July 30, 2014

Andruw Jones Just Doesn’t Get It

Andruw Jones

I wanted to call this post “Andruw Jones is a Jackass,” but I’ve calmed down – a little. Nothing really upsets me more than professional athletes being completely out of touch with the real world and their own self worth. After reading the article on Jones by Dylan Hernandez in today’s Los Angeles Times, I was seeing red. And not Texas Ranger red. Sure, I knew this day was coming after seeing the Dodgers’ trip to Arlington on the calendar at the beginning of the year, but Andruw Jones’ jackass remarks still tweak me. From Dylan Hernandez:

He (Jones) batted.158 with three home runs and 14 runs batted in and was granted his release over the winter by agreeing to defer a significant portion of the $22 million remaining on his deal.

“As things were going along, I didn’t think I was in their plans,” Jones said. “I had to make a decision and move on.

Andruw, do you REALLY think the Dodgers would sign you to a two-year, $36+ million contract if you weren’t “in their plans’? We needed a power hitter, and you were going to be that guy. The Dodgers had four outfielders to inspire a sense of competition, but something tells me that competition was supposed to be geared towards Kemp and Ethier to keep “the kids” (as they were considered at the time) motivated. Unfortunately it was also needed to keep your overweight and unmotivated body moving as well.

While acknowledging that McCourt paid him a hefty salary, Jones said the owner had no right to complain about a deal that was mutually agreed upon.

“I got paid that money because that was my value,” Jones said, pointing to the numbers he posted in 12 seasons with the Atlanta Braves.

So what you’re saying, Andruw, is that you DESERVED that money based on past performance, and didn’t need to earn that money while you were here. The phrase that kills me is “no right to complain.” You’re damn right McCourt had a right to complain and he did the right thing for Dodger fans everywhere when he deferred the remaining $22 million and cut you loose. In retrospect, that contract was one of the worst in Dodger history – if not baseball history – and you should be ashamed of yourself. In addition, in the Texas media, it’s been noted that Jones holds “no animosity” towards the team that paid him to disappear. How noble of Mr. Jones.

The bottom line is that Andruw Jones just doesn’t get it. He has a sense of entitlement that I feel is just sickening. I knew it wasn’t going to happen, but I had hoped that he would be contrite, apologetic and honest when he met with the media while the Dodgers were in town. Instead, we saw the defiant and remorseless Andruw Jones that was here in LA. I didn’t see any TV interviews with him, but I bet he flashed that little half-smile he loved to show after striking out while in LA. Andruw Jones just doesn’t get it – and probably never will.

UPDATE: I’m listening to the Dodgertalk guys during the electrical delay during tonight’s game and they echoed the comments above. Plus, they said Jones’ 2008 season was the WORST statistical season of all time for batters with 200+ at bats.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Dodgers

Orlando Hudson and The New Business of Baseball

Orlando Hudson
Orlando Hudson, the former D-Backs second baseman who replaced the now retired Jeff Kent on the Dodgers roster this off-season, may very well be the face of things to come in the business of Major League Baseball.

Hudson, who had a wrist injury last season that likely limited his prospects during the off-season, was reported to have been offered $29 million over four years by the Diamondbacks to remain with the franchise. Many have suspected that Hudson turned down this offer partly because he was focused on securing a deal in either New York or Los Angeles before the free agent market disintegrated.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, have exerted extraordinary patience this off-season when chasing free agents. The Manny Ramirez negotiations in particular have shown how the Dodgers have been willing to wait out positions and players in order to stay true to their business philosophy. That philosophy, it would seem, is to focus on shorter-term deals that are tied to pay-for-performance models and incentives that reward players for delivering results while limiting team exposure to longer-term deals.

Such an approach would have been unthinkable a year ago, when teams were more than willing to shell out large, multi-year contracts with lots of up-front money in order to bring a contender to their team. Anyone remember our old friend Andruw Jones? Today, however, the business has changed. Free agents proliferate the market and those that have held out for 2008 money appear about as smart as homeowners who have refused to lower their home prices in response to a deteriorating market.

So the question remains – is Orlando Hudson the face of the “intelligent” player over the next few years? And are the Dodgers ahead of the game by exercising patience in their negotiations with players?

Let’s start with the question of Hudson. By all accounts, he is an intelligent, articulate man whose performance has been stellar. However, the three-time Gold Glove winner and former all-star earned $6.25 million last year with the D-Backs. In addition, Hudson hit a career high .305 last year with eight home runs and 41 RBIs. Why sign for $3.38 million plus another $4mil+ in incentives?
1. Geographic Sensitivity – Hudson was focused on NY and LA. Washington indicated interest, but wasn’t really a factor
2. The market changed, and Hudson knew it- the wrist was a warning sign for teams (go see how many times he had to work out for the teams courting him) and there were too many folks willing to play chicken and see what else they could land for a similar short-term deal. There weren’t many infielders of Hudson’s caliber available, but it was a buyers market.
3. Hudson’s view on money had changed- During the off-season, Hudson went to South Africa on his honeymoon and saw first-hand the impact that poverty was having on people with far less than he had.

In the end, Orlando Hudson got paid to play, and was incentivized to maximize the return to the team. In addition, he can be focused on courting potential suitors for when his contract expires and hope that the macroeconomic situation changes in the meantime. Seems like an intelligent choice when the alternative is waiting out Spring Training on a wing and a prayer.

