Wednesday, February 29, 2012

5 comments Bleacher Report: Looking at 3 Terrible Articles

I have three articles I am going to write about today from Bleacher Report. I don't necessarily enjoy picking on writers from Bleacher Report, but sometimes I just can't help it. Many of the articles I write about from Bleacher Report highlight the many things wrong with the site. Excessive lists, "bold" predictions, or a summary of a story from another site all are negative aspects of Bleacher Report. Sometimes I run across lists and articles so asinine I just can't ignore them. For example, the title of the first one is "MLB: The All-Unfilled Potential Team." I never have heard the word "unfilled potential." I always thought it was "unfulfilled potential." So this article immediately piqued my interest and then it just absolutely delivered on it's potential to be written about on this blog.

Let's look at the definition of unfulfilled potential.

"of persons; marked by failure to realize full potentialities; "unfulfilled and uneasy men"; "unrealized dreams and ambitions"

So clearly, the definition of whether a player reached his full potential can be a matter of opinion, but it is also unfair to say a player who has reached some measure of success has unfulfilled potential simply because you think the player should be better than he is. Does LeBron James have unfulfilled potential? Probably, but he shouldn't be on this list.

Had I written this article a year ago, Matt Kemp would have made my team. However, he had a monster season in 2011 and is now miles away from being considered an underachiever.

One good season means a player no longer has unfulfilled potential! Go back to just being a really good baseball player now Matt Kemp and you could find yourself right back on this list next year.

Inclusion on this list can be easily erased if the player has a stellar season in 2012.

One good season takes you off the list and puts you on the list of players who have fulfilled potential. Unfortunately as we will find out, one bad season puts you back on the list. Unfulfilled potential lists are fickle bitches. Really a player's inclusion or exclusion depends entirely on the last season's performance.

Catcher: Chris Iannetta

Iannetta appeared ready for stardom in 2008 when he hit .264 with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs. His OBP was .390 and OPS was an extremely strong .895.

Iannetta was a fourth round draft pick as a college catcher. How does a fourth round pick have tons of unfulfilled potential? I think Iannetta is playing as well as I would expect a fourth round pick who is a college catcher would play.

In the three seasons following his breakout year, Iannetta's batting average fell to .228 in 2009, .197 in 2010 and then slightly back up to .238 in 2011.

Iannetta hit .238/.370/.414 with 14 home runs this year. He had 70 walks to 89 strikeouts. He played well. Don't be a slave to batting average, it can mislead you.

Iannetta is a good defensive catcher, so there is no concern with him behind the plate.

So Iannetta is an above average hitter for a catcher and plays good defense...sound about like a 4th round pick to you? How does he have unfulfilled potential?

1st base: Justin Morneau

When a player has four consecutive seasons of over 100 RBI, it's hard to say there is unfilled potential there.

Then let's not say this and move on. Morneau was injured last year. Prior to that year he had four All-Star appearances and an MVP to his credit. How can one good year take a player off the list of players with unfulfilled potential, but one bad year in a career of great performances puts a player back on the list?

The answer: It can't. Morneau may never be the same player, but he fulfilled his potential when he was healthy.

Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez

He won the Rookie of the Year award in 2006 and had four consecutive seasons hitting over .300 with over 20 home runs, from 2007-2010.


At the age of 27, when he should be in the prime of his career, Ramirez had the worst season of his life.

So how does one bad year cancel out five previous seasons of great play? What in the hell do you expect Ramirez's potential to be? His career splits are .306/.380/.506. He's averaging 25 home runs and 83 RBI's in a 162 game season. If that's not meeting his potential, then I don't know what is.

Outfield: Jason Heyward

Of course he is on the list. He's 22 years old and hasn't hit his potential yet. What's he waiting on? Being in the majors for more than two years? Two full seasons without injury issues? I don't know if Heyward will ever hit his potential if he hasn't hit it by the age of 22.

Whether it was a sophomore slump or more of an indicator that opposing pitchers had adjusted to Heyward, he had a poor 2011.

Heyward hit just .227 with 14 home runs and 42 RBI, last year. His OPS decreased to .708.

So one good year as a 21 year old and one bad year (with injuries) as a 22 year old and a player has unfulfilled potential? If this is the standard, do you know who else should be on this list? Every minor league player and any MLB player who hasn't been in the majors longer than two years.

Outfielder: Carl Crawford

Carl Crawford ended the 2010 season with the Tampa Bay Rays with a .307 batting average, 19 home runs and 90 RBI. He also stole 47 bases and scored 110 runs.

He was an All-Star, a Gold Glove winner and recipient of a Silver Slugger award.

Well, that could very well be his potential. So Crawford doesn't have unfulfilled potential, he just has seen his potential. Crawford just needs to put up those same numbers in this upcoming season. At the age of 30, what does the author expect Crawford to do that he hasn't done already?

Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez

Prior to his trade in late July, Jimenez was 6-9 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.374 WHIP.

In 11 starts with the Indians, Jimenez went 4-4 with an ERA of 5.10 and WHIP of 1.454. Jimenez has a live arm and electric stuff, but seemed to lose command inside the strike zone last season.

He was an undrafted free agent and has had one bad season in his four years in the majors. I would give him more than one bad year before saying he had unfulfilled potential. That's just me though.

Now we are going to an article/slideshow from Bleacher Report about the 13 biggest contract steals of the offseason. Off to the slideshow!

Yet, from a fan's standpoint, I don't really see what all the hubbub over certain contracts is all about. Some are screaming overpaid, when in reality, the contract in question is quite a steal.

Take C.J. Wilson, now of the Los Angeles Angels. According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, the lanky lefty was looking for a deal in the $100 million range. When push came to shove, Wilson signed for much less than that.

So because C.J. Wilson had unreal expectations of what he was worth on the market that makes him a steal? This is idiotic thinking. A pitcher's own biased perception of his worth on the free agent market doesn't mean what he eventually receives on the free agent market makes him a steal. If Jimmy Rollins wants a 5 year deal for $150 million, it doesn't mean if he gets 3 years at $42 million he is just a fantastic deal. A contract doesn't become a steal because the market doesn't bear what a player feels he is worth.

Bartolo Colon

He is an overweight 39 year old pitcher who had his best year since 2005. I'm not so confident he can duplicate his success from 2011.

Now, entering free agency again, one would think that a solid comeback year would warrant another one-year deal worth at least $4 million. Instead, surely taking Colon's age (he turns 39 in May) and conditioning into consideration, the Oakland A's signed him for $2 million.

Oh, well because Colon's contract exceeded your expectations of what he should receive on the free agent market he is quite the steal. Nothing like pulling a Bill Simmons and using your own opinion as empirical evidence that proves you are right. This is like citing your own opinion in support of your opinion.

Casey Kotchman

Most first basemen today are power hitters with the ability to hit 30-plus home runs a year and also hit for a decent average.

Yes, most first basemen today are power hitters who can hit 30 home runs and hit for a good average. Most first basemen in the majors can do this. Let's see if this is true.

In 2011, twelve total first basemen hit over .270 last year and seven first basemen hit over 30 home runs. Five first basemen had 30 home runs and hit above .270 last year.

In 2010, eight first basemen hit 30 home runs and nine first basemen hit over .270. Five first basemen had 30 home runs and hit above .270.

In 2009, eighteen first basemen hit over .270 and twelve first basemen hit over 30 home runs. Nine first basemen had 30 home runs and hit above .270.

So I wouldn't exactly say "most" first basemen can hit for a decent average and hit 30 home runs. Over the past three years 19 first basemen hit this arbitrary marker. Does this mean Kotchman isn't a steal? No, it means I like to nitpick when words like "most" or "all" are thrown around and this isn't true.

Jason Kubel

He hit .282 with 61 home runs and 246 RBI in three full seasons at the Metrodome, compared to a .259 mark with 33 homers and 150 RBI in two years at the new stadium. As a result, it's not exactly surprising that he didn't receive a substantial raise from the $12.1 million he received from 2009-2011.

Ready for some fun with numbers? Kubel made $12.1 million over three years, which comes out to $4.03 million per year. Keep this number in mind.

This winter, the Diamondbacks enhanced their offense by signing Kubel for two years and $15 million, plus an option for a third year.

2 years at $15 million is $7.5 million per year. That's a 186% per year raise from his previous salary. That's not substantial? Just for fun, take what you earn right now in your job (if you have a permanent job as of yet) and then multiply it by 186%. Would you consider that to be a substantial raise? I would.

