August 14, 2009

Man of the Hour




Another day, another debate about J.P. Ricciardi. The beleaguered J.P. Ricciardi.

On Wednesday, it was Joe Posnanski's turn to rip the Toronto GM. (The Tao of Stieb called it a "hatchet job.") In short: Ricciardi signs guys to brutal - and only brutal - contracts, and "we should just start referring to bad baseball contracts as 'Ricciardis.'"

On Thursday, Posnanski did it again, posting the same article from his blog to Sports Illustrated. Vernon Wells and the Blue Jays made the front page, pictured above, for all the wrong reasons.

Yet in an article about Vernon Wells and his rightfully unjustifiable contract, nary a mention of ownership; of Rogers; of Paul Godfrey. Convenient, if you ask me. Also: irresponsible. A simple Google search of "wells godfrey contract" leads one to an article, the third search result, by The Toronto Star's Richard Griffin, entitled Godfrey behind Wells pitch. Written in the days before Wells signed on the dotted line in December 2006, Griffin pulled no punches:

"Ricciardi's emotions with regard to Wells have always been on the side of letting him walk at the end of his current contract. Either that or deal him for value. But [Paul] Godfrey is the one who responds to his emotions like a fan. Such seems the case again. ... If this Wells seven-year extension is done, it will be in spite of Ricciardi."

Joe Posnanski, one of the most revered baseball writers in the business, cannot write an article about J.P. Ricciardi and bad contracts, focusing on Vernon Wells, without mentioning that tiny nugget of information about Godfrey. It ain't right. No, it doesn't absolve Ricciardi of all responsibility, but it cannot simply be left out.

As with most articles belittling Ricciardi, hindsight comes in most handy. While he mentions the other two mammoth contracts of 2006, Carlos Lee (6 years, $100 million) and Alfonso Soriano (8 years, $136 million), alongside Wells's, Pos fails to point out that all three were signed before the baseball market tanked, and before the economy went into a spiral the likes of which it hasn't in generations. Pos also fails to mention that, in 2007, Wells would have been in a free agent class with rival centre fielders Ichiro, and Torri Hunter, who both took home deals averaging $18 million a season.

Looking back, I understand where Godfrey was coming from when he, based on what's been written by Toronto's paid sportswriters, overruled Ricciardi. If the Blue Jays had allowed Wells to walk, which of those free agents mentioned above, in either 2006 or 2007, would have, even for a minute, considered Toronto? You're right; none.

Signing Wells was Godfrey being a fan, and being in love with, to quote my man J.P., "the player." I definitely know what that's all about. It was also optics. Vernon was the face of the franchise, and coming off one of his best seasons. It's why I maintain that, at the time, the crazy, bat-shit insane time, Wells' contract was market value, with the Jays having to pay a premium to keep/sign a free agent in Toronto, and keep Wells from hitting the open market.

Career OPSs as of August 13, 2009:

Carlos Lee .850
Alfonso Soriano .838
Ichiro .811
Vernon Wells .802
Torri Hunter .802

(I am in no way, shape, or form comparing Vernon Wells to Ichiro. I have some semblance of a brain.)

The information is out there, available to everyone. Instead of finding it on my blog, it should be available on the front page of SI.com.

Also on Pos's list of the worst contracts in baseball, he singles out the departed Alex Rios. I vehemently disagree; "departed" being the key word. If Rios's contract was that bad, Chicago wouldn't have taken it. Period.

ESPN's Rob Neyer picked up on the Pos blog post on Wednesday, and rightfully wondered whether Pos was being a little too harsh on Ricciardi. He singled out a couple of comments from Posnanski's site, one of them mine, about meddling ownership. (No acknowledgement, of course, from the Worldwide Leader.) I was simply trying to set the record straight.

While I disagree with some of what Neyer wrote as well, I think he gets it. He goes on to call Ricciardi "the right guy in the wrong place." And, for some reason, that makes sense.

