Bill Barnwell lists some bad NFL contracts, but of course his definition of “bad contract” is one in which the team loses value, not one in which the player is dramatically underpaid relative to his contribution. Given labor agreements that substantially restrict rookie and early year player compensation, a list of underpaid players is naturally going to be headed by guys like Mike Trout. Excluding those, what would a list of long-term contracts (NFL, NBA, or MLB) that were very “bad” from the perspective of the player look like?
The Yankees’ acquisition of Alfonso Soriano is another sign that the team’s ownership really has had trouble adjusting to the new reality that you have to develop from within in order to compete. Half-heartedly trying to get below the luxury tax, the Yankees decided to pass on resigning players like Nick Swisher in the offseason, instead choosing to rely on a bunch of ancient and oft-injured players. That’s gone as well as expected, meaning that the Yankees arguably have the worst right-handed hitting team of all time, according to Ben Lindbergh at Baseball Prospectus (sub required to read the whole thing):
As a team, the Yankees have hit .221/.283/.311 from the right side of the plate. That’s 30 points of OPS worse than the Marlins, who rank 29th in that category (and who play in a pitcher’s park and don’t have a DH). The Yankees haven’t hit a right-handed homer in over a month (Jayson Nix, June 25th), and they went three weeks without one before that (Mark Teixeira, June 4th). It’s like the whole team has turned into Pete Kozma.
This is historic offensive futility, and the fact that the Yankees had the highest payroll in baseball before trading for Soriano adds insult to impotence. The Yankees’ .594 OPS from the right side is the 17th-lowest ever (or since 1916, which is as far back as Baseball-Reference goes when searching for that split). None of the entries on the list below them is from the last 30 seasons; most are from low-offense eras and pitcher’s parks. In fact, considering the context, the 2013 Yankees have a real claim to the title of worst right-handed-hitting team of all time.
Let’s just say that again. The Yankees do not have a right-handed home run since June 25. Today is July 26. Among the teams worse than the Yankees in that list referred to above are the mighty 81 Blue Jays and the legendary 02 and 03 Tigers. Actually every team since 1950 is better than the Yankees at right-handed hitting.
Acquiring Soriano in itself is probably fine if you need an ancient slugger having a surprisingly good season but who is a major liability on the basepaths and in the field. That doesn’t help the Yankees much; the reality is that there isn’t anything out there short of the Marlins trading Giancarlo Stanton for a bag of balls that is going to help them much. They need to be sellers, not buyers. It’s amazing that the Yankees’ record is as good as it is since they have vastly outperformed what their statistics suggest their record should be. In other words, the Yankees are by far the luckiest team in baseball this year and that’s unlikely to continue in the last 2 months. But they are the Yankees and they only buy.
Given that the Yankees are utterly bereft of decent hitting prospects in the upper echelons of the system and the increased age and long-term contracts of their players, it’s likely the Yankees will be a lot worse next year.
If anyone needs to puke, reading Lanny Davis appropriating the Washington Nationals to push his dream of a purple America where everyone in the Beltway can just get along by the Democratic Party moving to the right should accomplish it.
I’ve always dreamed of starting a grassroots campaign for Toronto Blue Jays reliever Steve Delabar for one reason or another. And now I have my chance. Of course, fans get to choose the final all-star. For some reason, all the attention this year is whether Yasiel Puig will be the choice in the NL. Not much about the AL. Maybe that’s because fans have the joy of deciding between 5 right-handed middle relievers for that spot, a situation I am sure really excites Bud Selig and the marketing team of MLB. The candidates are actually quite good–Delabar, Joaquin Benoit, David Robertson, Tanner Scheppers, and Koji Uehara. Who would I vote for? Who cares. Certainly not Tanner Scheppers because of his terrible first name, not that it is his fault. I mean really, shouldn’t there be national counseling to expectant parents on the names they give their children.* Maybe Koji Uehara as a reminder to all Rangers fans what a great trade their team made in giving up a washed-up first baseman named Chris Davis for him a couple of years ago. Wonder what happened to that guy?
