Scott Boras has done it again. First, he gets Tom Hicks to outbid himself and give A-Rod $252 million. Then, he gets the Giants to offer Barry Zito (Zito?!!?) a SEVEN-YEAR deal. Now, he is inexplicably turning down offer after offer from the Dodgers for Manny Ramirez, and they just keep sweetening the deal despite the lack of any real competition for Manny's services. The latest deal is rumored to be $25 million for the first year and a player option for $20 in the second year. It's that "player option" that gives Manny the flexibility along with all the cash. Even better, Boras still hasn't accepted the deal!
Hate him all you want, but Boras is making his clients the most money possible, which happens to be his job. When the part of the fool is played by ownership so often, it's a wonder that more agents aren't as successful in negotiations. Take a look at these two players over the past five seasons:
PLAYER A - 29 AGE, 206 HR, 501 RBI, 491 R, .382 OBP, .533 SLG, .915 OPS
PLAYER B - 36 AGE, 180 HR, 585 RBI, 485 R, .408 OBP, .585 SLG, .993 OPS
Player A, the younger hitter with more power who is NOT a problem in the clubhouse, had to settle for a two-year, $20 million deal with one of the worst teams in baseball. Player B, the phenomenal but aging hitter whose leadership abilities are few and far between, is mulling over an offer with a playoff team worth 150% more than Player A's deal, plus it includes control in Year 2. Guess which player didn't have Scott Boras as his agent. Player A is Adam Dunn and Player B, of course, is Manny Ramirez.
Spring training games get underway today, and while they may be meaningless, what is of note is the amount of free agents STILL unsigned, such as Orlando Cabrera, Nomar Garciaparra, Juan Cruz, Paul Byrd, Pedro Martinez, Ivan Rodriguez, and... oh yeah, Manny Ramirez! In most of these situations, it's a simple case of the player (or agent) asking for more than the going rate. Now that games are starting, look for owners and/or players to start bending a little more as owners want to field a team and players want to make money (and play).
If you are thinking of finally using OBP in your fantasy league instead of batting average but are afraid some newbies or novices might be intimidated, give them a few easy points of reference. For example, MLB's average BA was .264 last year while the average OBP was .336. In terms of performances above and below, tell them that an OBP of .350 is the relational equivalent of a .280 BA. Those are easy numbers to remember and at least if they know how to gauge a .280 hitter, they should be able to gauge a .350 "on-baser" appropriately.
Using baseball-reference.com's Play Index, I also came up with these numbers, based on batters eligible for the batting title in 2008:
50th best BA: .291
50th best OBP: .365
100th best BA: .270
100th best OBP: .336
125th best BA: .251
125th best OBP: .317
Don't inundate your owners with too much information, but provide them with some data related to some previous knowledge (batting average) and they just might be more willing to make the jump. But hold off on introducing the "holds" category for another season.
2009 in the A.L. West is throwback time with Ken Griffey Jr. rejoining the Mariners, not long after Jason Giambi returned to Oakland. It's not 1999, though, and both players had a tough time making contact last year, but Giambi's power numbers returned to almost steroid-like levels. Griffey looked like a shell of his former self in Chicago late in the year, so it will be interesting to see if he has anything left in the tank for the team that drafted him.
With all of the A-Rod talk in the news, I tried to dig up something matter of fact NOT involving steroids. This is the best I could do: the current leading active player in outs is Omar Vizquel with an astounding 7,761 outs made in his career. Yes, that's about as trivial as it gets, but it's a slow week until things start happening in the camps.
Bobby Abreu signed a one-year deal with the Angels yesterday for a reported $5 million. That's right, the 34-year-old outfielder who has posted SIX consecutive 100+RBI seasons with a career .300 BA and .405 OBP just signed for $5 million. Meanwhile, the Cubs recently gave Milton Bradley $30 million over three years. Bradley is four years younger but has never even reached 80 RBIs in a season and has much worse career BA and OBP numbers, not to mention a somewhat troubled history with his public image. Am I missing something??
The Angels got a steal, and the Washington Nationals made a solid move as well, signing Adam Dunn for $20 million over two years. Everyone knows about Dunn's struggles with his batting average (.247 career) and high strikeout totals, but his career OBP of .381 is better than average and those almost-guaranteed 40 home runs don't hurt either. Credit Milton Bradley's agent because somehow he got a better deal than Dunn, and I can assure you that, barring injury, Dunn will finish '09 with more HRs, more RBIs, and a comparable OBP. The only thing worse will be his BA, and that is even factoring in that Dunn has to play in Washington.