It's a good contract for him, but far less than what I would have expected.

What the hell were you expecting a (soon to be) 30 year old guy with a career line of .272/.335/.459 to receive? Jason Kubel is in no way a bad hitter, but I think $7.5 million per year sounds about right for him.

C.J. Wilson

As I mentioned in the introduction, C.J. Wilson entered the offseason looking for a $100 million deal, preferably over five years.

Wilson's expectations of what he should receive in the free agent market isn't to be used as the basis for whether he was a steal or not. This is illogical.

He got his five-year contract, but it was for $77.5 million with the Los Angeles Angels.

If a $22.5 million discount isn't a steal, then I don't know what is.

(Bengoodfella attempts to give self fatal paper cut wounds with an envelope)

It isn't a $22.5 million discount because Wilson was never worth $100 million. That was never the market value for Wilson. C.J. Wilson and his agent wanted $100 million, but if a team gave him $90 million that doesn't mean that team got a good deal nor did the team get a $10 million discount. A seller's expectation of the value of his service doesn't set the market for what his services are worth unless there is a person (or people) willing to pay that value. So C.J. Wilson wasn't signed at a discount.

Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish hasn't played one major league game yet, so there's no telling just how much of a steal he could be.

Well good. I'm glad he's #1 on your damn list as the majors biggest steal of the offseason then. That makes sense.

The Rangers ended up paying $111.7 million, and while that is over the $100 million mark, I wouldn't call it "well over."

Of course the author also thinks a raise of 186% isn't substantial and if a pitcher values himself at $200 million and then signs for $120 million a team is getting a great deal. So I am not entirely certain I would trust his opinion or ability to have perspective on a free agent contract.

Also, look at Darvish's career numbers in Japan. The guy went 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with 1,259 strikeouts in just seven seasons. In MLB, a guy with those numbers would probably be earning upwards of $20 million.

Riiiiiiiiiiiight...but the author is also assuming Darvish's performance will be at this level against better American competition. That's a huge assumption to base Darvish's title as "a steal" off of. Any logical person knows these Japanese statistics will probably not translate directly to the majors. Darvish won't be putting up a 1.99 ERA in the majors for his career.

Instead, the Rangers are only paying him $10 million a year. Look up "steal" in the dictionary, and you'll see a picture of Darvish's contract next to his stats in Japan.

He would be a steal if he was still playing in Japan at $10 million per year. Considering he is now playing in the United States against better competition, this doesn't mean his Japanese statistics compared to his United States salary makes him a steal. This author needs a class on economics so he can understand the value of services on a free market. It is not advisable to project Darvish's statistics in Japan to the United States as a sign he is underpaid, just like it isn't advisable to project the statistics of a college player who gets selected in the Top 10 of the MLB Draft and call him a steal if he is given a $10 million signing bonus. Mostly, we should leave Darvish off all overpaid/underpaid lists until his first season in the majors has concluded.

The third article from the disaster that can be Bleacher Report is the 40 most overpaid players in MLB. The author primarily uses projected WAR (projected from where? I have no idea) for 2012 to determine whether a player is overpaid or not. I'm concerned I don't know where this projected WAR is coming from. Some of these players are in the latter stages of their last contract. Teams sometimes have a tendency to sign a player fully knowing they won't get the maximum value later in the contract, in the hopes the early years of the contract will provide value in excess of their contract.

Yu Darvish

2012 Cost: $56.7 million

Projected WAR: 3.5

As I stated in the previous article, there is no way to know if Darvish is underpaid/overpaid at this point in time.

Prince Fielder

2012 Salary: $23 million

Projected WAR: 5.0

On the other hand, Fielder will have to go through an adjustment period given the change in leagues. The aggregate pitching he will face should be better, and Comerica Park is not friendly to left-handed power.

An adjustment period? Fielder has hit .269/.353/.560 with 26 home runs in 350 at-bats in interleague play. I would say he isn't going to have a terrible time adjusting to American League pitching.

To be worth $23 million, though, you have to play a position that is not first base.

If first basemen aren't worth $23 million per year, then what position is worth that much? This comment just doesn't make sense to me. I would love to know what position is worth $23 million per year? I would guess catcher, but I know it isn't catcher because the author has Joe Mauer as his #2 most overpaid player and he makes $23 million per year.

Frank Francisco

2012 Salary: $5.5 million

Projected WAR: 0.5

For that, New York will pay him about $1 million more than the Pirates will pay Erik Bedard this season. Pittsburgh got a much better deal.

Why are we comparing a starter and a relief pitcher in terms of how much they got paid? I don't get this comparison at all. It's like the author just picked a random player and compared him to Francisco. I would agree Francisco is overpaid, but I don't see how the contract Bedard received has any bearing on what Francisco should receive.

Francisco Rodriguez

2012 Salary: $8 million

Projected WAR: 0.8

He makes $8 million. He pitched really well last year in a set up role for Milwaukee. He had a 1.86 ERA with a 1.138 WHIP. Relievers with his skill set require a high salary.

Still, they find themselves in the unenviable position of owing $8 million to a setup man, since John Axford will close for them. For the Yankees or Red Sox, that would be an acceptable, if not ideal, circumstance. For Milwaukee, it pretty well blew the budget.

So if Rodriguez put up the same statistics as the set up guy on the Red Sox or Yankees he wouldn't be overpaid? But because he is getting paid $8 million for the Brewers to close he is automatically overpaid? I get that some teams can afford to pay $8 million for a set up guy, while others can not. I'm just not sure this has a bearing on whether a guy is overpaid or not if he would put up the same statistics with either team.

Chris Carpenter

2012 Salary: $10.5 million

Projected WAR: 1.0

Carpenter is an enormous injury risk. No pitcher is more likely to blow out their arm in camp this year, or really to blow out their arm anytime in 2012.

This is pure hyperbole and doesn't serve any purpose as proof of anything. Carpenter has made 28 starts or more for three consecutive seasons now. Carpenter had a high workload last year, but saying Carpenter is overpaid by predicting a future injury seems thin to me.

He endured a workload unprecedented since 2001 in order to lead the Cardinals to the World Series title, but at his age and with his track record, he just is not in position to repeat or even approximate that performance.

Carpenter's recent track record is to throw 200 innings and have a sub-3.50 ERA. Carpenter also had the equivalent of two years off because of injuries, so I think it is completely reasonable he could be worth $10.5 million to the Cardinals this year.

30. Chad Billingsley

After a 2010 that looked like the permanent and significant step forward that Billingsley should have taken even sooner,

2010 was Billingsley's fourth full year in the majors and he was 25 years old. I'm not sure why he should have taken a significant step forward sooner than that.

he instead took a giant step backward in 2011. His walk rate, always the problem, shot up sharply, and his strikeout rate plunged for the third straight year.

Billingsley's BB/9 for his career:

2006: 5.8
2007: 3.9
2008: 3.6
2009: 3.9
2010: 3.2
2011: 4.0

Actually Billingsley's 2011 walk rate was more in line with his career average, admittedly a little bit higher than his career average in 2011, but still fairly in line. I'm not saying Billingsley isn't overpaid, but instead saying he isn't overpaid simply because of his 2011 season.

Jon Lester

Lester's cost is rising at roughly the same rate as that at which his value is falling. Both are fast.


He gutted out a solid start on the last day of the season to keep Boston in position to make the 2011 playoffs, but if the Red Sox make it in 2012, it will be no thanks to their nominal co-ace.

So a 15-9 record in 191.2 innings with a 3.47 ERA and 1.257 WHIP isn't worth $7.625 million for a left handed pitcher? I'm not sure how this author comes up with a WAR of 2.0 for Lester in 2012, but he has never had below a 4.8 WAR in a full season of pitching. There isn't any indication as to why his WAR would be 2.0 this year or that Lester is overpaid in any way. I think he's reaching to call Lester overpaid.

Jose Valverde

He had 49 saves last year with a 2.24 ERA and did not blow a save. His contract goes for one more year. He is not overpaid.

Valverde got lucky not to blow a save in 2011. He is a tightrope walker (and if he isn't, he should be, given his tiny legs and sturdy frame), teetering and bending but never falling off the wire in ninth innings all the time.

So even though the facts don't support his being overpaid, the author will just stick with this contention out of pure stubbornness. Dammit, Valverde should have blown a save last year and that makes him overpaid, even though he did not blow a save.

He walks batters, doesn't strike out enough of them for a top-flight reliever

He struck out 8.6 batters per 9 innings. That is close to striking out a batter an inning. I think he strikes out enough batters.