I'd love for the rumours of a $100-$120 million dollar 2010 Blue Jays payroll to be true, and for Ricciardi to stick around (contract extension, anyone?). But I also understand that it might just be time for a change.

Some More Griffin Goodness

The Star's Griffin is always all over Ricciardi. He even still brings up the infamous "five-year plan." It's one of the many tools in his arsenal.

Yet, in that same T.O. Star article linked to above, Griffin acknowledges that the Jays should have offered Wells a contract. He even puts term and numbers on the table: 8 years, $138.6 million.

Yeah, that would have been a lot better. You've got to love the lasting power of the internet.

UPDATE: Joe Posnanki, being the good man that he is, took the time to read the post above, and has responded on his own blog. Dissent breeds discussion and, for those of you who know me and my writing, discussion is what I'm all about.

Pos gets it. He doesn't ignore us bloggers in our mother's basements, and for that I salute him. Cheers, Pos; you're good people.

30 comments:

Moneypuck said...

I think an even better way to look at it is:

Career OPS at the end of 2006, the time of the signed deal:

Wells .828
Hunter .786
Ichiro .814
Soriano .836
Lee .835

Couple those big Lee and espeically Soriano deals into an insane market, with Wells "gold-glove" defense and his label as the Franchise = ridiculously stupid contract that actually made some sense.

Logic will be the death of us all.

showcase29 said...

you are wise beyond ur years.

Johnny G said...

Hey Eyebleaf. I made some of the same comments over at Bluebirdbanter. Unbelievable that he brushes over some facts and ignores some completely. He firsts says that he will excludes injuries. But then goes on to include BJ Ryan because it helps support his point.

What a friggin hack.

Screw the mainstream media hacks and all the haters. Im sticking behind Wells regardless of the Hatred advisory warnings.

Escaped Lab Rat said...

Most people in baseball seem to think Ricciardi at least partially overplayed his hand this deadline, when it came to Halladay. I think he and the Jays' brass agreed that in return for the best starting pitcher in the major leagues, they had a right to demand a tonne (and I still believe the Angels are crazy for not getting a deal done...what held up that trade?). But is it fair to say that the Jays new that they were rebuilding in 2010 and that Ricciardi wasn't their guy, so they held up a high standard so that, in the event they didn't get a 'wow' offer, a new GM could come in and start the rebuilding in earnest by making his own trade of The Greatest Blue Jay Ever? The new GM will also have to find a new coach sooner or later, as Cito seems to have become less interested in sticking around for the long term/read the writing on the wall.

Bottom line, if the payroll isn't going way up next year, then it should come way down and we should be rebuilding in full for next year.

The Ack said...

Yes, yes, and yes. Also, if we are going to call all the "bad" contracts "Ricciardis", then what will we call all the "good" contracts - like Hill's extension, Downs last contract, the Halladay extensions, scooping & signing Scutaro, etc.....the "JPs"?

Also, I wonder if Pos thumbed his nose at the Rios deal at the time it was signed (and he very well may have, I dunno), because I seem to recall almost universal praise at locking up a young all-star outfielder who theoretically had his best years ahead of him.

This isn't to say I don't like Posnanski's writing, because I do, but this seemed a little over the top.

Callum said...

That tiny nugget of information from Richard Griffin is nothing but heresay and conjecture.

Mattt said...

I think the Jays should use this press to attract free agents-come to Toronto on a one year deal, play well and get an amazingly huge and unjustifiable contract...

Bitey said...

Not that it was brought up here, but I always found it funny that everyone was saying Ricciardi overpaid to get Burnett and then 3 years later the Yankees give the same guy (who's 3 years older now, obviously) a contract worth almost $30 million more and no one bats an eye.

Also, with Ryan, there seems to be this perception that he was only good for one year before he became a free agent. He was pretty damn good in his last 3 seasons in Baltimore, it's just that they didn't use him as closer, for whatever reasons, until 2005.

Godd Till said...

