The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Sportswriters say the darndest things

Troy Tulowitzki didn’t want to be Alex Rodriguez. He didn’t want to be Nomar Garciaparra, either. So he carved his own path.

The wrong one.

You remember Jeff Passan. He’s the guy with the giant hard-on for salary caps. Always complaining about greedy baseball men and their greedy greed greed greed and how they’re only in it for the money, and how the only way to fix baseball — which has no parity at all these days, as the Giants and Rangers would surely attest — would be to get all that damn money out of it.

Jeff Passan is presently complaining that Troy Tulowitzki is a giant moron for thinking about something other than money. Don’t believe me? The electronic temporary permanent record will back me up.

Far be it from anyone to impugn a man who Monday agreed to a contract extension that will pay him nearly $160 million over the next 10 years.

Impugn, vt.: To challenge as false (another’s statements, motives, etc.); cast doubt upon.

So when you declared that Tulo’s decision was "the wrong one" — which were the very very last words that came out of your mouth — you weren’t at all trying to cast doubt upon them. Gotcha.

The Colorado Rockies are lavishing Tulowitzki with an obscene amount of money. He loves Denver. In that vacuum, the deal makes all the sense in the world.

So in the "vacuum" consisting of: Tulo gets what he wants, the deal makes not just some sense, but all of the sense. All of the sense in the world.

It’s still wrong, though. Why? Allow Jeff to purple prose it at you:

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

What Jeff’s alluding to here, behind the wall of flowery literary sewage, is that Derek Jeter’s going to be forty years old when Tulo’s current contract is up, and either finishing or just about to finish his new contract with the Yankees. And Hank’s going to be looking for a hot young shortstop to come to New York and make $25M/year. And stupid Tulowitzki had to go and care more about loyalty and happiness than sheer dollar value, and signed a contract worth only $20M/year instead. And also shitted himself out of six guaranteed championships with the Yankees — who won the last six, if you’ve forgotten — instead of six guaranteed losing seasons with the Rockies, who I’m pretty sure haven’t ever been to the World Series.

Oh, the humanity! Oh, what could’ve been! O Tulo, my Tulo! Do not go gentle into that good night!

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.

Needs more adjectives imvo

And even if Tulowitzki is the anti-Mike Hampton

Pretty sure he is. Fun fact: Tulowitzki is Hampton spelled backwards.

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

Troy Tulowitzki, games played 2007-2010: 155, 101, 151, 122
Todd Helton, games played 2007-2010: 154, 83, 151, 118


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

He’s better than Jeter. More power, better glove. Jeter gets on a base a little bit more often, and is a bit faster, but hits into a lot of double plays due to his groundball tendencies. Though the fact that Tulo wears number 2 is the most adorable thing in baseball history.

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.

Because apparently the Rockies would have unlimited money otherwise. Tulo’s a six-win player — seven, if he could be bothered to be healthy. $20M is an good deal for a player of that calibre. That’s really the key thing to consider here: value for money. Tulo’s contract, assuming he produces at his current rate and doesn’t spend the whole time on the DL, is a positive value.

"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."

You tell ’em, Contradiction Man!

2010 Texas Rangers payroll: $55,250,545
Michael Young’s 2010 salary: $13,174,974 (24%)

So apparently if you do violate this iron-clad baseball law, your punishment will be winning the league championship.

The Rockies ignored that rule again, indulging in the prototypical shortstop: amazing with bat and glove, a born leader, the sort over whom the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox and every other team with pockets deep and shallow would swoon.

I can’t figure out the last bozo metaphor in this sentence. "Pockets deep and shallow?" Does he mean teams with deep pockets and also other teams with shallow pockets, and he just forgot to name any of those? Or is he using "shallow" the way a teenage girl would use it, to indicate his disdain for the concept of paying for talent? Or is he just being a dummy and didn’t notice that his adjectives are contradictory?

By turning down the opportunity to hit free agency after 2014, Tulowitzki potentially left millions of dollars on the table. He certainly left the opportunity to play for franchises that need not operate with tight margins because of one man’s deal.

He also bought himself peace of mind, since, on the one hand, he really wanted to stay in Colorado, but — more importantly than that — he has a ten-year guaranteed contract now. If he gets impaled with a bat shard like Tyler Colvin did, or maybe hit in the face with a pitch and his career takes a nose-dive, he’s covered. He still gets eight shitloads of money.

Try this thought experiment. Imagine you’re 2010 Derek Jeter in the middle of this acrimonious free agent negotiation everybody and his brother won’t shut up about. Now imagine that you have the option to send a letter to 2006 Derek Jeter — coming off a season in which you hit .343 / .417 / .483 with a 132 OPS+ and 6.3 WAR — advising yourself to negotiate a six-year extension at a moderate raise instead of testing free agency. Think that might be a good plan?

The run on which the Rockies have gone since Tulowitzki arrived in 2007 certainly imbued him with the confidence that Colorado can mimic the traditional powers’ playoff prowess. Tulowitzki played in the World Series as a rookie. He made the playoffs again two years later. His 15-homer September this year pushed Colorado to the precipice again.