So one to Question Two: Are the Dodgers ahead of the game in their patience and approach to player negotiations? I say yes. Consider this:
1. The Payroll is down $30mil (give or take) – the Dodgers can expect to expend $90 million or so right now for a team that is (pitching aside) eerily similar in talent to last year.
2. In most cases, the Dodgers have landed the key players they wanted to short-term deals that minimize risk and kept them from overpaying for talent and taking on risk over the long-term (a la Andruw Jones).
3. Will Ohman – The LHP turned down more money in a two-year deal earlier in the off-season from the Braves before signing with the Dodgers. Ohman told the L.A. Times “Initially, there was regret…for me to live at that address with that mind-set wouldn’t have done anything positive for me because there was nothing to foresee there would be a downturn of this magnitude.” Patience enabled the Dodgers to grab Ohman on a one-year minor league deal to see if he can play a role in the organization and was able to leverage his desire to be with a team prior to the start of the season to lock him down.

Now, Orlando Hudson (and arguably even Will Ohman) are not your typicall ballplayers who let their agents dictate their business affairs to a fault. Granted, both players overestimated the free agent market and paid for it, but both signed with a team that will be a contender in a weak NL West division and are not tied to low-paying multi-year contracts. The Dodgers get two solid players that are incentivized to perform this year both to maximize their current year earnings and the prospects for a fat, multi-year contract next offseason (should the macroeconomic environment improve).

To me, Orlando Hudson and the Dodgers represent the New Business of Baseball – a business I hope other players and teams embrace if they hope to survive and possibly even florish in today’s environment.

Anduw Jones Contract Update

Tony Jackson had an interesting update on Andruw Jones’ contract with the Rangers.  Apparently the Dodgers get half of whatever Jones makes with the Rangers.  So if Andruw earns the full value of the contract (bases plus incentives) and earns the full $1.5 million, $750,000 is then deducted from what LA owes Jones.  Every little bit helps, I guess!

Dodgers Show Andruw Jones The Door

AJ1
There was no fireworks celebration or ticker tape parade, but there’s no doubt that Dodger fans are celebrating the official release of Andruw Jones today.

Although there has been no interest in signing Jones prior to his release, the 31 year-old five-time all-star is confident he’ll land somewhere in the majors, going so far as to state that he is not interested in a minor league contract and spending time working out with some of his old Braves teammates. Good luck with that, Andruw.

The Kamenetzky brothers had a good assessment of Dodgers management in their write-up today – it’s good to see that organizations can identify a no-win situation and take their lumps (e.g. releasing Jones and being obligated to pay him money in the future) rather than trying to fix something that can’t be repaired and traumatizing the organization during the process.

Adios Andruw.

Fixing Baseball Free Agency

Free Agency Dilemma
There’s certainly been a lot of chatter about free agency in baseball this off-season – albeit without a lot of actual free agent signings and a real dearth of big-ticket deals. I’ve seen a few different perspectives out there, including some good stuff from the Sons of Steve Garvey predicting a decline in player values this off-season similar to what we’ve seen in real estate in Southern California (the McCourt purchases in Malibu notwithstanding, of course).

We all know that much of the gamesmanship that goes with being a free agent is based on the past performance of other players and their ability to land long-term contracts with large sums tied to them (in the form of up-front money and deferred payments). A small number of teams in MLB can afford to drive a certain number of signings at astronomical levels that, in turn, gets the rest of the free-agent market to hold out for the chance to be one of the lucky few who join the $100 million dollar club.

So how exactly do we fix it? I certainly don’t have the answers – no one yet has come up with a good solution – but there was some good commentary over at The Sporting News blogroll that got me thinking about some steps that would get baseball in the right direction:

1. Gradually phase out long-term contracts – this involves a sliding scale based on age that would ensure that more money was distributed across the entire player pool rather than being tied up in a few stars who may or may not ([cough] Andruw Jones [cough]) actually realize a level of play that justifies a huge payday. As the author puts it:

Sounds good but the players union would never go for it right? Well, the players union is supposed to represent all players, not just A-Rod and the rest of the chosen few. Most MLB players never get a shot at the brass ring – they toil along at the league minimum and never really get their due. Short term contracts would free up more cash for more players. With less dead money, teams could afford to pursue more players aggressively. With the contract years fixed, the only negotiating point then is money so even the stars would benefit.

Sure, the big money teams could still win out and out bid anyone, but it would give every team a chance to get into the game. So, to me, a fan of a mid-market team, I want to see the White Sox be able to be in the game but I do not want to see them tie up salaries in players who can’t play out their contracts. All teams need to be able to make the system work for them – not just the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels and Mets

2. Eliminate Guaranteed Contracts - The NFL definitely got this one right. Why should teams be saddled with an annuity for a player that hasn’t delivered performance equal to his past results? Allow some portion to be guaranteed and let the rest ride – it makes much more sense from a long-term viability perspective and also encourages a player not to show up 20 pounds overweight to spring training and then half-ass it during the season before getting injured ([cough] Andruw Jones [cough]). You’d get teams willing to sign longer-term deals for younger players and get some security for the older player looking to be somewhere for 2-3 years without having to feel like your contract negotiations involve actuarial tables for baseball players.

3. Create the Franchise Player tag - Again, similar to the NFL Franchise Player you would designate a player that you want to build your team franchise around and offer significant benefits over the rest of the roster. The tags would be limited in nature and still enable teams to lock up a signature asset for a long period of time. The tag would also reduce poaching as is customary in the current system

Is this the magic bullet? Is it really this simple? Absolutely not. However, I (and many others that have posted on this topic across the blogosphere) think it’s a step in the right direction and one that needs to come sooner rather than later. After all, who wants to buy $11 beers to support a player who is no longer on the team’s roster ([cough] Andruw Jones [cough] hopefully [cough]) or help an owner who paid $40+ million for two beach front Malibu homes try and eek out a profit in the current environment of Major League Baseball? Not me.