PD Sunday Sampler 1/29/12: A Prince-ly Sum
I have to admit, Major League Baseball genuinely had me fooled. For a couple of years, it looked like some balance had been restored to the game; perhaps not NFL style parity but at least a semblance of fiscal responsibility among its competitors. Hell, even the Milwaukee Brewers pulled off a blockbuster trade en route to winning their first division title since they moved to the National League Central and first overall since 1982. That put Milwaukee in the playoffs for the second time in the last 4 years and made it seem as if the Brewers could actually contend with the big boys.
Then came this offseason to snap me back to reality like a cold slap at the end of a wet fist.
It’s not that I’m bitter about first baseman Prince Fielder leaving Milwaukee, though the above probably makes it sound that way. Any Brewers’ fan with his head not up…in the clouds has been prepared for that eventuality since he reportedly turned down a $100 million extension a couple of years ago. If anything, the Brewers were lucky to have him for as long as they did and it was fun regularly being able to watch such a prodigious talent toil in Miller Park. I don’t even begrudge Fielder for chasing the money. He worked the system and got paid; there aren’t many among us who wouldn’t do the same if presented the same opportunity.
What I do find puzzling and a bit disappointing is that Fielder signed with the Detroit Tigers for 9 years and $214 million. If you’d like a breakdown of that number, that’s almost a million dollars (.93 to be exact) for each of Fielder’s 230 career home runs. Columnist Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press said that the signing made little baseball sense for the Tigers. They already had a player of a similar ilk in first baseman/DH Miguel Cabrera. Sure, the Tigers had a need for a bat after catcher Victor Martinez was lost for the season, but that’s a pretty heavy price to pay for a player whose longterm prospects remain open to debate. From a personal standpoint it’s also curious that Fielder, who has spent most of his adult life trying to distance himself from his estranged father Cecil, would choose to put himself in a place where he’s guaranteed to constantly be compared to the former Tiger.
In effect, baseball let itself get “Boras’d” again; you’d think they’d be onto his act by now. Uber-agent Scott Boras has a long history of commanding top dollar for his clients and his specialty is getting teams to bid against themselves. He did it over 10 years ago when he got Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks to spend more on then free agent shortstop Alex Rodriguez than he paid for the entire franchise and he appears to have done it again with Fielder and the Tigers. It’s unlikely that Detroit general manager Dave Dombrosky would have made the commitment of time and money to Fielder when there were no public reports of any other team making anywhere near a similar offer. I’m not even suggesting the Tigers were wrong to make a run at Fielder, just that exercising a little patience could have saved them some years and up to $40 million less. But pizza baron owner Mike Illitch decided he needed to fulfill a longtime dream of bringing the younger Fielder back to Detroit and swallowed the Boras’ bit hook, line, and sinker. It has always amazed me when owners, who presumably are successful because of their business acumen, routinely abandon it when it comes to running their sports franchises. This appears to be the latest example.
At least the contract for Fielder is logical in one sense. At only 27 years of age and just coming into his prime years, Fielder is younger than the typical big money free agent. Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin, who ironically was at the helm when Rodriguez signed his record-setting contract with Texas, said from his viewpoint that it was easier to understand the Fielder deal than some other longterm ones for older players. He didn’t have to specify the one that Albert Pujols just signed with the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels. Pujols, a productive player of indeterminate age, signed a 10 year contract that, along with a personal services agreement, reportedly brought the total to near $300 million. That’s just a ridiculous amount of money for any player with any team.
Some would argue that these are unique circumstances where players of singular ability came onto the free agent market. I would counter that by reminding them that in actuality the market was depressed this time in that none of the normal heavy hitters were involved. The Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies really didn’t have a need for the available players and the Mets and Dodgers are currently in the throes of financial problems that precluded them from taking part. What kind of astronomical figures are we going to be seeing the next time those teams are around to drive up the price?
The point is that a rising tide lifts all ships and that contracts like these increase the cost of doing business for everyone. When A-Rod inked his deal in Texas, it limited Melvin’s ability to build a team around him and ultimately drove the Rangers into receivership. As I stated at the top, Milwaukee was lucky to have Fielder for as long as they did. They’re even luckier that All-Star outfielder and reigning NL Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun was willing to accept a below market contract to remain in Milwaukee. That’s not the type of thing that the Player’s Union encourages. The Brewers under the ownership of Mark Attanasio are light years ahead of where they were under the previous regime, but their resources are stretched about as far as reasonably possible. As a Brewers’ fan, I have no wish to see a return to the days when MLB was overtly a caste system between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.
RANDOM SAMPLINGS: It looks like the Green Bay Packers are going to dodge a bullet. With the hirings of Reggie McKenzie as GM in Oakland and Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin as head coach in Miami, the potential was there for a major raid on the Packer coaching staff. Now it appears that unit will return to Green Bay next season largely intact-a very good thing for the Packers………..Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the University of Wisconsin football team. With their most prominent offensive coaches joining former O/C Paul Chryst in Pittsburgh and a number of others leaving to pursue other opportunities, the program has taken on the feel of a sinking ship. The caliber of their replacements remains to be seen but the departures already seem to be costing the Badgers some notable recruits………..It appears the end game has begun between the Indianapolis Colts and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. The public exchanges between Manning and Colts’ owner Jim Irsay may be mild compared with what Packers’ fans experienced a few years ago but, along with the staff and philosophy changes in Indy, are telling nonetheless. The interesting part now will be to see whether Manning decides to continue his career elsewhere after three surgeries on his neck in the last year; not to mention which team(s) will be willing to take a chance on him………..Sometime before next season, the National Football League needs to get a handle on personal foul calls. I understand the desire to protect quarterbacks but defenders need to be able to do more than graze against them without drawing a flag………..The Milwaukee Bucks had a big win over the Los Angeles Lakers last night but, now that center Andrew Bogut is hurt yet again, one wonders how long they’ll be able to compete. At least there’s one bright spot for Milwaukee; former Badger Jon Leuer continues to show signs of being a viable NBA player.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.