Paul Konerko

He slumped a bit in the second half in 2011,

He hit .272/.385/.447 in the second half of 2011. That's not great, but he still got on-base and had 37 walks to 40 strikeouts in the second half of 2011.

and at his age, any chink in the armor is a warning sign not to be missed.

So we should ignore Konerko's overall batting line of .300/.388/.517 last year with 31 home runs and focus on how he had an only average second half? This means he is overpaid and will have a WAR of 3.1 in 2012...despite the fact Konerko had a combined WAR of 8.7 over the last two seasons.

Dan Uggla

He's a good hitter, most of the time, though his first-half flop in 2011 causes concern.

But Uggla's great second half doesn't alleviate any of the concerns? He was on fire in the second half of the season...unless you think .296/.379/.569 and 21 home runs is just average. His batting average did stink overall, there's no doubt about that.

More pressingly, he's a miserable defensive second baseman who belongs in left field

Right, because the best place for a big-bodies, non-speed guy is to put them in left field. Uggla should thrive out there. Rather than screwing up ground balls, he'll just screw up fly balls.

or at third base, but both player and team are in denial.

Of course none of this has anything to do with whether Uggla is overpaid or not at the current time. He's a second baseman who can hit for power and get on-base, those types of players tend to have a high value.

Yoenis Cespedes

In either case, it seems like they blew it by not convincing Cespedes to commit to the usual MLB service-time arrangement, whereby he would have been under team control for six seasons.

We can't evaluate Cespedes at this point as overpaid. I do find it interesting the author believes the A's could "convince" Cespedes to take a longer deal, as if Cespedes was not a free agent and didn't have the ability to ignore or decline any deal he didn't like. He wanted four years, so the A's gave him four years.

Joe Mauer

Mauer has to play catcher to be worth anything close to $23 million per season,

What if he moves to left field? Would that make him worth $23 million per season? Or is Mauer overpaid because he plays for the Twins and if he played for the Yankees then he wouldn't be overpaid? I need to know the rules for these types of things.

The author has Mauer's projected WAR at 2.4. He had a 1.7 WAR last year in an injury-filled season and has never had a WAR below 4.6 since 2005. I'd love to know where this projected WAR of 2.4 is coming from.

but has to play a different position in order to stay healthy.

So Mauer can't stay healthy if he continues to play catcher? Is that what I'm hearing? Maybe he can play first base in place of that overpaid Justin Morneau (who is on this list too). Now is Mauer worth $23 million? Probably not because as we learned earlier first basemen aren't worth this much money. Apparently only catchers are worth $23 million per year.

I think that's about all the Bleacher Report I can take for today.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

3 comments Mike Lupica Goes All Mike Lupica and Throws Out Baseless Accusations

We all know by now that Ryan Braun appealed his positive drug test and won based on arbitrators voting 2-1 in his favor. He won on a chain of custody issue. Not a very sexy ending to this story with it being decided by a chain of custody issue. Apparently the guy who tested Braun and collected the sample kept it in his refrigerator for two days before shipping it off. This broke the chain of custody and the arbitrators decided to overturn his positive drug test in a 2-1 decision. As it has been pointed out 100 times, this doesn't mean Braun is innocent and he still needs to explain his high levels of testosterone in his system at some point.

A few months ago Doug Glanville thought Braun should be stripped of his MVP award and some of you agreed. Braun still has some explaining to do, but at least we know MLB's drug testing system works. That's not enough for Mike Lupica though. He suspects foul play and is eager to lean forward in his chair, potentially interrupt others and describe in a loud voice what he believes happened.

(I know it is a written article, but I imagine Lupica leaning forward and yelling at us while typing this article)

Ryan Braun says he is innocent and that he is clean, that he never used synthetic testosterone. Braun says that even though when he had to defend himself in front of an arbitration panel, he didn’t question the science that had his testosterone level ring the bell the way it did,

The title of the article says Braun was "acquitted." He wasn't acquitted, his positive drug test was overturned. He didn't commit a crime, so an acquittal isn't really the appropriate language to use in this least I don't think so.

Also, Braun didn't need to question the science because he thought the chain of custody was broken. The fact Braun didn't question the science could be irrelevant because it never got to that point. He thought the chain of custody got broken and argued his case on merits of this argument.

he questioned language in baseball’s collective bargaining agreement about the chain of custody and baseball’s collection procedures for drug testing.

And he won because the chain of custody was broken. There was no questioning of the language in the agreement, but pointing out the rules laid out in the agreement and how they seem to be broken in this situation. He pointed out the chain of custody of his urine sample was broken and two out of three arbitrators agreed with him. MLB and the player's union wrote the rules for drug testing and rules were broken. So of course Braun isn't going to question the evidence on the merits of whether his sample was positive or negative when he believes the evidence gathered is faulty or possibly tainted. If we insist on comparing this to a criminal trial, this is what any defense attorney would do as well. A defense attorney would make sure the evidence to be presented wasn't tainted and then argue on the merits of the case after he is satisfied the evidence presented isn't tainted in some fashion.

If MLB didn't break the rules they had written, Braun very well could have not won his appeal. I'm all for Braun's positive drug test being upheld, but it is good to hear the system works.

In the end, it just means that Braun, MVP of the National League and darling of Brewers fans, one of the big young talents in the game, just beat the game here.

He didn't beat the game. The rules weren't followed so his positive drug test was overturned. That is the game and why MLB has an appeal system. I could not have more faith in the way baseball's drug policy is run at this point. It seems they are serious about testing players and holding fair appeals to where the testing and collection of urine is held to the standard set in the drug testing policy.

Understand something: The overturning of Braun’s 50-game suspension doesn’t mean Braun is clean, no matter what he says or how many times he says it or what he expects reasonable people to believe.

Sure, whatever you want to believe. The overturning of Braun's 50-game suspension also doesn't mean the cloud of "steroid user" can be cast above Braun to where he gets put in the "Jeff Bagwell" category when it comes time to discuss his candidacy for the Hall of Fame. The Jeff Bagwell category is for players who writers believe used steroids, but since there isn't proof his candidacy for the Hall of Fame is dismissed for some other vague reason that can't really be explained, but the real reason is Bagwell is suspected of using steroids.

So Braun of the Brewers becomes the first positive test to win this kind of appeal in baseball. So he goes on with his career now, and his huge contract, no suspension, because a triple-sealed sample, one that no one ever suggested had been tampered with, didn’t make the last FedEx shipment on a weekend, didn’t go out until Monday morning.

This is how it works. This is the testing system and policy set up by MLB and the player's union. They wrote the rules and then broke the rules. You can whine about it all you want, but the details in drug testing are very important. The details are what the public, the player's union, and MLB rely upon to know their drug testing policy is effective and legitimate. The arbitrators can't just say, "Fuck the details" when the chain of custody was broken at some point and uphold Braun's suspension.

If you want to think justice was served, have at it.

"Justice?" It is a drug testing involved with a sport. This isn't a conviction overturned that let a suspected murderer go free. Let's get a grasp on some perspective on the issue and save the word "justice" for issues that are really important and don't involve a drug testing policy in a sport.

Of course, there is Braun’s version of the truth — they always want to tell you about how many tests they passed with flying colors —and there is a baseball version of the truth, based on the science of what they believe was a process that wasn’t corrupted in any way because Braun’s sample went out on Monday instead of Saturday.

It sounds like nitpicking, but Braun never contested the result of the test. So Mike Lupica isn't even arguing this on the issues. He is basically saying MLB should ignore the drug testing guidelines they themselves laid out in order to uphold Braun's positive drug test. The rules weren't followed and the process was corrupted because the guidelines set out for testing were broken when the chain of custody was broken. The positive test and 50 game suspension can not be upheld in this case.

Do I believe Braun used some sort of PED? Probably, but I don't have any proof other than the positive drug test and a commenter on this blog who claimed Braun was using steroids in college at Miami. So I won't judge him as a steroid user until he tests positive and his appeal fails or some other evidence of his PED use comes to light.

(I apologize, but for the life of me I can not find the comment that said this. I've searched and just can't find it.)

Still, the chain of custody can't be broken. There is a reason there are rules. Mike Lupica is like a child stomping his feet that he can't get his way. So instead of continuing to stomp his feet, he starts making up conspiracy theories. It's pretty irresponsible and ridiculous for Lupica to make these allegations, but what's the point of having your own column if you can't make serious accusations with no factual backing?

