The Week That Was in Baseball: March 25-31, 2013
Baseball's Ten Most Overpaid Players • The Astros Go American
San Antonio: MLB's Next Home? • Is Fenway Park's Sellout Streak in Danger?
Before the first pitch of the 2013 season was thrown, the talk around baseball was…money. Detroit’s Justin Verlander, San Francisco’s Buster Posey and St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright all picked up mega-extensions to their existing contracts. The New York Yankees were desperate enough to take the overly cash-burdened Vernon Wells off the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s hands (although the Angels will still have to pay the bulk of the $42 million owed to him over the next two years). And it was officially revealed that Alex Rodriguez, who may not play at all this year due to hip problems, will bank more income ($29 million) than the entire Opening Day roster of the Houston Astros ($25 million).
The Ten Most Overpaid Major Leaguers
With all this money flying around (except in Houston), we thought we’d look up Cot’s Contracts, one of our most trusted and favorite web sites that list the contract details for every major league player and team and see who’s getting really rich—though they really shouldn’t. That said, here’s our list of the top most overpaid major leaguers today.
Carl Crawford, Los Angeles. Years of solid all-around output in Tampa Bay infatuated the Boston Red Sox into giving the dynamic outfielder a plush seven-year, $142 million contract in 2011. But injuries, advancing age (he’ll be 32 this year) and a decline in his play have encouraged new followers to those who thought he was overpaid in the first place; a change of pace in Los Angeles might help after his rocky relationship with assorted folks (press, fans, off-duty policemen) in Boston.
John Danks, Chicago White Sox. He’s young and he’s left-handed, but he was also a .500 pitcher with a career 4.00 earned run average when the White Sox for some reason decided to hand him a five-year, $65 million deal beginning in 2012. Adding injury to insult, Danks thanked the Pale Hose’ generous front office by appearing just nine times last year before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery; he begins this year still recovering from it.
John Lackey, Boston. One can say that the veteran right-hander earned his five-year, $82 million contract after years of stellar service in Anaheim, but three years with the Red Sox have produced a 26-23 record (okay), a 5.27 ERA (not okay) and an absent 2012 campaign due to elbow surgery (really not okay). The Red Sox are crossing their fingers they can salvage the last two years of his deal and get good worth out of him.
Justin Morneau, Minnesota. Like Lackey (and many others on this list), Morneau earned his current pay on his past performance; he certainly isn’t earning it on his current output. Name any part of the body and chances are Morneau has felt the pain there at some point over the last three-plus seasons; the Twins are hoping they get some vintage out of the 31-year-old slugger this year to justify the $15 million they owe him.
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees. Baseball’s highest-priced guy certainly deserves his riches (steroid use notwithstanding), but did the Yankees really think it was wise to be paying him over $20 million a year past his 42nd birthday? Severe injuries have only exacerbated matters, as Rodriguez stands to make $29 million this year despite the fact that he may not return to action until mid-summer at the earliest.
Johan Santana, New York Mets. We had the two-time Cy Young Award winner written in before it was discovered this past week that he will miss the entire 2013 season with another torn shoulder muscle. Even despite the no-hitter last year (the first by any Met), it was obvious that Santana’s best stuff clearly lay in his past; the Mets will have to pay him $25.5 million this year to rest and rehab, and another $5.5 million next season just to buy out the last year of his six-year, $137.5 million deal signed back in 2008.
Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs. The talented Dominican inked an eight-year, $136 million pact with the Cubs after capping the early portion of his career with a 40-double, 40-homer, 40-steal campaign for Washington in 2006; it’s all gone downhill since, with Soriano reduced to a .250 hitter with decent power, low on-base averages and below-average defense. All this for $19 million, this year—and next.
Vernon Wells, New York Yankees. The outfielder’s stock began to drop the moment he inked that seven-year, $126 million deal in 2008 with Toronto, but it really down-spiraled after being traded to Los Angeles of Anaheim,where he was reduced to a $21 million benchwarmer with occasional pop last season. The Yankees, badly beaten up and desperate to take on any healthy body, has brought in Wells—and the Angels were so desperate to get rid of him that they’ll pay the majority of what’s still owed to him. (Which leads us to ask: When Wells plays against the Angels—the team that’s giving him more cash than the Yankees—does that become a conflict of interest?)
Jayson Werth, Washington. The outfielder was lucky enough to be the top choice in a weak free agent market a few years back that helped net him a luxurious deal similar to Wells’; he’s even luckier that he’s got teammates like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper to take the focus off the money he’s been raking in with poor ROI. A decent finish to last year’s injury-marred campaign may bode well to a return to pre-free agent form, which he’ll need; he’s due to make $16.5 million this year, and over $20 million through each of the next four seasons.
Barry Zito, San Francisco. The veteran southpaw finally won some hearts in San Francisco late last year with a series of outstanding postseason starts, but there’s still a good deal of soreness over the fact that he’s been a remarkable underachiever throughout the bulk of his seven-year deal, also valued at $126 million. Zito needs to rack up 200 innings to automatically kick in a 2014 option year worth $18 million; otherwise, the Giants will buy him out for $7 million. So let’s say he’s 12-12 with a 4.15 ERA over 198 innings and his turn his up on the season’s final day; do you think the Giants will give him a rest?