And the year Tulo was hurt and only worth one win the Rockies weren’t in contention. HmmmMMMmmMMMmmMmMMMmm.

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.

Success in baseball always takes timing and luck. Ask the 2001 Athletics, who had a ridiculously good team but lost the division by fourteen games — fourteen games! — because the goddamn Mariners went 116-46. The A’s won 102 games and finished a very very distant second place. You always need timing and luck, no matter what.

Locking up any other players of significance became an impossibility.

They managed to lock up Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle pretty well. Oh, also? They don’t make the playoffs in 2007 or in 2009 without Helton. He was worth 5 and 4.2 WAR, respectively. For the life of that contract, Helton was worth 31.7 WAR and was paid $119M. That is fairly close to an even value, and would be an easy positive without the two seasons he was too hurt to play any baseball. Which is unfortunate, but not foreseeable.

Did the Rockies overpay? Yeah, probably a little. But it wasn’t Vernon Wells-ian. And it’s not like you’re going to win shit signing a whole bunch of 1-2 WAR dudes for $6M apiece either, you know.

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.

It’s probably fine for Jimenez to leave, since he’s going to get a gigantic overpay. He turns 30 in 2014, and that crazy fastball velocity’s going to begin to dip. And then all those walks are going to become a much bigger problem. In my opinion, better a huge contract for the 25-year-old shortstop than the 30-year-old fireballer with control problems.

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

The Rockies are notoriously impatient with Scott Boras, which I love them for. Anyhow, Carlos Gonzalez’s BABIP was fucking .384 this year. That ain’t sustainable. He’s not going to remain a 4-5 win player; he’s more like a 2-3. Tulo’s better.

Carlos Gonzalez by month, 2010:

March/April: .397 BABIP / .899 OPS
May: .329 BABIP / .796 OPS
June: .333 BABIP / .756 OPS
July: .441 BABIP / 1.150 OPS
August: .353 BABIP / 1.174 OPS
September/October: .440 BABIP / 1.043 OPS

The security of the Rockies picking up that $15 million option, then tacking $119 million onto it, overwhelmed Tulowitzki, enough not to chase his A-Rod moment

What an asshole, signing a long deal with a team he loves instead of chasing every available penny. Why can’t you be an upstanding baseball citizen like A-Rod, Tulowitzki?

If he were to have thrived these next four seasons and entered free agency at 30 and the game’s best shortstop, a $200 million deal would’ve been possible.

Sure. And if he had a 2014 like Derek Jeter’s 2010 — or, worse, his own 2008 — a $45 million deal would have been possible.

Except there was Nomar. His career that died at 35, and never did he make more than $11.5 million in a season. And Hanley Ramirez, the other contender for best shortstop alive, signed away three years of free agency to the Florida Marlins for only $46.5 million. Suddenly, close to $20 million a year didn’t look so bad, not in such a great city with such great fans.

Nomar suffered a severe wrist injury before the 2001 season that basically sidetracked him for the rest of his career. He had not yet hit free agency by that time.

As for Hanley, that’s a ridiculously team-favourable contract (though still nothing like the contract Evan Longoria signed). So, hey, that’s one! Meanwhile, the Dodgers are paying Rafael Furcal $10M/year to be about a third as good as Tulo. And for some reason I’m not clear on, the Red Sox are paying Marco Scutaro money to play baseball.

This is a marriage of convenience, though, a rarity in sports with good reason: rarely do they turn out well.

Leave your terms completely vague, and you can justify anything! Rarely do "they" turn out well? What are "they?" Contracts? Extensions? Shortstops? Whatever term I use to fill in this blank, it doesn’t seem to make the argument correct.

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.

Okay, great. "Number of World Championships won" is a terrible stat to use for evaluating a player (especially a player who’s won four championships you conveniently data-searched out of your argument), but never mind. I’d like you to read something a wise man once said. It goes like this:

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

So. The contract you identify as "the model for great long-term deals," which is also the contract most similar to Tulowitzki’s contract, and also for the player most similar to Tulowiztki, didn’t result in unlimited championships. But the reason Tulowitzki should have opted-out of the Rockies to go play for the Yankees — the team that signed the Jeter contract, remember — was because it would guarantee unlimited championships.

Is Yahoo sports hiring editors? Perhaps they should be.

It took O’Dowd, after all, nearly a decade to turn the Rockies from perpetual losers into a franchise worth emulating.

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

Helton’s still there. Still under contract. Was an integral part of getting the Rockies to the playoffs both times. Turns out the problem wasn’t just contracts in general — specifically, it was big contracts for bad players. Big contracts for good players are fine. Remember? Value for money? Signing 25 replacement-level players and spending the rest of the money on an armed escort to carry your fucking juiced balls from the humidor out to Timmy’s insecure fingers will result in a team that goes 35-127.

So here’s to both sides enjoying the love-in while they can. Tulo got paid. The Rockies got their man. It would be such a great happily-ever-after story if only the ending were happy.

The ending’s not for ten years, dummy. It might have less angst than the leaked beta copy you seem to have gotten from Usenet. And as long as it has fewer compound adjectives, I think it’s a win for society in general.

November 30th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

So about those MVPs