And by the way? Nobody was looking to get Ryan Braun here from the start, get him good or pin a drug rap on him, or take down one of the sport’s golden boys.

So it was a conspiracy by Major League Baseball to undermine their own drug testing policy in order to prevent a MVP being tainted as a PED user? I'm not sure this logically makes sense for MLB to undermine their very own system.

Braun does play for the Milwaukee Brewers, a team once owned by the current commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, a commissioner who still has his office in Milwaukee and a statue outside Miller Park.

So Bud Selig had the arbitrator rule in favor of overturning the positive drug test? Is that what Mike Lupica is "sort of but not really because that would be a serious accusation which Mike Lupica has no proof of so he can't just come right out say it but he is definitely insinuating" saying? That's a pretty serious accusation.

I've always enjoyed the picture Bud Selig's critics paint of him. They paint him as a bumbling idiot who screws up everything, except for the times he is a mastermind behind baseball's conspiracies who ingeniously works behind the scenes on cover ups to make sure his dastardly plans succeed. It is as if some of Selig's critics portray him as someone who alternates between complete ineffectiveness at being commissioner and total control over all baseball-related issues, depending on the situation and when it is convenient for what they want to prove.

So that's all Mike Lupica says about Bud Selig. I like how Lupica leaves the theory out there to give the reader pause, but falls short of saying anything else since he has absolutely no evidence to back up his theory. Any good tabloid writer knows how to do this. Do just enough to where you can get your half-baked theory heard, but not enough to get hit with a lawsuit for libel.

He got tested in October, and the sample was sealed along with two others and the lab got it early the next week. He reportedly rang the bell, big-time. Now Braun says he was clean all along and will always be able to say that, whether baseball believes Ryan Braun was dirty or not.

Lupica can re-phrase his sentences that all say the same thing as many times as he would like, but my answer is still the same. The chain of custody was broken and baseball's drug testing policy worked. It may not have given us the result Mike Lupica wanted, but the drug testing policy isn't implemented to give us the result we necessarily want, it is to have a system where a player can appeal and have an honest shot at his case being heard fairly. This happened.

A three-man panel heard Braun’s appeal. Rob Manfred, baseball’s executive vice president was on that panel, so was Michael Weiner, head of the Major League Baseball Players Association. The third man was arbitrator Shyam Das, the tiebreaker who saved Braun the way Braun saves the Brewers with big hits in the late innings.

This last sentence was terrible and forced. I'm pretty sure a third grader can write a paper with a better sentence than "...saved Braun the way Braun saves the Brewers with big hits in the late innings." What makes the sentence even worse is Lupica is saying Das "saved" Braun, as if the appeal had already been decided before it even began. As if Braun somehow had Das on his side in this appeal. This speaks to the integrity of Das as an arbitrator...which we know Mike Lupica would never question since he just questioned the commissioner of baseball's integrity.

Want to know who Shyam Das is? It appears he is pretty decorated. What does this all mean to Mike Lupica? It means Das was in on the conspiracy as well. Just wait for it here in a minute. Again, Lupica doesn't say it, because those damn libel lawsuits are a pain in the ass.

And now here is the money quote from Manfred:

“While we have always respected the process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”

Well of course MLB doesn't agree with the decision. The disagreement of MLB over Braun's positive drug test being overturned isn't shocking. Any time a case is heard by an arbitrator or in a court of law, those who "win" agree with the decision and those that "lose" disagree with the decision. MLB isn't going to come out with a statement saying,

"We respect the process and it appears the chain of custody was broken. You can no longer trust positive drug tests from players because the collectors tend to be pretty incompetent when it comes to keeping chain of custody intact. Major League Baseball vehemently agrees with the decision and frankly are embarrassed we took up Mr. Braun's time like we did. The positive news out of this turn of events is the conspiracy begun and put in motion by the Commissioner of MLB, Bud Selig, turned out to work perfectly. Bud Selig managed to undermine the very drug testing policy he helped to implement and worked tirelessly to have the player's union accept."

What Manfred is saying about one of the young stars of his game, the current MVP of the National League, is that Braun did exactly what the results of his drug test said he did, and that means he used a synthetic testosterone and got careless and got caught, the way a lot of other guys did before him.

Of course this is MLB's position. Why would their position be any different? The chain of custody outlined in the drug policy agreement was broken. That's a game-ending scenario and why Braun's positive drug test was overturned.

Maybe he can continue all the way to Cooperstown and say for the rest of a long and glorious career in Milwaukee that he was always clean, and that somehow the whole thing was a huge mistake.

Which Braun will probably do...assuming he doesn't test positive again and this drug test isn't overturned upon appeal.

Maybe it was.

Maybe. What we do now is the arbitration panel is serious about holding MLB to the drug policy the way it is laid out.

But you know what, however you weigh in on this? Floyd Landis probably wishes he could have found a legal loophole like this through which to ride his bike.

I don't know what Floyd Landis has to do with this. Also, this wasn't a legal loophole. The chain of custody was a part of the drug testing agreement between MLB and the player's union. The chain of custody is a part of the process. Missing a part of the process for drug testing is not a legal loophole.

Or found himself an arbitrator like Das.

I don't think I am reading too much into this, but it seems Lupica is hinting, yet again, that Das somehow was on Braun's side in this case. Sort of saying Das was on Braun's side from the get-go is a really wimpy thing to do. If Lupica has something he wants to say, then he should just fucking say it. If what he wants to say doesn't have any evidence, then he should shut the hell up about it. Either way, to suggest Bud Selig or one of the arbitrators was on Braun's side from the beginning is irresponsible. Of course, that's Mike Lupica for you.

Monday, February 27, 2012

0 comments Columnist Believes Bud Selig Should Randomly Nix Trades

Fans, teams and players don't generally like it when a trade is nixed by the commissioner (see: nixed Chris Paul trade). Commissioner interference in two teams conducting business screams of league interference in an issue that many fans believe should stay between the teams involved in the trade. There are special circumstances when this rule doesn't apply. Richard Griffin thinks the AJ Burnett trade is an example of this. You all may have experienced your own outrage at the Yankees-Pirates trade that involved AJ Burnett. The Interwebs were abuzz with the anger from all around the league at this trade happening, with many columnists immediately suggesting Bud Selig step in and nix the trade. Various columnists like Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star and Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star said Selig needed to step in. Another columnist, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star, said it was in the best interest of baseball to nix this trade. Needless to say, this was a controversial trade that shook up the very foundation of baseball and caused outrage.

Fine, I was lying. Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star is the only person who had an issue with this trade. Let's read why.

Back on June 15, 1976, as the first wave of MLB serfs-in-spikes was about to hit the open market under the original rules of free agency, a commissioner’s decision cited as “in the best interests of baseball” was made by then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

I love a good history lesson.

Dear Bud Selig,

"One time thirty-six years ago this one thing happened and so it should happen again because it happened one time before."

Richard Griffin

Those 36 years ago, cantankerous, contrarian A’s owner, Charles O. Finley had reacted pre-emptively to free agency with a fire-sale of all-stars, shipping soon-to-be-free outfielder Joe Rudi and closer Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox and lefty Vida Blue to the Yankees for cash totalling under $2 million (U.S).

So naturally, shipping off an expensive pitcher who no longer has a spot in the New York Yankees' rotation in 2012 is the same thing as a team in 1976 holding a fire sale to get rid of many of their All-Star players. Naturally. It's the same thing really.

Selig should have taken the same critical look at the Yankees deal with the Pirates,

One team needed some payroll relief and the other team needed a starting pitcher with the occasional ability to be a #2 starter. The trade is the Yankees admitting they made a mistake in signing Burnett, but there is no interest in baseball that is being hurt here. In fact, the Yankees are paying a guy $20 million who isn't even on the roster, so they really aren't winners. The Pirates have AJ Burnett pitching for them, so they really aren't winners either...and yet both teams are happy.

a trade of pinstriped convenience that sent the underachieving Burnett and a huge chunk of cash to Pittsburgh for two prospects with ceilings lower than Snow White’s eight-bedroom cottage.

Every trade is a trade of convenience. What isn't convenient is the commissioner of a sport stepping in and nixing a trade both teams have agreed upon.

Also, was that a Snow White reference? Really? Is that how they roll in Canada, making Snow White references?

The Yankees, after obtaining right-hander Michael Pineda from the Mariners, no longer needed A.J. But they do need some available cash to sign a left-handed hitting DH, like Johnny Damon or Raul Ibanez, and a utility player like Eric Chavez.

