Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sometimes it's Good to be Poor

In this season more than almost any other, I have been amazed/confused/astonished/bewildered by the payroll disparities in Major League Baseball.

What is so confounding isn't that some teams have low payrolls and others have high ones, that is nothing new. The thing that gets me is the number of silly contracts that have been given out by some of these general managers.

Examining the Marlins' opponent last night demonstrates what I'm talking about.

The Mariners signed last night's starter Carlos Silva to a huge deal that pays him more than $8 million a year. Richie Sexson (who for a big man has the tiniest swing I've ever seen) makes $15 million this season! Miguel Batista makes almost $10 million! I haven't even mentioned the bloated contracts of Adrian Beltre, Jarrod Washburn or Jose Vidro. I don't think any of those guys could even earn a starting spot on the Marlins. No wonder GM Bill Bavasi was fired. Are you serious Bill?

People jump on the Marlins for being cheapskates and they undoubtedly are. But I think the Fish's thriftiness is a good thing. It makes them avoid stupid, costly mistakes like the Mariners, by all accounts a respected franchise. Just because a team has the revenue streams to spend a crap-load of money, doesn't mean they have to spend it stupidly.

The Marlins' big gaffe this season was signing Jacque Jones (it cost about 5o grand.) The Brewers' big gaffe was Eric Gagne's $10 million deal!

Larry Beinfest's and David Samson's mantra is to find players that out-perform their contracts. It is amazing that more teams don't subscribe to the same philosophy. I think other teams (aided by the success this season by the bottom three payroll teams: the Marlins, Rays and A's) are finally beginning to realize that high payrolls do not necessarily directly contribute to wins.


ASponge said...

You make an excellent argument. Sometimes extra money can be a curse.

I think that's why Billy Beane has turned down countless opportunities to stay with the A's.

Wonderful piece.

Paul said...

Great point; one need only look at the struggling Mets to see a prime example of huge contracts and tiny reward. It's interesting that in a number of cases, especially recently, we see players get rewarded with monster contracts and then subsequently not live up to the hype. Mr. Zito out in San Fran is a prime example--maybe the ultimate example. And much as I think he'll turn it around, it can't be argued that Miguel Cabrera hasn't exactly wowed the fans up in Detroit this year. To me, and I think common sensically as well, you'd think these players, once they earn that huge pay check, would relax, be more loose, and subsequently play better. It seems like the opposite is true: they press and feel the need to live up to the hype, or at least that's how it looks to someone who is as far from being an athlete as you can possibly be:)

Imber said...

I don't think big payrolls contribute to winning, but small payrolls certainly aren't why a team has success. In the end it all comes down to chemistry and having the right players. The Tigers are proving it's stupid to have all number four hitters in the lineup because there's nobody to get on base first. The '03 Marlins team that was so successful had Pierre getting on base and stealing second on a consistent basis. Not spending money isn't the answer, but spending it on the right (and that usually doesn't mean the most expensive) players is.

ASponge said...

The Red Sox are the marquee example. Five years ago, they decided they were going to build their farm like a small market team and just sign a few extra free agents. Two World Series Championships later, it seems to be paying off.

The Beckett-Hanley trade was one of the few cases where they broke from that philosophy.

Imagine if the Marlins suddenly were given $50 million for next season to spend on FAs.

Then again, are the Carl Pavanos of the world going to improve on what Ryan Tucker will give you? Maybe free agents just aren't worth it at all.

ASponge said...

One more thing...looking at the Mets. Sometimes a high-priced player can handicap you.

If Carlos Delgado weren't making $16 million, he would have been out of the lineup a long time ago. You don't have these kinds of moral obligations to management.

Imber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Imber said...

That's all true, however while you have the Delgado's and Zito's of the world, you also get the Santana's. Not every big money move is bad, and sometimes it is necessary.

Stanley C. said...

The Mariners problems with money this year go back more than just this offseason. They picked up Richie Sexson to be the pop they lacked in their lineup back in 2005. He missed much of '04, but in 2003 he had 49 HR's, slugging % of .549. Beltre came to the Mariners the year after he was runner up in the NL MVP race after a 48 HR, .348 season. These were huge deals at the time they were made. For some reason in Seattle, they've fizzed. Then the offseason acquisition of Cy Young candidate Erik Bedard looked like the move to put them over the hump, but he's been hampered all seasons with injuries and short outings. For some reason, the team isn't performing.

in case you couldn't tell, I've been a pretty diehard M's fan since the mid-90's. This has been the biggest letdown, disappointment I can ever remember.

Loft said...

Sometimes you can see the bad contracts before it happens. Adrian Beltre is a perfect example of this, look at his career stats, he puts up decent numbers every now and then, but then the year he's eligible for free agency he explodes.

Some guys get the big contract, and then decide it's time to be fat and lazy. Other solid examples, Carl Pavano and until about a month ago when he decided to try again, Jason Giambi.

ASponge said...

Even worse in Adrian Beltre's case is that he was obviously on steroids. That's the main reason the Dodgers didn't try to resign him.

Stanley C. said...

Yea, but in this first post-mitchell report season, Beltre's finally getting his HR power back, he's 7th in the AL with 14 homers. And he's always been a gold glove caliber 3rd baseman. It seems nightly, he's making a key play on the corner, including last night. 1st and 3rd with 2 outs, and he snares a liner that's sure to get at least 1 run in. His defense has been there, and it looks like he's getting some power back. Unfortunatly, he's the only one on the roster who can say that.

Jay Warman said...

I was amazed at how big Safeco played last night. That place is friggin huge.

Stanley C. said...

Safeco's consistently one of the hardest parks for hitters, right up there with the bermuda triangle. Although the Fish haven't had too much of a problem with homers this season thus far. Safeco has the added advantage of a retractable roof, which can have a pretty big impact on ball flight.