OK, first of all, the argument that the Jays had to pay extra to keep Wells is silly. Usually you have to pay less to keep your own talent, hence the phrase 'hometown discount.'

Second, the fact that Wells would be hitting the market with several other talented OFers, who were better players, gave Vernon LESS leverage as a FA, not more. So again, no reason to break the bank a year early.

Finally, the thought process behind the deal - whether it's 'we lost Delgado, we need to keep Vernon' or whatever, was always flawed. Look at Burke's MO. He has a valuation of a player. If they sign for it great, if not, you move on. You don't tie up valuable resources above what a player is worth. Period. Especially a team like the Jays that doesn't have the resources to eat many mistakes.

It was a bad contract the moment it was signed; it's even worse now.

matthias @ mopupduty said...

While some in the mainstream press liked the contract I recall that most of the stat nerds were against it. Here's a comment I made over at our website on Dec 16th 2006:

"That backload is incredible. Statistically, Vernon has averaged 84 Runs , 28 HR, 90 RBI & an OPS of .830 over the past three seasons.

Good luck to whoever has to trade that backloaded contract down the line. If it’s JP, I can hear something like “We can’t compete with $20+ million owed to one player. I tryed to talk Godfrey out of it. Otherwise, I’d win the WS every year. Blah Blah Blah”"

Godd Till said...

And Johnny G:

"What a frigging hack?" I know from hacks my friend, and Joe Posnanski is no hack.

Colin said...

This is exactly my feelings on the matter. Plus, Pos looks at the Wells contract in a vacuum, ignoring that it was back-ended.

Colin said...

It also ignores the fact that ownership claimed the Wells money was special "extra money" that didn't come out of payroll.

Godd Till said...

??

It being back-ended makes it an even worse contract.
Harder to trade, and you're paying more and more for Wells' decline phase.

William said...

Posnanski is probably the best baseball writer out there (especially since Peter Gammons is pretty much a TV guy now). But he's still a writer who has to entertain. We all know what that's like and some times that leads us all to get carried away with what we feel others might find funny. As such, the great Pos, who is not a hack in any shape or form, erred on this one and didn't dot his journalistic "i's."

Lots of good comments here. Eyeblief's post was well thought out and well written. But so was Godd Till's comment. The contract is what it is. It's currently an anchor. But it will go away some day.

eyebleaf said...

Great discussion here, boys. I'm not advocating the the Wells contract isn't brutal; it is. It most certainly is. But the reason it was back-ended was because the plan was to surround Wells and Halladay with talent while Doc was still under contract. It was back-ended before the baseball market got fucked, and before the global economy got fucked. It was back-ended before payroll was slashed in a year that it wasn't supposed to be slashed. It's all really hindsight now, to bash the back-endedness of the deal, no?

If the Jays had $100 or $120 million to go for it this year (in which case I think Burnett's still here, and maybe we added a bat), and the Jays make the playoffs, and who knows from there, wouldn't the back-ending have made sense? Now that we know Doc is leaving, everything is for not. 2009 and 2010 were the windows, and back-ending Vernon's deal made sure that window would remain open, until good old Teddy died, and that window was slammed shut.

If this Jays team makes the playoffs and wins a round and, who knows, wins the World Series, nobody would give a flying fuck about the back-ended deal. Shit changed; circumstances changed; even Wells changed. He now sucks. But that doesn't mean that Pos can, as William put it, not dot his journalistic "i's."

@ Callum: If Toronto's paid sportswriters are running with it, and most of them have, it becomes more than just "heresay," in my opinion.

And I'm with Godd (I love that I'm referring to him as that), Joe Pos is no hack. He just didn't write this article as responsibly as I think he could have.

And mad props to Moneypuck on that first comment. That shit is nails. If Wells' contract is brutal, all of those guys should have made Pos's list too. Well, except for Ichiro. Because he is a machine.

Godd Till said...