Which is exactly why they traded Burnett. First, Griffin is complaining the Yankees have too much money and now he is criticizing them for lowering their payroll. We will find out very soon that Griffin pretty much just hates anything the Yankees do.

The Yanks under the ownership of the Steinbrenner Lite brothers are trying to bring payroll down to about $189 million by the end of 2014.

Steinbrenner Lite. I am not sure I like that. The indication is the younger Steinbrenners aren't good owners of the Yankees like their father was. I thought everyone remembered George Steinbrenner wasn't always the best owner in sports. This is true, right? I feel like the Brothers Steinbrenner may actually be more emotionally stable in terms of how they run the Yankees franchise. I haven't heard of them firing and hiring the same manager a few times, hiring a private investigator to get dirt on a player or anything of the sort.

Nothing against George Steinbrenner, but his sons do seem to be more least at this point. Granted, George Steinbrenner is dead, which has greatly helped his reputation, but in calling the Brothers Steinbrenner "Steinbrenner Lite" it seems Richard Griffin is willfully forgetting Daddy Steinbrenner's actions as owner during the 1980's and early 1990's. He wasn't exactly a model owner.

But with Burnett, the Bombers needed a dance partner that has far less at stake, far more modest goals.

Not at all. The Yankees needed a trade partner willing to pay part of Burnett's salary and wanted to trade for him. There isn't some grand scheme where the Yankees sign the best players from other teams to large contracts and then a few years later sell them back to those teams for a small price. I know it seems like there is a grand scheme like this, but there isn't. Also, this would be a horrible scheme from the perspective of the Yankees to sign a player to a huge contract with the plans to trade the player three years into the contract, while still having to pay the majority of the contract.

What is interesting is the Yankees actually had a trade set up with the Angels. The same Anaheim (or whatever they are called) Angels that just signed CJ Wilson and Albert Pujols to a huge contract. AJ Burnett nixed this trade. Are the Angels a team with far less at stake or modest goals? No, they are not. So Richard Griffin wants us to forget about this trade so we believe he has a point.

Round up the usual suspects.

????? (cue the drama button)

What does this mean? Have there been multiple instances over the last two or three years where the Yankees have traded a player to a small market team for payroll relief? I'm thinking of this instance and then...and then...maybe Javier Vazquez being traded to the Braves a few years ago, but I'm still not sure that counts. It isn't like big market teams are consistently selling off underachieving players to small market teams. Even if they are, how is this taking advantage of these teams?

The Yankees get two mediocre minor-leaguers and pay $20 million of the final two seasons on their own bad contract for Burnett to pitch in Pittsburgh, while the Pirates pay just $13 million.

Both sides are happy with this deal. So far, there has been a lot of summation and very little explaining why Bud Selig should nix this deal...other than for the reason Richard Griffin just doesn't seem to like AJ Burnett, a cohesive argument or the New York Yankees.
The prospects in return are right-hander Diego Moreno and outfielder Exicardo Cayones.

Is that a baseball deal?

No, it is a deal to clear cap space and get a minor league outfielder and pitcher back in return. The Pirates became a better team and the Yankees cleared out room in their rotation. It is a win-win trade that doesn't threaten the competitive balance of baseball in any fashion.

It’s great for the Pirates because they are not a real contender and now have a short-term starting ace who won’t get attached and be looking for something awkward — like, say, an extension. It’s great for the Yankees because now they can add in other areas and win it all again.

No risk for the Yankees and plenty of reward.

There is still a risk for the Yankees. They are swallowing $20 million for a pitcher who they don't currently need, but could be needed if the Yankees pitching staff suffers from injuries or ineffectiveness. The risk is they are paying for a player who isn't pitching for them and got very little in return. The reward is they won't have to pay $13 million of Burnett's salary and probably didn't need his services this year.

Something doesn’t make sense.

Bucs GM Neal Huntington obviously feels that with Burnett at the top of the rotation, pitching for his next contract, no Big Apple pressure, no longer in the uber-tough AL East and for an average of $6.5 million per season the next two years, the trade is worth it.

So Richard Griffin thinks the Yankees got a great reward with no risk and the Pirates think Burnett can be a top what doesn't make sense about this trade, again?

The irony, and the reason Selig should have stepped in, is that Burnett’s not worth the same to a contender.

I am not sure this is really ironic. So because Burnett isn't worth $6.5 million per season to a contender then the trade should be vetoed? Where was all the outrage from Richard Griffin earlier this year when Atlanta traded Derek Lowe for a minor league pitcher and only had to pay $5 million of Lowe's $10 million salary? Why wasn't there outrage from Griffin then? Probably because it didn't involve the Yankees. Simply because it was a middle market team trading a highly paid player to a lower market team, it doesn't merit outrage because the Yankees aren't involved.

Face it ... the Yankees are dealing from the strength that comes with wealth. They have always acted in the best interest of the Yankees.

Who else should they act in the best interest of?

Who can blame them, but when you are the team with the largest payroll in baseball, handing out the largest contracts, your decisions have spinoff effects that are not always in the best interest of the other 29 teams.

Again, this isn't the Yankees problem. I know it seems hard to ignore the economic disparity between MLB teams when discussing topics like this, but the Yankees shouldn't have to think about the effect a free agent signing has on the rest of the teams. Individual teams should not necessarily have to do what is in the best interest of the other 29 teams.

Such was the case with the bloated Burnett contract after he opted out from the Jays following 2008. With A.J. coming off an 18-win, 231 strikeout season, the Yanks outbid all comers.

I would say in 80% of free agency cases, the team that eventually signed the player outbid all comers. So this really isn't saying much. Burnett did have other bidders though, so it isn't like the Yankees overpaid for Burnett based on the market.

They offered an outrageous five years and $88.5 million for a guy who was barely .500

It's not outrageous if that is what Burnett is worth on the open market. Also, it was a 5 year $82.5 million contract. But what good are facts when you are trying to prove a point? Facts are secondary.

Burnett was 87-76 in his career until the point he signed with the Yankees. That's a 0.533 winning percentage and I don't know if I would qualify that as "barely" .500, especially over 163 games. I do get Griffin's point that this team seems like a lot of money for Burnett.

Of course, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Burnett to a 5 year $55 million contract when he was 49-50 for his career in 2005. I'm not so good at math, but that's $11 million per year for a pitcher who was below .500 for his career at that point. So it is a bit hypocritical to criticize the Yankees for giving $5.5 million per year more in 2008 for Burnett when Griffin's local team signed Burnett to a large contract in 2005 when Burnett had a losing record for his career at that point.

and has always required the presence of better pitchers on his own staff to be most effective.

This makes absolutely no sense. A pitcher's performance is not dependent on how other pitchers on the staff perform. Burnett can pitch well or terribly independent of how other pitchers on the staff pitch. This is a really stupid comment.

The commissioner’s office should consider how that bad Burnett contract impacted other similar free agents in the winter of 2008-09 and the next off-season and how it had a negative trickle down effect that hurt small market teams like Pittsburgh.

So Bud Selig should nix this trade because the original signing of Burnett by the Yankees three years ago hurt small market teams? Does Richard Griffin realize how illogical it is to nix a trade between two teams because one of the players involved in the trade was a bad free agent signing three years ago?

Now, the Yankees are cavalierly buying their way out of trouble, refinancing happiness, manipulating the long-suffering Pirates’ fans and the baseball system that permits big mistakes to become smaller mistakes,

No one forced the Pirates to trade for Burnett. If they didn't want him, they would not have traded for him.

maxing out on the money-back they can save on the final two years of a bad-for-baseball deal, while accepting two less-than-mediocre prospects they don’t want and don’t need just so Selig would approve it as a baseball-first deal.

The one thing we all learned from the nixed Chris Paul-to-the-Lakers trade is that a commissioner doesn't need to get in the middle of two teams making a trade. Who cares if the Yankees are dumping Burnett for two crappy prospects? The Pirates are getting a fairly good deal on Burnett and if he plays well enough perhaps they can trade him for better prospects at the trade deadline this year or next. I bet Richard Griffin never thought about that possibly occurring. So I fail to see how this trade was not in the best interests of baseball.
The Bucs weren’t the only suitors for Burnett this winter.

Knowing this only further serves to submarine Griffin's point. If it was such a terrible trade and the Yankees were taking advantage of a small market team, then why were multiple teams interested in Burnett?

The World Series contending Angels also inquired, but Burnett nixed those talks, preferring to go to the least successful franchise in baseball for the last 20 years.