The reality: ARod, along with a lot of other players over the last two decades, used steroids and helped cheapen baseball's records. Thanks to anonymous testing which suddenly isn't so anonymous, steps have been taken to prevent much of the rampant PED use, hopefully bringing this generation of fans a much cleaner game.
The other reality: baseball is a game a history, a game of pageantry, and a game of statistics. The obvious abuse of steroids has cheapened the game and the performances of the past two decades. When the numbers are suddenly irrelevant, history takes a hit, too. Fans love home runs and excitement, but not at the cost of the integrity of the game itself. The latest Hot Corner addresses the fan's passion for a return to a game where suspicion doesn't trump the performance.
Rob Neyer discusses the impact that free agent "professional hitters" like Abreu, Dunn, and Manny Ramirez can have on a team in an entry on ESPN.com. I like those three guys as AL players, but more for the reason that they give you flexibility at DH. Guys like Jim Thome, Travis Hafner, Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, and other great hitters late in their career can really hamstring a team because they simply can't or won't field a position. Worse yet, with interleague play, a guy who can't play the field at all becomes a very expensive pinch hitter for several weeks in the season.
Take the Chicago White Sox, for instance. With Jim Thome cemented as the DH, manager Ozzie Guillen doesn't have a lot of options when aging guys like Paul Konerko or Jermaine Day could use a day off from the field. It especially hurts when a starter comes back from an injury. Ideally, a few days at DH is a great way to get a good bat in the lineup, but if Thome can't play another position and has a hot bat, his lack of defense means the team is stuck with Thome and someone like Dwayne Wise in the lineup rather than Thome and a rehabbed Jermaine Dye. Basically, an inflexible DH may not hurt a team's production at DH but it could drive performance down indirectly at other positions.
Acquiring a guy like the three big free agents available gives a manager flexibility because they can all play the field in the short term. It may not be "web gem" material in the field, but if a DH can be flexible in the field, he's valuable in interleague games, he's valuable when another good hitter needs a day off in the field, so he's much more valuable than the "hitter only" DHs teams are often stuck with.
Manny Ramirez took yet another pass on an offer from the Dodgers, this time a 1-year deal worth $25 million. If the Dodgers are out of the picture and Boston obviously is not interested, there aren't many teams outside of New York who can afford Manny and are willing to take the risk. Even in New York, the Mets paid a fortune to shore up the bullpen and now just signed Oliver Perez to a 3-year deal, so they are unlikely to be throwing long term money at a talented but difficult outfielder. That leaves the Yankees, who already forked over a king's ransom for Sabathia and Teixeira. Who else could possibly sign Manny?
LA Angels? Maybe. They parted ways with Garland and longtime Angel Garret Anderson to save a few bucks, but Arte Moreno has never backed down from overspending on free agent outfielders (Matthews Jr., Hunter), so you never know.
Chicago Cubs? Unlikely. They might be willing to spend the money, but unless someone will take Soriano off their hands, the Cubs already have an expensive left fielder with fielding issues and an odd demeanor.
Washington Nationals? No. They keep saying they want to spend and be competitive, but if there is one thing everyone has learned, it's that Manny won't give you 100% if he's not happy, and he won't be happy on the struggling Nationals.
Texas Rangers? No. By now, they must have learned their lesson that dropping all the payroll on veteran hitters without stabilizing the pitching staff doesn't work in Texas, right?
St. Louis Cardinals? Hmmm. Pujols is pushing for him, and even though the Cards are rarely in the upper echelon of spending, somehow I see them pulling the trigger and trying to strike gold in a hurry.
Manny Ramirez rejected a 1-year and 2-year deals from the Dodgers, but I see the Cardinals emptying their pockets for two or three years to land Manny. The only problem is that if Manny didn't think two years and $45 million were enough in LA, it's going to be tough for St. Louis (or any team) to top that unless they go long term. My prediction? The Cardinals offer some kind of 3-year deal worth around $70 million, perhaps with some of the money deferred toward the back end. Without any other offers, Manny will take the deal and be loved in St. Louis - until he starts dogging it.
Check out the latest Hot Corner for The Commish's take on what lies ahead for the career of Andruw Jones. As of right now, Jones is headed down the same path as Dale Murphy, and that's not good for the remainder of his ball playing days.