Who Thinks Who Will Win
The Internet has been littered over the last week with pundits far and wide giving their picks for the 2013 regular season, and we pored through the search engines to figure out what the they think. Here’s a sampling of who believes which team will reign triumphant at the end of October:
Ed Attanasio, This Great Game: Washington over Los Angeles of Anaheim
Tim Brown, Yahoo!: Washington over Detroit
Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas Morning News: Detroit over Atlanta
Eric Gouldsberry, This Great Game: Detroit over Washington
Jon Heyman, CBS Sports: Detroit over Washington
Anthony Riccobono, International Business Times: Los Angeles of Anaheim over Los Angeles
George A. King, New York Post: Detroit over Atlanta
Tim Kurkijan, ESPN: Washington over Detroit
Buster Olney, ESPN: Washington over Detroit
Jeff Passan, Yahoo!: Detroit over Cincinnati
Adam Rickert, Bleacher Report: Detroit over Atlanta
Peter Schmuck, Baltimore Sun: Los Angeles of Anaheim over Washington
Jayson Stark, ESPN: Washington over Detroit
Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated: Washington over Tampa Bay
The Houston Astros, said to be so bad that many pundits are predicting the team will have a brush with infamy and challenge the New York Mets’ 40-120 mark of 1962, opened the 2013 regular season and began their American League tenure in style on Sunday with an impressive 8-2 win over their cross-state rival to the north, the Texas Rangers.
The victory was the 4,000th in franchise history—the previous 3,999 coming as members of the National League. To even out the total number of teams per league and division, the Astros were forcibly relocated from the NL Central to the AL West—only the second time (Milwaukee Brewers, 1998) since baseball’s modern era began in 1900 that a major league team swapped leagues.
League-jumping was quiet common during baseball’s infant, often lawless days of the 1800s. Six current National League teams began elsewhere; the Braves and Cubs were part of the first professional circuit, the National Association, in 1871, while the Reds, Pirates, Dodgers and Cardinals were all born in the early 1880s as members of the American Association before fleeing to the NL late in that decade. An unscrupulous attempt to syndicate the NL in 1902 and a nasty dispute among American League teams over where surly pitcher Carl Mays should be traded in 1919 nearly led to defections from one league to the other.
The Return of the Empty Seat at Fenway
Although Fenway Park saw lots of empty seats as the Boston Red Sox crashed and burned late last summer, they were technically all accounted for as missing patrons who had bought tickets and never showed up. But for 2013, the Red Sox are bracing for more empty seats—unsold ones—that could officially put an end to the record streak of consecutive sellouts, which begins this season at 793. To combat against the potential of reduced crowds, the Red Sox are offering numerous in-ballpark discounts for those who do show up—free kids meals, two-for-one deals on Fenway Franks, half-priced hot chocolate and $5 draft beer. Ticket prices, of course, will remain the same.
Fan reaction has been less than thrilling, in part because some think it’s a too-little, too-late band-aid to appease Red Sox nation after two lousy years—but also in part because Boston sports fans always feel the need to complain about something.
What Happened to Ricky Romero?
This has been a spring where staff aces from just a year ago have been reduced to bullpen duty…or worse. We understand Luke Hochevar’s demotion to the pen in Kansas City; Hochevar was never good to begin with and the Royals had him propped up in the Number One spot simply because they had nobody better. But the case of Ricky Romero is more puzzling.
In his first three major league seasons, the Toronto southpaw accumulated a solid 42-29 record and finished the 2011 season with a stellar 2.92 ERA. Then came 2012: While every other Blue Jay pitcher fell to Tommy John surgery, Romero hung on but threw as if he needed to join the medical party. On June 22, he was lucky to be 8-1 as his ERA sat at a stagnant 4.34 ERA, but his luck swiftly ran out from that point on, going 1-13 over his last 17 starts with a deplorable 7.35 ERA while walking more batters (59) than he struck out (56).
Romero was likely to get bumped down on the depth chart anyway with the arrival of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle in Toronto, but he did himself no favors with further disappointment in spring training—fielding a 6.23 ERA with ten walks and eight strikeouts in 13 innings. So rather than knock Romero down to the 5 spot or even the bullpen, the Blue Jays sent Romero all the way down to Class-A Dunedin in Florida. The drop-off isn’t as bad as it sounds—the Jays want him in Dunedin because of the warm climate, but it’s the price of an extended slump that has Taken Romero from ace to disgrace.
Tim McCarver Steps Down, and Here’s Why
You either love him or hate him; will you miss him? Long-time analyst Tim McCarver announced this past week that this coming season will be his 34th and last as a broadcaster. “I wanted to step down while I know I can still do the job and be proud of the job I’ve done,” he said on a conference call to reporters. “It’s not a tough call. It’s not a sad thing for me.” While many (including us) will miss McCarver’s down-to-earth but pointed insights, others will apparently look forward to doing without his long-winded passages. The blogosphere obviously was less than kind to McCarver, with one great Tweet spotted by USA Today that said: “Let Tim McCarver call a Kentucky Derby. C’mon. Just one time.”