I am supposed to believe this was a terrible trade where the Yankees were taking advantage of a small market team, yet a large market team was also in talks to trade for Burnett? How am I supposed to believe the Yankees are ripping off small market teams and the trade should be nixed because of this, while also knowing large market teams were interested in Burnett? Isn't this proof the Yankees weren't merely picking on small market teams? The proof being the Yankees were completely willing to trade Burnett to the Angels?

He’s now a big fish in baseball’s smallest pond.

For those like Richard Griffin who seem to believe Burnett only went to Pittsburgh to take pressure off himself, Burnett has a history of choosing to play close to where his wife lives. From this article:

"All I will say is that we made a very competitive offer," said Braves general manager Frank Wren, while only confirming that Burnett wouldn't be coming to Atlanta. "I would say geography was a primary factor."

One thing the Braves couldn't offer was a geographical overhaul that might have made Atlanta more appealing to Burnett's wife, Karen, who chooses not to fly. "We knew we couldn't move Maryland closer to Atlanta," Wren said. "We were swimming upstream all along."

Burnett has been pretty consistent about wanting to play close to Maryland. So it isn't as if Burnett didn't want pressure on him or wanted to be a big fish in a little pond. Nor does the trade have anything to do with the Yankees picking on the Pirates.

The Jays thought they created something special when they paired Burnett and Roy Halladay at the top of the rotation in 2006. They got less than expected.

Therein lies Richard Griffin's bitterness and astounding insistence Bud Selig veto a trade in 2012 because of a bad free agent signing in 2008.

At least the Yankees won a World Series in A.J.’s first season, but the fact is for three years of electric stuff and erratic command, they will have paid $75.5 million

Actually, they will have paid $69.5 million. I'm not sure how this trade is a huge positive for the Yankees. Nor do I see how a large free agent contract given to Burnett and his eventual trade to the Pirates isn't in the best interests of baseball.

Friday, February 24, 2012

4 comments Howard Bryant Hates the Franchise Tag

Howard Bryant doesn't like the franchise tag the NFL allows team to use in order to keep restricted or unrestricted players under contract for one more year. He thinks NFL free agency should be adjusted to not allow teams to franchise players and NFL players deserve full free agency if they don't want to play for a certain team. Specifically, Bryant thinks DeSean Jackson deserves the right to leave the Eagles if he doesn't want to play for them. Jackson is being "forced" to get the franchise tag at $10 million this year...assuming the Eagles choose to franchise Jackson. Bryant thinks this gives teams too much power and he commits several violations of wrongness on the way to making his point.

He was the public scapegoat for a dream season gone horribly bad, so the smart money might've been on the Philadelphia Eagles letting DeSean Jackson go. They could've just let him become a free agent, let him start a new life as a football player.

It sounds mean, and this comment may only serve to prove the point Howard Bryant believes he has, but why would the Eagles let Jackson become a free agent when they could franchise him or try to trade him? The Eagles know what Jackson is capable of, so why would they let him go in free agency and not try everything they can to keep him?

The organization gave big-money contracts to Michael Vick, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Vince Young and Nnamdi Asomugha, but they ignored Jackson -- ostensibly because the club had reservations about his character and behavior. Jackson responded by holding out of training camp.

Reservations proven.

Then he missed meetings and supposedly wasn't giving maximum effort, supposedly was one of the reasons the Eagles didn't live up to their preseason marquee billing.

I would say if the Eagles best receiver is missing meetings and not giving maximum effort he probably is a part of the reason the Eagles underachieved during the year. That and the fact the Eagles probably could have used better linebackers.

But this being the NFL, the Eagles get to have it both ways.

This is very short-sighted analysis when making this comment. Didn't DeSean Jackson want it both ways also? He wanted a multiyear contract, but didn't want to prove to the Eagles he was worth a multiyear contract.

They don't have to think enough of Jackson to commit to him with a multiyear contract, while at the same time they think too much of him to allow him to leave town.

Just like Jackson wants a multiyear contract, but he doesn't want to show the Eagles he is worth investing a mulityear contract in his skill set. There is a reason fans joke about a player having a "contract year." This is because a player gets all of his shit together and tries extra hard for one year to prove he deserves a contract extension. If a player can't even get his shit together and try hard for one more year to earn a contract extension, shouldn't this give the team pause about guaranteeing him $20-$30 million in a contract extension?

Jackson will receive big money, probably about $10 million for the 2012 season. As a franchise player, he'll be one of the highest-paid receivers in football.

What a horrible state for DeSean Jackson to be in. He essentially gets to play his contract year all over again and possibly increase his value on the open market next year. Jackson gets a do-over while making $10 million for playing football. Yeah, he wants a multiyear extension, but he will only be 26 years old when he hits the free agent market. That's not old and maybe by then he will have answered some of the questions about his maturity.

But the lack of an opportunity for him to be an unrestricted free agent is exactly what the players should have been fighting against during last year's lockout. Unrestricted free agency should have been the line in the sand for them then, and they should still be after it like the holy grail now.

I wonder if Howard Bryant was saying this during the lockout or he just conveniently forgot about this line in the sand he believes the player's union should have drawn in the sand? Let's look at Bryant's archive. I can't seem to find any article he wrote while discussing this line in the sand the union should have drawn. For an issue Bryant considers to be so important now, he certainly didn't mention it very much (or at all) during the lockout.

Outside of the military, it is difficult to think of an industry other than professional football in which an individual is not afforded the right, after some reasonable amount of time, to change jobs within his or her given field.

It is also difficult to think of another profession where a person can work for one year and earn as much as the top five other professional individuals in the same position. Most jobs don't offer large raises like this for one year's work.

Being able to choose a place to live and work is a simple American concept -- this isn't Cuba ... except in the NFL.

Employees in "the real world" can also be subject to working with a restrictive covenant such as a non-compete agreement to where they can't work in their field of choice for a given amount of time. Also, Americans can't simply choose where they want to live and work, they are subject to budgetary restrictions. This simple American concept isn't like the NFL where a player like Jackson can almost choose with which team he would like to sign. So the simple American concept of choosing a place to live and work doesn't necessarily apply to all Americans due to budgetary restrictions. Maybe I'm being argumentative, but what Jackson lacks in choosing where he works, he makes up for with fewer budgetary restrictions.

The lack of freedom and power on the part of the players is, of course, the fault of the players themselves and their leaders who came before them.

Of course, that's why Howard Bryant is framing this as an NFL problem where the owners are too greedy to give this to the players. Naturally, because the players can't/won't negotiate complete unrestricted free agency the owners are the bad guys for just not handing it to the players.

The players have been too short-sighted to envision a world of unrestricted free agency, or have been too afraid to take on the owners, or have been too selfish to see the world in a larger context.

But again, the owners are bad for not ruining any future bargaining position by simply handing complete unrestricted free agent to the players.

Baseball owners responded with anger, frustration and collusion, of course, but they've never rolled back free agency. And look at baseball now: a different World Series winner every year, $200 million players and nearly $100 million in average payrolls -- and guaranteed contracts.

As a fan, I am pretty torn about this. Baseball does have guaranteed contracts, which can prevent small market teams from taking on the burden of signing top tier free agents because that player could take up a good portion of the payroll for the next 5-6 years. Some baseball teams spend a lot of money on players and other teams don't spend much money on players. The infield for some baseball teams make more than another team's entire roster. Some teams have no chance of re-signing their best players who aren't willing to either take a hometown discount or sign an extension early in their career to take away their arbitration years. Baseball's economic structure probably isn't terrible, but it isn't the greatest success either.

The NFL also has a different Super Bowl winner every year and teams can turn around their entire fortunes in one year. So it isn't like the NFL doesn't have close to the parity baseball has with non-guaranteed contracts. There is also a salary cap in football so teams won't have a $200 million payroll regardless of how free agency is given to players. The existence of a salary cap is another difference from baseball that works for the NFL. I don't know if the NFL needs to be more like MLB in payroll structure.

In major league baseball, free agency boosts the game and the individual players.

In the NFL, free agency boosts the game and the individual players. The NFL has had free agency boost competition around the league and individual players who have deserved large contracts have gotten the large contracts. I don't see the franchise tag as being this all-encompassing evil that Howard Bryant does.

It just doesn't make sense for a team to spend a good portion of their salary cap room on a player who doesn't want to be there for 2-3 seasons. It isn't as if keeping Jackson on the roster for one more year at $10 million is probably going to happen every year going forward. So Jackson should have a great year, up his free agency value and enjoy being paid $10 million to do it. Then after this upcoming season Jackson will either be a free agent or get paid by the Eagles.

