Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dear Jeff Passan: You're a Diptard

The Rockies recently handed Troy Tulowitzki a hefty extension, and the baseball media's reaction was mostly negative. Rob Neyer was mildly unsupportive, Tangotiger sort didn't really mind it, and Keith Law hated it. No surprise there because Keith Law is a card-carrying asshole who (smugly) hates everything. The fact that Passan also hated it, then, isn't anything special. What's special are his reasons for hating it, which range from WRONG to terribly thought out to fucking ridiculous. The craziest part- he found a way to try to claim that the deal isn't just bad for the Rockies, but for Tulowitzki as well (something no other writer I stumbled across did).

What could’ve been, though. Oh, what could’ve been. On one hand, Tulowitzki played things safe. He was reasonable.

Agreeing to be paid $19MM per year 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 years in the future for doing the same thing you do now is probably a reasonable thing to do, yes. LET'S PAT HIM ON THE BACK FOR IT BEFORE WE TEAR HIM TO PIECES.

And on the other, he lacked the fortitude to chase the greater glory that awaited him elsewhere. The money he could’ve gotten and the championships he could’ve won had he simply played out his current contract with the franchise that can’t help itself from taking a blade to its jugular.

Allow me to translate: gross! Who wants to try to win anywhere but Boston, New York, and MAYBE Philly or L.A.? What kind of an unreasonable stupid person is Tulo? Doesn't he know that all players should focus singularly on playing for one those teams? What a dummy this guy is! Trying to win a title with the team that drafted him. For shame.

By turning down the opportunity to hit free agency after 2014, Tulowitzki potentially left millions of dollars on the table.

Hard to say. Probably. He's still going to be paid for sure during those years, even if he decides to get fat and lazy and really sucks by then. So the security the deal offers was, you know, probably worth something to him.

He certainly left the opportunity to play for franchises that need not operate with tight margins because of one man’s deal.

This sounds like sour grapes from a Yankees/Red Sox fan, but The Google reveals that Passan doesn't seem to have any particular bias towards big payroll teams. In any case, it's shitty logic. More on why later. Let's move on to Passan's analysis of the Rockies' side of the deal, which is predictably dumb.

If this deal is bad for Tulowitzki, it’s ill-conceived and unconscionable for a Rockies team that knows what long-term, big-money contracts do to franchises with middling budgets: cripple them. And even if Tulowitzki is the anti-Mike Hampton

Right, terrible contract. No one would argue otherwise.

and even if he can stay healthy like Todd Helton couldn’t,

This is where the WRONG starts. He mentions the Helton extension (a 9 year deal worth $141 MM signed after the 2002 season and running through 2011) multiple times, as if it were some spectacular failure. Here are the facts which you can keep in mind as Jeff keeps referencing this deal- in by far the three worst years of the deal, the most recent three, Helton appeared in 352 games, or about 118 per season. He missed a boatload of time in 2008 and quite a bit last year. During this stretch, he "only" accumulated about 5 WAR and OPS+ed 108. Slightly above average for a corner infielder. Now- was he worth what he was being paid at the time? Of course not. He made $50MM from 2008-2010, and if you use the somewhat-accepted conversion rate of $5MM per WAR on the open market, he made double what he should have. It's really 2008 and 2010 that were the problem- he had a great 2009 (4 WAR).

So in spite of the good will his presence generates among fans, and his leadership/grit/whatever other intangibles you want to throw in there, he's spent the last three seasons being a mild cash sink for the Rockies. But from 2003-2007? He accumulated 26 WAR and OPS+ed 145. He was worth what he was paid and then some. Using that same conversion rate for WAR on the open market I described before, he paid for roughly 80% of the cost of the contract in those five years alone. Combine his performance then with his 2008-2010, and it's batshit insane to say the contract was anything worse than a "fair deal" for the Rockies. It would be perfectly reasonable to call it a good deal, and if you're really into intangibles and all that crap, you could call it great. Would they have been better off signing him to a 5 year extension and avoiding his eventual decline? Sure, in most ways. But making a deal to keep him around for the rest of his career generated a lot of value for the franchise, as he was their first true homegrown superstar. Comparing this contract to Hampton's is lunacy. Implying that it was or is some kind of albatross around the franchise's neck is flat out WRONG.

and even if he is the do-everything, all-world, good-guy shortstop, heir to Derek Jeter,

Then that would be awesome, because Jeter was really really good until last season and Tulo was a better defender to begin with so in theory his defense will age better.

he still leaves the Rockies in a compromised position: with limited money to spend on the other pieces and parts that would comprise an annual contender.

To an extent, that's the whole point, isn't it? If you're not the Yankees or Red Sox, you have to spend money on certain guys and build around them. Of course you can't keep everyone- I'm sure Carlos Gonzalez will leave the Rockies when he's a free agent or on the brink of becoming one, as Matt Holliday did- but there are certain guys you keep and build around. And you pay them a lot of money so you can do that. You keep Joe Mauer. You pay shitloads of money to keep Miguel Cabrera if you acquire him. And you keep Tulowitzki. It's a very smart way to do things, and keeps fans interested. Being successful while operating your team like the Rays or A's do is nice in theory, but it's a dangerous game. Having a cornerstone that keeps ticket sales up and allows you to be absolutely sure about something that's six, seven, or eight years down the road is a preferable option if it's available. Don't be surprised if you hear rumors about the Rays approaching Evan Longoria about this kind of mega extension a few years from now. And at the same time, this is a really stupid point. Because by the time the extension's big money kicks in, the Rockies probably won't be dealing with much of a "limited money to throw around" situation at all.

