Locked out of the U.S. by a war that ended two decades ago, best seen abroad at tournaments watched by few Americans who aren't paid to take in games, Cuban ballplayers are men about whom we know nothing in an age when we know more than we'd like to about nearly everyone else. This makes them mysterious and attractive. So the surprise isn't that
A long 22-year-old whose fastball has
"When you look at the size of the market where we are in Cincinnati," Reds general manager
The issue isn't actually the famed $30 million. Lots of bad players make lots more than $5 million per year, and even a relatively poor team like the Reds can afford the loss Chapman that will represent if two weeks from now he falls into stately love with steakhouses, bars and ponies. The issue is the
According to reports, Chapman will be paid a $16.25 million signing bonus and annual salaries of $1 million over the next two years, $2 million in the two after that and $3 million the year after that. He also has a $5 million player option for 2013. The trick -- credit his agents, the Hendricks brothers -- is that if he pitches enough to qualify for salary arbitration after 2012 or 2013, he earns bonus money and enters the arbitration process.
This is confusing, so think of it in terms of an unlikely scenario. Say Chapman is so blindingly good this spring that the Reds are forced to bring him up within the first six weeks of the season, and that from then through the end of the contract he pitches like a true ace, a $25 million a year pitcher. The Reds will owe him his $16.25 million bonus, $4 million in salary, another $5 million bonus, and whatever arbitrators award him in the final three years of his contract. Using the rule of thumb that players get 40% of their market value in the first year of eligibility, 60% in the second and 80% in the third, Chapman could earn another $45 million. The Reds would thus have paid him about $70 million.
No worries for Reds fans: This won't happen, and if it does they'll manage to deal with having a perennial Cy Young candidate. Still, the risk:reward ratio seems slightly off. The Reds will have to choke on tens of millions of dollars worth of lost potential if Chapman never does anything. If he's good, they'll pay out lots.
Take a somewhat more realistic scenario, in which Chapman comes up late this year or at the beginning of next year, and is a solid No. 3 starter, the sort of player you'd pay $10 million a year to secure as a free agent, through the rest of his contract. In that case the Reds would be paying something like $40 million for $60 million worth of performance. That would be a good deal but not
Past the contract details, any longtime fan should be able to name a half-dozen pitchers with 100 mph fastballs and supposedly crisp sliders who never did a thing, few of whom were being asked to make a cultural adjustment like the one Chapman will have to make. And there are other concerns.
For all that, I love this deal. I love that the Reds are laying marks on real talent rather than squandering $5 million on
I think baseball should abolish the first-year player
When you can
Still, however much presence he carries, the Guerrero of today is nothing at all like the Expo who hit every pitch on the screws and could handle center field in a pinch. He's a designated hitter with a slowing bat who turns 35 in February and has the body of an older player. Just compare him to some similar hitters of recent vintage. These are all right-handed hitters with basically similar styles to Guerrero -- good average and power, moderate walks and strikeouts -- who hit about as well as he has recently going into their age-35 season. (
It's interesting to note that the player Guerrero is for any number of reasons most reminiscent of,
The Mets are fantastically embarrassing. On Thursday the team convened a conference call with assistant general manager
Fans who think Boras is the devil would, believe me, think differently after spending an hour talking baseball with him. (The next best thing would be to read this
Either the Mets didn't realize that they'd given it, or they did realize that they'd done so and then basically changed their minds. It's hard to tell which of the two possibilities would reflect more badly on them, but I'd go with the second. Either way, they've provoked a war with their best player, essentially challenging his honor, on the basis of what was at best a mistake. They've also made themselves look utterly impotent, exposed that the team functionally doesn't have a general manager, and drawn attention to an incredibly sketchy history of treating injuries. The best of it is that given the
On the field, what matters is that Beltran is going to miss at least a month and maybe a lot more, and that there's no assurance that he's going to return from surgery the same player he was, especially defensively. Of course, knowing that their best player is a center fielder who's about to turn 33 and has a long history of leg and knee injuries, the Mets signed a statuesque left fielder to an expensive contract, meaning not only that Beltran is locked into center but that he'll have extra responsibilities there. The season may not be dead, but they're smiling in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami.
I recommend the White Sox to grieving Mets fans. They have the same sort of inferiority complex that the Mets do, but are run by much more competent and entertaining people. The Nationals are also a good alternative, since New Yorkers can get down to Washington to catch games without much trouble.
Since statistics are so important in baseball, it's always good to be reminded that they shouldn't be taken too seriously.
A correlation coefficient measures how closely related two numbers are, with +1 meaning a perfect linear relationship and -1 meaning the inverse. The following just shows how closely several factors correlated with team wins in 2009. This isn't especially meaningful... it's just interesting (particularly the difference between fielding percentage and
• You used to hear talk from time to time about the
• The beneficiary of LaRoche's negotiating savvy was
• The Marlins
• Sometimes you think there's no progress in the world, and then you see that
• Another reason for Mets fans to embrace the White Sox: Their longtime backup
• If you're keeping track, I have no problem at all with Mark McGwire and will have none so long as he does nothing to screw up