Basketball players, too, fought for free agency; and while they had to wade through restrictive free agency in the form of matching offer sheets, they eventually won their freedoms.

And we all know what a rousing success NBA free agency has been with the combination of guaranteed contracts and idiot owners handing out these contracts.

But football players, who are the engine driving the train of the most lucrative, popular sport in America, still can't choose where they play.

Yes, they can. Players can usually choose where they play unless they are tagged with the franchise tag, which would mean they will make as much as the top players at their position for that one year. The very next year these players often become unrestricted free agents if they don't sign with their current team during the season.

The predictable response in support of the NFL's rules is to frame an argument around money, and the conventional wisdom that the fans just want players to shut up and play.

No. The conventional wisdom says NFL players many times are able to reach free agency and choose where they want to go. The exception are the players who are given the franchise tag. Generally players who are franchised tagged either (a) don't mind the tag or (b) are tagged until a long-term deal can be reached. There is maybe one player every year who gets tagged, doesn't want to be tagged, and doesn't want to play for that team anymore. This isn't a huge issue.

This is a thin and specious contention at best, and plain stupid at worst. Money cannot patch everything.

Boy, you really bitch-slapped down the fake argument you just created and stated the opposing side of this issue believed. Also notice how Howard Bryant's entire argument revolves around money...yet he says the opposing side is over-fixated with the money issue.

That the NFL is willing to compensate a player at such a high rate is indicative of how much the league fears the power of the player to have unrestricted free agency, and how much it understands the true value of real free agency --

Howard Bryant is complaining the franchise tag is unfair to players, but he is also arguing the large amount of money players who have been franchised make is also a negative. It's just financial proof of how much the owners know they are screwing players over for a benefit they haven't fought to receive. You have to work hard to paint $10 million for one year as a bad deal for a player. The NFL does understand how valuable free agency can be to a team, so they compensate the player for receiving the franchise tag, but I don't see this as further proof of the owner's greed.

The league is happy to let Jackson be paid an enormous amount for one season because it knows his franchise-tag salary will be just a fraction of what he could command on the open market.

Maybe in terms of a long-term contract, which Jackson will probably receive next year one way or another, the guaranteed money is larger. In terms of getting paid for 2012 I am not sure Jackson could make $10 million in 2012 on the open market. Howard Bryant himself said Jackson seems to have personality problems and is coming off a bad year (for him). It actually makes sense for Jackson personally to get franchised and have an incredible year to raise his stock in the eyes of other teams for next season. Making $10 million for a year's worth of work and getting to possibly increase your value on the free agent market isn't a bad deal.

The Patriots' Brady, who has been a starter for 11 years and has played in the Super Bowl five times, has never been an unrestricted free agent. Neither has Peyton Manning nor Drew Brees.

Drew Brees is a free agent right now. Like in a few weeks he will be a free agent. He was also an unrestricted free agent in 2006. So that's twice Brees has been a free agent. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady haven't ever been free agents because they (a) haven't wanted to be free agents at this point and (b) were given huge contracts by their current team.

Using an example of two quarterbacks who didn't want to leave their current teams and a player who has been a free agent once, and perhaps twice, isn't very persuasive.

Brees' contract has expired. Chicago running back Matt Forte's contract is up, too. But the Saints and the Bears can use the franchise tag to keep those players from the open market.

Here is the big question for Howard either of these players want to leave their teams to become free agents or do they just want to be paid? I will submit Brees doesn't want to leave New Orleans and Forte just wants to get paid. I will grant the franchise tag is holding Forte back, but earning $8 million this season probably isn't the worst worst-case scenario for an athlete when it comes to wanting a new contract. Yes, Forte wants a long-term deal, but $8 million isn't a bad consolation prize and he will be 27 years old after the 2012 season is over. Supposedly the Bears are working on a long-term deal with Forte, so it makes sense to franchise tag him, especially if Forte wants to still play in Chicago.

In effect, teams rarely lose control over their best players.

Because they usually end up giving them large contracts.

Manning is owed $28 million by the Colts, who can opt not to pay it and allow him to become an unrestricted free agent; but the critical element is that the option belongs to the club.

This was part of the contract Manning and his agent negotiated. How the hell can Howard Bryant use a negotiated part of a contract as proof the franchise tag is evil? This has nothing to do with the franchise tag, but is a club option the Colts and Manning negotiated into his contract extension last year. This is Bryant trying to mislead readers by bringing up bilateral agreements as if they were unilateral agreements used by the NFL team to keep the player down.

Manning cannot choose to reject it and test the market. If he becomes a free agent, it will be the Colts' decision. Not his.

As negotiated by Peyton Manning. Also, Manning will either be an unrestricted free agent or make $28 million. There isn't a bad part in this deal.

The players have no one but themselves to blame.

But it is more fun to blame the owners.

During the lockout, the league was shrewd enough to structure its public commentary around money (there was a $9 billion pie that needed to be divided), when two real issues -- eliminating the franchise tag and curbing commissioner Roger Goodell's power -- were nearly as important.

Funny how Howard Bryant didn't mention these two important issues in print at the time of the lockout.

The only players who become unrestricted free agents are the ones whose teams no longer want them. (See: Moss, Randy; or Owens, Terrell. And perhaps quite soon, a damaged Peyton Manning.)

That is pure bullshit. Here is a list of 2012 NFL free agents. Granted, some of them will be hit with the franchise tag, but there is still talent in this list.

Last offseason the following players were free agents and were not franchised:

Matt Hasselbeck
DeAngelo Williams
Darren Sproles
Vonta Leach
James Jones
Sidney Rice
Santonio Holmes
Kevin Boss
Brian Waters
Ray Edwards
Charles Johnson
Nnamdi Asomugha
Jonathan Joseph
David Akers
Quintin Mikell

In 2010, Julius Peppers, Karlos Dansby, and Dunta Robinson all hit free agency AFTER they had previously gotten the franchise tag and still received long-term deals. It is true most teams keep their best players by either re-signing them or giving them the franchise tag and then re-signing them. Most of these situations aren't applicable to DeSean Jackson's situation in that these players don't mind being franchised and usually those that want to leave their current team are able to do so.

the owners must be aware of just how morally illegitimate it is to run a league that does not allow players the freedom to change teams.

Players are allowed the freedom to change teams. Some players get the franchise tag until a long-term deal can be worked out. Here is a list of players who have been franchised since 2008.

If you notice, nearly all of these players have two things in common.

1. They are currently still with the team they were franchised by.

2. They did reach free agency the year after they were tagged and weren't tagged two years in a row.

Karlos Dansby is an exception. He got franchised two years in a row, then signed a large contract with the Dolphins.

Terrell Suggs is another exception. He got franchised twice and then signed a long-term deal with the Ravens...the same team that franchised him twice.

Jeff Reed is the last exception. He was franchised two years in a row and then released because he wasn't playing well...and in general seems like kind of a douchebag.

So the franchise tag is used as a way to keep a player around, but I don't believe it is used often as a way to restrict a player from leaving his current team over the long-term or as a way to prevent a player from ever hitting free agency to receive a long-term deal.

But no convincing argument can be made that pro football will collapse if, say, Aaron Rodgers is given the option to test the open market after five years with his current club.

No convincing argument can be made the NFL will collapse if DeSean Jackson gets franchised this year. His situation isn't representative of most players who get franchised. If Howard Bryant wants to use a good example of a team refusing to pay a player and possibly franchising him to decrease his value, it is the Bears with Matt Forte. Running backs have a limited shelf life and Forte is 26 years old. It is probably in his best interests to be a free agent. I'm not sure it is in DeSean Jackson's best interest to be a free agent if he can get paid $10 million and possibly increase his free agent value after a great 2012 season.

The Jackson case should be the latest example for the players of how football is an unpalatable business for them. They run the risk of career-threatening, even life-threatening, injury. Yet they have little financial certainty and a minimal amount of freedom.

I'm sorry, I'm not buying a guy who is going to be paid $10 million this year has little financial certainty. Howard Bryant just said the opposition (me) frames their argument around money, which is ironic since Bryant is framing his entire argument around money.

They are subject to a disciplinary system in which their appeals are heard by the same person -- Goodell -- who levies the original penalties. And after their careers are over, far too many of them die early, evidenced again this week by the death of former star wideout Freddie Solomon, who was only 59 years old.

So more guaranteed money and becoming a free agent will make all of this worth it? So much for the opposition being the only ones to frame their argument in terms of money. Money seems to be Howard Bryant's only argument.