Interesting; Dan Szymborski, who I respect a ton in these matters, had the same take as you upon the deal's signing. So the 'hindsight' argument may have some merit. HArd to argue the deal hasn't worked out almost as badly as possible, though.

Let's travel back in time to 2006 (when my Tigers were AL Champs) and look at Dan's initial reaction:

Actually, apparently I can't copy a link here?

eyebleaf said...

Nobody's arguing it hasn't worked out almost as badly as possible. It's fucking brutal.

You can copy a link here, where I can just click on it and go there, but it's some bullshit formatting crap.

Just drop the link as plain text, and I'll copy and paste, and head on over.

Johnny G said...

Ok fine fine y'all win he is no hack. But the article was off base when he looked at contracts in a vacuum not including the conditions around the contract.

I was just pissed off because a co-worker of mine forwarded the article to me yesterday just to get a rise out of me. Apparently it worked.

Well's contract is way too long, and that is the heart of the problem, on a average per year basis it was on par with what others would be paid if they had similar skillsets to Vernons. It's still a bad contract but it was the length that did it.

Godd Till said...

Nope, won't work at all.

eyebleaf said...

Johnny, you don't understand how many people have sent that article to me. It's ridiculous.

Godd, sorry for the trouble, but if you can, link the link through Twitter. I'd love to read it. Cheers.

eyebleaf said...

Here's the link Godd was talking about:

http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/oracle/discussion/blue_jays_signed_wel/

Everybody, copy and paste that shit, and read it. Thanks.

twentyfifthhour said...

I'm in no shape or form a J.P. or Vernon fan. I despise both of them. Especially Vernon Wells. Now I never knew about the Godfrey involvement in the Wells contract. That honestly changes my whole opinion on Ricciardi and the Vernon contract. While BJ and Thomas were also brutal, I can't put Vernon on JP's tab. It was Godfrey that screwed us here.

As for Rios, no one thought it was a bad contract when he signed and it wasn't bad until his demise this year.

Also if you are going to talk about his bad contracts, then you also have to talk about his incredible signings. How good does Hill's contract look right now? Hill is making less than 10 million per and he's one of the 3 best 2B in the game. Scutaro is making 1 mill this year. Halladay has been kept off the market TWICE.

What I can't stand about JP is that he's not good when it comes to free agents. His track record with free agents is not good. JP is better suited as a head scout, 'cause as much as I can't stand the guy and his idiotic mouth, he's incredible at picking young talent (Hill, Lind, Romero, Cecil, Snyder).

Steve G. said...

I agree with twentyfifthhour's last paragraph - J.P. has shown a great ability to identify good, young talent, and to pick at the margins of the free talent market. He hasn't been as skilled at identifying ways to keep players healthy - I feel like nagging injuries have cut into Wells' overall talent, and forget about that pitching staff - and picking good free agents.

QJays said...

Nice work Eyeb - I was frustrated with Pos's "rules" and then his explanation of BJ Ryan right off the bat, and of course nobody thought the Rios contract was bad at the time (Wells is a different story, but again, most felt it was not a bad contract AT THE TIME). As I've said before, I think the good and the bad are pretty balanced, and I'm fine with JP doing the work up top.

bkblades said...

Eye,
Not only was this a phenomenal response to Joe Pos' post, he actually went out of his way to give you credit and post a rebuttal. Very well done.

Johnny G said...

Well damn, Now I really feel like a jackass calling the guy a hack. He obviously is not especially after looking up modern stats like UZR to help his points...

Tip of the cap from me and my apologies.

I still think hes wrong, but at least in the rebuttle I think he is presenting the evidence a little better.

Joanna said...

Why would someone hate Vernon Wells? He took a contract that was offered to him. He seems to be a nice person, despite being booed non stop in his own town. You can hate his contract, you can hate his play, but you shouldn't 'despise' him as a person.

Anonymous said...

Интересно написано....но многое остается непонятнымb

Anonymous said...

Интересно написано....но многое остается непонятнымb