The Rockies operate with a payroll of around $80 million. Last year, it was $5 million more, the year before $3 million less.

And in 2015, it's a very safe bet that it'll be around $100 million or more. Back in 2003/2004/2005, it was around $60-$65MM. See how that works? In fact, call me crazy, but I'm willing to bet that salaries all across MLB have gone up in the last 5ish years, and will go up again in the next 5ish years. Magic!

Tulowitzki’s contract extension adds six years and $119 million onto the end of his current deal, which, including a 2014 option, was to pay him $38.75 million. So, starting in 2015, when Tulowitzki will be 30, the Rockies will give him nearly $20 million a year.

“If there’s a guy to spend a quarter of your payroll on, he’s it,” said a GM of a low-revenue team, “but you just don’t spend a quarter of your payroll on anyone. Period.”

Which is why it's a good thing they won't be doing that with Tulo unless some crazy and unforeseen financial catastrophe hits baseball or their team.

The Rockies ignored that rule again,

They didn't. This line of logic is kind of similar to saying "Why would you take an entry level job coming out of college that only pays you $40K a year? You'll never be able to buy a house and put three kids through college with that salary!"

And yet Rockies executives admit that attaining such success with Helton’s albatross nine-year, $141.5 million deal took an incredible confluence of timing and luck.

See above.

Locking up any other players of significance became an impossibility.

They didn't have any to lock up other than Holliday and MAYBE Jason Jennings. They traded both for packages of players who provided better value in the short and the long run. The Rockies' problem in 2003-2006 wasn't that Helton's contract (and Hampton's "dead money" contract, left over for five years even after he was traded) were holding them back. Their problem was that they didn't have enough homegrown talent to make it worthwhile to compliment that talent with extra free agent pieces.

With attendance unlikely to return to the halcyon late ’90s, new revenue streams to support such deals are almost impossible to come by. The jump to a $100 million payroll isn’t happening.

It almost certainly is, and probably by 2015. They're going to be at about $85MM this year.

So as the Rockies celebrate Tulowitzki’s new deal, they do so knowing that Ubaldo Jimenez is now likely to leave after the 2014 season.

Depends. No way to tell this far out, and stupid to make assumptions about a pitcher's ability to sustain success without having his arm explode.

And that Carlos Gonzalez, a Scott Boras client, is certain to do so.

Sure. He was probably going to whether they signed Tulowitzki or not.

And that rather than waiting until 2014 to figure out where to spend their money, the team went all-in on a player who has missed significant time in two of his four seasons because of injuries.

In 2008 he missed time for one injury that won't be repeated (hurt himself slamming a bat in the dugout) and one that was a legitimate on field "wear and tear" injury (quad/groin pull). In 2010 he missed about 30 games because some asshole Twins relief pitcher hit him in the wrist with a pitch. Jeff is only the 50th columnist in the last two weeks to overstate Tulowitzki's injury issues.

This is a marriage of convenience, though, a rarity in sports with good reason: rarely do they turn out well. Even the model for great long-term deals, Jeter’s 10-year, $189 million contract with the Yankees, comes with a warning label. Over the life of the deal, even after splurging on $1.6 billion worth of contracts on top of Jeter’s deal, the Yankees won only one World Series.

The Yankees signed Derek Jeter to a long contract, during the majority of which he was an awesome player and worth much more than what they paid him. But because of the way baseball's postseason works they only won one WS (and two other pennants, while appearing in the playoffs nine times) while he was under that contract. Therefore... don't sign awesome players to long contracts?

One of the stupidest things I've ever read.

The Rockies may spend half that, and even though general manager Dan O’Dowd and his lieutenants Bill Schmidt and Bill Geivett do a commendable job finding cheap talent and securing it to reasonable contracts, sustaining that for a decade is Sisyphean. It took O’Dowd, after all, nearly a decade to turn the Rockies from perpetual losers into a franchise worth emulating.

You know what they say: the easy part is finding a sustainable model for success in a mid-sized market where 9 out of 10 people prefer football to baseball. The hard part is keeping it going once you have a talented and young MLB team, a fairly stacked farm system, and supportive ownership willing to spend in certain situations. That's where you really see problems.

And what mummified the team for all those years? The contracts of Hampton and Helton, of course.

From 2003 until 2010, the Rockies paid Todd Helton about $120 MM to accumulate 31.7 WAR, play a starring role on two playoff teams, and be the face of the franchise. From 2003 until 2008, the Rockies paid Mike Hampton about $60 MM to pitch for other teams. Putting those two deals in the same sentence suggests how utterly unqualified you are to write about this subject. Cautioning the Rockies that there's a chance that the deal "only" works out as well as the 2001-2010 Jeter deal verifies it. You, sir, are a diptard.


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Jack M said...

...Keith Law is a card-carrying asshole who (smugly) hates everything.

Someone's jealous that Keith Law has a card and he doesn't.