But compared to the other three major sports leagues in this country, professional football certainly isn't that great to play.

It's a shame we are forcing these NFL athletes to play football at gunpoint. It seems like many NFL athletes aren't worried about the safety issues in their sport nor are they overly concerned about completely unrestricted free agency. If the franchise tag was such a huge issue, why didn't the player's union fight to get rid of it during the lockout?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

4 comments What Josh Hamilton Can Learn from Whitney Houston, or Why Forbes Should Not Cover Sports

Forbes Magazine has a sports section. This comes as a shock to me since I didn't know this before today. While searching for really good (okay fine, I was looking for bad journalism) journalism about Josh Hamilton's relapse I found the least insightful article on the topic. It is about Josh Hamilton's relapse and what he can learn from Whitney Houston. This is one of the most tenuous ties between a pop culture event and sports that I can think of over the past few years.

Weren't there baseball players who struggled with drugs that Josh Hamilton could learn maybe Oil Can Boyd or any number of baseball players who had drugs affect their career in a negative way? Whitney Houston though? I feel like the author, Patrick Rishe, was just waiting for a tie-in to another celebrity who used drugs so he can write a column about Josh Hamilton. He should have waited longer or just not tried to tie another celebrity's drug issues in with Josh Hamilton's own drug issues.

For any of us who are children of the 80s, it was sobering and saddening to learn of Whitney Houston’s passing on Saturday afternoon.

And then when Patrick Rishe heard of Whitney Houston's passing he realized this is the perfect time to make a tenuously-related connection between Whitney Houston's drug issues and Josh Hamilton's drug and alcohol issues. After all, all druggies and their situations are the exact same, so it should be easy to compare one to another.

The economics of substance abuse is pretty cut and dry.

Economically, hard drugs are expensive.

Most of us don’t allow ourselves to become addicts because – either consciously or subconsciously – we know that the costs associated with substance abuse (e.g. monetary, physical health, emotional health, external trauma exerted upon loved ones) far exceed the benefits.

I'm arguing semantics here, but I wouldn't say addicts "allow" themselves to become addicted. Sure, they take the steps necessary in using drugs or alcohol, but I don't think it is a conscious decision for a person to wake up and say, "I think I'm going to become an addict now." It tends to start slowly and then slowly develop into an addiction without a lot of conscious thought.

Unfortunately, those individuals that develop an addiction – no matter how irrational it may appear to the rest of us – believe the personal benefits derived from drug usage exceed these costs.

I don't think addicts think rationally about their addiction in this way. This is a very economist-like way of looking at addiction in believing addicts take the time to weigh the cost and benefits of using drugs versus the cost and benefits of choosing not to use drugs. I think part of the definition of the addiction is this ability to weigh the benefits and costs of using drugs no longer functions for a person. They don't care about the cost of using the drugs as long as they receive the benefit, no matter how much the cost may hurt them personally or professionally. That's why they call it "addiction" because rational thinking goes out the window.

Hey, maybe individuals who develop an addiction are doing a cost-benefit analysis and I am just not aware of it. This does seem like an incredibly rational way of determining whether to use drugs or not, but maybe addicts are way more rational in their decision-making than I believe. After all, I don't write for Forbes Magazine.

Of course, Ms. Houston’s demise comes just weeks after Texas Rangers All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton fell off the wagon for the 2nd time since returning to Major League Baseball after fighting his own substance abuse issues that drove him away from the game.

And there are not enough parallels between these two events that would enable a person to write an article about the similarities of these two events. Of course I say this fully knowing the same article that says Josh Hamilton can learn from Whitney Houston also believes addicts are capable of rational thinking about their addiction. So all bets are off at this point.

Days after Mr. Hamilton’s relapse, the Rangers hired Shayne Kelley to essentially play watchdog to ensure that Mr. Hamilton will stay clean going forward.

Perhaps, Mr. Kelley, you should have Mr. Hamilton sit down and read all about the rise and fall of Ms. Houston.

Right, because Josh Hamilton's own firsthand experience with using drugs, relapsing, recovering, and relapsing again isn't quite as memorable as a timeline of Whitney Houston's career. Sure, it may seem like Hamilton would be best served feeling some pain firsthand seeing on how relapsing hurt his family and friends, but I think the most convincing way of seeing Hamilton stays on the straight and narrow is experiencing Houston's drug problems vicariously through her interviews and music videos.

Have him YouTube some of her best performances when she was at the height of her career,

I did tear up earlier today while watching "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" on YouTube.

and then look-up photos and videos of her during her troubled times.

Completely ignoring the forced comparison between Houston and Hamilton, this YouTube therapy would be better served on children or for a person who has no firsthand experience with drug addiction. Considering Hamilton almost lost his career in baseball once because of drugs, and almost like his family in that time as well, I'm not sure comparing Whitney Houston's decline through the viewing of music videos is the best way to ensure Hamilton stays clean.

In fact, it is actually pretty insulting to Hamilton to suggest he watch music videos in order to see what drugs can do to a person, especially considering he probably has a laundry list of regrets caused by drugs and alcohol consumption.

Because this will remind Mr. Hamilton that nothing is forever and that substance abuse destroys.

This forced comparison really never gets any better. Just know that there is no improvement as this article goes along.

Hamilton could also look at his own life to see nothing is forever and substance abuse destroys. The idea Josh Hamilton needs to look at a 48 year old singer as an example for his life is just laughable to me.

It will remind Mr. Hamilton that his 2010 MVP award and back-to-back appearances in the World Series won’t save him from weak moments in the future that could – in the extreme – cause irreporable harm to himself and others.

Yes, Whitney Houston's death is the key to this knowledge because no other baseball players have ever struggled with addiction. Hamilton's role model has to be a least for the purposes of this article. Also, I'm not sure that's how you spell "irreparable."

Perhaps Ms. Houston’s tragedy can serve as the ultimate teaching point to Mr. Hamilton,


who has already likely jeopardized his chance for a long-term contract with the Rangers after his current deal expires at the end of the 2011 season.

I am sure since Hamilton is struggling with addiction right now, one of his biggest concerns is getting a long-term contract. He will only make $22.5 million for 2011 and 2012. How will he survive on such a small income? I am sure that long-term contract is forefront in Hamilton's mind right now. If Hamilton is as concerned about his long-term contract as much as he is concerned with getting sober then his priorities need to be realigned.

I applaud the Texas Rangers for making a “Bodyguard” investment in an effort to increase the likelihood that one of their prized assets has every chance to maximize his productive potential.

Oh yeah, that's a reference to a Whitney Houston movie. I bet Patrick Rishe has been waiting this entire column to make this reference. I would say he was "Waiting to Exhale" from anticipation over using this reference. Perhaps Hamilton should have a "Preacher's Wife" follow him around to make sure his "Cinderella" story still "Sparkles" after he gets his life back on the straight-and-narrow.

(See what I did? All of Whitney Houston's movies in one paragraph. I could write for Forbes!)

Because substance abuse will be the toughest foe Josh Hamilton ever faces.

As such, the Texas Rangers and Josh Hamilton himself should spare no expense to ensure his sobriety.

Including spending the time watching Whitney Houston videos on YouTube. This is crucial to Hamilton's recovery.

Perhaps in some odd way, Ms. Houston’s passing could reinforce to Mr. Hamilton the most important reason to stay clean.

I don't like to use the word "odd" here, but prefer to use the phrase "ever so tenuously tied" in regard to how Whitney Houston can teach Josh Hamilton a lesson on staying clean. I like to think Hamilton's greatest lesson can be learned from his own actions, attending meetings about addiction and talking with other baseball players (people who have actually have more in common with Hamilton than a middle-aged singer). But again, I'm not trying to write an article tying Whitney Houston and Josh Hamilton together.

Not just so he can hit home runs and lead the Rangers back to the World Series.

I don't see why Hamilton doesn't weigh the economic costs and benefit of having an addiction and then just making a rational decision to stay sober. Hamilton needs to do two things over the next week:

1. Watch a lot of Whitney Houston music videos and interviews.

2. Do a real cost-benefit analysis and convince himself the cost of being an addict outweighs the benefit of using drugs so he can make a decision to never use drugs/alcohol again. He needs to just stop allowing himself to become an addict.

So he can be around in 40 years to share stories of a great career with his grandchildren.

Whose great career does Josh Hamilton need to be around to share stories of? Whitney Houston. Josh Hamilton needs to get sober so he can pass her story along to other generations.