Monday, March 22, 2010

Agendas, Laziness, Hypocrisy And Lies

  • Joe Mauer was never leaving the Twins----ever:

Joe Mauer has agreed to an 8-year, $184 million contract to stay with the Minnesota Twins.

Despite speculation to the contrary, Mauer was never, ever going to leave the Twins.

The Twins were never going to let him leave.

Let's take a look at the reasons why.

The ties that bind:

It would've been understandable that the idea of a Mauer trade was floated had there ever been any chance at all of the player leaving or the club deciding that they could no longer keep him. But the relationship between player, team and city ware so intertwined that there was never, ever, ever any way he was going to be allowed to depart; nor were they going to take the public relations hit if he were dealt away.

Joe Mauer is from Minnesota; he's a hometown hero who has blossomed into the best hitter in baseball this side of Albert Pujols. He's a Gold Glove catcher. And he's a Twin.

The first pick in the 2001 draft, the Twins were ridiculed for taking a high school player who was at least four years away from the big leagues; for bypassing Mark Prior, who was poised, polished and close to big league ready; for putting locale and popularity ahead of what was best for the club.

How's that decision look now as Mauer has developed into a Hall of Famer and quite possibly the best all-around catcher in the history of the game and Mark Prior's career is over?

Has anyone who scoffed at the notion that the Twins might've been putting the organization first by taking Mauer retracted their knee-jerk reaction of stupidity?

Or, like everything else that's said based on nothing more that what's convenient at the time within the flexible reality of the armchair experts, has it been pushed off to the side so no one remembers?

There were too many connections; too much at stake for both sides for Mauer to be allowed to leave. It was never going to happen.

Mauer is not a money whore; and his agent is Ron Shapiro:

How much money could Mauer have gotten had he gone out on the open market?

A handsome, stand-up guy who wins Gold Gloves behind the plate and bats .360? A player who's in his prime and getting better at age 27? With the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Angels, Dodgers and White Sox likely to be lurking, waiting and watching to see what happens and if he becomes available?

Even in a sluggish economy, we're talking about $250 million----at least.

Could Mauer have extracted more than the $184 million from the Twins by being a hardliner? By using his pending free agency as a hammer? By going to the media and pressuring a club that he knew couldn't let him leave with a young team and a new ballpark?


Is he that kind of person?

Obviously not.

All you need to do when assessing the "greed factor" of a player is look at his representation. If the name Scott Boras is listed under "agent", you know where the player stands in terms of desired financial remuneration.

If you see the name Ron Shapiro, you also know where the player stands.

This is not to denigrate a player for wanting to extract every single penny he can possibly accrue from an interested club. This is America. The skills of a player the caliber of Alex Rodriguez; of Mark Teixeira; of Carlos Beltran predicate what he can legitimately request from any team that wants him during the course of free agency.

Of course, when a player signs on the dotted line with Boras, he's running the risk of the near disaster that was the ARod opt-out from his contract as he almost shut himself out from the Yankees during the 2007 World Series; of teams who don't put up with the Boras style of doing business walking away entirely; of playing in a venue where he really didn't want to play (as ARod did with the Rangers).

Ron Shapiro doesn't do business that way.

Shapiro's first priority for his players is where said player wants to play. Before anything else, that's one of the most important factors in his negotiations. Don't think for a second that Shapiro won't play hardball if he has to and use the possibility of a player leaving to his advantage, but the comfort and security of his client is paramount and unassailable. There's no attempt to demolish a club's existing salary structure or win some non-existent contest of wills to be known throughout the land as the epitome of evil amongst player agents.

Mauer is not a money-whore.

Shapiro doesn't represent money-whores.

Is Mauer going to buy that much more stuff with an extra $70 million and withstand the casting out from his home that would've been his lot in life if he'd left for greener pastures (and by greener, I mean money)? He'd never have been able to return to Minnesota again; and he didn't want to leave in the first place.

In a trade, the circumstances were prohibitive and the Twins would never have gotten equal value:

Let's say hypothetically the Twins or Mauer had broken off negotiations and things got to the point that the club decided to field offers for the superstar catcher in a trade. What could they have gotten for him in July had that happened?

Would any of the big market clubs give up the five prospects that it would take to get Mauer and then put themselves in an even more precarious position than the Twins were while the negotiations were taking place? Let's just say the Yankees and Red Sox got into a bidding war for Mauer; and let's say that the winner of the bidding war gutted their farm system to get Mauer. They'd have no choice but to pay him whatever he wanted to stay. They'd have to ante up their best prospects and then essentially sign Mauer as a free agent.

