving their GMs the Judge Smails “Well? We’re waiting.”
There is, of course, a caveat to that GMing rule about money, though: don’t just spend for the sake of spending. A few front offices have and will throw that caveat by the wayside regardless.
Bad contracts in sports are just a given. Some team in every major league has to give too much money to a guy whose name is bigger than his game. It’s like the moderately attractive, definitely easy, medically questionable lady in the bar at closing time. Most guys don’t want her, but it’s inevitable that she’s leaving with somebody who will later regret it.
Several skanks are being enjoyed by desperate teams as we speak, and I for one will point and laugh at those teams’ hangovers and painful trips to the bathroom soon. The problem for them is that there is no baseball penicillin, especially one that can clear up no-trade clauses.
Don’t get me wrong—I understand that this is what sports have become financially. I don’t begrudge one player for getting paid enough cash to fill a Khloe Kardashian evening gown, even if a player isn’t worth it. My problem is that there are so many GMs who don’t see the latter.
Let’s run down some of the major fish that have been landed so far this off-season:
Albert Pujols: The white whale of them all. I get the feeling Jerry Dipoto will suffer a professional fate akin to Captain Ahab in his pursuit for this signing. A 10-year contract worth at least $250 million for an if-he’s-31-then-I’m-15-year-old. Pujols’ prior performance cannot be denied, and he’s certainly not worth chump change. But he’s also old and slowly breaking down physically. The little injuries that hardly faze a 26-year-old become exponentially worse on a body like that, and one that may or not be chemically kosher. Pujols will have the luxury of moving to DH to give him longevity, but me thinks in just a few years there will be many people regretting the no-trade clause Fat Albert has. No pro athlete deserves a 10-year deal. None. Too bad Starbuck doesn’t work in Anaheim, too.
C.J. Wilson: The vice-president-elect of the off-season so far. Five years, $75 million. For a starting pitcher. In an era of baseball where innings and pitch counts are micromanaged and the slightest tinge and tweak shuts a guy down for two weeks. Wilson is a good pitcher, or at least he has been lately. Baseball has a funny way of suddenly killing a player’s mojo, though, sometimes for no discernable reason. Happens more so with pitchers. And I’m just not sure about that kind of money for a guy whose resume doesn’t blow me away—in the big leagues since 2005, but only two full seasons as a starter. I have to agree with Sports Illustrated’s Joe Sheehan who wrote today, “Now, you can spin that a number of ways, but keep in mind that the worst free-agent signings happen when a team signs a player to a contract for more years than a player has ever been worth the money.” I’d like to add to that a full no-trade clause for the first two years and a partial one for the final three.
Mark Buehrle: Buehrle should dine well in the National League, but $58 million for a guy who will be 33 on Opening Day, doesn’t strike guys out, and had a bounceback year after an icky 2010? Plus, this deal is a slight raise from his 2007 deal. Be happy Kenny Williams isn’t that stupid if you’re a White Sox fan.
Jose Reyes: Six years, $106 million. Remember those numbers, because those are what will be referenced when discussing the worst contracts in the game’s history (and, yes, I’m factoring in Alfonso Soriano’s current deal). $17 million-plus per year for speed, basically. Since becoming a full-timer, Reyes has hit over .300 twice. His career OPS is .782. Of active qualifying players, 83 have a higher number than that, including such stars as Nick Swisher, Adam LaRoche, and Lyle Overbay. Reyes has missed significant time the past two seasons—leg issues on a guy who gets paid for his legs—and it was because of injury concerns that the Mets chose not to retain him. Ironic that last May, Mets owner Fred Wilpon said there was no way Reyes would get Carl Crawford money in the offseason. Well, Reyes came just shy of Crawford money, and how happy are Boston fans with Hot Carl right now?
Jonathan Papelbon: I liken closers to NFL running backs in that they are so often interchangeable (see: Packers, Broncos of recent vintage). It’s not as though just anyone can do the job, but it seems that the vast majority of teams are able to find someone serviceable year in, year out. Their shelf lives are also iffy at best. Trevor Hoffmans come along nary too often, and it’s the rare closer who holds his job with the same team for more than three years. So of course the Phillies threw $50 million at Papelbon. Is he one of the best closers of recent vintage? Very much so. Can you find an above-average-to-good closer for much cheaper? Yes.
Heath Bell: see: Papelbon.
This list will grow. Of Carlos Beltran, Roy Oswalt, Aramis Ramirez, and Jimmy Rollins, at least one will get a deal that will have many scratching their heads. But that’s where baseball is at today and will continue to be so, if not mutating more. Just be glad if your favorite team’s GM is not.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.