Remember the Alamo…But Not the Alamodome
It didn’t look quite as awkward as when the Dodgers attempted to jam a baseball field into the oval-shaped Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1958, but the Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres played a pair of exhibition contests at San Antonio’s Alamodome, a rectangular facility built with football in mind. The look and layout of the baseball environment looked like an exaggerated version of the Metrodome in Minneapolis, with high first-row seats and a big blue right-field wall that stood only 285 feet away from foul pole to home plate. (No, there weren’t any giant air ducts behind home plate to help push the home team’s fly balls over the fence—as was tried in Minnesota.) Broadcasters had to call the game from the football press boxes, which for baseball were situated down the left field line. A crowd of 34,000 showed up for Friday night’s game followed by 40,000 for a Saturday matinee.
San Antonio is on the short list of potential major league sites should one of the current 30 teams feel aching to relocate (your move, Stu Sternberg). Considering the combined regional market when Austin (75 miles to the north) is factored in, San Antonio should be at the top of that list. But it will need a new ballpark.
Club Over Country, Indeed
On back-to-back nights, the San Francisco Giants drew more fans (near 40,000) to AT&T Park for exhibition games against the Oakland A’s than the WBC Championship game managed (25,000) at the same venue a week earlier.
Pee and Play
The Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate in Lehigh Valley will be installing video games in the men’s bathrooms over each urinal this season. (Feel free to read that again, but it’s true.) Yes, your peeing performance is tied to the game, in which you steer a snowmobile down a slope; aim straight to go straight, aim right to move to the right, etc. We just hate the thought of a drunken guy with a sense of humor intentionally trying to wreck his snowmobile and getting the next guy unpleasantly wet. (And how they’ll make this work for women remains to be seen.)
Virgil Trucks, RIP
A few years ago, TGG’s Ed Attanasio had what he described as one of his best interviews yet when he sat down with Virgil Trucks. The former fiery right-hander discussed his colorful upbringing into baseball, his two no-hitters in the midst of a 5-19 campaign in 1952 (he nearly threw another that same year), groupies and his bloodline to the Allman Brothers Band.
This past week, Trucks passed away at age 95. In 17 major league seasons, he was 177-135 with a career 3.39 ERA; his best year came in 1953 when he finished at 20-10 divided between two teams (the St. Louis Browns and the Chicago White Sox). He earned two World Series rings—one for the 1945 Detroit Tigers, the other for the 1958 New York Yankees, though manager Casey Stengel kept him off the Fall Classic roster for the latter series.
The Return of the Art of Baseball (Sold!)
For the second straight year, TGG’s Ed Attanasio will be featured as one of the artists for the popular San Francisco exhibition “Out of the Park: The Art of Baseball,” held at the George Krevsky Gallery located catty-corner from historic Union Square.
Ed will have every reason to be smiling when he shows up for the opening reception this Thursday, April 4 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.; His inclusion in the show, entitled "Stumbler's Row" (right), has already sold for a whopping $3,000.
The exhibit will run through May 25. For more information, go to the George Krevsky Gallery website.
This Week’s Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
The new season starts with San Francisco infielder Marco Scutaro bringing in a hitting streak of 20 games, baseball’s longest active run to end the 2012 season. Scutaro also had an 11-game streak during the postseason, which doesn’t count toward the 20-game run.
This Week’s Challenger to Dale Long, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr.
History may be on the line this week when Baltimore’s Chris Davis starts the year after hitting home runs in each of his last six games to end 2012; the record for most consecutive games with at least one is eight, shared by Dale Long, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr.
This Week’s Challenger to Whitey Ford and Carl Hubbell
Also hoping to reset the record book is Atlanta’s Kris Medlen, who finished last year with 22 straight starts in which the Braves won. (Atlanta lost the wild card playoff to St. Louis with Medlen starting, but that was not a regular season game and didn’t count against the streak.) With a Braves win in his first start this week, Medlen will break the mark held by both Whitey Ford (who did it between 1950-53) and Carl Hubbell (1936-37).
Wounded of the Week
More Opening Day scratches were exposed this past week as the spring training injury bug continued to rack up more casualties. Among them were St. Louis third baseman David Freese (back), Baltimore third baseman Wilson Betemit (knee, out 6-8 weeks), Arizona outfielder Cody Ross (leg) and shortstop Willie Bloomquist (oblique), Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie (strained muscle), Tampa Bay DH Luke Scott (calf), Houston outfielder Fernando Martinez (back), Los Angeles starting pitcher Chad Billingsley (finger) and Atlanta reliever Jonny Venters, whose elbow is being looked at by super-surgeon James Andrews—never a good sign for someone trying to avoid a long-term leave of absence.
It’s Here! TGG’s 2013 Season Preview
Lock the doors, batten down the hatches and head for the hills, because TGG’s Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio are stormin’ through with their picks for the coming baseball season. Check it out now in our Opinion section!
The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.
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