In other baseball news, I will be attending a Mexican League game tonight. I look forward to extreme awesomeness. I understand there are cheerleaders.
* This reminds me of a Rangers game I was at a few years ago. These racists behind me were making fun of the names black and Latino people give their children. It was very eye-rolling, very Texas. I remember especially them really laughing at the name of offensive linemen D’Brickashaw Ferguson. In these situations, I tend to hold my tongue and just keep listening for future story fodder, but my brother was getting really agitated. Then these racists called out to their daughter who was running around. Her name? Shiloh. I about doubled over laughing. You named your girl after a Civil War battle and you are making fun of black people? Then I remembered that they were racists and I was in Dallas. Good times. Good times.
After yet another pitcher, this time Alex Cobb of Tampa Bay, goes down from a liner to the head, it’s hardly unreasonable to say that pitchers need to wear helmets on the mound. I suppose a full face guard is ideal, but even a batting helmet would be tremendously helpful. Or does a pitcher have to die on the mound to create the necessary change?
With respect to this…
I guess what I don’t understand is why extremely successful players like A-Rod and Ryan Braun would take the risks associated with further connections to an organization like Biogenesis. Acknowledging all that is wrong with MLB’s approach to steroid usage (uneven enforcement, unclear metrics, invasive procedures, excessive moralism, etc.) it’s nevertheless true that MLB is waging a war on steroid usage, and that this war is broadly supported by the journalistic commentariat. Even if A-Rod, Braun, and the rest are innocent, they’re running serious risks. I can appreciate why marginal players would seek the risks as worth it, given the huge financial difference between marginal- and marginal+ careers. But A-Rod and Braun, already under suspicion and with Hall of Fame credentials in question? Barry Bonds, an elite player, made the decision to move to PEDs in the 1990s, and it paid off for him. Now, however, we’re operating under a much different administrative and normative framework; it’s hard to imagine how A-Rod, Braun, and the people around them saw this as a winning long-term strategy.
Pierce is right on the money. The experience of going to PNC Park, including just being in downtown Pittsburgh and walking around the ballpark neighborhood, is second to none in all of baseball. I’ve been to Fenway and while I respect the history there, PNC is a more enjoyable experience all around.
A fight over health care benefits between unionized workers and management at a factory in Pennsylvania has gotten the attention of Major League Baseball’s players, who are urging the workers to “stick together” against an effort to double health premiums without increasing benefits.
The dispute is centered at a VF Majestic factory in Pennsylvania, where all of Major League Baseball’s jerseys are manufactured, and it set to heat up when a three-year labor agreement expires Friday. The workers, affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, haven’t authorized a strike and are hoping to avoid one as they push back against Majestic in upcoming negotiating sessions. Heading into those negotiations, the workers received advice and support from Michael Weiner, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association.
In fact, the Twins starters’ inability to miss bats isn’t just bad by 2013 standards — it’s spectacularly, historically awful. The last teams’ starters to strike out hitters at such an infrequent rate were the K-deficient Royals and Angels staffs of the early ’80s. But league-average strikeout rates were much lower 30 years ago than they are this season, when they’ve reached an all-time high. According to FanGraphs, if you line up the Twins starters’ strikeout rate against league average this year, then compare that number to other rotations in previous seasons, you get … the worst strikeout rate by a starting staff in the history of baseball.
It’s really amazing to watch major league batters strike out at astounding numbers except when they play the Twins when they never strike out. Can the Twins become the adjusted lowest strikeout team of all time. Only by watching thrilling pitchers like Scott Diamond and Kevin Correia can we find out!
The following is a long discussion between myself and Ted McClelland, spurred by his Slate article on baseball player salaries and social cohesion. Mr. McClelland graciously offered to conduct an e-mail debate on the question, and to allow me to post the results of this debate on the blog. My initial questions are in bold; his responses and counter-questions are italicized.
