Wednesday, 12 May 2010

All's Wells That Ends Wells?

I really don’t know where I stand on Vernon Wells. On the one hand Wells has always stood out to me as the most glaring example of ridiculous contracts in baseball, as an exemplar of a team grossly over-estimating a player’s monetary value and setting back their own plans for success as a result. However, thus far in 2010 Wells is making me doing some re-thinking as, and no-one is as surprised about this than me, Vernon is actually playing like a player who makes close to $20,000,000 a year.

If Wells is able to sustain is his blistering early season form: 9 HR, 25 RBI, .328/.395/.641 with a 1.036 OPS then his name may very well be floating around in discussions for American League MVP come October. I also seems a pretty safe bet that he will make the AL All-Star team (although, given that he plays for Toronto I wouldn’t actually make that bet).

My concern with all this lies in the expectations we have of an MVP, of an All-Star. Are these players simply the best player that year in their league (if so just rename the NL MVP award the Albert Pujols award and be done with it) or do we actually take the phrase ‘most valuable player’ literally? I’m tempted to believe that in the AL at least we do. There is no other way of explaining Pedroia’s 2008 victory otherwise.

Assuming (and this is the sort of huge assumption that is liable to get oneself committed) that Well’s continue his form and carries these numbers into October, and that, by doing so he propels the Blue Jays into Wild-Card contention he could well be touted as a MVP, and under normal circumstances, rightly so.

Vernon Wells can have as good a 2010 season as he wants, he will still not be valuable to the Blue Jays. He owes them several years of early 2000’s Barry Bonds seasons offensively combined with Andruw Jones in his prime defence to even come close to being valuable to the franchise that has (idiotically, and Wells is not reasonable for that idiocy) made Vernon Wells a very rich man for, barring a Lenny Dykstra style financial collapse, the rest of his life.

Many people have called players like Wells and Barry Zito thieves, accusing them of some sort of wrongdoing in getting misguided franchises to pay way over the odds for their services. This is not the case, Wells’ lacklustre performance since 2006 is likely not the product of laziness or coasting (an accusation that case often be levelled at Manny Ramirez) and he is under no moral obligation to (as some commentators have suggest Zito should) return any of the millions he has undeservedly made during the three year period where he was putting up numbers like these:

2007: 16 HR 80 RBI - .245/.304/.402 .706 OPS
2008: 20 HR 78 RBI - .300/.343/.496 .840 OPS
2009: 15 HR 66 RBI - .260/.311/.400 .711 OPS

While 2008 wasn’t a total bust for Wells there is no doubting that a player putting up these numbers is of little ‘value’ to a team and that that value is significantly diminished when that player is making $18,000,000 a season. The argument I made that David Ortiz was still valuable last season when, despite a far lower batting average he produced similar HR and RBI totals to A-Rod made sense as Ortiz made nearly $15,000,000 less a year than Rodriguez. That argument cannot be made with Wells.

Wells has been so burdensome to the Blue Jays that they spent a great deal of last season offering Roy Halladay for a bag of magic beans just as long as someone was prepared to take Well’s ridiculous contract off their hands. No-one wanted him, which was a surprise really as, given subsequent form I would have thought Theo would have jumped at the prospect of overpaying for an oft-injured, offensively ineffective outfielder.

That a team is prepared to let their greatest ever play leave for less than they might normally demand just in order to get rid of the contract of their greatest ever financial albatross does not speak wonders for that player.

In short; Vernon, the last three years aren’t necessarily your fault but you will have to do a hell of a lot better than 40 HR 100 RBI and a .300/.400/.500 to ever be thought of as valuable again.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Moving the Goal Posts

SI writer Joe Posnanski, on his excellent blog ( has a idea: swapping the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Kansas City Royals. I whole-heartedly agree. Frankly, any change that lessens the Pirates’ natural desire to lose comically is fine by me.

Posnanski is on to something. Pittsburgh would, I think, thrive in the AL Central; a weak division by anyone’s standards. The Pirates could certainly move than hold their own against the current White Sox and Indians teams and likely wouldn’t be embarrassed by Minnesota or Detroit. A year or two to allow their current crop of prospects to develop (including the opportunity to let Pedro Alvarez acclimatise to the Majors as a DH) and the Pirates could conceivable make a run at the post-season, something highly unlikely to happen in their current league.

The less said about the Royals’ chances in the NL Central the better. That team will be appalling no matter where it plays.

Joe’s idea got me thinking about other potential swaps that might benefit both teams involved. I thought about a Texas team swap: Rangers to the NL, Astros to the AL. I can see the upside in this for the Rangers: get into a division without the Angels in it, big gates when the Dodgers and Giants come to visit, the amount of HRs their lineup will hit playing so many games at either Arlington or Coors Field. Try as a might though I don’t see much upside for Houston, other than the fact that their young non-Roy Oswalt pitching core will see a reduction in collective ERA from pitching so many games at Safeco Field and the Oakland Collesium.

No, as far as I’m aware the best, more mutually beneficial trade would be for the two Florida teams to swap leagues. Everyone’s a winner here!

Tampa Bay have played like a National League team throughout Madden’s tenure as manager. Their recent improvements are hampered by the resources the Red Sox and Yankees have available and it is decidedly unlikely that they will ever emerge as a consistent division winner, or wild-card contender. Plus, they don’t have a proper DH.

A move to the NL East would allow the Rays the opportunity to contend for a wild-card spot (if not the division itself, assuming the Phillies don’t stay dominant forever), plus draw fans to Tropicana Field with the prospect of several repeats of the 2008 World Series every year. Jason Heyward and Braves should also provide Tampa with another big-gate attraction similar (if not equal) to the visits of the Yankees and Sox.

The Marlins need a reason for people to go to their revolting ball-park. The Yankees and the Red Sox are this reason. Dolphin Stadium should sell out for a repeat of the 2003 World Series against the Yankees right? Or, how about Josh Beckett returning to Miami, or Hanley Ramirez getting the opportunity to punish his former employers for shipping him off to this wretched franchise?

The Marlins don’t stand much chance of competing in the AL East at the moment, but, given the new stadium and the (presumably) increased revenue flow that the move would generate, it seems possible that the days of Miami fire-sales could come to the end and the team could return to the now barely-plausible days of being a World Series contender.

Seems sensible to me.

How about swapping the Red Sox with the Phillies, I could get behind that.