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Thursday, February 19, 2004

THAT'S A FINE ARBITRATION NUMBER. FOR ME TO POOP ON.

I guess it's not a good time to be French-Canadian. First this, and now this.

Like Albert Pujols, Eric Gagne has more than one great season under his belt, he had 52 saves in 2002, so I don't think the arbitration panel could have dismissed this season as a fluke. My guess is that because Gagne is a reliever, not a starter, he isn't perceived to have the same value despite having more win shares than any other pitcher in MLB this past season and winning the NL Cy Young award. Gagne's Cy Young counterpart in the AL, Roy Halladay, will be getting around 10.5 million a year although he was worth 2 fewer win shares this past season. Keith Foulke, the best reliever this year in the AL, will be getting about 7 million a year from the Red Sox.

Given how I understand the arbitration process works, the arbitration panel has to decide if the player is worth more or less than the middle point between the two offers; in this case the 6.5 millon dollar mark. If they think the player is worth more one cent more than the middle point then the player wins, if not, the team wins. Since Foulke and Halladay are both getting more than 6.5 million and Gagne has a strong case for saying he is equal to, if not better than, those guys than I am inclined to believe that the arbitrators made a bad decision here. Do I think Gagne got robbed? To quote Robert DeNiro from GoodFellas, "Little bit. Little bit.".

I'd be curious to know if the new Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta had anything to do with presenting the Dodger's case before the arbitration board. Gagne is so good that I don't think any statistical analysis of him would do anything other than support his case which makes me wonder if Paul DePodesta would have dumbed himself down for the arbitration panel.

However, my guess is that there was a cleverly disguised imposter in the ranks.

FYI: In case you think that arbitrators are there just to solve disagreements between MLB clubs and their players, think again. You too, can retain the services of the very same people who helped solve some of your favorite free-agent disputes.

THERE'S MY MONEY, BITCH.

I was working on a post about Albert Pujols and the St.Louis Cardinals I entitled, "Where's My Money, Bitch?", when I googled Pujols and I found this: It looks like the Cards have just signed Pujols to a seven year 100 million dollar deal. That works out to roughly 14 million a season; a bargain.

Well it's toast now but the gist of my article was how the Cardinals should learn from the lesson of John Henry and the Red Sox in the whole A-Rod debacle, and just realize, "Hey, this type of player doesn't come along that often. He costs money. Let's not pussy-foot around here, let's pay him what he's worth before we lose him.". I'm not sure if the folly of Henry's frugalness served as a motivator for the Cardinals to get this deal done, but I can't imagine they were serious with their 7 million dollar arbitration figure for Pujols. I mean, that's really playing with fire if you ask me. Not only could I see that figure pissing arguably the best player in baseball off, and rightly so, but what if the arbitration board, high on crystal-meth, actually sided with the Cardinals and only gave Pujols the 7 million? How much chance would they have of signing him to a long-term deal then?

The only slight reservation I have with the deal is the Cardinals short-sighted tendency to sign players to ridiculously long contracts. I guess the thinking behind it is if you offer a player more long-term security they're liable to sign for less money per annum. While this may be true, you're also liable to end up over-paying for a player's decline years, and in the worst case scenario, you end up paying for a guy sitting at home on his couch. (Exhibit A.)

While the NY Yankees can do this and just swallow the bad contract, as will be the case for Jason Giambi's decline years, for any other team with a budget under 200 million a huge long-term deal is a major gamble which can potentially cripple a team's payroll flexibility. (Exhibit B actually kind of reminds me of Pujols a bit.) I think I'd rather pay a little more on a 3-4 year deal in exchange for the latitude it gives me down the road. A lot can happen in that span of time. Of course, the Cards and I might have a different idea of when a player's decline years begin.

That being said, the Cards, like the Angels with Vlad, have taken advantage of the weak FA market and gotten Pujols while the getting is good. (Let it be noted that the new ceiling for baseball salaries appears to be 14 million dollars a season and falling.) If there ever is a time to sign someone to a long-term deal it's now. If there ever is a player to sign to a long-term deal it's Pujols.

No doubt about it, the Cardinals need Pujols and they know it. Pitching is going to be tough to come by and Jim Edmunds ain't what he used to be. Scott Rolen has had two relatively healthy seasons with the Cards, but does have a history of back problems. And unless they can move a salary or two, they will also have a hard time keeping Edgar Renteria who'll become a free-agent after the 2005 season. Good short-stops are hard to find these days.

Even if it turns out Pujols hasn't been completely honest about his age, 14 million dollars a year for a player as historic as Pujols (.334/.412/.613 in his first three seasons!) is a sweet-ass gamble to take.

FRAUD

Remember Barry Bonds, the kind of guy who you wouldn't see James Spader lending his sweater to?

Well, according to King Kaufman, there have been sightings of a leaner, lighter man (with a presumably less bulbous head and neck) strutting around San Francisco claiming to be Barry Bonds.

I don't know who this Ripley is, or what he's done with the real Barry Bonds, but it seems even Fillipe Alou has been duped:

Barry looks great, thin, like a wire... He works so hard. He looked good and strong, and he said, "I'm ready to go."

All this leaves me with a couple of questions.

If this imposter shows up at Giants training camp and keeps fooling the rest of baseball as easily as he conned Alou, will opposing pitchers start challenging this less physically imposing figure inside?

And if he then isn't able to consistently hit those balls a quarter of a mile, will pitchers then stop issuing intentional passes?

And if his OBP and SLG start dropping to the .400/.550 range of the late career Barry Bonds before he started his rigorous training program (or God forbid he starts hitting like a real 39 year-old), will Albert Pujols demand his MVP back?

And with A-Rod now playing to the left of Mr. Clutch, and not the other way around, who will be the greatest active player in baseball?

It's all topsy-turvy. At least that guy who impersonated Stanley Kubrick was just looking for some attention. It's not like he showed up on the Warner Bros. lot and demanded that they finally finance his Napoleon (or worse Weekend at Bernies 4) and changed the course of film history (although to detractors of Eyes Wide Shut, I suppose it could explain a lot).

Come back, Barry Bonds.

Oh, by the way, in an unrelated matter, did you hear the latest about BALCO steroid scandal?

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