I’m all for the FCC being completely fine with David Ortiz saying “fuck” in his speech before the Red Sox game yesterday. On the other hand, it would be nice if the FCC would more generally assume people are grown-ups and allow the language used in everyday life to be part of mass media on a more general basis. I’m not sure that reserving the word for political occasions where the agency’s head deems it appropriate has much value.
Edward McClelland has been thinking very hard:
The deregulation of the American economy that began in the 1970s has increased the salaries of professional athletes enormously while reducing those of blue-collar workers. In 1975, pitchers Andy Messersmith of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dave McNally of the Montreal Expos appealed to arbitrator Peter Seitz to strike down baseball’s reserve clause and allow them to sell their services to the highest bidder. The Seitz decision, which was upheld by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, began the era of free agency in professional sports. After increasing arithmetically for the first three-quarters of the century, salaries rose geometrically during the past 25 years of the 1900s and have continued to balloon in the 2000s.
Because the reserve clause was eliminated at the insistence of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the Seitz decision is considered a victory for organized labor. It wasn’t. It was a victory for the laissez-faire marketplace.
Labor unions are cartels that increase their members’ salaries by bargaining collectively, thus winning a more lucrative contract than workers could negotiate on their own. Baseball players are entertainers with specialized skills. They didn’t start earning their true market value until they were allowed to negotiate individually with owners—the antithesis of collective bargaining.Marvin Miller, the former United Steelworkers of America economist who became executive director of the MLBPA, was a talent agent, not a labor boss.
I would like to suggest that the connection between striking down the reserve clause and the stagnation of American blue collar wages is… murky. What follows is a long discussion of how perturbed McClellan is that Alex Rodriguez is paid a lot of money by the tremendously wealthy, successful businessmen who own the New York Yankees. Thinking about this makes him sad:
As baseball players accumulate plutocratic riches (Rodriguez will have earned a third of $1billion by the time his contract expires), I find myself wondering why I’m supposed to cheer for a guy earning $27.5 million a year—he’s already a winner. When I was 11, I hero-worshipped the Tigers’ shortstop because I could imagine growing up to take his place. Obviously, that’s not going to happen now. Since my past two jobs disappeared in the Great Recession, I can’t watch a professional sporting event without thinking, Most of those guys are set for life, while I’ve been buying my own health insurance for 5 1/2 years…. I know we’re never going back to the days when Willie Mays lived in Harlem and sold cars in the offseason, but the market forces that have overvalued ballplayers’ skills while devaluing mine have made it impossible for me to just enjoy the damn game.
Here’s the thing; while there are obviously problems associated with determining the “value” of the skills of professional athletes, it’s not at all obvious that Alex Rodriguez is overvalued, or that Willie Mays was appropriately valued. Compensation, obviously, depends on how law and organizational rules structure the ability of owner and worker to negotiate; changes in those rules can have dramatic effect on how much players get paid. I don’t know why people still need to point out that investment in Justin Verlander isn’t irrational if the Tigers win, the owners make money, and franchise value increases.
McClelland is unhappy that he has to pay for health insurance, and has determined that the solution is a set of rules that arbitrarily suppress the value of extremely skilled workers. Such rules will be of no direct material benefit to McClelland, although they’ll surely make billionaire team owners happy; perhaps McClelland hopes that elaborate demonstrations of fealty to these billionaires will land him a more lucrative position.
[SL]: This seems to be the “logic” that buttresses a lot of anti-union sentiment, but once again money generated by professional sports that doesn’t go the player does not then go to teachers or cancer researchers or starving orphans — it goes to (generally obscenely wealthy and lavishly taxpayer-subsidized) owners. If you find yourself longing for the good old days where the almost all of the money generated by the labor of players stayed with the owners, you really need to think harder. (I’m guessing that McClelland is one of those guys who thinks it’s a massive scandal when someone buys an SEC QB a pair of shoes.)
[EL]: Whenever you see someone write, “Labor unions are cartels that increase their members’ salaries by bargaining collectively,” you can pretty much assume that they don’t know what labor unions actually do or why they exist.