Tuesday, November 30, 2010

To Be Born A Lefty

  • Products of their environment...and luck:

I've often half-kidded that if I was left-handed, I'd have made it to the big leagues. What my career would've been like is an open question but presumably, now, I'd be a lefty specialist out of the bullpen; bouncing from team-to-team; always having a job simply due to the happenstance of being born lefty.

What's even more aggravating is that both of my parents were born lefty. Back when my father was a kid, there was a bias against left-handed people to the point where they were forced to become righties; my mother's lefty as is a large chunk of her side of the family.

Presumably, I could've done what Billy Wagner and Tom Underwood did and decide to start throwing left-handed as a conscious choice, but I didn't have the foresight.

Instead of being a lefty specialist with a wild reputation as he desperately hangs on in the big leagues, I'm an agent of chaos writer with a wild reputation as he desperately hangs on to the fringes of society as a whole.

Be that as it may, this is no stream-of-consciousness lament as to the contextual misfortune of being right-handed; I'm pleased with the gifts I was bestowed (such as they are).

No, this is stemming from the duality of the contract the Rockies have reached in principle to retain free agent lefty Jorge de la Rosa.

According to Troy Renck----Denver Post Story----this guarantees De La Rosa $32 million (based on a third year player option); but he'll get at least $21.5 million over two years.

I'm torn about this.

On the one hand, De La Rosa has pitched well for the Rockies since a 2-7 start in 2009; he ended that season by going 14-2; the Rockies have known what they were going to get from De La Rosa since he was acquired from the Royals for Ramon Ramirez in March of 2008. He'd either pitch well or get blasted----for the most part, he's been serviceable.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, De La Rosa was awful for the Royals----to the point where it was entirely understandable that they traded him for Ramirez----he's been a journeyman who bounced from the Diamondbacks to the Brewers to the Royals to the Rockies.

This is a lot of money for a pitcher like De La Rosa. While I don't see this contract having the potential to be an Oliver Perez-level catastrophe, it's in the ballpark.

From the vantage point of examining the history of their GM, Dan O'Dowd, there are two ways to judge this (and the Troy Tulowitzki extension): One, O'Dowd jumped feet first into a cesspool that had no possibility of working out. Eerily similar to the insane and disastrous contracts with the free agents Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle after the 2000 season, these contracts could explode in his and the Rockies' faces; two, they could turn out to be along the lines of the highly astute judgment of signing the heretofore mediocre Aaron Cook to a long term contract after a shaky 2007. Cook went 16-9 and was an All Star in 2008.

O'Dowd is a hard GM for me to pigeonhole as good or bad. He did a mostly poor job from 2000-2007 in continually flinging strategies against the wall only to fail time-and-time again. Then the blazing and inexplicable hot streak that propelled the Rockies to the World Series in 2007 bought him some time; it was the firing of manager Clint Hurdle in early 2009 and his replacement, Jim Tracy, that saved O'Dowd's job again.

Much like my "lucky" rant on being a lefty, O'Dowd's been notoriously lucky.

For the second time this off-season, an extreme contract was doled out to a lefty who has major questions hovering over him. First was the Dodgers signing of Ted Lilly for 3-years and $33 million despite his injury history and non-existent velocity; now it's De La Rosa.

It's risky.

All I can say is it would've been nice to be born lefty; or to have learned the throw lefty.

Or righty for that matter. Or to have learned how to hit.

20/20 hindsight is a losing road upon which to walk. Even for me.

  • Now, the Tulowitzki deal:

The details regarding Tulowitzki are available in the same linked story about De La Rosa.

Wasn't the long-term contract Tulowitzki signed after his Rookie of the Year campaign (which I, ironically, mentioned yesterday) designed to preclude the need to sign him to such a mega-deal?

Tulowitzki was locked up through 2014; what was the point of doing this now?

A star player who's only getting better, Tulowitzki would've gotten a similar contract had he been a free agent.

And that's the point.

He's not a free agent, nor is he anywhere close to being a free agent. He was a Rockie and would've been a Rockie through the 2014 season.

Why do this now?

The contract is borderline insane. 7-years and $134 million through 2020? For what? That's a looong time and a lot of money; plus, they're not getting a discount. Who knows what Tulowitzki's going to do in the next two years? Never mind the next TEN!!

There are trends in baseball that looked questionable when they were first attempted. It was John Hart with the Indians who chose to sign his young Indians stars to long-term deals to avert expensive arbitration awards and free agency; some of them worked out (Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga); some didn't (Jack Armstrong).

Other teams followed suit.

Now, after the deranged and unnecessary extension the Phillies gave to Ryan Howard, the market is blown up again by the Rockies and Tulowitzki. Albert Pujols was licking his lips after seeing Howard's paycheck; it must be the same circumstances with big time middle-infielders. Is Hanley Ramirez going to throw a tantrum and demand a comparable payout from the Marlins? How about Chase Utley?

Ramirez is signed through 2014 at a guaranteed $57.5 million; Utley at $45 million through 2013.

Ramirez and Utley have legitimate gripes that they're underpaid in relation to what a similar player is getting and it's all because of these panicky and unnecessary contract extensions. If they were saving money, it'd be one thing, but they're not.

Had Howard and Tulowitzki gone free agent, would they have come close to these guaranteed contracts? And if so, it made no sense to jump the gun before zero hour.

If the team's not saving money, they why do it in the first place? Was it to avoid a potentially messy negotiation with their centerpiece players as the Yankees are currently experiencing with Derek Jeter?

If that's the reasoning behind it, it's pretty flimsy.

Really flimsy.

I was on with Sal at SportsFan Buzz last Wednesday talking about the Hot Stove; the Mets; Derek Jeter; post-season award winners; and other stuff. You can click on the link here directly or here for Sal's site to listen on I-Tunes.


She-Fan said...

I agree about being born a lefty. Apparently, it's the road to permanent and lucrative employment in the world of baseball pitchers!

Gabriel said...

I think the reasoning in Tulowitzki's deal is the same as in Vernon Wells' deal in 2006. They want their star player to be the face of the franchise, and seeing how the Jeter negotiations are going, the Rockies chose to preemptively lock him up like Howard or Mauer, even though Tulowitzki hasn't been as reliable as those two. In a vacuum, having a franchise player isn't a bad idea, but I'd have waited at least a couple of years in order to analyze at depth his production.

Jeff said...

The rich just keep gettin' richer, Prince, regardless of sanity.

As far as leftydom goes, I'm a lefty, but my pops (not quite the baseball savant I am) taught me to bat right handed... and worse... THROW right handed.

Eventually I turned around to my natural left handed batting stance, but I never learned to throw left handed and my big league dreams died. Oh, that and I couldn't hit a breaking ball.