Given the way both teams now do business, was that going to happen? Seriously?

Trust me when I tell you that once Mauer was out of his hometown and wearing the colors of another club, the discount sign for the home club would've been gone. Whoever was ready to pay the cash was going to get the player.

So were the Yankees going to add another $200 million player to the roster? While they have Teixeira, ARod and C.C. Sabathia on their payroll and need to sign both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera after this year?

Were the Red Sox going to pay that amount of cash with the way they're constantly trying to cast themselves as financially sane while existing in the same financial stratosphere as the Yankees?

It wasn't going to happen because it couldn't happen.

What of the Twins?

Let's say the negotiations became heated and so contentious that they ended and the club decided they had no choice but to trade him. A blunted public relations hit due to outrageous demands still wouldn't let the Twins get equal value for him. Because of the economy and Mauer's pending free agency, the Twins would've found themselves in a similar circumstance as they were with Johan Santana.

Despite the club winning and maintaining their annual success without Santana, that trade was a disaster. Left with no options after the Yankees and Red Sox withdrew, the Twins were left with whatever crumbs Mets GM Omar Minaya was willing to surrender. Take a look at the return on that deal:

Carlos Gomez----supremely talented and wild showing no signs of maturing; an excellent defensive outfielder with no plate discipline whatsoever and subsequently traded to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy.

Philip Humber----a right-handed pitcher and former first round draft pick with average (at best) stuff and stagnating in the minor leagues; Humber was released by the Twins and is now with the Kansas City Royals.

Deolis Guerra----a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher with weak numbers and currently in the minor leagues for the Twins.

Kevin Mulvey----a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher with mediocre minor league numbers who was traded to the Diamondbacks for Jon Rauch.

In other words, the Twins have wound up with Jon Rauch, J.J. Hardy and a minor league right-handed pitcher for a 2-time American League Cy Young Award winner, Johan Santana; and that's two years after the fact of the trade.

Because it would've been a mid-season deal, the Twins would likely have gotten less for Mauer than they got for Santana. Regardless of the perception as to whose fault it was that the negotiations fell apart to that point, no one in the trade would've won. The Twins would've gotten pennies on the dollar for a homegrown superstar; the trading club would've either gutted their system and/or spent $250 million; and Mauer would've looked like a money-grubbing mercenary.

  • The absurdity of the media:

Is there anyone out there with a shred of integrity? Anyone who can be honest and speak the truth? Or at least stands by their beliefs even if proven wrong? Who doesn't adjust their shape like an amoeba to fit into whatever inextricable maze their ineptitude places them?

It's all about agendas; laziness; hypocrisy and lies.

Because there's such a divergent series of camps in baseball today, there's never any accurate and aboveboard series of reporting. It's about defending one's territory and it's blatant and embarrassing.

How else do you explain the likes of Mike Francesa going on-and-on with rampant egomania and all-knowing foresight with his mantras the likes of "'da Mets hafta break up 'da core" not because it made sense; not because it was presented in a line-by-line, coherent case, but to drum up attention for himself with controversy. Or the self-serving way he "thinks" things are going to happen not based on reality, but because he made a prediction earlier and wants to be able to crow about being right? Or his "forgetting" prior statements because admitting a mistake would sabotage the omnipotence inherent with being such a brilliant sports mind.

The stat zombies do the same thing. When you read a Dave Cameron or Rob Neyer put forth the bi-monthly defense of Paul DePodesta as a baseball executive, you have to read between the lines. In a recent posting, Neyer unloaded on Jamie McCourt's incompetence as a baseball executive based on a speech he heard her give at MIT.

I'm not about to sit here and defend the McCourt circus that's currently being played out in the courts and media; there's a certain Beverly Hillbillies aspect to the way they sauntered into town and took over the historic franchise known as the Los Angeles Dodgers. But if you examine the way the club has been run on the field since they took over, what's there to argue with?

Aside from this past winter (and due to embarrassing, though understandable circumstances with the divorce) the Dodgers have spent lavishly on players; they paid for the most recognizable manager in Joe Torre; they've been aggressive in trades; and they've made the playoffs in three of the past four years. Even with the lack of movement this winter, they're still legitimate contenders. Ignoring the vitriol directed at the owners, what possible reason is there to criticize aside from casting blame on someone other than DePodesta for what happened when he wrecked the team in 20 months between early 2004 and late 2005?

