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Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Because I have some other stuff to do that, you know, might help me feed my family and stuff, we're looking at a truncated posting schedule today. If this is troubling to you and you happen to own a commercial media company willing to pay a handsome sum for virtually unlimited and uninterrupted blogging, please feel free to send an email to my attention and I'll see about rearranging my schedule. If this is troubling to you and you do not happen to own a commercial media company willing to pay a handsome sum for virtually unlimited and uninterrupted blogging, I offer you my sincerest apologies.
In any event, unless something big happens (like, say, the A's move back to Philadelphia and sign Chief Bender to a 4/$60M deal) this is probably the last you'll hear from me today.
I'm kind of a sucker for Bill Bryson, who initially made his name writing columns in the U.K. as the fish-out-of-water American. In large part Bryson went native, however, now makes his permanent home in the U.K., holds positions with British universities and, depending on what he's writing, often comes off more British than he does American.
His opposite is a guy named Justin Webb, who writes about what it's like to be a Brit in the United States. He has not gone native:
"There are several areas where I'm completely un-American," he asserts down a crackly phone line from Washington DC. "I cannot be bothered with any of the sport, I find it incredibly boring, I'd rather watch people play rounders than baseball.
Before you register your shock and outrage, keep in mind that the guy has a pretty warped perspective on other things as well:
"The food I also find really difficult, I never understood the thinking that if you eat healthy food you're suddenly making a statement about how sensible and down to earth you are. "It seems to me that American eating habits are appalling, but it's not so bad for me because I travel so much."
If he's the kind of guy who would rather have spotted dick than apple pie, I'm not going to get too bent out of shape when he slags on baseball.
Why is it that we see several times more stories about a guy who hasn't played for nearly three seasons than we do about scores of guys who are playing right now? Who is Bernie Williams' press agent? The guy must never sleep.
Reader MooseinOhio hips me to an amazing post from Boston.com's Buzz blog:
According to NESN's Red Sox reporter Heidi Watney, free-agent catcher Jason Varitek said he was not aware that teams would have to surrender a No. 1 draft pick in order to sign him and he takes full responsibility for his decision to turn down salary arbitration from the Red Sox . . .
None of that makes any sense, so let's unpack it:
Possibility #1: Boras didn't tell Varitek about the consequences of the Sox offering him arbitration.
Consequence: extreme malpractice
Comment: There's no way Boras doesn't know about the compensation rule and there's no way he doesn't hip his client to it. Boras is a lot of things, but a dummy isn't one of them, and he'd have to know that he'd be sued six ways from Sunday if he failed to provide his client with critical information like this.
Possibility #2: Boras told Varitek about the consequences of the Sox offering him arbitration, but Varitek misunderstood or ignored it.
Consequence: the loss of millions of dollars Varitek would have received in arbitration.
Comment: This scenario is what is implied by the article. As Moose noted to me, however, "Varitek is one of the most prepared and knowledgeable catchers in the game, so are we really to expect that he cannot translate that talent to his contract circumstance and know all the nuances of how the process works? And if he cannot - what does that say about him?"
Possibility #3: Boras told Varitek about the consequences of the Sox offering him arbitration and Varitek understood it, but they agreed to throw the dice anyway believing that they could sucker the Sox or someone else into giving him a multi-year deal, that failed, and now they're backtracking.
Likelihood: off the charts
Consequence: A low dollar pity deal from the Sox because they knew exactly what Boras and Varitek are doing and read the market way better than they did.
Comment: This is classic Boras, no? I can almost see the conversation in which he tells Varitek that, if it doesn't work, he'll take the PR hit so that Sox fans don't have any ill-will towards the captain. As soon as the conversation was over, of course, Boras had Varitek sign an acknowledgment or waiver regarding these facts. As we speak, said waiver is probably sitting in the safe next to A-Rod's waiver regarding the consequences of his opt-out and Pedro Alvarez's waiver about the signing deadline shenanigans.
At least that's my guess as to what happened. Anyone have a better one?
I was going to write something long and critical about Ryan Howard asking for $18 million in arbitration, but then Melky Cabrera's crazier arbitration demand came along.
Darn, it now seems that Melky and the Yankees have come to an agreement, thereby mooting all of the snark I had stored up overnight. Still, this is probably a good thing, because if they didn't, the Yankees would have had to use that PowerPoint presentation they made up illustrating Cabrera's true value, and whoever put the deck together would likely have been subject to prosecution under New York's obscenity laws if it ever saw the light of day.
So back to Howard. Eighteen million dollars is an awful lot of money. More money than Albert Pujols will make in 2009 and not that much less than Mark Teixeira will make. This a year after he posted a .339 OBP and a 124 OPS+. Yes, he hits many pretty home runs and the writers went ga-ga over him in the MVP voting, but when your OPS is in the same ballpark as Andre Ethier and Brad Hawpe's, and you don't even crack the top 15 in Win Shares in the National League, $18 million is a little rich.
The Phillies are offering Howard $14 million. I think even that may be a tad high, but since the arbitrators have to go with one of the numbers presented to them, that's where they should come out.
The Peter Principle holds that, in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. Steve Phillips did that long ago, yet somehow keeps rising and rising:
One of the longest-running acts in TV sports is getting a new cast member. ESPN will formally announce Wednesday that Steve Phillips will join Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, who've called ESPN's Sunday night baseball for 19 years.
Hiestand suggests that this move is ESPN's response to competition from the MLB Network. If throwing Steve Phillips at the problem is ESPN's best response, I foresee a long and prosperous future for the MLB Network.
(thanks to Neate for the heads up)
Things to read while recovering from a night of watching people go to parties on CNN:
Why don't they want to be a big wheel? John Brattain tells us today that its because they're run by Selig loyalists.