How hard is it to admit a fellow believer made a mistake? If any of the DePodesta defenders had the courage to break from their crowd of stat zombies and say something to the tune of: "he's my friend; I believe what he believes in terms of running a club; but he screwed up terribly when he got the big job", they'd have a chance to garner some credibility.

But they don't. They push him for jobs; reference his bonafides; and turn themselves into pretzels offering caveats for his multitude of inexcusable errors. Blame the McCourts. It's easy and it's fun.

How about the "insiders" like Buster Olney and Ken Rosenthal?

Lazy and clueless; unable to find things to write about so speculating while leaving room to adjust their feelings based on whatever time of day it is, they contradict themselves numerous times in the Joe Morgan fashion while maintaining the veneer of entities with contacts and insider information.

Now that Mauer's signed, because they didn't go out on any kind of a limb (that was never really a limb at all because he was never leaving the Twins to start with), they can "report" on what happened while promulgating the myth that they were on target with their stories from the start.

One day it was the negotiations were gaining momentum; next they were at an impasse; then there was the chance that a deal was never going to get done at all; then the trade ideas were floated complete with the wishy-washy and self-protecting, "I think a deal with the Twins will still get done".

Which is it?

We've seen Olney's degeneration from respected reporter for the New York Times to an ESPN joke. If the Mauer silliness didn't convince you of this fact, the ridiculous "story" that the Phillies wanted to trade Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols----presented as if it had basis in reality and clung to despite denials from all involved----should clarify the viability of these sources that may or may not exist; may or may not be in a position to say such things.

The connections in the game of telephone that are these faux rumors never ends. After the Howard-Pujols garbage blew up, the ESPN machine went into overdrive with Olney a guest on one of the updates and the hostess reporting the rumor as fact and asking (I'm paraphrasing), "So, Buster, how close is this to happening?"

Olney went on about the reasons for the idea; the logic behind it; and how it wasn't close to happening.

How close is it to happening?!?!

It might've behooved those that were wondering how "close" this was to happening to inform the Cardinals of this deal since they didn't appear to know about it. The Cardinals being informed about the proposition would have facilitated a deal faster than nonsensical speculation that could well have come from Olney's dog instead of an actual person.

If you needed to understand the floating nature of these stories; of the way things are twisted and turned and altered into something based not in reality, but in the alternate world that exists only at the stroke of a key because there's no honesty; no truth; no guts to say what needs to be said regardless of public perception, the Mauer mess is indicative of the hand-in-hand nature of what these so-called reporters and analysts say today.

They can write what they want; cite the sources they choose; change or forget their statements based on whatever their endgame happens to be. But know the truth----the truth that they're not giving information of putting themselves on the line with cold reality, ruthlessness and well-thought-out beliefs. They're fulfilling a corporate and selfish series of lies for their own ends.

It's never going to end unless that's realized, accepted and rejected.

And even then, it might never stop; but at least it won't be hidden. It won't be a myth put out as truth to those that are still willing to read and accept it. Then we'll be able to rebuild.


Mike Fierman said...

one of your best- here's a not too crazy analogy: you're like leonard bernstein circa 1970- a rationalist/tonalist fighting the world of atonality ( in your case sabremetricians) we all know how that tuned out in the end. almost everyone in the serious music world has returned to tonality.

i'm not a troglodyte who rails against stats and I know that you aren't either, but i DO get annoyed when I read that Mark Teixeira's UZR in worse than "league average" and by the same token last year Daniel Murphy played the 4th best D at 1st base- no knock on Murph-I like the kid, but i've seen him play. anyway-that's just an example. sometime when I look at the literally unbelievable formulas for some of these exotic statistics it really infuriates me in an "emperor's new clothes" sort of way.

Jeff said...

Good call on Mauer. Your reasoning made it hard to believe he'd be anything but a Twin in 2011.

And the Olney-Pujols-Howard mess STILL has me seething.

Whether he knew it or not (most likely he did) Olney's actions caused great concern among Cardinals and Phillies fans.

I'm still waiting for his apology.

She-Fan said...

As an aside from "Mauer is not a money whore," I agree that the McCourts did a good job with the Dodgers - before their personal issues got in the way. Such a shame if the divorce is what's keeping Torre from signing a contract extension, though he denies it.